Grangemouth Broncos and Fillies at New Year Flagging Tournament
Two of Grangemouth Flag Football’s teams were in action last weekend at Ravenscraig Regional Sports Centre, on the indoor pitch.
Both were taking part in the fifth running of the Flagging New Year Tournament.
The whole competition was played over two days with 76 games played on Saturday, and 53 on Sunday.
The tournament format allowed 30 minutes per game. Saturday’s play started at 08:15 and ended, almost on schedule, at around 21:15.
This year the tournament brought teams from eight different countries, including Russia and the USA.
There were 24 teams in the “Mixed” competition (Teams can have male and female players), six in the Ladies only section and a junior competition with six teams taking part.
One team dominated the Junior competition. North Shore FFL, from the USA, have grown up with the sport and were rarely troubled by the five UK based teams.
The young players from Chorley Buccaneers, Glasgow Tigers, Hamilton Buccaneers, Inverclyde Phoenix and Nuneaton Jaguars are no less enthusiastic about the game, but mostly have been playing for less than two years.
In the Ladies Only competition, all of the teams were UK based.
The Grangemouth Fillies were playing in their first Female competition. While they have played a few friendly games, this would be their first official tournament.
They would be playing four well established teams who have all been to the British finals on multiple occasions – East Kilbride Pirates, Hyde Park Renegades, Manchester Titans and Sheffield Hallam Warriors.
The sixth team in the group were the Leeds Samurai Queens who have a couple of years competition under their belts.
In their first game, the Fillies were playing the Warriors.
In what was to become a theme throughout the day the Fillies defence was almost perfect, but their offence lacked the game-time experience to make much headway.
Inevitably, the Warriors broke the deadlock with a touchdown and extra point, but that was all they got.
A first interception for Caitlin Sherratt was one of the defensive highlights. Fillies 0 – Warriors 7.
In game two, Grangemouth would be playing the Pirates, third placed in the UK. While the Defence were still playing well, the Pirates had just too many weapons, including ex- Broncos player, Louise Donnelly.
Guest player Steph Warren got three sacks in this game, but the Pirates took the tie.
In the game against the Queens next, the defence for the Fillies once again made stop after stop.
But, all it took was one slip and the Leeds team got the breakthrough.
While the Fillies once again failed to score, they were beginning to click and managed to move the ball up the field, just not into the end-zone.
Game four was against one of the longest established ladies teams in the UK, the Manchester Titans.
This was the point where the Fillies Offence began to get into synch.
They got their first score of the day with a pass from Bethany Thomson to Megan Shelley.
While the Titans did get a score back the Fillies confidence was high and they got a second score with a TD from Lyndsey McFadyen. As the Titans pushed to retake the lead, Shelley intercepted a pass and took it back to score and seal the Fillies first competitive win.
In the final group game the Fillies were facing the BAFA second placed Hyde Park Renegades.
Again the defence were more than up to the task, holding a team with GB internationalists to zero points.
As you might expect, the Renegades experience won out against the fledgling Fillies offence, so the result was a rare, and very unexpected, 0 – 0 tie.
So, at the end of the group stage the Fillies were in fifth place. That meant a double header against the sixth place team, the Warriors, for the final competition places.
While the Fillies still played well in the two games, their lack of experience of playing so many games began to tell. Despite scoring in each game, a touchdown in each for Michelle Holburn-White, the Warriors just managed to edge them.
Fillies Head Coach, Callum Woods, was more than pleased with the team performance.
He said: “The girls were not out of their depth in any of the games.
“In fact, the win against the Titans and the tie with the Renegades shows that all they lack is the game time experience.
“We will be doing our best to make sure all of the players get every opportunity to play in games over the next few months.”
In the women’s competition the Pirates defeated the Renegades to take the Ladies title.
The Grangemouth Broncos team were playing in the mixed competition, and were one of the teams tipped to make the final.
However, the quality of the teams entering Flagging New Year has gone up year on year, so the club were trying to ignore all of the hype.
In the group stage of the competition they would have to beat some tough opposition just to get into the “Championship” play-offs.
Coventry Cougars are an improving side and will play in this year’s BAFA Premier League, but the Broncos proved too strong for them. While the
Cougars kept it close in the first half, Grangemouth accelerated away from them in the second period.
Touchdowns from Ally Mundie, Matthew Ross, James Duffie and Callum Woods, three etra points from Ross, and interceptions from Liam Fleming and new signing Jamie Archibald gave the Broncos a good start, 27 – 12.
Against old rivals, Edinburgh Outlaws, the Broncos were more dominant with a 27 – 0 win.
TDs from brothers Callum and Kevin Woods, Scott McKenzie and Steven Cliffe, another extra point from Ross on the offensive side, plus a Safety from
Andy Brown, and interceptions from Luke Morrice and (ex-Outlaw) Archibald, all contributed to a comfortable win.
The course of the Whitecross based team’s third game, against the Purmerend Barbarians from Holland, mirrored the first with the score close at the half, but the Broncos shutting them out in the second. TDs from Mundie (2), Callum Woods and Kevin Woods gave them a 26 – 13 win.
The Victoria Park Panthers were one team who might have upset the expected outcome of the group, especially with Great Britain quarterback Vince Macchi as a guest player.
But the Broncos were on a roll. The Woods brothers and Matthew Ross got the points and Liam Fleming caught an interception in a 20 – 12 win.
The final game of the group was the undefeated Broncos versus the undefeated Slovenian Ljubljana Killerbees.
In a “non-contact” game, this was a far more physical battle than it should have been, but the Broncos were determined to win the group.
In theory, the Broncos would win the group with a tie, but knew they couldn’t play for that.
Kevin Woods scored all of the Broncos points in this game and Fleming added to his interception tally as Grangemouth closed the group stage with a win, 20 – 12.
Winning the group meant the Broncos would face the London Smoke in the quarter-final.
The Broncos have yet to find a way to beat the Smoke. With Smoke playing some of their best football, the Broncos went behind early and maybe lost a little of their usual composure as they pushed to get back on level terms.
In the end, with both offence and defence struggling to break down London’s game, Grangemouth lost 0 – 20.
They were out of the top four, now playing in the 5–8 bracket.
Their next opponents were Aberdeen Oilcats. Games between these two teams are always close, but recently the Broncos have had enough to take some crucial wins. Sunday was no different.
Two pick sixes from Archibald and a TD and XP from Callum Woods had the Broncos in the lead when Kevin Woods intercepted a pass to effectively end the game.
That set up a game for fifth or sixth place against the Ljubljana Killerbees.
This was another bruising game.
With the Slovenian side seeing Kevin Woods as their main threat, Ross injured on the sideline and Callum Woods playing hurt, the Broncos still had ambitions of winning the game.
Unfortunately, an early interception gave the Killerbees a two point lead and the Broncos were always playing catch-up.
In the shorter tournament games that is a hard position to be in against such talented opposition.
The Broncos ended the weekend with a loss, 20 – 32, but a creditable sixth place.
To put the quarter-final exit to the Smoke in perspective, the London team beat the much fancied American team, Mass Flag, in an exciting final.
Grangemouth Head Coach, Fraser Thomson said: “Both of our teams had a great weekend.
“The Fillies came away from the weekend knowing that even in this early stage of the team’s development they can compete with some of the best teams in the country.
“They have learned so much from the experience.
“While there may be some disappointment from coming sixth, everyone was upbeat after seven games in two days of really exciting games.”
“For the Broncos, sixth place (out of 24) is not a bad result, but we were aiming higher.
“Knowing that London are playing so well at the moment, especially beating Mass Flag, kind of makes the loss easier to bear but if we want to win this type of competition, and the 2020 league, we have to find a way to beat teams like the Smoke.
“It isn’t beyond us, but we will need to put the work in between now and April when the league starts.”