Coming into this season, we expected a repeat performance at the top of the reformed Scottish/ borders conference by DC’s own HC Pete Laird‘s Edinburgh Napier Knights. With their cross-city rivals the Edinburgh Predators matching them toe-to-toe so far though, and sophomore outfit Heriot-Watt flipping the script after playing only half their season last term and finishing 1-3, picking a winner in this division is proving a more difficult proposition than expected. Let’s have a look at how each team has fared so far and what they need to do to finish the season strong
Edinburgh Napier Knights
The Knights were a cut above the rest in 2015, going 7-1 in the regular season before meeting their match with LJMU in the playoff round. The question was always going to be whether they could repeat in a reformed conference. Well, the loss of their Team MVP from last year Long Hoang doesn’t seem to have changed the Knight’s defensive dominance one jot, and Napier were yet to concede a point heading into the break, even if they were only two games into their year. A confident win over Lancaster has given them the edge in the conference, but having yet to face the Predators means the jury is still out on the Knight’s 2016 season. However, with the 5 February derby in the Scottish capital has the look of being a potential title-decider.
HC Martin Harrison told DC Towers before the season that their first game against HWU was the litmus test for how far the Predators could go. A 6-0 win against the second-year Hawoo in the opener, coupled with a 41-8 drubbing of Teeside, are proof that the Predators’ 2016 iteration could go all the way. Super Bowl Sunday Derby Day has all signs of being the season-deciding match up for the Preds.
With a total revamp in the coaching staff as Heriot-Watt brought in 17 years of National League experience to the main coaching positions, we can’t say we’ve been totally surprised by HWU’s winning efforts so far. They’ve had close games every time out so far, although you’d expect them to face their stiffest challenge of the year against the Knights in final game. However, rumours are of a quality recruit for Hawooooo over the midseason break that could yet see them shake up things in the Borders.
Coming off a turnaround season in 2015, York have had two very different games so far. A heavy victory against UWS was followed by an overtime defeat to surging Hawoo, and one would feel that the Centurions are destined for a mid-table finish this season. We don’t think they’ll particularly mind, so long as they emerge victorious from the Rose Bowl preview on Derby Day.
With newly promoted HC Chris Scrace at the helm, its been a season of extremes so far for the Cougars. A 50-burger win over UWS has been sandwiched between a shutout to the Knights and an even heavier defeat to the Predators. With five-year veteran and team MVP LB Michael Walters shoring up the defence, we expect the Cougars should be able to close out the year with a .500 record, though they’re still a way off the pace of those at the top of the conference.
With just one game before the break, it was a case of played one, lost one for the Bombers following a 24-12 defeat to a resurgent HWU. Coming off an 0-8 campaign last season in Division One, we can at least expect them to get a W on the board this year, but it may not come until they face UWS in Week Eleven.
Following last season’s weather-ravaged campaign, HC Bud McFerren stated that this season was all about being safe and competitive. To the best of our knowledge, the Pyros have managed to keep to the first part of that mantra… But have struggled with the second. Three heavy defeats speaks to their small roster of both players and coaches, but in some respects for outfits like UWS, winning really isn’t everything. Rather, keeping the players healthy and interested in the game while the sport, and their experience and roster size, grows. Their ability to field a team for every game so far is testament to that, though it was disappointing to hear they were unable to take to the field during rain week due to a lack of available coaches – choosing to attend a flag tournament rather than tread the sidelines with their squad.
In short, there’s a lot to be proud of for the members of the 2A Borders conference. With increased competition across the division, we expect at least a three-horse race for the title involving the Edinburgh sides and HWU.
Week Nine: Edinburgh Napier Knights @ Edinburgh Predators
Week Twelve: Edinburgh Napier Knights @ Heriot-Watt University