After finishing up the regular season as Champions of Division 2 North, the Teesside Steelers headed into the National Finals in joint top place seeding with the Wembley Stallions of Division 2 South. Already having made Steelers history in achieving promotion to Division 1, the Teesside team were looking to add the final flourish to a strong campaign, hoping to bring home a gold medal and something for the trophy cabinet.
Teesside, having made the 180 mile journey to the host venue, Keele University, kicked off the day against second place seeds from the South, the Kent Exiles; whilst Northern rivals and fierce competitors, Cheshire Bears, took on an undefeated Wembley Stallions. Kent, a team in only the early stages of their footballing history, displayed significant fight and determination throughout the game, with many players representing both the offence and defence. Teesside came out strong in the first half, displaying the dominance and physicality that earned them the Northern title- scoring 14 points prior to the blow of the first half whistle. The Exiles, however, came back fighting in the second period, proving that the number of players on a roster does not always determine its quality and, although its offence was no match for the formidable 'shut down' defence of the Steelers, a valiant performance from Kent meant the Teesside offence were unable to force a further touchdown. At the end of the game, with the score 14-0 in Teesside's favour, the Steelers progressed into the Championship game which, after a dominant 39-22 performance against Cheshire, would be played against the Wembley Stallions.
Battling off for third place were Cheshire and Kent; with the Exile's offence managing to put an admirable 26 points on the board, however, its defence were unable to put a stop to Cheshire's running play, with our Northern counterparts scoring an impressive 35 points- closing off the scoring at 35-26 in favour of Cheshire. Despite just losing out on the third place spot, the Exiles showed incredible fight and a skilful style of play that is bound to reign supreme in Division 2 next year.
Meanwhile, Teesside stepped up to play a Wembley side that was eager to display exactly how it had earned its acclaim throughout the season. The Stallions, still undefeated, demonstrated how the combination of physicality and finesse could be used to close down an offence, rushing the QB and tackling the ball carrier to put a halt to any scoring chances. With the offence pegged back, Teesside's defence truly reflected #WomenOfSteel, withholding the Stallions to a 22 point scoreline- it's lowest recorded number of points the entire season. Although disappointed not to bring home the gold, Teesside proudly wear their silver medals and congratulate the Stallions on an excellent performance; a fantastic team who play with respect, pride and integrity- boasting an outstanding footballing ability and a true credit to the women's game.
The awards ceremony, bringing together all four teams to congratulate both sets of medalists, saw Teesside and Wembley celebrate together in a display of sportsmanship to be admired by both parties. As victors of Division 2 North and overall runners-up of Division 2, the Steelers travelled back to Teesside gratified with emotion and astonished with all they had accomplished throughout the year; the squad, comprising of around 70% rookies, showed unwavering drive and dedication, committing every part of themselves to the game and proving exactly why the Teesside spirit is so well admired throughout Sapphire.