Week Three is already upon us! A number of Youth and Junior fixtures are also taking place across the National Leagues this weekend, but the focus of our predictions turns to the third tier…
written by Matthew Davies
West Coast Trojans vs Aberdeen Roughnecks
The Trojans opened their account with a loss to Dumfries on Sunday and this week host the Roughnecks who took the spoils when my early division favourites Clyde Valley came to town. Momentum is therefore with the visitors and it’s going to be interesting to see if the home team can show us anything that they didn’t show in game one. To find the last competitive meeting between these teams you have to trawl the archives back to 2015.
In four meetings in 2014 and 2015, the Trojans have won all four both meetings by scores of 48-6, 38-0, 32-7 and 38-6. A couple of seasons have elapsed since the last game but lopsided scorelines like that leave a mark and the visitors will be seeking revenge against a Trojans team who have been promoted and relegated since.
They will also be tasting blood in the water after the Trojans loss to a team who managed only one win in 2017 and looking to pad out the points for column. Aberdeen to win.
Dumfries Hunters vs Clyde Valley Blackhawks
These two teams met only two weeks ago with CVB taking the spoils in a very close game. Since then, however, the Blackhawks lost in a trip to Aberdeen (against my prediction) and the Hunters won away to the Trojans (as predicted), so this poses an interesting situation. Each team will have game one to review and break down and identify opportunities to improve.
From the Hunters perspective, what gave them success in the latter stages of game one which hadn’t been working in the first half? From the Blackhawks perspective, what worked early that they can go back to and what stopped it from being successful? The highlights showed CVB relying on speculative deep passes while the Hunters ground game appeared to become more well established as the game progressed.
The boys from Dumfries rebounded well after an opening week loss, but this weekend we will find out how the Blackhawks can bounce back after being on the wrong side of the scoreline.
I expect another close one but I think the Hunters might have enough momentum and information from game one to turn the tide. Dumfries to win.
written by Stuart Dick
Chester Romans vs Halton Spartans
There was no halting Halton last week in their season opener against the Carlisle Sentinels. They picked up a 38-0 shutout victory with new running back Daniel Morris picking up the offensive MVP award on his debut. The defence – led by defensive lineman Dave Quinn – held the Sentinels to a goose egg, the Spartans couldn’t have asked for a much better start to the season. Could the fact that the Spartans have a game under their belt give them momentum heading into this game?
After back to back play-off seasons, the Chester Romans will be looking to go one better and secure a division title in 2018 – and ultimately promotion back to Division One ball. The Romans last set foot in the middle tier in 2015, but are a combined 15-5 in their past two season. In 2016 the Romans reached the NFC 2 Conference Semi-Finals before losing 58-29 at the hand of the Leicester Falcons. 2017 saw the Romans exit the play-offs at the quarter-final stage, a 44-38 defeat at the hands of the Gateshead Senators. Will it be third time lucky for Chester this season?
The sides have met four over the last two seasons, Chester coming out on top on every occasion. The Romans have outscored the Spartans 155-51 in those contests. And with that I’m going with Chester to make it five wins in a row against their Halton rivals.
Apparently, Stuart didn’t spot Halton’s 51-25 win in 2016. It’s actually 4-1 to the Romans in the past two seasons, 180-102. We’re gonna assume he’s still picking the Romans though, just to make in three in a row rather than five. – Eds
written by James Ogier
Somerset Wyverns vs Worcestershire Black Knights
The Wyverns may have lost last week, but I doubt that the Somerset camp has been upset with their performance. They managed to impressively hold their own against the South Wales Warriors and lost 8-6 – by only two points! The Wyverns allowed their opponents to score early in the first quarter and proceeded to deny them any more points for the remainder of the game.
The Wyvern’s score came within the last minute of the game when QB, Tom Golden connected with WR, Matt Hadfield. Being new to the leagues, it was trial by fire competing against an ex-division one team straight off the bat and the Wyverns offence did struggle to this step up in competitiveness. They managed to solve issues on the field and became a threat due to to the deep catching threat of Jake Viney. From talks a few weeks ago with chairman, Simon Champion, he spoke of how the defence was a strong unit and they certainly showed this by keeping the experienced Warriors at bay for the majority of the game.
Much credit goes to Dan Lewis for helping to read the game to enable adjustments and to Coach Mark Wilkins who helped to keep the defence dominant throughout. Looking forward to this week, one would hope that the Wyverns can only be better. Being a threat in the air, as well as on the ground, will only help make them stand out in a conference which is usually dominated by ground and pound running teams. Speaking to Champion, he spoke on how teams shouldn’t underestimate the Wyverns’ endurance to fight in this league and his thoughts towards his upcoming match against the Black Knights:
“It was an amazing introduction to the league for us to go toe-to-toe with the Warriors. I already new our defence would keep us in the game. The one thing that we really learnt from last week’s game is that the Wyverns will fight right till the end. We are very excited about Worcestershire Black Knights visiting us as this will give us an even more insight into what to expect in this division, and with us chasing that first win, the Wyverns Camp is once again pumped for an exciting weekend of Football.”.
The Wyverns teased what they were capable of and I believe that if they’ve ironed out their offence and how to start strong, they will be a formidable opponent in this game.
Compared to the closer games against the Raptors this year, the Black Knights managed to secure a more convincing win with a 32-12 scoreline. They have seemingly made the adjustments this year in their offence so that they can be a much more competitive unit. The pairing of new QB, Matt Cole and WR, James Browning helped move the ball down the field and add a dangerous element to the Black Knights’ offence.
If your starting running back goes down, you usually panic. This wasn’t the case with Worcestershire who didn’t have RB Jay Styles for the game. Sean Frank threw down his gauntlet for the starting job with three touchdowns against the Raptors! The win was well deserved for the Black Knights and having quality depth will help them as the season progresses. While the Knights deserve to enjoy their win, they must be careful to not underestimate their rookie opponents who have shown that they won’t be bullied this season.
I’m honestly torn between this one. The Knights are a fantastic programme who I have stepped up this year, but I feel the Wyverns are not a team to take lightly due to their rookie status.
I’ll probably change my mind another ten times this week, but I’m going to go for the Wyverns. Their defence has impressed me enough to show that they may be able to just snatch a W. If this game goes the other way, I wouldn’t be surprised either. Wyverns to win.
written by Patrick McAleer
Portsmouth Dreadnoughts vs Swindon Storm
The Dreadnoughts had one aim prior to their season opener with the Bobcats, make a statement, and they delivered on that. After a 27-0 shutout and plays being made on both sides of the ball, they’ll be looking to keep the ball rolling this week against the Swindon Storm. Swindon come into this one as the new kids in town after moving from the SFC 2 West, they’re not just here to take part, but will they take over?
The question of who will fill Portsmouth’s hole at RB was answered, with Tom “Thunder” Davies punching in a score against Bournemouth after the defence won them the ball in a great spot. QB Stu Rees had the luxury of being able to spread the ball out, with WR’s Jake Smith and rookie Keiran Bellinger both making plays and bringing in TD’s. While he also has new toys in TE Rich Bloomer and Michael Bearman from the Oxford Saints, so will the Storm be able to stop the versatile offence of the Dreadnaughts? Their defence also made plays across the field against the Bobcats with DE Matt Audley getting on the scoresheet and CB Dale Anchor picking off the Bobcats QB, so I expect this one to be a hard-hitting affair.
The Storm made their first playoff appearance last year since forming 5 years ago and don’t have plans to rest on their laurels. Despite losing the majority of their linebacking core and RB Victor Ofoe to the Bristol Aztecs, Swindon have the run-stopping LB Eddie Koppoe who captained the Portsmouth Destroyers returning to the team. They have also added Ryan Crighton, who they are hoping will fill the void at RB, and pass catching TE Iain Eastham to the squad, so they have big plans for the season. Swindon have had a busy offseason, with a big recruitment drive adding a number of new players on the OL, and scrimmages and a pre-season game with Reading to get the team ready. The Storm feel they are a playoff contender coming into the season and what better way than to prove this on Sunday against the pre-season favourites in the Dreadnoughts.
With their question at LB, it will be interesting to see how the Swindon defence handle the Portsmouth run game and that strong OL on Sunday.
I expect chunks to be knocked out of both teams in this one and for it to tell a lot for the season ahead. After Portsmouth made it a comfortable 1-0 in their first game, I’m going with the Dreadnoughts on this one.
written by Joe Pinkstone
Essex Spartans vs Maidstone Pumas
The Spartans are my first L of the season as they let me down in their game against the unfancied Ipswich Cardinals by a single point in week one. In a game where this writer backed them to bring back an easy W, the unexpected result could be the first (very) early warning sign that the Spartans aren’t the team they were billed to be going in to the season. Or maybe the damning preview for the Cardinals merely added to a broth that fuelled the Cardinals to the game of their life.
In a game where the Ipswich outfit were remembering the life and tragic loss of Chris Butcher, the Spartans fell victim to an emotionally-fuelled and doggedly determined Cards outfit.
Sentiment aside, conceding a 60-yard touchdown up the gut on the second play of the season raises serious concerns over the talent in the backbone of the Spartans defence.
A good drive up the field shows steady, if underwhelming, results on the offensive side of the ball as the Spartans put up two scores. Two sacks and a safety later, the coaches rapidly realised a blocking clinic may be in order.
Fixing the O-line against pressure has to be high on the agenda if the Essex outfit is to avoid opening their season with back-to-back losses.
Their competition this week is a Maidstone team that took my scathing assessment ahead of week one and decided to go ahead and prove me right. A heavy 60-6 defeat to a middling Sabres team not only made me look like a clairvoyant, but it is a bad omen for the troubled team. Groundhog Day reference, anyone?
It appears that notable additions on defence, Jonjo Burke from the Exiles and LB Tom O Donnell from the Thunder were unable to hold together a troubled D. It also seems that the solid recruitment of RB Ben Degazone from the Blitz and big-bodied Joel Boyes from the Exiles also wasn’t converted into points in their opening fixture.
With Luke Tyler at safety and Anthony Hatcher leading the charge, something has to give for the Maidstone outfit, as conceding eight scores a game is not a sustainable plan to win many games. Especially not if the offence only managed a single score of their own.
All involved with Britball would like to see a competitive Pumas team and I would love to choose them to get the upset victory …
I’m going to put the defeat last week for the Spartans down to a rejuvenated Cardinals team and back the Spartans to take the win and build some much needed momentum after the upset loss. I need to see more from Essex to reward my faith, and in one of their easiest games of the season I hope complacency doesn’t set in. Easy Essex win.
London Blitz B vs Norwich Devils
A David versus Goliath battle, could this be one of the biggest mismatches of the season?
Whatever you consider Blitz B to be – feeder club, reserves, backups of backups etc – the team are still the pick of many (including myself) to win the conference this season.
With little info about the team coming forward and the likely extensive chopping and changing the quad has experienced this past winter, the team will be relying on their solid coaching to carry them through.
With all stand-out players likely plucked for the A’s or departed for stiffer competition elsewhere, the Blitz outfit are somewhat of an enigma. The pressure, however, is very real.
They play host at London’s Finsbury Park to the Norwich Devils. Fresh off two associate seasons where head coach ’Badger’ organised games against the now-defunct Hatfield Mosquitos, the team finally enters the league to face a real team.
A historical outfit founded before I was even born, the Norfolk-based team are very serious about their campaign. From military dress-codes to the expected team-first spiel to the poor DC correspondent trying to get some info out of them, the Devils have at least approached entering the league with the right intentions.
With some talent in the ranks and surprisingly solid numbers, the Devils and their ghastly van will quietly fancy their chances.
Star player Morgan Page returns to the fold after an impressive stint with the Lincolnshire Bombers. The long-time Uniball stand-out left tackle was a phenom at O-line having never conceded a sack in four years for the Colonials. With the transition to senior ball, the athletic 6’ 4” blocker showed he had the hands and speed to go with the strength as he scored 6 TD’s in 5 games from the tight end position.
Colloquially known as the Norfolk Siren or ‘The Wardrobe’, expect Page to be a nightmare for opposing defences, assuming the Devils have the nous to utilise his unique skills.
Rumours are also circulating of a European import with GFL experience to help bolster the defence for Norwich too, which will provide much needed experience.
Good luck to the Devils, but it is hard to look past the champions elect in the Blitz. I will be at the game this week and expect to see a dynamic display from both teams. Feel free to come say hello and you might make the next report. London take this one – but Norwich avoids being shut out.