It’s all about the third tier this weekend, as the Premier and Division One finalists have a week off to prepare for the big one. After 18 gruelling weeks of the regular season, the Division Two playoffs are finally here! There’s no overall Division Two title game, keeping it strictly North and South champions.
Without further ado…
Wembley Stallions vs Hertfordshire Cheetahs
Wembley find themselves in the opposite of their 2016 post-season adventure, where they travelled to the top seeded London Hornets as the bottom seed themselves. They lost to the eventual finalists, who BAFA promoted anyway, and will be confident that they can go all the way this time. While the undefeated Stallions boast only the third best offence in the SFC2, they conceded just 63 points on the season, 34 less than their nearest competitors.
The Cheetahs had likely hoped they might be hosting a playoff game rather than travelling to the top seeds. A 7-0 start rapidly gave way to three defeats to the end the season, seeing them slip from top spot in the division to nabbing the final available ticket to the big dance. Despite a 50-14 drubbing of the eventual division winners, the Berkshire Renegades, in week two, the Cheetahs fell off in three back to back games against top calibre opponents.
It’s clear that the Cheetahs end to the season has been noticed by our correspondents, who vote 8-2 in favour of the Stallions. Oheeul, and division correspondent JJ are the only faces at Team DC backing the upset.
Bristol Apache vs Swindon Storm
The second team in the SFC2 to post a perfect regular season record, the Apache have faced relatively weak resistance in 2017. The second best offence and fourth best defence show that they are solid at the very least across the board. Bolstered by a handful of ex-Premier and European experience, the Apache seem to have the makeup to go all the way this year after losing to the champion Oxford Saints in 2016.
However, they face the one team that ran them the closest this year. The Apache posted their lowest margin of victory against the Storm, winning by just five points in week three, so it would seem that the much improved seven seed have some intimate knowledge that might just put them over the edge. They ended the season with a run of seven wins in eight games, their lone defeat coming to the Apache, so momentum is gathering in Swindon.
However, it’s not gathering so much at DC Towers. The only clean sweep in the SFC2 quarter finals, not a single correspondent is backing the Storm to come out victorious. Perfect bulletin board material for an upset though, eh?
Berkshire Renegades vs East Kent Mavericks
The Renegades were the only team in the SFC2 to top an average of 40 points per game in 2017, something they carried over from 2016. However, their prolific offence failed them when they were needed the most, putting up just two scores in a quarter final defeat to the Cambridgeshire Cats. Having not lost since week two, they’ve put up a minimum of four scores in every game since.
But this is arguably the closest game of the lot. The Mavericks have had a strange time lately. We’ll forgive the losses to the Wembley Stallions, everybody lost to them, but they allowed things to get a little too hairy in a three game stretch against the London Blitz B and Essex Spartans. Sure, they went 2-1 in that time, but just two scores the other way, and we’re writing about Blitz B instead of the Mavericks here. They managed a respectable average points per game, but they’ll need to shore up their #10 defence against firepower like the Renegades.
It’s a tie! Despite all the above, DC Towers is split right down the middle. Backing the level of competition faced, five of our correspondents think the Mavericks have the edge. We’re deferring to our editor to break the tie…
The man from Double Coverage, he says… Mavericks to win!
Portsmouth Dreadnoughts vs Cornish Sharks
Perhaps statistics flatter the Dreadnoughts. 291 points for to 97 against looks more than respectable for a #4 seed in the SFC2, but when you break down the results, it’s not nearly as impressive. Blowout wins against Hastings and Bournemouth inflated their numbers, and hide those games where they put up less than three scores. However, Portsmouth know what to do in clutch situations, and ended the season in style, doing what they had to, beating the Cheetahs twice, with a 68-0 win sandwiched in between.
All the above will have the Sharks rightfully feeling like they have a good shot at the slight upset. A one score, week seventeen loss to Swindon, that left no fingernails unbitten, is the only real black mark on their season. Their other two defeats came to the dominant Apache, one of them by just six points. Their offensive output won’t cause eyes to pop out of heads, but their defence ranked third in the conference. Almost seems a perfect matchup against a team that scored the majority of their points against weak opposition…
Our team thinks it’s close, but no cigar for those making the long trip across the south of England this weekend. Seven to five in favour of the Dreadnoughts, the numbers at least show that we thought about the potential of an upset in Portsmouth.