By Jonny Whitfield
American football may not be a majority sport in Britain, but for Yorkshire-based fans, this weekend presents a huge opportunity for success.
Leeds Chargers’ women face off with London Warriors for a chance to meet either Birmingham Lions or Manchester Titans in the final of the 2018 Sapphire Series.
The tournament pits four teams from the north and south respectively against each other, with the top two teams in each table then offered the chance of glory at the season finale in April.
Leeds have appeared in the final two of the last three seasons, coming up short in 2017 with a 56-6 defeat to Birmingham.
This year, Connah Scholes’ side must face the Warriors in their play-off tie, having defeated the club 32-13 in the first ever meeting between the teams three weeks ago.
Ahead of Saturday’s crucial tie, Chargers assistant coach Spencer Whybrow said: “I’d say it was a challenging game, the biggest the girls have had this far into the season.
“They were certainly nervous to begin with, but they managed to hold their confidence together and I think their ability showed through in the second half and they pulled away.
“Having played London, we’re quite well prepared now. As a team are going to adapt well, but we’ll be working hard to keep ourselves ahead of them but I think the girls will be quietly confident.”
Whybrow’s comments were echoed by Chargers captain Bo Stewart, who was selected as the team’s MVP for this season.
She said: “Football is very much about winning your own battles and doing your job, so I’m glad that it’s all worked out, and it’s showing all the hard work that’s been put back in.
“London are a very good team, but I think it will be even tougher this time. So we’ve got to be humble and get our heads down, play like we play and don’t defer to how we’ve been in training.”
In the other play-off, Manchester face opponents who have not lost this term.
Whybrow said: “I think if we were to play Manchester in the final I’d rate our chances very high – we’ve beat them several times and they have a very solid formula that that we’ve broken down very well.
“If we end up playing Birmingham in the final I think all bets are off somewhat.”
The tournament will come to its climax on Saturday, with the final taking place after both play-off fixtures.