We’re at the semi-final stage in the bottom tier, where the sides square off not only for probable promotion, but for the North the right to travel to Newcastle for the NFC2 final, while the south fight it out for a place in the SFC2 final in Leicester.
Aberdeen Roughnecks vs Birmingham Bulls
The Roughnecks may be looking at this matchup as an opportunity to final get the credit they feel they’ve deserved all season long.
The only perfect team in the northern half of the tier, the Roughnecks’ earned themselves the #1 seed in the north to close out the year, but never went higher than third in the Power Rankings through the season. Well, this weekend they host a team that spent five weeks in the numero uno spot… though admittedly during the early weeks of the season.
Obviously both outfits found success in the quarters to earn their way into the semis, but otherwise these two teams postseason stories so far couldn’t be more different. Aberdeen welcomed Furness north of the wall, and then proceeded to make utterly exorcise the visiting Phantoms – the 61-0 victory the Scotsmen’s largest of the season, and by some margin!
Meanwhile, Birmingham fought a much more cagey affair against the Halton Spartans – the Bulls barging their way to an early 14-0 lead, before the Spartans clawed one back. The final score of the fixture was a Birmingham safety just ahead of the half, before the two teams spent two full quarters in deadlock, the midlands side emerging 16-6 victors in a bruising affair.
Their victory has earned them a daunting trip up to an Aberdeen side that will be brimming with confidence following their big win – but at the same time very aware that the Bull’s were on many’s lists as favourites to earn their way right back up to Div One balling…
So how do both Team DC and the Britball Nation see this one playing out?
Chester Romans vs Staffordshire Surge
Similar to above, this match up pairs two teams that have very different tales to tell of their playoff experience so far this year.
For Chester it was a comfortable 47-6 win over a Bombers side many were considering dark horses, capable of taking some big scalps in playoffs. A balanced offence lead by 6’7″ quarterback Byron Ward found ways through and over a Bombers D that had looked impressive in its final four outings of the year, and for a team that had gone toe-to-toe with the Surge and Bulls during the regular season, Lincolnshire looked lacking in firepower against the Romans.
Making the short trip west this Sunday, a relieved Staffordshire side that came worryingly close to falling at the first hurdle. Again, on many pundit’s lists as favourites for promotion, the Surge made their quarterfinals fixture hosting the Hunters look like hard work. Despite Dumfries expected by few to cause the top team out of the NFC 2 South many problems, the Scots side actually led for the vast majority of the fixture, Staffordshire only snatching a lead late in the fourth to take a 12-7 win.
Still, Halton has already proven once this year that the Romans’ march can be stopped by a well-prepped defence, so while the Surge come into this game perhaps true underdogs for the first time this year… will that be reflected in our polls?
South Wales Warriors vs Portsmouth Dreadnoughts
Ooh, this one’s an interesting one!
The Dreadnoughts absolutely demolished their quarter-finals opponents, Warriors’ conference-mates the Trojans, in their Quarterfinals fixture. While the teams duelled back and forth through the first quarter, once Portsmouth got going it was a completely one-sided affair – the 55-0 thumping of Torbay a statement of intent by the Dreadnoughts. The victory earns them a second tilt against the SFC 2 West, this time against an undefeated South Wales side that similarly made short work of Torbay when the two teams met in the regular season for a second time.
Dreadnoughts Coach Luke Head-Rapson shared:
“We’ve earned ourselves a long away trip to South Wales after a win and a good performance on Sunday, which we expect to be a much tougher matchup away from home. South Wales have the number one ranked defence in Division Two so we’ll have our work cut out on offence, and our defence will have to step up and generate turnovers to put our O in a good position.
Should be a tremendous battle between two of the best defences Division Two has to offer, and with promotion on the line the stakes couldn’t be higher.”
Undefeated Western champs they may be, but in many ways the Warriors are still something of an unknown in their playoff capacity. Their Quarterfinal fixture versus the Black Knights was awarded as a walkover, Worcestershire unable to field a team, and so we haven’t actually seen the Warriors in action since late July – a comfy win over the Sharks to wrap up an undefeated season.
As Coach Head-Rapson stressed, the biggest takeaway from the Warriors’ year in their incredible defensive numbers – only 14 points conceded through eight fixtures! However, the Dreadnoughts have similarly built a reputation for defensive dominance in their last two seasons, so while we have two teams coming into this fixture off the back of big shut-out victories in their recent outings, might we instead see a much more modest, low-scoring affair when the Rocks of Portsmouth travel to the Hard Place that is Llanharan?
London Blitz B vs Hertfordshire Cheetahs
And we wrap up the second set of postseason fixtures for Division Two with an echo of the U19’s semi-final that took place last weekend – the Hertfordshire Cheetahs travelling to the London Blitz.
As it was, the Blitz took that particular matchup in convincing fashion – posting up 44 essentially unanswered points, with the Cheetahs only digits coming via a ‘pick two’ – returning a conversion the length of the field in a show of determination from the Cheetahs.
Of course, the Adults Herts side will be hoping for a very different result. They took a comfortable win over the Cardinals last week, with Ipswich being the only side that really made the Blitz sweat in the regular season. All year long they’ve displayed consistency on both sides of the ball, particularly in their D’s ability to keep scorelines low – Ipswich’s early TD and then garbage time consolation score the only points the Cheetahs have conceded on home soil all season long!
Head Coach Craig Barnes shared:
“Adam Adeniji was amazing last Sunday, 254 yards off 23 carries, he would have had over 300 if one run hadn’t been called back for holding. We also passed for four TDs, so we are providing a powerful balance to our offence.
London Blitz B are conference champions. We will afford them the respect they deserve, they do have threats on both sides of the ball. We are confident in our ability, however we are certain this will be our toughest struggle yet.”
Indeed, the Blitz may feel they’ve lacked the respect they deserve this season, as despite an undefeated campaign they only sporadically contested the top spots in the Power Rankings – their SFC 2 East perhaps seen as one of the softer conferences in the tier? We’ll certainly learn a lot about the relative strengths of the southern conferences from this weekend’s game!
Still, London wrapped up the regular season as the #2 ranked team, and come into this game with incredible momentum following big back to back wins over the Norwich Devils – including their #50Burger shutout of the East Anglian side last Sunday.
Two conference champs go head to head… Who do we see playing Division One football next year?