This year’s Regional U16 competition saw Charnwood Sapphires take to the court in a round robin tournament played on 10 and 24 March at the Sir David Wallace Sports Hall, Loughborough University. All matches were 4 quarters of 8 minutes played between the top 2 teams from each of the 5 East Midlands Counties.
Sapphires first opposition were Corby from Northants and they soon raced into a 15 – 6 half time lead. Corby fought back in the 3rd quarter to reduce the deficit to 5 goals. This spurred the Sapphires on and they ran out 27 – 16 winners.
Outstanding shooting by Lucy Scott (18/19 shots), Elise Whearity (9/9) and Fran Orton (8/10) then helped Sapphires to a comprehensive 35 – 11 win over Derbyshire’s Pennine.
Local rivals Rutland Rockets gave Sapphires a scare winning the first quarter 6 – 5. Sapphires made changes to their line up for the 2nd quarter and stormed ahead to lead 16 – 8 by half time and win 30 - 17. Tight defending in the circle by Beth Marron and Freya Tufail Smith limited Rutland’s shooting opportunities.
Derbyshire’s Allestree were next. The first quarter set the tone for the match, which Sapphires won 12 – 0. Although Allestree played on valiantly, they were unable to stop Sapphires winning 40 – 11.
The last opponents on day 1 were JM’s from Northants. Early errors from Sapphires gave JM’s a 3 goal lead. Sapphires rallied to bring the score back to 5 – 6 at quarter time. Steadier play during the 2nd and 3rd quarters saw Sapphires take the lead 18 – 15. JM’s fought back in the 4th quarter but Sapphires held their nerve to win 22 – 19.
The second day of action saw Sapphires play Nottingham’s Cliftonettes in their opening match. With accurate feeding to the shooters from Caroline Garfield, Tia Dewick and Alice Thompson, Sapphires took complete control of the match, wining 32 – 14.
Sapphires where then straight on court against Nottingham Knights, who like Sapphires had not lost a game at this point. Sapphires stunned Knights to take an early lead, but they rallied to bring the quarter score to 6 – 5 to Sapphires. By half time the score was 10 all, and Knights led 15 – 14 by the end of the 3rd quarter. With Emily Collins forcing Knights into mistakes, Sapphires kept their cool, regained the lead and held on to win by a solitary goal (17 – 16).
Sapphires last two opponents were from Lincolnshire. Up first was Sleaford Barge. Multiple unforced errors by Sapphires created a nervy first half but they managed to take a 12 – 7 lead into the break. Sapphires composed themselves to restrict Barge to 6 goals in the 3rd and 4th quarters, running out 27 – 13 winners.
Brigg were Sapphires last opponents. Another nervy start saw Sapphires scrape an 8 – 6 lead after the first quarter. A more dominant Sapphires appeared for the 2nd quarter and they stretched their lead to 17 – 9 by half time and with solid defending by Olivia Gilchrist they won the game 27 - 14.
Sapphires clean sweep has earned them a place in the National U16 Clubs Finals which take place on 10 and 11 May in Newcastle.
In the 7 years the competition has been running, Charnwood Sapphires have now been crowned champions on 5 occasions.
CHARNWOOD SAPPHIRES INVITE YOU TO COME BACK TO NETBALL
Have you ever thought of coming back to netball? Well now’s your chance! Charnwood Sapphires will be running Back to Netball sessions in the Sports Hall at Rawlins College, Quorn, starting on Monday 8 April, 6.45-7.45pm, cost £3. All standards are welcome. For further details please use the Contact Us page on the club’s website www.charnwoodsapphires.co.uk.