#Britbowl32 | Division Two North Final Preview

Aberdeen Roughnecks vs Chester Romans

Promotion in the bank, but there’s still a lot to play for as the two top teams in the northern half of Division Two descend on Druid Park this weekend.

Both teams are coming into this matchup undefeated conference champs, and hungry for a piece of silverware before beginning their lives in the middle tier… But which red-and-white decked outfit will be celebrating come Saturday evening?

The Roughnecks

It’s been a year of firsts for the Roughnecks – first undefeated season, first playoff win, and now first championship appearance. Ostensibly, this is the biggest game in the young programme’s history as while the club has impressed by reaching postseason football in now four of their five years in the National Leagues, 2018 is the first time the Scottish side have made it past the first round of postseason action.

They broke their postseason duck with a huge win over the visiting Furness Phantoms, 61-0, before displaying great resilience to hold off a strong comeback from the Birmingham Bulls in the semis. Perhaps the biggest question that will be asked ahead of Saturday however, is how the Scottish side will perform when they come south of the wall – as #1 seed in the North they’ve taken both their postseason victories at home at The Rig.

Photography (c) Gail Davis

Still, consistency has been the hallmark of the Roughneck season so far, something interim Head Coach Rauri Collinson puts down to a key change in culture at the club.  As Coach Collinson shared with abdnroughnecks.com:

“I think the attendance policy was huge, having guys practising together is part of the reason this team has been so successful this year, myself and the coaches have had to make some tough decisions on player selection due to attendance to send out that message and it has certainly paid off this year. I think everyone involved has realised the commitment levels have risen from previous years and the players have really reacted and bought into that and are now reaping the rewards.”

Looking to this weekend, Coach Collinson believes this weekend’s game could well come down to who wants it more:

“Chester’s offence is very good, they have proven this season that they can move the ball quick and effectively and put a lot of points on the board, with the preparations put in place we can limit their offence.

Their defence does the simple things right and likes shutting down the opposition’s strength. However, we have more than one strength on offence so I feel we will be able to move the ball and score.

I think it will be tough and a close game in the end but in the end come down to the team with the more desire and want to win.”

One to watch

Roughnecks Quarterback Chris Breen has led the Aberdeen offence to their most prolific season so far – the first time the team have breached the 200pt mark in a campaign, and with only seven fixtures in 2018!

Playing for the club since their founding, Chris is in his third year as starting man under centre, having begun his Britball life at Tight End.

Posting sixteen passing TDs through the regular season, Breen topped it up with six further so far in the postseason. The scottish gunslinger’s success comes from a great confidence in his receiving corps, spreading the ball around such that receivers Rhys Emslie and Lewis Hughes are both tied at six TDs on the season so far, whereas Rob Hayes leads the race in number of receptions.


The Romans

The Romans secured their return to Division One balling in style with their strong second-half performance against the Surge a fortnight ago – overcoming a 12-14 deficit at the break to romp out 37-14 victors!

Indeed, pretty much all year long the Romans have found ways to march to comfortable victories through a combination of potent offence and stingy defence. The team didn’t concede their first points of the season until Week Ten and have confidently posted up 30+ points in nearly all their outings.

The one blemish on their record was a tense away trip in a classical showdown with the Spartans, where a very well-prepared Halton team held Chester to a 6-6 stalemate.

Still, they’ve not looked back since, and with two big postseason victories at their backs, the Romans come into this Final with great momentum at their backs, already going further than they managed in their previous two postseason trips in ’16 and ’17.

Head Coach Levi Edwards shared with DC:

“It’s been a rewarding trek to this point. The players have bought-in to a new culture that we have brought in as a staff and have really adapted well to the new systems.

 

Ahead of this weekend we’ve had two good weeks of practice where the guys have been able to really clean some things up and most importantly get healthy.

Looking to our opponents? We’re expecting a tough physical encounter. Defensively they do a lot of unique things with various fronts and looks and fly to the ball well. On the flip side, they have a powerful offence that is lead by a QB who manages the game well. They look to pose a good test for us but I’m sure we will be up to the challenge”

One To Watch

Standing at 6’7″ Romans Quarterback Byron Ward has been both literally and metaphorically head and shoulders above most of the competition he’s faced this season.

The Romans’ passing attack has been decisive this year, allowing them to strike quickly and put games out of reach – as shown in their semi-final second-half surge to victory over Staffordshire.

While a host of targets have found paydirt this year, by far Ward’s favourite target is receiver Nathan Jewkes, their connection highlighted by back-to-back hat-trick connections for scores back in weeks Eight and Ten. Ward rocketed past the 50 TD career mark earlier in the season and we suspect his tally’s increased significantly since then in no small part thanks to his bromance with Jewkes.


By the Numbers

In theory Chester hold the edge in both offensive and defensive stats coming into this final, but there’s not a lot to choose between them – both teams put up big numbers on offence while rarely allowing more than a single score in any game.

When last they met…

Best we can tell these two teams last met in 2016, the Romans handily dispatching the Roughnecks in the first round of the postseason, 43-6.

And who’s taking home the trophy?

As ever, we asked both the #TeamDC BAFANL office and the entire Britball Nation to make their picks coming into this game…

Spoiler

Two-thirds of the team have plucked for the Romans, but it’s fair to say there were a few fence-sitters.

And the community poll leans in favour of the Chester side as well, picking up 59% of the vote.


Remember, you can get involved with the Division Two North final yourself! Either head to the game, hosted at Druid Park, or watch live online, brought to you by Vikings TV!

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Nick

Nick 'Willy Tee' Wilson-Town hails from the South West where he's spent the last decade bouncing around various teams at the university and senior level. He came to fame on the now departed unofficial forum thanks to his regularly irreverent Uniball predictions and general 'BUAFL wafflage'. Follow him on twitter @WillyTee1