BUCS 18/19 Playoff Picks: Division One

Sixteen teams enter the Division One playoffs with a shot at top tier balling on the line! With only three teams able to make it through the regular season unscathed, will we continue to see upsets and shockers in the postseason? 

We check out how each of these outfits fit up against their opponents, along with pundit picks and #BritballNation Poll results!

The North

Sheffield Hallam Warriors (1) vs Northumbria Mustangs (8)

Having slumped during the latter half of the 17/18 season, this winter the Warriors have looked every-bit the perennial contenders we’ve come to expect them to be.

Hallam host a Mustangs side that spent most of their season atop the 1A North table, only to find themselves sneaking into their playoffs by the skin of their teeth come season-close!

Record
 8-0-0  4-4-0
Offence
 32.25
(2nd)
17.00
(16th)
 Defence
 15.88
(14th)
 13.63
(11th)
Previous Playoff Experience

Sheffield Hallam: Hallam limped into the postseason with a 4-4 record last season, having lost four-straight in the second half of their campaign. As was, the fixture vs #1 seeded Nottingham didn’t go ahead, as weather saw the game awarded against the Warriors. Still, they might still a handful of vets on the roster that remember how to win in the postseason – Hallam having fought their way into the Premiership with an undefeated 14/15 campaign.

Northumbria: The Mustangs saw postseason football last season… at least on paper. Coming into the postseason fifth seeds after finishing second in the 1A North, weather saw their Final 16 fixture awarded in favour of the NTU Renegades.

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!

Northumbria: They may not have gaudy numbers, but the Mustangs two hard-fought wins against the Napier Knights were their keys to success this season – each game was a defensively-dominated duel, with the Mustangs proving to have the grit to take both games by a 6-9 scoreline.

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!

Northumbria: Local rivalries already have a lot riding on them… Stack on the fact that their Week Eleven clash against cross-city rivals Newcastle was also a doubleheader and you had a headache in the making for one team or other! As is, the Mustangs came up 21-9 shot, and having topped the table for much of the season were suddenly at risk of missing out on playoffs entirely!

—–

Top seed hosts bottom – typically these show a strong favouring in a particular direction…

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:

Hallam hold the advantage by a pretty convincing margin – a clean sweep in the pundit picks and an 85:15 advantage in the Nation polls.

 

 

Coventry Jets (4) vs UCLan Rams (5)

Coventry game flying into Division One having lost just a single fixture in their previous two seasons, and while many teams struggle with the step up into middle-tier football the Jets have looked right at home in a hotly-contested 1A Midlands conference.

They host a UCLan Rams side who made a late surge into the postseason – having lost three-straight on either side of the Christmas break, every game became a must-win… But the Rams found a way to get it done, leaping into the fifth seed with an impressive-looking final-day win over the Sheffield Sabres.

Record
 6-2-0  5-3-0
Offence
 25.75
(9th)
29.38
(5th)
 Defence
12.88
(8th)
 20.63
(21st)
Previous Playoff Experience

Coventry: The Jets won back-to-back Division Two north titles ahead of this season, but this’ll be their first taste of middle-tier playoffs. Can they make it three-straight pieces of silverware?

UCLan: The Rams have seen postseason action for three-straight seasons coming into this one, but are yet to make it past the first round in any of these forays into the playoffs. Can they get that monkey off their back?

Season High:

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.

UCLan: This one’s easy – the Rams wrapped up their campaign with a big win over the Sabres – both locking up their own playoff berth, but also effectively blunting the Sabres’ chances of extending their season, avenging Sheffield’s Final 16 win over the Rams last year?

Season Low:

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.

UCLan: As noted, the Rams hit a three-game skid during the middle of their season… And it’s not like they were playing bad football either! Two losses by a single score and one by a single point put the Rams’ playoff hopes at risk, but they closed out the season strong.

—–

Both teams come into this with something to prove – Coventry can show they’re ready to really mix it up in the middle tier with a win here, while a Rams victory would prove they’re ready to be considered potentiall promotion contenders.

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:

The Jets take it in both formats, with 69% of the Britball Nation poll. If this proves to be the case, it’ll be an impressive feat for a team in their first season in the tier!

 

 

Newcastle Raiders (2) vs NTU Renegades (7)

Newcastle have defied expectations this year, as a stalwart defence combined with a flurry of late-season victories saw them suddenly appear on everyone’s radars as serious contenders.

Meanwhile, NTU have been something of an enigma this season – a strong start to their season was followed up with a hefty slump in form coming out of the holidays… Only to round out their regular season with a resounding win over the table-topping Loughborough!

Record
 7-0-0  5-3-0
Offence
 21.28
(11th)
17.88
(15th)
 Defence
 7.57
(5th)
 15.25
(13th)
Previous Playoff Experience

Newcastle: Following relegation in 16/17, Newcastle bounced right back into the middle tier with an undefeated regular season – making it all the way to D2 North Conference Cup final before narrowly missing out to the Jets.

NTU: The Renegades fought their way to a D1 North title in 15/16, but their time in the top tier was a brief one, lasting just a single season in the toughest conferences in Uniball. They saw postseason action last year, making it to the Quarter Finals before coming up short against local rivals, University of Nottingham, who were rocketing their way up to Premiership football.

Season High:

Newcastle: We’ve mentioned this game already, but a double-headed win over your local rivals to lock up a second-straight conference crown while putting their own shot at playoffs at risk? That’s gotta taste pretty sweet.

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:

Newcastle: Tough to pick out a low for a team that went undefeated through their debut campaign – but Nottingham certainly had a couple of squeakers – they opened their season with a 1-point win over Leeds, bested the Clansmen by a single score in Week Five, and then had to pull a win out of nowhere to defeat the Saints in Week Six. They’re undefeated, but far from unchallenged.

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.

—–

For an undefeated #2 seed, the Raiders have flown under the radar for much of this season… Will a postseason victory ensure everyone’s aware that Newcastle are the real deal, or have the Renegades rediscovered the form that could yet see them premiership-bound once again?

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! Our first disagreement between pundits and polls – the BUCS have the Raiders holding a narrow edge here, while the community poll favours the playoff-proven Renegades by a 40:60 margin!

 

 

Loughborough Students (3) vs Edinburgh Napier Knights (6)

Two teams that, if I’m wholly honest, I expected more from each of them this season.

Loughborough might have done what was necessary to lock up the 1A Midlands crown, but there was a fair few moments when the former-Prem North outfit’s wins looked far from convincing.

Napier, meanwhile, were the defending 1A North Champions, but their continued issues with offensive production saw them once again earn postseason action only courtesy of tiebreakers. They’ve got the #2 defence in the tier, but their offence just barely scrapes into the top 20!

Record
 6-2-0  4-3-0
Offence
 14.63
(19th)
13.14
(20th)
 Defence
 7.75
(5th)
 7.17
(2nd)
Previous Playoff Experience

Loughborough: Loughborough’s last postseason action was in the Premiership – they took a home win over the Titans in the 16/17 Quarter Finals, before coming up 0-7 short to the Saints in the Semis.

Edinburgh Napier: Napier made it to the D1 Semi-Finals last year… quite an achievement as they didn’t play a single fixture after February! Two walkover wins due to weather saw them set to clash with Nottingham in the semi-finals, before yet another weather-affected weekend saw them similarly slide out of the playoffs courtesy of an awarded-loss.

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.

Edinburgh Napier: By far the Knights most convincing performances of the season game against the Sharks – Edinburgh simply seem to be Hull’s kryptonite, as they held the Sharks to shutouts in both games this season, and the previous one!

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.

Edinburgh Napier: Speaking of shut out losses, the Knights, too, will head to the playoffs having been unable to put up a single point against the Raiders in their final outing of the season.

—–

Both these teams are built around their defence… could we be looking at a low-scoring battle won in the trenches?

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:

Hmm, some definite indecision from our BUCS office – had we let our Scots have a say, the Knights would’ve actually taken the poll! The Britball Nation were far more decisive however – Loughborough eat up 82% of the votes!

 

 

The South

Brunel Burners (1) vs Bath Killer Bees (8)

Brunel have looked pretty unstoppable this year, becoming the first team to lock up a conference crown way back in Week Eight. Are they the real deal, or is the 1A South having a soft season?

We’ll learn a lot about how the different conferences compare when the Burners host the Bath Killer Bees this weekend – the battle-worn Bees have certainly made hard work of their trip to the postseason, having spent much of the winter just behind the pack, before sealing postseason action on the final weekend of the season.

Record
 7-0-0  4-4-0
Offence
 28.00
(6th)
18.13
(13th)
 Defence
1.58
(1st)
 16.88
(15th)
Previous Playoff Experience

Brunel: Brunel earned a playoff appearance last year, their first in the middle tier, but as was the case in so many playoff fixtures in 17/18 the weather put pay to their postseason hopes – the higher-seeded UEA Pirates coming away with a walkover win.

Bath: Meanwhile, the Bees were struggling to stay afloat in the Premiership South last season. They last saw postseason football in 16/17 in a gruelling trip up to Stirling for a second season in a row.  You’re going back to the pre-BUCS era to find a Bath postseason win, but as a former top tier team they’ve certainly got a wealth of experience battling against talented opposition.

Season High:

Brunel: We’re not sure this season had much other than highs for the Burners? Though two whale-sized wins of a Cougars outfit that pipped them to the post last season probably felt pretty good.

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:

Brunel: Umm… They only beat the Panthers by a single score in Week Three… If you can call winning a game, a low?

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.

—–

Brunel weren’t really challenged through the regular season… Will they face a stiffer test in the playoffs?

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:

Summary

 

Kent Falcons (4) vs Exeter Demons (5)

Two teams with a point to prove coming into the playoffs as Exeter likely feel they’ve been underrated through much of their season… while the Falcons find themselves needing to prove they weren’t overrated having spent a fair portion of the season ranked #1 in the Power Rankings, only to end up coming into the playoffs just barely holding onto a home berth, let alone their South East crown!

Record
 6-2-0  5-3-0
Offence
30.88
(4th)
19.38
(12th)
 Defence
 11.25
(7th)
 17.75
(16th)
Previous Playoff Experience

Kent: Kent locked up the 1A South East title last year, and continued their impressive defensive form into the playoffs with yet another narrow win over the Pirates. However, they proved no match for the Bullets’ firepower and missed out on promotion to the Premiership.

Exeter: Exeter narrowly missed out on playoffs last season as they split series with most of ther teams in the South West, but came up short in a couple of crucial games. They did, however, see playoff football in 16/17 – a first-round loss to the Imperial Immortals, 6-3 in double overtime. Oof.

Season High:

Kent: The Falcons opened their year with a 78-0 win over the Immortals. It’s fair to say it caught our attention.

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:

Kent: It’d be easy to saw the Falcons’ shock blowout loss to the Vipers in Week Eight was their low point of the season… but in truth, I suspect their 6-0 loss in Week Eleven to UEA hurt more.

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.

—–

On their best day, either of these teams should be considered contenders… But they’ve both proven capable of faltering in their form this season. Who’ll hold strong on Sunday?

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:

The Falcons may’ve had their wings clipped a couple times this winter, but when they play to form they’ve proven they can really rack up the points. They take the pundit poll 6-1, and the Pick’Em vote by a very healthy 80:20 margin.

 

 

UEA Pirates (2) vs QMBL Vipers (7)

Well, well! These three-peat fixtures were quite a common occurence in previous seasons, so in a way it’s quite a relief that we only see one of the eight D1 playoff games featuring conference rivals!

With UEA having bested the Vipers twice already this season, and by a hefty margin on both occasions, it’s fair to say the Vipers have a lot of ground to make up here!

Record
 7-1-0  5-3-0
Offence
 31.30
(3rd)
21.71
(10th)
 Defence
 6.63
(3rd)
 22.29
(23rd)
Previous Playoff Experience

UEA: The Pirates snagged the #2 spot in the 1A South East last year, but could carry it no further as they came up a single point short against their nemesis, the Kent Falcons, in the third meeting between the two teams that season.

QMBL: To their credit, the Vipers have seen postseason action every year since they joined the BUCS leagues in 16/17, meaning this year’ll make it a perfect three years in a row with playoff balling! However, though they’ve gotten through the door, their actual playoff performances leave something to be desired… Big first round losses in back-to-back seasons mean the Vipers don’t so much have a monkey, as a gorilla, they’ll get off their backs if they can come up with a win here.

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.

QMBL: Similarly, for the Vipers it’d be their Week Eight win over Kent that first truly put QMBL on people’s radars as potential postseason contenders in their first year in the tier.

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…

QMBL: Rather inconveniently for the Vipers, their low points of the season are both pretty obvious… And they’re against the Pirates. Big losses to UEA bookend an otherwise impressive campaign from the Vipers, and leave with with a mountain to climb going into this weekend’s game.

—–

Through their two regular-season meetings the Pirates came away with a combined victory of 86-21. The Vipers will need something special to overcome a squad of swashbucklers that clearly had their number this season.

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:

Summary

 

 

Southampton Stags (3) vs Surrey Stingers (6)

Southampton may’ve sat atop the 1A South West for much of the season, but it still required some pretty heroic efforts for the team to book a place in the playoffs in their first year back in the middle tier. Five fixtures in 16 days means the team come into the postseason battered, bruised, but with a huge amount of momentum at their backs.

Surrey, meanwhile, had a nervous wait through Sunday and all the way into Tuesday to truly know whether they’d be making a postseason appearance, as the particularly messy state of the 1A South saw three teams tied at three wins, each contesting the lone remaining playoff-berth out of the conference.

Record
 7-1-0  3-4-0
Offence
 33.75
(1st)
9.86
(24th)
 Defence
11.00
(11th)
 13.00
(10th)
Previous Playoff Experience

Southampton: The Stags put together an undefeated regular season in the 2A South West last year, and kept the streak going all the way to the Southern Cup final – coming up short against the Panthers.

Surrey: Surrey’s last playoff action was in 16/17, where they made it to the Southern semi-finals before crashing out against the Premiership-bound Destroyers.

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.

Surrey: Surrey seemed to utterly lack sting through the early part of their season, opening up their campaign with a 0-3 start to their season. As such, it was all the more impressive when they turned around a 2-21 loss to the Knights, taking a 0-17 win over Reading just a fortnight later. It was the start of an obvious uptick in form for the Stingers that they were able to ride right into the postseason!

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.

Surrey: As we noted, Surrey simply couldn’t seem to catch a break during the first chunk of their season with three straight losses to kick things off that made them look like a team at real risk of relegation… Now, they’re headed to the playoffs!

—–

In all honesty, coming into Week Ten one of these teams had three games played, the other had a 1-4 record.  It’s pretty damn impressive that either outfit is playing postseason football and I expect both to make the very most of it!

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:

Sure, both teams have impressed in making the playoffs, but to the Stags credit they’ve done it while being a single point short of an undefeated season! They take a full house from the pundits, and three quarters of the public vote.

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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