Wow what a weekend of wheelchair rugby at the Morningside Arena Leicester for Super Series 3, certainly not for the faint hearted. The main aim of the weekend was to win at least two out of the five to qualify for the nationals.
First up were the Gloucester Titans, whom the Crushers comfortably beaten last time round. That said the Titans are a fast, capable team and would give our guys a run for their money but the Crushers were upbeat and confident. The Titans certainly gave account of themselves but after the first quarter the Crusher started to pull ahead before winning an impressive 52 – 31. On a real high after their victory the Crushers would next face off with the maulers, who would turn out to be rather more challenging than the Titians. The whole game turned out to be a tight and tense encounter. Although the Crushers maintained a slim lead thought the game, they were made to work hard for every point, eventually securing a 38 – 35 win. With that result the Crushers accomplished their main aim of the weekend, which was to qualify for the Nationals and as a bonus they would be in the semi-final on day two.
The final game on the first day they would be against the Bulls who they lost to by just five points last outing, only this time their numbers were bolstered by a division 1 talent loan with the addition of Faye West from the Hawks. It would be a tough game and there didn’t seemed to be the belief that they could win the game. That lack of confidence was born out, sadly, in an eleven-point win for the Bulls 44-35.
The Crusher were to face a top-drawer Osprey team in the semi-final. This game was no less nail-biting, close and tense as many of the rest of the games over the weekend. Much like the game against the Maulers it was an incredibly close, even though the Crushers maintained a small lead throughout the game it was impossible to relax till the final whistle went, finishing 46-43 to the Crushers.
That result would see the Crushers through to their first ever final, what an achievement. They would meet up again with the Bulls, only this time there would not be any lack of self-belief. The Crushers had played some excellent rugby, against some excellent opposition and they deserved heir place in the final. The game started off at a blistering pace and didn’t relent throughout. The Crushers came flying out the blocks, leading by two points by the end of the 1st quarter. The Bulls certainly weren’t going to make it easy for them as the drew level by the end of the 2nd quarter. As the game went on it could be seen that some of the Crushers were suffering from a bit of mental fatigue as the Bull’s went ahead by two points. When the whistle went at the end of the game the score was 42-39 to the Bulls and the Crushers suffered their first defeat in a final.
Even though the Crushers lost their first ever final everyone were pleased with how the weekend went, not only had they qualified for the Nationals, they had improved immensely since the last Super Series and finished third in the final end of year standings. What a great weekend all-round.
Super Series 2 would see the Crushers back at Fenton Manor, Stoke-on-Trent. The main goal of the weekend would be to defeat the Ospreys, in order to give us the best possible chance of qualifying for the Nationals in the summer.
Straight out the traps, the Crusher would be up against the Ospreys, a game that was never going to be easy especially with a team whos captain was the machine that is Dave Anthony. Paul, our coach, set up with the same line up that was so successful at the Bull’s friendly which was Chris W, Gemma, Coral & Michael. Chris and Gemma had the unenviable task of marking Dave Anthony, while Michael and Coral would put the press on the three remaining players. Chris and Gemma did an awesome job of locking up Dave Anthony, taking him right out of the game, while Michael and Coral exacted a withering press. The Crushers took a small lead which was slowly extended throughout the game, by the end of the game the main aim of the weekend was successfully accomplished, winning by eight points 46 – 38.
The success and the euphoria of the first game, sadly did not spill over into the next game against Burn. The game started off well, with only a point in it, for the first quarter or so before Burn got too hot to handle. Turnover followed turnover as Burn just racked up the points, it was as difficult to watch as it was for those playing. The game finally ended 55 – 25, it was a harsh lesson to learn about keeping your composure when the pressure is on.
The Crushers wouldn’t have long to pick themselves up as they were to face the Sharks in the final game of the Day. Their previous meeting in Super Series 1 saw the Crushers comfortably defeat the Sharks but this time their ranks were bolstered by the addition of Paddy Asher-Relf and George Rodgers both young, quick and functional players. This time Michael and Gemma would double up on Paddy while Chris would mark George, while Coral would put the press on the two remaining low pointers. A tense, nail-biting game to watch with nothing between the two teams till the last quarter when eventually the Sharks resolve broke, going down to the Crushers 38 – 44.
There was a late tip-off for the Crushers on day two as they were to take on the Bulls at 10:45am. The Bulls line up contained seasoned campaigners like Jonny and Gareth, which would undoubtedly be a stern test for the Crushers. It was another very close game with the Bulls holding a slight lead throughout the match, with their experience of game management coming to the fore, as they would run the clock down where possible, essentially taking away the time for the Crushers to make up the deficit and eventually winning 38 – 33. This was a game that the Crushers could have, or maybe should have won, playing the opposition like they were, they were punished by even the smallest mistakes. Definitely one that got away.
The final game of the day would have the Crushers pitted against the Gloucester Titans. The head to head record between the two team was pretty even, though the Crushers felt confident. This time Paul would change the line-up, he would go with Raymond, Jason, Michael and Coral. With some confident inbounding from Raymond and some inspired picking from Jason the Crushers secured a healthy lead, so much so Paul was able to give his unused subs, Donald and Davie a run out. The game eventually ended with an impressive 58 – 30 victory for the Crushers.
As with any sports there were big highs and lows over the weekend but ultimately, it was a very successful weekend with three good wins out of five and finishing third in the table, pretty much cementing their place in the Nationals.
The first friendly competition of the season saw the Crushers crossing the Irish sea to take on the Ulster Barbarians, DMG Bulls and an Irish development team in the Barbarian’s first Blitz Tournament. Day one was an early rise for the Crushers as they took on the hosts for a 09:00am tip off at the Antrim Forum Leisure Centre. After their loss to the Barbarian in Super Series one the Crushers were keen to make amends, and sure enough they did, winning the game 52 – 30.
Next game on the schedule would be a strong and functional Bulls team and sure enough they were just too much for the Crushers, winning 45 – 36.
The second day and the Crushers would play an Irish development team. This game would be far more evenly matched, it was nip and tuck all the way with only a point or so either way, with the Irish eventually taking the game by only four points 45 – 41.
The final game of the very successful tournament would see a rematch with the Irish development team and after their loss to the Irish the Crushers need no encouragement. If their previous game was close then this meeting proved to be even closer, with the same outcome a win for the Irish again but only by two points 43 -41.
The Barbarian were great hosts and lots of fun, and the Crushers are looking forward to participating in the next one.
The start of the competitive year would see the Crushers taking the long journey down to Buckinghamshire to take part in Super Series 1, which this year was being held at Stoke Mandeville Stadium.
Up first would see a 10:45 tip-off against the Maulers. The Crushers would go into this first game as favourites, and the game itself went to form, with the Crusher taking an early lead, which was comfortably extended and eventually winning 39 – 27.
The second game would see the Crushers, full of confidence, play the Ulster. The game was tight all the way through will Ulster ultimately winning by five points, 39 – 44. One that most definitely got away.
Final game of the afternoon the Crushers would face the Bull’s development team, which ended again in another five-point loss, 36 – 41. Frustratingly another one that got away.
Day 2, game 1 the Crushers had an early start with tip-off at 9:00am against the Sharks. The Crushers dominated the game throughout and had a comfortable 49 – 23 victory. Thought the final game of the weekend would turn out to be another frustrating loss, this time by only three points, 43 – 39 to the Titans.
Buy the end of the weekend, the Crushers found themselves 6th in the table, though there was some conciliation in that Coral was awarded MVP by her fellow players.
The whole weekend can be summed up as ‘so near’.
A huge well done to Ciaran for completing the Edinburgh half marathon under adverse conditions.
A huge congratulations to team GB as they win gold at Four Nations Tournament in Lakeshore Alabama. Taking on the strongest teams in the world GB managed to top their group and booked their place in the final. Taking on Australia, the top ranked team in the world, GB could take confidence in their earlier victory over the Australians 58 – 52. The final was a remarkable game in which GB had to come from behind to secure a great victory 49 – 47.
Celebrating international women’s day, Jen, Gemma and Coral took part in the Women’s exhibition match at the Quad Nations 2019. They are great rugby players and wonderful role models and the rest of the Crushers are very proud of them.
The final super series of the year would be held a Fenton Manor again. The Crushers would be in pool B, along side Burn, Ospreys and the Titans. Our first game of the weekend would be against Ospreys, which turned out to be one of the closest, exciting game of the competition, with Ospreys leading by one point at 24 – 23 at the end of the first half. The Crushers fought hard to claw back the single point deficit but ultimately, the Ospreys took a 45 – 44 victory. The Crushers had to pick themselves up after the disappointment of losing by one point as they took on Gloucester in their second game. Another terrific game, which although Gloucester won by 41 – 39, were forced to forfeit the game as players they had fielded were unclassifiable. The final game of day one would prove to be just as close as the days previous game, which finished 44 – 40 to Burn.
The Crushers felt strong and confident going into day two as they took on the Bulls. They’re confidence was not misplaced as they took an early lead which was comfortably extend as the game went on, the eventually ran out an impressive 57 – 27 victory. The final game of the weekend would be the most challenging of them all as they took on a formidable and functional team in the Ulster Barbarians. Much like what the Crushers did to Bull, the Barbarians did to the Crushers, taking the lead and holding it for a 52 – 46 victory.
With such a successful weekend the Crushers cemented third in the final league standings and their place in the Nationals.
A huge congratulations to Gemma for winning young coach of the year for her work coaching the Dundee Dragons. More than a worthy winner, it comes as no surprise to those of us who know her best.
Super series two kicked off at Fenton Manor this weekend and up first against the Crushers were the Bulls. The Crushers started out strong taking an early lead of four points by the end of the first quarter, managing to keep the Bulls at arm’s length finally taking the win 39 – 31. Up next were the Titans, who could not cope with the difference in pace and strength and lost 51 – 27 to the Crushers, who proved to be the better team. In the final game of the first day the Crushers were up against a fast, functional and experienced RGC, sadly after the their comprehensive victory the crushers were to be humbled in a 54 – 25 defeat.
Day two would be a repeat of day two of super series one, the Crushers would face burn and the hawks again. Unfortunately there would be no victories in day two as the Crushers lost 40 – 35 to Burn and 49 – 42 to the Hawks, though they did have have some conciliation with Michael winning MPV.