We finished the first half of the season with a resounding flop at predicting the winners of the last slate of games, putting this so called expert at a perfect .500 accuracy on BUCS predictions so far this year…
This ineptitude at prophecy, which would see you potless at any bookies, does reveal the volatility of this division which is playing out like a fine Northern drama. And there are a number of interesting sub plots at play here:
The slow start of the on paper challenger Northumbria (and their subsequent recovery), the ‘outta nowhere’ challenge of upstarts Hull, and the continued dominance of a conference leader Glasgow, only for them to make an uncharacteristic slip up in the last game before the break.
And that’s just at the top end of the table.
No sooner had we written off Sunderland’s hopes for survival they pull off an away victory against a Newcastle team that started well but now has to avoid losing next term’s rematch or it will be the Raiders who face the trap door to Division Two.
Let’s have a whistle stop tour around the Conference so far:
Starting with the Tigers, who had their first regular season loss in 1029 days to Hull. The Tigers struggled with penalties, an ejection, and a high turnover ratio we don’t usually expect from them. Running Back Lewis King has been doing his thang and continues to truck opponents, but it’s the defensive side of the ball which has looked out of sorts, shipping 42 points to the Sharks alone, and when you add in the 28 they gave up to Northumbria we are beginning to see Glasgow’s problem. Coach Ian Cochrane won’t be hitting the panic button just yet and he has been around long enough to face the problem head on. We should expect some corrective measures to be in effect for the second semester.
Hull’s surprise emergence as our Sexy Pick, almost came to a crashing end on the Honeymoon at home to Northumbria, losing in a convincing fashion. No sooner had we all began to write off the Sharss than they pull themselves back into contention and into the lead in the conference, despite the long trip up to Glasgow. Coach Gareth Wild has done a superb job in refocusing his team at a time when perhaps they themselves had begun to buy into the hype. Offensive weapons Alan Silva and Sam Foulds are being fully utilised by Offensive Coordinator Paul ‘Air’ Weston and sees them go into the break with the #2 offence in Uniball.
Mid-table but no longer looking dead in the water, the Northumbria Mustangs lurk as the possible spoilers in the pack. An opening defeat against Newcastle aside, the ‘Stangs lost narrowly in Week Two away to Glasgow, and the return fixture will determine if this conference goes into a three way contest. Northumbria have gone back to basics, channelled their ground game and behind linemen Oliver Monaghan and Bruce Sibanda are cutting down opponents for back Nic Ingleton.
Until Sunderland’s victory over Newcastle, the relegation scrap looked a formality. Instead this upset means a Newcastle team, who saw postseason football in 15/16 and got things off to a swift start by rolling over Northumbria in Week One, will need to throw away aspirations at the top end of the table and re-focus on their a do or die rematch in Week Ten. The loss of rookie Quarterback Adam Pynn seems to have set back the Raiders’ offensive personality for the year as they gradually began to feel a love for the air last year, but they have returned to the ground behind lineman Jack Hunter… and have still scored more points than the previously moribund Spartans.
Sunderland’s victory over the Raiders came at the hands of Running-back Misba Islam who ran into the end-zone for both scores and who believes “This is just the start of the revival of our season.“ This might be a touch optimistic for the small squad the Spartans are currently sporting, and it could be the final game is one of attrition against Newcastle, with the last one standing on the two teams being the one that stays up.
So finally, a wild Mid-season Prediction based on this pundit’s previous efforts:
Glasgow to find a way to keep their crown and Sunderland to fall at the final hurdle for relegation. Expect half of this to be right.
Key Games to watch:
Week 8 Hull Sharks vs Glasgow Tigers
Week 9: Northumbria Mustangs vs Hull Sharks
Week 10: Northumbria Mustangs vs Glasgow Tigers
Week 10: Sunderland Spartans vs Newcastle Raiders