University of Nottingham vs UWE Bullets
North versus South clash, in what is expected to be a hard-fought duel for the Division One Championship.
Two programmes in the ascendancy, will Bullets be able to save some face for the South, after a dominant win for the North in last year’s matchup between Carnegie and Portsmouth?
Certain the Bullets form heading into the latter part of the season would imply they’re more than ready to mix things up with Notts on Sunday, and make the leap to the top tier next year.
While they’ll have been on few people’s preseason radar coming into 17/18, the UWE Bullets are a storied programme, with some National Championship pedigree from their pre-single-institution days as the Bristol Bullets.
They escaped notice ahead of this campaign, thanks to only managing a 4-4 season the previous year, including being forced to forfeit one of their early-season fixtures due to a lack of medical cover. However, the .500 record hides the fact that the reality is the Bullets didn’t lose a single fixture this side of the Christmas break last year, going 4-0 to round out a season that had opened with three losses and a forfeit, including knocking off both of the South West’s playoff teams! They missed out on postseason action last year by the skin of their teeth – their early-season forfeit placing them below other teams with worse overall records (something BUCS, oddly, did not enforce this year) but for those paying attention? The Bullets were a team on the rise!
They continued that strong form into this season. With strong links to Bristol’s superb football resources, including the Bristol Academy Community League, and the elite Pride programme, via Head Coach Dan Maher. Further, their parent institution backed the programme for the first time this year with scholarship opportunities, that this year lured a couple of elite Britballers to the programme for some postgrad balling, and going forwards stand to potentially also attract talent from across the pond.
While the Bullets can’t quite boast an undefeated season this year – they fell short against the Plymouth Blitz back in Week Five – they avenged that loss in earnest in Week Eleven – demolishing the South Coast side 54-0 and showing the ruthlessness this programme can bring to the table.
They showed great resilience, rounding out their season with three fixtures in eight days to secure the Conference Crown, and while they bypassed the first round of the postseason thanks to the Beast from the East doing away with a third match up with Plymouth they impressed through two tough playoff brawls against Kingston and Kent to secure their spot in the Trophy Final.
Well coached, with some play-making athletes on both sides of the ball, the Bullets come into this game with great momentum.
However, facing them are a side that, frankly, we kinda already expected to be mixing it up in the Premiership by now.
Notts have appeared the cream of Division One these past two season, and but for a gutwrenching Overtime loss to Leeds Carnegie last season? Would have likely been a contender in the Premiership this season, let along steam-rolling their way through the 1A Midlands.
And indeed, for the second straight year since the erstwhile Nottingham Outlaws revamped their programme, UoNAF have been a cut above all contenders during the regular season. Despite regularly resting starters after maybe even just two quarters, the gold-and-green boasted the #1 offence in the tier this year – Britbowl XXXI Championship Quarterback and EP Sports Elite Player. Patrick Daley, leading the Notts offence on a rampage this season.
They’ve secured the Premiership balling they missed out on last year, and now having led our Power Rankings all season-long, look to hoist a National Title.
The only thing potentially working against the Notts side? Due to the weather disruptions this postseason, they come into this final having only played a single postseason fixture. Sure, this’ll likely mean they have some fresh legs… but on the flip side, it’ll have been tough to maintain their regular season momentum having essentially only played a single fixture in the past month – a narrower than they’d have liked 29-13 win over local rivals, NTU.
Further, Jason Scott‘s team earned themselves few friends when they were one of two programmes to openly oppose a potential delay to the Division One postseason – the lack of a unanimous agreement between the Final Sixteen institutions leading to the expulsion of six outfits from the playoffs, without even getting a chance to play a game.
Will the Bullets have the firepower to keep up with the #1 offence in Uniball? Have Nottingham been able to maintain their focus during a disrupted postseason?
Let’s see what the team think:
But who’s your pick?