On to Division One, where we can crown two conference champions this weekend should results go the way of the respective teams. But how do our writers see the results going?
Yorkshire Rams vs Manchester Titans
The Rams have done well this year, consolidating what they have and building and strengthening around core players such as Adam Cowley and Chris Lawton. They may have started badly with the loss to Newcastle but they’ve bounced back and had a decent season, with a 4-2 record and a positive points tally.
But they won’t have enough to stop the 7-0 Manchester Titans from wrapping up the conference title this weekend. The team in blue have completely dominated, putting up 273 points and dropping just 50 in their 7 games thus far.
The pickup of Luke Carlton as OC has been key, and he has built his playbook around the pieces he has to great effect. We’ll see them in the National Finals this year. Manchester Titans to win.
Newcastle Vikings vs Doncaster Mustangs
Similar to the West Coast Trojans, I have continued to defend the Mustangs in these predictions this year. They ARE a well drilled team. That was obvious in their displays against Manchester.
However they’ve still only picked up one win and shipped a division one high 223 points. Add that to the one way coach fiasco that ended their hopes of picking up another win at WCT and you have a troublesome scenario.
Newcastle, meanwhile, sit pretty on a respectable 3-3 record, conceding just 92 points in those 6 games – not bad for a first year in the division! They have to pick up the offence but I fancy them for the win here. Newcastle Vikings to win.
Coventry Jets vs Sandwell Steelers
The first of back-to-back games between the sides as the Jets enter the final three games of the season looking for the breakthrough to halt the relegation charge to Division Two.
Defeat to Birmingham last week gave the Bulls some breathing room in the battle to avoid the drop, but Coventry – despite being on the wrong end of a 71-0 thrashing in the reverse fixture earlier in the campaign – actually find themselves in a better position owing to the jittery Sandwell offense.
The loss of Callum Davidson for the season hit the Steelers hard in the first game sans-QB1 as they were trounced 42-0 on the road to Leicester. Very little momentum on offense means this could turn in to another defensive battle, and with the Jets creating turnovers (three versus the Bulls), they just need to find a way to convert them in to points.
All that said, I’m going back to early season form and predicting a win for Sandwell. The OC David Butler has had extra time to work with his young back-ups under centre, and RB James Jones-Cross has grown in to his starting role, grinding out the hard yards in recent games. It’ll be close, but Sandwell will edge it.
Birmingham Bulls vs Leicester Falcons
Can the Bulls pull off the great escape? The victory over the Jets has given them the leg up in the race to stay in Division One in 2018, holding on to the win despite turning the ball over three times.
The two sides only met three weeks ago, and the Bulls will look for a repeat first half defensive performance this weekend, keeping the score close entering half time. Although they were shutout in a 30-0 loss, there were plenty of positives to come out of the game.
The Falcons meanwhile put up a third straight shutout win, trouncing Sandwell to jump to 5-1 on the season and right behind Nottingham in the race for the conference title.
I want to believe that the Bulls will keep this tight and continue to grow in the level of their performances as they have done this season. But Leicester are hitting their groove right now, putting up over 100 points without response over the last three games. Falcons win.
Sussex Thunder vs Solent Thrashers
Solent had a less than ideal start to the season as they were shut out in their opener against the Thunder. Conceding two loses before they found their wings they have since managed to soar above the competition other than a stumble in week 9 at Oxford. Having already retaliated against the Eagles by defeating them twice, the Thrashers should be looking to quell the storm that Sussex have brought to the SFC 1 Central and greatly increase their chances of post season football.
On the other hand, is there anything that can stop the boys from Brighton? Sussex have seen off all competitors so far, and are one win away from definitively clinching the conference. A week off following their shut out win over the Eagles and confidence must be high in the Sussex camp, but they can’t let that go to their heads. If they take their eye off the prize and count their chickens before they hatch their perfect season could disappear in a flash.
Although Solent have been able to put together victories at home and away, this trip along the coast won’t be a fun sunny trip, I’ll be expecting the Thunder to continue their winning ways.
London Olympians vs London Hornets
The Olympians host their newly made rivals this weekend for the second instalment of the two Division 1 London outfits. after losing to the Hornets in Week 6, the former European Powerhouse, have won three on the bounce. With their passing attack looking more and more lethal, QB Aaron Griffiths has found some rapport with TE Stephen Kimmins and rookie WR Kevin Boatey.
The Hornets also find themselves in a win streak. With back to back victories, the North London program will be looking to get their first road victory of the year. Last week the Hornets started a new QB as Seb Gogerly tried to ignite the offense. Although the Hornets came away with the W, they once again managed only two scores. Defensively stout, they could truly become a force if they can be more efficient on offense.
With the Olympians seeming to be unable to beat other London teams in the past four years, this game will be one that HC Neil Edwards will want to get into the bag.
I believe that this week, the Hornets will finally score more than three TDs, but the Conference leaders, the Olympians will turn this into the shootout that everybody wants to see! Olympians win.
Cambridgeshire Cats vs Colchester Gladiators
Back at home after two road defeats, the Cats have finally been removed from the head of the conference. Managing just 11 points against the Hornets in two fixtures, the Cats offense just doesn’t seem to be working. Unable to get much going, they continue to ound the rock. RB Bobby Ammisah will be the main workhorse through the rest of the season as we saw Johnny rogers return to the Ipswich Cardinals where he rushed for over 1000 yards.
Colchester Gladiators, you beauts! The winning Gladiators! Last week saw them pull off an impressive shutout win against the widely tipped Kent Exiles. They’ll look to take the momentum of the win through the remainder of the season as they look to keep their playoff dreams alive, aiming for a 5-5 record. Don’t count them out just yet.
Unable to fully buy into this underdog story, I can’t see the Gladiators having enough to beat the Cats. Probably not the prediction the Cambridge side want to hear, they continue to prove me wrong, week in week out! Maybe they’ll break the DC curse, if we are wrong though, it’s another underdog victory, so I won’t be too distraught!