Following the BAFCA enforced mid-season break, the National Leagues action returns! First up, we have Division Two where all 6 conferences are in action.
Dumfries Hunters vs Clyde Valley Blackhawks
The 0-3 Hunters are looking to get their season started properly and the 2-1 Blackhawks will be keen to try and keep pace with the rejuvenated Tigers at the top of the pile. The two teams have met once already in Week Four and the Blackhawks scraped a 26-24 win, but close losses have been the story of year one for Dumfries and I don’t see that changing on this occasion.
It’s likely there’ll only be one of the four Scottish teams making it to the playoffs, so CVB will be focussed on keeping their foot on the gas if they don’t want their first season back in the league to end without postseason action.
Clyde Valley to take the win.
Leeds Bobcats vs Walney Terriers
It’s a Week 6 rematch for Leeds and Walney as the former look to push on to 5-0, and the latter look to bounce back to .500.
The Leeds Bobcats currently have the #1 defence in Britball, conceding a mere 3 points per game. Through the Bobcats first three games, their defence starred, but it was their offence that came to live in Week 7 with a 62-6 beatdown of the Knottingley Raiders. It looks like Leeds are beginning to go through the gears and show themselves once again as a potential promotion contender.
Meanwhile Walney will be looking to continue their strong season, having already picked up two victories, but haven’t had the luck of the draw as they face both Leeds and Gateshead twice this season. The Terriers held both the Bobcats (0-32) and Gateshead (12-27) to relatively close scorelines in their first matchups, but face both again the their next three fixtures. They may have a sneaky eye on next weeks trip to Northumberland.
Leeds make it 5-0, and continue to dominate defensively, and improve offensively.
Knottingley Raiders vs Northumberland Lightning
The 0-3 Knottingley Raiders and 0-3 Northumberland Lightning face off this week, both looking to pick up victories for the first time this season.
Knottingley have had a rough start to life in the National Leagues, suffering back to back defeats against Walney before suffering a dismantling at the hands of Leeds Bobcats. The saving grace for the Raiders is that they have scored points this year, averaging 10.67 points per game, more than the other two winless teams in the division. They’ll be eyeing their first ever National League victory this weekend.
Northumberland have struggled this season, but have faced the top three in the division who have a combined 11-1 record. They have had a month off and should be well rested and well drilled ahead of this Week 8 matchup. Northumberland must get their run game going to match a much improved passing attack. Defensively they have taken a step back so far this year, conceding 46.67 points per game, one of the worst in Britball.
This is a difficult one to call, I’m going to side with Northumberland to get their first win in the books in a very close matchup.
Chester Romans vs Halton Spartans
It seems slight odd that this fixture might be considered a must win for both of these teams. Despite the disparity in records, both teams need a win to keep their seasons on track. The Halton Spartans got their season back on track with a win against the Crewe Railroaders. They will have been glad to have been playing someone other than the cream of the division, which they had to do for their opening two fixtures. They’ll be looking to go .500 with a win against Chester. Its difficult to pin down exactly what the Spartans are. Their single win coming against dreadful opposition, however they have managed to put points up against the Revolution and even lead against them going into the half. However when you’ve lost to the best team in the division and won against one of the worst its difficult to get a handle on what sort of a team you are. A significant win against the Romans will boost the Spartans chances of playoff football.
The Romans are coming off another win against the Staffordshire Surge. Once again I’ve come away impressed by their offensive line. Now I must caveat this opinion by saying I have only seen the highlights and not full game film, however the Romans runningbacks must love the big uglies in front of them. Often they manage to get into the endzone untouched. The push the Romans Oline manages to get is impressive to say the least. This game against the Spartans is also a must win for the Romans if they wish to keep pace with the Revolution to win the division. The Romans will want to head into the rematch with the Revolution, at worst, one game behind.
I think the Romans will have the beating of the Spartans. They’re at home, they have a superior offensive line and they should handily win this game.
Shropshire Revolution vs Humber Warhawks
This game seems to already be a forgone conclusion. The Warhawks are simply not very good while the Revolution sit undefeated at the top of the division. However i suppose i need to go into a bit more detail than that.
The Warhawks have a single win on the season. Had they not made a 2 point stand against the Crewe Railroaders earlier in the season then they would not have a win to their name. They are coming of a big loss to the improving Lincolnshire Bombers. Although they managed to score 28 points in the loss, all their points came when the game was already decided. Apart from that they have only score 2 other times this season. The impending away trip to the league leaders will not be condusive to returning to winning ways.
The Revolution are undefeated and with good reason. They have a pretty decent defence. Gap penetrating up front with good coverage over the top. The Revolution defence has laid waste to many an offensive unit and kickstarted their offensive performances in many games this season.
Having been not played for two weeks the Revolution will be chomping at the bit to get back into action and consolidate their place atop the NFC 2 South. This game is pretty easy to call and i suspect the Revolution will win it handily.
Jurassic Coast Raptors vs Worcestershire Black Knights
The Raptors have had a hard time so far in the conference, having lost by at least 30 points in all their game bar one. The last time the Raptors faced the Black Knights they came away with a close victory. Compared to last season, the Raptors’ offence has made steady progress, having produced a touchdown every game. The Raptors continue to struggle on defense, allowing an eye-watering 36.75 PAPG.
Despite losing to the Sharks in their previous fixture, Coach Rich Smith was impressed with how his team performed and kept fighting until the end. Incredibly, their quarterback, Matt Edgar, stepped up to the place of right guard to help support this team. Worryingly, this may be an indicator of a lack of depth with the rookie unit. Worcestershire have shown that despite being the new team, they’re no pushovers, with their losses coming to a five point or less difference.
In their last meet, the Raptors edged in a win and capitalised on the Black Knights’ mistakes. Raptors proved me wrong last time and they’ll have to do it again as I’m going for a Black Knights win.
Cornish Sharks vs Bristol Apache
This game, alongside its rematch two weeks later, will be the decider on who is crowned conference champion. The Sharks have surprised people with oppositions regularly mentioning their experience and aggressive style of play . Everyone has been raving about how Bristol will win the conference and the division, meaning that Sharks have played with a chip on their shoulder. Their regular inconsistencies from last year season to have been ironed out by the coaching staff. Not allowing a single TD this season against their defense, the Sharks’ have formidable against the run. Their pass defence had an opportunity to show that it’s not just the run they can stop, with Alex Bonner and Daryn Brookes both finishing the game with pick 6s.
At the beginning of the season, the Cornish side seemed to be struggle to find the endzone, having scored only 6 points against Torbay. Since then, the team have rallied together and learnt from mistakes to now score a 50 burger on the Trojan side. Of course, the Sharks and Apache have been going at it for a few seasons now and the Sharks know that a match against Apache will never be easy and always comes with it’s only challenging surprises. Head Coach Brian Smallworth is rightfully proud of his team’s achievements thus far, but understands that this will be the real test of their ability: “The defence has been playing well and currently have a clean sheet. The offense has made a couple of mistakes which have resulted in scores for the opposition, but we’re confident that we have eliminated the problem. On Sunday it should be a hard football game where you will see the Sharks’ teeth in action. This will be one of the best games of the year.”.
There will be no doubt in the Bristol sides’ minds how important this game is. This will be Simon Staddon’s first real test as HC and an opportunity for the players to show Britball Nation that they’re top dog in the South West. In what has become a staple of Bristol football, the Apache have continued to have an aggressive, hard hitting defence which caused issues for the Raptors. Their offense has continued to use shark-hunting veteran, Jon Walters as a way of securing those first downs. Bristol made a statement that they’re coming for the Sharks’ D by scoring high on the Raptors. Being a development squad for their premiership counterpart, the Apache have young players who made good impressions so far this season, with Jason Neale at RB and Ross Murison at WR.
The pass defense has been steadily improving with younger players, Sam Mendoza and Iuan Meredith both stepping up last game. The Apache have made a habit of becoming complacent over near the end of their games this season, which almost cost them the game against Swindon Storm. When speaking to Head Coach, Simon Staddon, he with his team’s performance and knew that this his side could find success as long as they focus: “We’re hoping to capitalise on a solid performance against Jurassic Coast two weeks ago. Cornish will be a tough prospect but we have the tools and ability to come away with a win, we just need to make sure we stay on focused on the task at hand”.
When the last two played last season, it was a scrappy, physical affair, with the Bristol squad coming out victorious. Can the Apache find the chink in the Sharks’ armour? Will the Sharks defence finally be reminded what it’s like to be scored on? It’s a tough decision, but when looking at the Sharks’ previous games and momentum, they look like the favourites to me. Cornwall to win.
Guest written by Frankie Pankhurst
Maidstone Pumas vs Hastings Conquerors
Both the pumas and the conquerors have had a torid time of late. The Pumas, go into this one winless and haven’t actually won a competitive league game since 8 May 2011 when they defeated the Bedfordshire Blue Raiders (for our new followers please see the Ouse Valley Eagles) 6-0. However, they have been slowly building and improving, with a strong youth set up and an ever increasing coaching staff we don’t think that it will be long until they turn a corner.
Hastings had a promising season in 2016, but unfortunately in-house politics appears to have hurt them in the off season and they also go into this game without a W, having been forced to forfeit their last 2 games due to a lack of players. Fortunately they have a playing squad ready to play on Sunday and will be making the trip to Maidstone.
This will be a tightly fought contest and we expect the loser to go on to collect the divisions wooden spoon. We are going to opt for the Maidstone Pumas to win. Their resilience of late will go a long way for them in breaking the longest losing streak in Britball.
Essex Spartans vs East Essex Sabres
So here we go. Battle of Essex vol.2 !!!
The 2-1 Spartans won the first outing 20-14 and sit just over mid table . Their only blemish coming against what seems to be an improved Blitz B. The Sabres gave a good showing in the first Essex Bowl but have been pretty toothless since. They must feel slightly aggrieved that they have scored more and conceded less than the long standing Cardinals but have a chance to avenge this and get off the bottom of the table in the rematch.
I expect this time around to be a slightly different story than game one as the Spartans need a win to keep in the playoff picture.
Expect a convincing Spartans win amid a plethora of oversized stereso, mahogany tanned spectators and prosseco.
Ipswich Cardinals vs East Kent Mavericks
These two teams are having very different seasons. The Mavs look to return to the post season this year and are putting together the wins to do it. The Cardinals have squeaked a win over the newbie Sabres and currently sit last in points scored and conceded. But they do still have one of the nicest pitches in Britball. Every cloud, and all that.
We could debate this longer but let’s be honest it’s gonna be a good old fashioned stampede from the Mavs. With rumours of the Cardinals struggling for numbers we hope they stick it out and last the season. Coach Lindleys boys take it.