BUCS 18/19 Playoff Picks: Division One Quarter-Finals

Four fixtures from the middle tier this weekend, as we get closer and closer to learning which teams will be making the leap to top tier football next season! 

With upsets-galore in the opening weekend’s games, we’ve seen two conferences in particular put in dominant displays so far – the 1A Midlands in the North, and the 1A South West in the south… but can both regions continue their impressive display through the Division One Quarter-Finals?

We take a look at each of the games, the results building up to them, and ask both our BUCS office and the Britball Nation for insight into who’ll emerge on top on Sunday! 

The North

Sheffield Hallam Warriors (1) vs NTU Renegades (7)

Hallam proceed confidently into the second round of postseason fixtures, playing host this weekend to the lowest remaining seed – the NTU Renegades. Both teams impressed in their playoff openers, with the Renegades upset of the #2 seeded Raiders a particular upset from the first weekend of the postseason.

Record
 8-0-0  5-3-0
Offence
 32.25
(2nd)
17.88
(15th)
 Defence
 15.88
(14th)
 15.25
(13th)
Previous Round

Sheffield Hallam: The #1 seeds in the North, the Hallam Warriors made short work of the Mustangs last weekend – shutting down the Northumbria offence entirely while putting up a respectable three scores. This extends their unbeaten streak to nine-straight, and the shutout win should have been a nice confidence builder.

NTU: The Renegades continue to roll, bouncing back from a midseason dip in form to impress in their Final Sixteen fixture against the #2 seeds, Newcastle. Though the two teams looked fairly evenly matched through the first half, the Nottingham outfit came into their own during the second half to come away with a 13-27 victory!

Season High:

Sheffield Hallam: Hallam have avoided any slip-ups this year, and going into the playoffs off the back of a fifty burger win is a great way to build your confidence ahead of the postseason!

NTU: The Renegades reminded us all why they were amongst the preseason favourites for promotion in Week Twelve, with a resounding 21-0 win over Loughborough.

Season Low:

Sheffield Hallam: They may have dodged any Ls this winter, but the Warriors certainly chose to keep things interesting! The middle of their season was packed with the kinda wins that give Coaches twitches – they won in Weeks Six, Ten and Eleven respectively by margins of 7, 3 and then just a single point!

NTU: Coming out of the break right in the mix at the top of the table, the Renegades suffered a crushing loss to Coventry in Week Nine, and when they followed this up with an even more shocking loss to the at-the-time winless Leicester Longhorns? This set alarm bells ringing.

When last they met…

Despite being two of the most competitive outfits in the North, these two teams have dodged one another for a number of years now – trading places in the Premiership in previous seasons, and missing one another in the postseason last year.

However, they did meet in the Division One North Semi-Final back in 2014/5, where the Hallam Warriors emerged as 24-13 victors.

—–

The top-seeded Warriors play host to the lowest remaining seeds – the Renegades. However, the 1A Midlands went undefeated last weekend, displaying the strength of that particular conference – will that have swayed our pundits and the community poll?

Who wins?

Click or tap the spoiler tab below to reveal our BUCS office picks, as well as the results of the Britball Nation Pick’em poll!

Spoiler
BUCS Office:

Pick’Em Poll:

We couldn’t make this stuff up, but with 148 votes-a-piece the Warriors and Renegades were completely deadlocked in the Britball Nation Pick’Em polls!

Our BUCS office, however, does at least pick tentatively in favour of the undefeated 1A Yorkshire & Lancashire champs – this should be a cracker of a game.

 

 

Loughborough Students (3) vs Coventry Jets (4)

Two teams that have gotten rather familiar with one another this year, despite each having only joined the 1A Midlands during the offseason – the Jets through an undefeated promotion campaign, Loughborough via a winless year that resulted in relegation from the top tier.

Both outfits have impressed this season, and their confident victories in the Final Sixteen shows the strength of the 1A Midlands as a conference…

Record
 6-2-0  6-2-0
Offence
 14.63
(19th)
 25.75
(9th)
 Defence
 7.75
(5th)
12.88
(8th)
Previous Round

Loughborough: Loughborough dominated the first half against the visiting Napier Knights, moving to a comfortable 27-0 lead by the break, and maintaining a shutout through the second half even though they didn’t put up any further points. 

Coventry: Despite the polls hinting it could well be one of the most closely contested fixtures, as many #4 vs #5 seed games are, the Jets took apart the UCLan Rams last weekend, to the tune of a 48-6 victory.  You can’t ask for a better time to be putting together your strongest offensive performances of the season than the playoffs!

Season High:

Loughborough: Having suffered a shock loss to the Jets in Week Four, Loughborough were quick to bounce back – a shutout win over NTU was followed by a convincing grounding of the Jets just a fortnight after their narrow defeat.

Coventry: It might have been a modest 8-0 scoreline, but the Jets’ win over Loughborough definitely raised eyebrows – suddenly the newly promoted side were right in the mix as potential 1A Midlands champs.

Season Low:

Loughborough: Whether they were resting starters or not we’re not entirely sure… but we do know that hitting the postseason off the back of a shutout loss isn’t a great way to build confidence heading into the playoffs.

Coventry: The obvious choice here might be the Jets’ loss to Loughborough in Week Six – the Midlands frontrunners had clearly figured out the Jets’ scheme in the intervening fortnight, and Coventry were held to just a single score. However, I think the fixture that’ll haunt them more is the Week Two loss to the Renegades – having lead by a healthy margin at the half, the Jets allowed the Renegades back into the game during the fourth quarter.

Even then, they had a chance to take the game to overtime with a final-seconds score, but came up short on the 2PAT. Had the Jets won that one? They’d probably be 1A Midlands champs right now.

When last they met…

Conference rivals, these two outfits have met twice this season already.

The Jets turned heads when they narrowly won the first matchup 8-0, but Loughborough looked a cut above in the return leg – grounding the Jets to the tune of a 27-8 win.

As such they’re both coming into this third meeting with a win-a-piece, but much more on the line in this third-and-final meeting…

—–

Both teams put in impressive performances in their first round fixtures, and have each snatched a win away from one another this season – but which will emerge on top in their most-vital clash to date?

Who wins?

Click or tap the spoiler tab below to reveal our BUCS office picks, as well as the results of the Britball Nation Pick’em poll!

Spoiler
BUCS Office:

Pick’Em Poll:

Ooh – clearly a controversial one here as Coventry edge our pundit poll by a narrow margin, but Loughborough take the Britball Nation Pick’Em votes by a 60:40 split!

Certainly, when each side has played to their full potentially they’ve already proven themselves capable of besting one another – we’ll have to wait until Sunday to see which outfit emerges on top in this clutch third clash.

 

 

The South

UEA Pirates (2) vs Bath Killer Bees (8)

Two teams that certainly turned in unexpected performances in their previous outings, as the Pirates made tough sailing of their win over the Vipers, while the Bees posted up one of the upsets of the year in their nail-biting victory of the #1 seeded Brunel Burners!

Record
 7-1-0  4-4-0
Offence
 31.30
(3rd)
18.13
(13th)
 Defence
 6.63
(3rd)
 16.88
(15th)
Previous Round:

UEA: The Pirates may have made short work of the QMBL Vipers during the regular season, but in the third clash between the two teams the young Viper programme had clear come prepared to make a much sterner fight of it. UEA drew first blood, but couldn’t extend their lead through much of the fixture, the Vipers snagging a score of their own, before the Pirates finally sealed the deal on a 14-6 win with a second-half score.

Bath: Bath clearly used last week’s polls as great bulletin board material, as they headed up to Brunel heavy underdogs – but didn’t balk at the opportunity to earn a huge upset!

Though they trailed for the majority of the fixture, Brunel having opened up a 6-0 lead during the first half, the Bees remained resilient through, eventually breaking through for a score of their own, and more importantly, a crucial extra point to go along with it!

A Brunel defence that had topped the tier throughout the season was finally outdone by Bath’s defensive bulwark.

Season High:

UEA: Easy-peasy. It might have only been a 6-0 scoreline, but that win over Kent probably meant more to the Pirates than anything this year, playoffs included.

Bath: Having spent much of the season nipping at the heels of the frontrunners in the conference, the Bees went into Week facing the daunting prospect of two games in three days against the undefeated Stags. Though they made a good game of it, they were shutout in the first meeting under the Friday night lights. However, Bath proved to have that most useful of traits when it comes to turning things around in a team sport – short memories! Just two days later and the Bees edged a one-point win away from the Stags – not only inflicting the sole loss of the season on Southampton, but also a victory that’d prove essential to the Bees seeing playoff football!

Season Low:

UEA: Week Four, and the Pirates found themselves shutout against the Falcons. It must’ve felt like another year of narrowly missing out to their nemesis lay ahead of them…

Bath: Our BUCS office backed the Bees to beat the Demons twice this season, but on both occasions the Bees couldn’t quite keep pace in the second half – leaving them behind the pack for much of the season.

—–

We expected the Pirates to have an easier time of it in their first fixture, while conversely there weren’t too many that expected to see the Bees survive the first round at all! However, the South West impressed with three wins from three in the Final Sixteen round, and so now it’s down to the Pirates to ensure we don’t see a regular-season rematch in the Southern final!

Who wins?

Click or tap the spoiler tab below to reveal our BUCS office picks, as well as the results of the Britball Nation Pick’em poll!

Spoiler
BUCS Office:

Pick’Em Poll:

Ooh! Another narrow disagreement between our pundits and the community poll – our BUCS office backs the #2 seeds by a narrow 5-3 margin, while in the Britball Nation results we see the Bees edge the pick by the smallest of margins – 51.5% vs 48.5%!

 

 

Southampton Stags (3) vs Exeter Demons (5)

Exeter hit the road to take on the Stags for a third time this season, with both regular-season meetings between the teams having been hosted by Southampton due to fixture rearrangements.

The Stags took the W in both meetings earlier this season, but with the Demons having upset the seedings with a surprise second-half win over the Falcons last weekend, can they continue that momentum into a southern final appearance?

Record
 7-1-0 5-3-0
Offence
 33.75
(1st)
19.38
(12th)
 Defence
11.00
(11th)
 17.75
(16th)
Previous Round:

Southampton: Though it was Surrey that picked up the first score of the game, from that point onwards it seemed all Stags, all day, in Southampton’s first-round fixture. The 43-7 win was one of the most convincing scorelines of the day, though it’s worth noting the Stingers were the only postseason outfit to have not appeared in any Power Rankings throughout the season and so the Stags were going into the game heavy favourites.

Exeter: One team that definitely weren’t being considered favourites last week, however, were the Demons, who travelled up to Kent distinct underdogs according to both our pundit and community polls. The two teams traded blows throughout the first half, with the Falcons going into the break holding a narrow lead…

However, the Demons clearly made the better adjustments in the second, as they shut down the Falcons through the final two quarters, while putting up two scores of their own to earn the upset victory!

Season High:

Southampton: It’s tough to pick a single fixture for these guys. The simple fact they found a way to fit their full schedule into the season is an achievement in itself, and something I get the impression all too few programmes might have achieved. Even so, their 17 unanswered points in 82 seconds against the Cobras to close out the regular season was pretty special.

Exeter: Our BUCS team unanimously picked against the Demons to lose against the Bees this year. Twice.

These two wins were the lynchpin of the Demons’ postseason run… Our bad guys.

Season Low:

Southampton: The obvious choice would be the Stags’ 19-18 loss to the Bees, just two days after having shut them out 21-0. However, I think the real low point of their season might have been finding themselves in Week Ten with only three games played and figuring out that if they were going to get the playoff football they deserved? This committee was going to have to work its antlers off.

Exeter: The Demons game out of the Christmas break with three straight wins to set them up as a playoff outfit… potentially even a title contender! However, they simply couldn’t get things going in their final regular season clash against the Stags, and instead will come into the postseason off the back of their first touchdown-less game of the year.

When last they met…

Prior to this season we’re not sure whether the Stags and Demons had previously clashed… They’ve certainly spent much of the BUCS era in different tiers to one another.

However, as noted above they have met twice this season – with the Stags coming out on top on each occasion.

Week Four was the closer fixture between the two, as the Demons held their own through the first half, before finding themselves unable to keep pace in the latter quarters.  Roll forwards to Week Twelve and with the Demons hitting the road once again, and with the midweek scheduling costing them a few key players, it was a more one-sided affair – Southampton emerging 3-26 victors.

—–

Having gotten the better of the Demons twice already this season, you’ve got to think the Stags are coming in as heavy favourites… However, the Demons have won through despite being heavy underdogs on numerous occasions already just this season, and should certainly not be underestimated here!

Who wins?

Click or tap the spoiler tab below to reveal our BUCS office picks, as well as the results of the Britball Nation Pick’em poll!

Spoiler
BUCS Office:

Pick’Em Poll:

We didn’t let Coach Ward-Best have a say, as per usual in Demons games, but his vote wouldn’t have swung it anyway, with the Stags coming through as clear favourites in both the DC and Britball Nation picks!

It’s worth noting, however, that these poll numbers are unerringly similar to those that opted against the Demons last weekend, with an identical 6-1 split from the pundits and a 81:19 vote against the Demons from the community – eachoing last week’s 80:20 result, that the Devon outfit quickly proceeded to tear to shreds!

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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