We’re back for Week Five of the BAFA National Leagues, with plenty of action taking place across Division Two. It’s prediction time!
Carlisle Sentinels vs Leeds Bobcats
It hasn’t been the easiest of starts to the season for the Carlisle Sentinels. First game of the season they faced off against one of the division favourites in Gateshead, succumbing to a heavy 42-6 defeat. The plus point, however, is that they have matched last season’s points total in just their first game, against one of the strongest opposition in the division. A cancelled game against Knottingley means it’s almost a month since they last played, and it doesn’t get any easier against the play-off calibre Leeds Bobcats.
I had the chance to watch Leeds last weekend as they put a 46-0 beating on the Northumberland Lightning, but I’d be surprised with the Bobcats were fully happy with their performance. After racing to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter, in took until the end of the 3rd for the Bobcats to add to the scoring. The star for Leeds was WR Robin Oakley who cuaght three touchdowns on the afternoon. Nevertheless, it was a comprehensive victory for one of the division favourites, and they’ll be relishing their game against Carlisle.
Leeds will come into the game as heavy favourites, and I see their offence chasing the 50 burger that eluded them last weekend. For Carlisle, the season couldn’t have started with two tougher games, they’ll be hoping to get through this one healthy and look ahead to some more favourable matchups. Leeds to win.
Humber Warhawks vs Staffordshire Surge
Oh hello Staffordshire, where have you been hiding? The Surge are the last remaining team in NFC2 South who haven’t played a regular season fixture yet. That changes this weekend where they travel to Hull to take on the Warhawks
The Warhawks only just snuck past the struggling Crewe Railroaders. A win is a win is a win is a win, however the Warhawks would liked to have started their regular season in more auspicious ways that. Crewe were playing their fourth string quarterback for the home clash in Hull due to a number of factors and the Warhawks will have wanted to give a much better account of them selves than having to make a goal line stop on a 2 point play to secure the win. Having your starting QB leave the game with a neck injury will also have damped the spirits on what should have been a comfortable win for the Warhawks.
Unlike their opponents on Sunday, the surge have not taken the field in anger in 2017. Going into the season things look relatively bleak. In 2016 the Surge managed to taste playoff football, however they have lost a number of key players and coaches coming into the 2017 season. However the Surge remain bullish about their chances following strong recruitment during the off season. One thing to cause a slight concern is how the team is going to gel after fielding so many rookies. Its a bit of an unknown quantity when you have to field players who have no ‘live fire’ experience when the pads start clattering together as you don’t know how they are going to react.
However I remain unconvinced by the Warhawks at this point of the season. A one point win against a struggling railroaders side where the game could have gone either way does not amount to a right lot. Even with the struggles in the off season befalling the Surge I still can’t look past them for the win. Playoff football last season has to count for something right?
Jurassic Coast Raptors vs Swindon Storm
Well, Swindon have helped make my predictions job that much harder. They lost pretty badly against the Cornish Sharks, but then narrowly lost to Bristol by only 5 points. It looks as though their fairly young unit have responded well to Coach Rich Van Sloten and his coaching staff. Reports that all of their rookies are impressing the staff and are stepping up when required. Their rookie heavy O-line managed to hold well against an experienced Bristol defense. While Storm did run Apache close, they must be careful to not wait until the latter parts of the game to start finding the endzone. On the team’s improvements, Coach Rich Van Slothen said, “Everyone upped their game, so I’m feeling good for the rest of the season…I’m happy with the progression we are making.”.
Fair play to the Raptors. They managed to just about hold back a quite strong rookie team in the Black Knights two weeks ago and were effective in capitalising on their mistakes. While their offense had an effective day, particularly in the redzone, their defense are still having problems stopping oppositions from running in touchdowns. With their lineman back to full strength and new additions to their linebacker core, they may hold Storm back!
Swindon sound like they are reflecting on their games appropriately and making the necessary improvements. The Raptors did prove me wrong last week, but unfortunately, I am going to go against them again this week.
Worcestershire Black Knights vs Torbay Trojans
Worcestershire looks like they have bolstered their offense, having gone from scoring 6 points in a game to 26. The Black Knights caused Torbay to fumble 5 times they met and recovered these each time. Unfortunately, they weren’t immune to mistakes themselves, making errors themselves against the Raptors which contributed to them losing the game. Worcestershire will be hoping to continue shutting down Torbay in the 3rd downs, but sooner than they allowed in their previous encounter. Worcestershire have a run heavy offense, but their passing game is developing. TE, James Lawrence, will be out for revenge against the Trojans after making a statement by scorings three touchdowns against the Raptors. With Worcester Royals’, Mike Harris and Cam Edkins joining their backfield this week, the Knights will be hoping that they can capitalise in the redzone more often.
Torbay’s style of play didn’t change much between their last game against the Black Knights and the Cornish Sharks. Their defense was still strong and prevented more than one touchdown, but their offense was still struggling. Despite the partnership of runningback, Mike Boraston and fullback, Guy Richardson working together to get the team’s only touchdown of the game, it just wasn’t enough in the redzone much of the time. Perhaps Torbay are too reliant on the run and with at least five fumbles to help put the Black Knights’ O back on the field, Torbay know that something needs to change. They may look to develop their pass game further as wide receiver, Tim Rogers, managed to receive the ball from Adam Hines for a 20 yard completion. Due to being an opponent they have already faced, it will be a great opportunity for the Trojans to see if they have made the most of their bye week.
The last time both of these teams played, it was very close match-up. As long as the Black Knights didn’t pick up any injuries last week, I envisage this to be the same. I want to say that Torbay will be the winners, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Black Knights came away with the W.
Berkshire Renegades vs Portsmouth Dreadnoughts
Five weeks into the season the Berkshire Renegades are preparing for game 2. Starting it off 0-1 the Renegades are facing the Portsmouth Destroyers at home in week 5. The team managed to stem the flow at 50 points allowed in their first outing but were able to put 14 points on the board. This could be a hard battle facing the Dreadnoughts who have managed to keep their points allowed to a mere 6.
Undefeated through 2 games sitting tied first in the conference with the Cheetahs, the Dreadnoughts will want to extend their lead over the rest of the conference and remain undefeated. Challenging the Cheetahs for first place for as long as both team’s runs last will be the goal in a season only 10 games long.
Portsmouth to win and stay undefeated, their two wins, however small a margin at 8 and 13 points I think is enough to show the team is at least consistent in their play on both sides of the ball.
Maidstone Pumas vs Hertfordshire Cheetahs
The Maidstone Pumas are the only other team in the conference to have only played 1 game in the 5 weeks of the season so far. Having lost their last game in week 3 leaving the team 0-1 in a 19-6 loss to the Dreadnoughts. The team will still have high spirits for the rest of this 10 game season where anything can happen. Don’t count them out just yet.
The undefeated Cheetahs took a 36-8 win over the bobcats last weekend to place them tied for 1st in the table through 3 games. Despite not putting up a 50-burger the team still maintained a high ratio of points scored to points allowed, 4.5:1, however, this is well short of their performance in the first two games, 8:1. The team will be looking to maintain their perfect streak and take their record to 4-0 this weekend against the Pumas.
Cheetahs to stay undefeated. With three wins under their belts and facing a team that have only fielded a team once so far this season the Cheetahs have the experience and evidence that they can win. Unless something drastic happens the Cheetahs should maintain this drive through week five.
Wembley Stallions vs London Blitz B
Wembley gave us and themselves a bit of a scare last week by going into halftime 14-0 down to the Mavs. That certainly would have dented their postseason plans had the game continued in the same way. The Stallions however adjusted and came back with 23 unanswered points in the second half to win.
The Blitz B somehow rock into week 4 having not played a game yet, so they enjoy the mystique of an unknown quantity. Confidence in the Blitz camp should be high with the A team coming out with a big win in Bristol this week.
Unless there has been a big change I don’t see the Stallions losing this one. Last week should serve as a wakeup call for some of the squad who may have thought they would walk the conference. Stallions win.
Essex Spartans vs Ipswich Cardinals
So here we go…These teams both come into this week in similar situations.
Both come off difficult seasons last year and both have bested the newbie East Essex Sabres this year.
The only real difference being the Cardinals took a thumping from the Stallions early in the season.
The key to this one will be whether the Ipswich Offence can score. 6 points in 2 games ain’t exactly setting the world alight.
Expect a close scrappy game but I’m going with the Spartans.