Over the last few weeks this conference has been becoming easier to predict and foresee where each of the teams currently sit in the whole scheme of things. The Liverpool Raptors and Leeds Gryphons sit atop the division, both perfect with half of their shortened six game seasons played already.
With two teams at 3-0 you might think this conference is a two horse race – but look a little closer and you’ll see there’s still a lot of balling yet to be played out.
The Bangor Muddogs, early season favourites for the conference, fell afoul of a two point loss to the on form Leeds Celtics in Week Five, Delve deeper and those on the ground will know that the tight game got off to the worst of starts for the ‘Dogs when a rookie neglected to cover up a kick off return, setting the Gryphons up in Bangor territory right from the outset.
A two point swing with such a mistake does show that this conference may not be as open and shut it appears at first glance.
Bangor may yet prove to have a hand in the end of season shake up in indeed could yet scoop up the conference crown if they are able to beat the Raptors in Week Nine and the Raptors in turn turnover the Gryphons in Week Ten. Assuming each of the three go undefeated in their other fixtures, you could well be looking at the three way tie at 5-1 with overlapping head to heads. Liverpool’s three straight shut outs so far should serve them well here, though as noted they’ve got their two biggest challenges yet to come.
A lot rests on this game if the other results go as expected, with the winner we would expect going into the 1A North West, potentially meaning next season could see both Sheffield and both Leeds teams in the same conference… varsity matches for days!
The Bradford Bears sit in the middle ground of the conference, nominally tied with Bangor at two and one, but their form has been worryingly inconsistent. A small squad, they travelled light to Liverpool and thus were forced to forfeit at the half, but followed up a couple of weeks later with a strong 30-0 win over Chester.
With two of their biggest games still ahead of them on the schedule, the Bears still have the opportunity to run the table and shake things up in the conference, but it’ll come down to which Bears show up at their Bangor and Leeds fixtures – the hard running programme that hit the league hard right from their introduction to the league? Or the Teddy Bears that folded at the half in Week Three?
At the foot of the division Edge Hill, Keele and Chester will be fighting it out for pride. Edge Hill do at least seem to have something about them, but their small squad size may come back to haunt them.
This came to the fore in their last match before Christmas – called at half time against the Gryphons due to player safety.
It was the first game I was able to attend in my role as Conference Correspondent, and despite showing some ability early in the fixture, the Vikings couldn’t match the Gryphons’ depth or physicality and so it all ended rather quietly in the middle of the pitch.
Expect the Vikings to put on a good show to end the season when they play the Chester Legion, and they could also throw a cat amongst the pigeons against Bradford, depending on whether it’s grizzlies or stuffed toys that show up for the Bears.
Keele and Chester will more than likely prop up the table and their game in Week Nine will most likely ultimately decide which of them of the rests at the bottom of the conference. Keele just seem unable to grow the programme they want to, and if they don’t find a spark or something soon they might be surpassed by the even younger Chester Legion over the next 18 months or so.
Week Nine: Bangor Muddogs vs Liverpool Raptors
Week 10: Leeds Gryphons vs Liverpool Raptors