Durham Saints vs Derby Braves
By Thomas Snee
After one of the most unpredictable regular seasons in recent memory with the most bizarre and convoluted play-offs in Britball history, the time has come for the talking to stop and the National Championship game to be played!
An all-Premier North affair for the second-straight year, this season’s big dance will see last year’s defeated finalists, the Durham Saints, take on Derby Braves, in what promises to be an intriguing encounter.
On paper, this game is Durham’s to lose.
Their #Redemption season hasn’t been without drama. While some in the community might argue that their weather-induced free ride through the playoffs could put an asterisk next to their record up to this point in the year, it is hard to deny following an outstanding 8-0 regular campaign that they are anything other than pound-for-pound the best team in University football so far this season.
However, that was also the case in 2016/17, when they went undefeated on the field all the way until the Championship game, where they suffered a surprise loss to Stirling Clansmen.
Will they finally get the monkey off their back and get the title their investment in their programme has warranted?
As to the Braves? Well, let’s be honest, there were those that had written off their season by the Christmas break! An 0-4 start to the season was hardly indicative of a promising campaign, and no side had ever stayed in the ruthless Premiership north after being winless at the end of the winter term.
However, a change in the coaching staff following Noel Cassar having to step away from the programme to focus on family concerns saw the Braves ride the crest of a wave into the playoffs, going 3-1 in the post-break fixtures under new HC, Bernie Hackshaw.
An overtime win over Stirling forshadowed a change in the Braves’ fortunes, and the followed up by dominating Leeds Carnegie and Loughborough to secure a postseason trip. Even then, their defeat of Stirling in the semi-final came as a bit of a shock, but now the Braves stand on the brink of history.
Six years after the league started the process of joining BUCS, this game represents the way in which the game has changed at university level in that time. Two teams that were ‘also-rans’ in the pre-single institution, BUAFL/BCAFL days now stand at the summit of the university game, super-charged by scholarships and a deluge of AU funding. The game has evolved, and these two institutions have emerged as the alpha predators.
Which of the league’s Nouveau Riche will triumph on Sunday and put their name on the National Championship for the first time?
Let’s see what the team think:
But who’s your pick?