Hertfordshire Cheetahs vs Portsmouth Dreadnoughts
Talk about a grudge match!
These two finalists will have gotten rather familiar with one another this past season as Sunday will be the third time the two teams go toe to toe in 2018.
Conference rivals Hertfordshire and Portsmouth both head north to Leicester to square off for the Southern title… and finally settle scores from a regular season that saw each team best one another once, scrapping the other’s shot at a perfect season!
Herts head to the final having already massively improved on their postseason performance from 2017. Ignominiously dumped out of the postseason in the first round twelve months ago, the Cheetahs have proven a much more resilient outfit in 2018.
Unlike last year, there was no end-of-season tail-off this year, as the Cheetahs perhaps put in their most convincing performances at the close – besting the Dreadnoughts in the final fixture of their regular season to swipe the conference crown, before impressing in the postseason with a big win over Ipswich and an upset victory over the unstoppable-looking Blitz Bs, in London! This is the fourth trip to a championship game for the Cheetahs… might this be their first title-game victory?
At a glance, it’d be easy to think the Cheetahs’ success is down to their offence – their 342 points scored in the regular season good for 2nd overall in the tier, including a mercy-clock-era record 110-0 win over the Hastings Conquerors in Week Nine. However, these gaudy numbers hide an impressive defensive unit that’s only allowed three multi-score games all season long, including not conceding a single touchdown on home turf until the playoffs were underway!
Great at working with our SFC 2 South Correspondent, Patrick McAleer, this year, Hertfordshire Cheetahs Head Coach Craig Barnes shared:
“We’re obviously very pleased to have secured promotion to Division One, that was the goal from the outset this season.
A championship game, and a chance to settle a score with a conference rival is a great way to end the season.
We have prepared diligently as usual, and we are pleased to finally have all our starters back after injuries and holidays. We are ready to go full-bore one last time in 2018.”
One to Watch
Workhorse running back Adam Adeniji has been an absolute phenom this season, throwing up incredible numbers throughout the campaign. And it’s not like they were simply bolstered by soft-fixtures, as the hard-hitting runner posted up 254 yards off 23 carries against the Cardinals in the first round of the postseason, before following it up with three scores and some crucial first-down rushes to kill off the game versus the London Blitz in the semis.
He’s been ably assisted in busting out big plays this year by key blocks by offensive vice-captain TJ Ajayi, and the fact the Cheetahs have been able to put out a much more balanced offence as the season’s progressed – Rowan Huggins emerging as QB Martin Brown‘s the go-to red zone threat for the receiving corps.
A young programme that only set sail 2012, the Dreadnoughts entered playoffs for just the second time in 2018… but boy have they rocked the boat this year!
They’ve gone one better than their semi-finals appearance in 2017, and have done so with style as they dispatched both their postseason opponents with gusto – trouncing the Trojans 55-0, before making a hefty trip to the #1 seeded South Wales Warriors and coming away with a very convincing 12-37 win.
They’ve built their ship upon the foundation of an impressive defensive unit that didn’t concede a single score until Week Ten, and has only allowed a mere five trips to the end zone all year long – boasting an incredible SEVEN defensive shutouts through ten fixtures played!
Tack onto this a well-balanced offensive unit that seems to have really found it’s groove in the playoffs? And the Dreadnoughts are looking particularly dangerous coming into this one. Having missed out on a first ever conference crown due to a shut out loss against the Cheetahs? You just know they’re headed to Leicester with a score to settle.
Another team that have been great at working with DC this year to keep the Britball Nation informed, Head Coach Luke Head-Rapson shared:
The Cheetahs have been the toughest opponent we’ve faced this year by a long way, and we came up short last time we played them, so this time we’ll need a much-improved performance in all three phases of the game to walk out as champions.
This is the game we’ve been working towards all season, and it’s a great opportunity to avenge our last loss and win a championship in the same game, so it’s on every one of us to show we are able to rise to the occasion and prove that we belong in a game like this.”
One to Watch
This was a tough one, as the Dreadnoughts have a plethora of threats on both sides of the football and have maintained a great balance this season, however we settled on Ironman Baller Ben Meyers as the player to keep a look out for headed into the Final.
Meyers has had an astounding season, earning team, offensive and special teams MVP nods throughout the year and looks to have particularly shone once the south coast side hit the postseason!
He turned heads throughout the regular season, particularly for his special teams scores with punt return TDs, while in the semis at South Wales the agile running back almost single-handedly took apart the Warriors, punching in three scores, while also making big plays on the other side of the football!
By The Numbers
Hertfordshire hold a healthy near-ten points advantage in average points scored per game, but particularly since hitting the postseason have fallen behind in the defensive stakes – Herts have conceded 46 points since reaching playoffs, whereas the Dreadnoughts have allowed a mere twelve in their two postseason fixtures so far.
When last they met…
Conference rivals, these two teams are have become very familiar with one another in the last two years sharing the SFC 2 South. While the Dreadnoughts currently hold the series between the two teams three wins to one, the Hertfordshire Cheetahs took the most recent victory – avenging a 23-12 loss to Portsmouth in Week Thirteen with a shutout 20-0 win in Week Fifteen.
And who’s taking home the trophy?
Our twelve conference correspondents and well over a hundred members of the Britball Nation have had their say and decided…
Remember, you can get involved with the Division Two South final yourself! Either head to the game, hosted at Leicester Road Stadium, or watch live online, brought to you by Onside Productions!