NORTHWICH Sapphires’ hopes of completing a brilliant comeback victory against Blackpool on Sunday were dashed when their opponents scored from a thrilling contest’s final attack.

The hosts had trailed for most of the North West Championship League fixture at Rudheath Leisure Centre before a storming start to the fourth quarter saw them overtake their guests before establishing a three-goal advantage.

To their credit, Blackpool remained determined a successful penalty-shot earned for them a 47-47 draw after Sapphires conceded possession with seconds left on the clock.

A close game saw them trail 14-12 at the end of the first quarter, a gap they narrowed to a single goal by half-time.

The third quarter gave a taster of what was to follow as Sapphires rallied from 28-24 adrift to edge ahead at 32-31 before Blackpool responded to lead by four goals again.

Shooter Alice Taylor, a member of Sapphires’ under 15s squad, was composed throughout under the hoop on her debut for the first team in place of regular starter Madeleine Dann.

Goal attack Lauren Watson, chosen by the away team as Northwich’s best player, was inventive in supplying the teenager with passes from which she could score.

At the other end of the court, goal defence Jaz Barlow made a string of interceptions to disrupt Blackpool’s rhythm during a match that could have gone either way.

The result leaves Sapphires, stepping up to Division One for the first time after they were promoted at the end of last season, sixth in the final table.

After losing their opening three matches, their improvement has been significant.

They are already assured top spot in the Cheshire Elite League after winning all their matches to date and can conclude that campaign with an unblemished record if they prevail in one remaining fixture next weekend.

Meanwhile Sapphires second team went down 69-36 against Manchester Giants in a regional league game on Sunday after starting the weekend by overturning a nine-goal interval deficit to beat Ribble Valley (53-49) the previous morning.


North West Championship League

Sunday, April 7

Division One: Northwich Sapphires 47-47 Blackpool; Oldham 68-30 Manchester; Tameside 46-63 Elysium; YWCA Bury 46-56 Chester

Division Two: Northwich Sapphires 36-69 Manchester Giants; Tameside 59-35 Denton; Warrington 58-47 Darwen; YWCA Bury 55-41 Chester