In the final tournament of the regular season, the Steelers did not disappoint in what turned out to be one of the greatest sporting moments in Sapphire Series history.
Making the journey to Avery Fields, home of the Birmingham Lions, was a Steeler squad boasting 16 players- with WR's Becky Rafferty and Charlotte Stephenson both out due to respective knee injuries.
Facing up first against a hungry and driven Lions team, the Steelers took a glimpse of the well-known finesse of Lions football- with the home side scoring the first TD of the game and heading an impressive 22 points up prior to the call of the first half. However, with the Steelers pushing back strong in the second half, some incredible running plays saw Teesside rack up a total of 51 points, giving the club its first win of what turned out to be an incredible day of football.
Heading straight into the second game, the Steelers took fight against a fierce Cheshire Bears side, battling it out to determine who would take top spot for the Division 2 North title. Both defences came out strong, shutting down attacks both in the air and on the ground; however, some strong play from Cheshire saw the Bears head 20-6 up at the end of the first half.
Returning from the break fuelled and ready, Teesside's defence dominated the field- with defensive captain, Natalie Sleeman pressuring the Bears QB, forcing a fumble and scoring a TD that brought the Steelers back into the game. Some more outstanding defensive coverage from the Steelers saw Teesside's Siobhan Henry force a turnover, running the ball straight into the Cheshire end zone to tie the score at 20-20. With less than one minute left on what was now a rolling clock, a worrying injury saw the Steelers QB, Rachael Tumelty, brought to the ground and play stopped by the officials. The tied scoreline not being enough to earn the Steelers the title, play eventually resumed and a strong run from Teesside that was, unfortunately, pulled back for a false start, saw only 6 seconds left on the play clock. Refusing to leave the game tied and returning to the field despite injury was QB, Rachael Tumelty, who lined up the offence for one last drive against an already celebrating Cheshire side. The Steelers O-line, comprising of Catherine Hancock (Center) and Lineman Jess Graham and Sinead Robinson, powered through the Cheshire D-line, creating a perfect gap for the Steelers QB to fire the ball up the centre of the field and into the endzone- in a run that left both sidelines in astonishment. With an additional 6 points in the bag and no time left on the play clock, the incredible run saw the Steelers take a 26-20 victory over Cheshire, which would need the Bears to beat the Lions by an incredible margin to steal victory away from the ladies of steel.
With Teesside watching on eagerly, the Lions took on Cheshire- both teams driven with an equal point to prove. Outstanding offensive play from both sides saw the Bears take home a 56-34 victory, a small enough margin to see Teesside take the top spot at the end of a fantastic day of football. True comeback heroes, the Steelers took home two wins against sides that were both incredibly strong and representative of the competitive and compelling nature of the women's game. With perseverance, determination and teamwork, Teesside were eventually crowned Division 2 North Champions and earned promotion to Division 1 for the 2019/20 season.
Click here to watch the moment the Steelers took victory.
Teesside Steelers 51 - 30 Birmingham Lions B
Teesside Steelers 26 - 20 Cheshire Bears
Photo Credits: WAP Photography, Jody Davies Photography