Playoffs are upon us, and with the postseason getting underway we shift the format of our predictions to consult our entire Uniball team on who they think will be progressing to the second round!
Remember, conference champions have already been locked in as promotees, so all that’s at stake in the Division Two Playoffs now is a handful of BUCS points… And a whole lot of pride!
Edinburgh Napier Knights (#1) vs Lincoln Colonials (#8)
The Knights put in their best season to date, earning a second-straight conference crown and this time going undefeated in the process. Their success was born off the back of a stingy defence that boasted three shut outs this year (four if you count HWU scored on special teams), and while their cross-city rivals put a bit of a scare on them in their varsity rivalry game, the Knights have otherwise proven a resilient team, with brief flashes of firepower on offence.
Lincoln meanwhile will probably be somewhat surprised to be here! After taking a beating in the second half against rivals Coventry, and then a surprise loss against the MMU Eagles? The Colonials fate was no longer in their hands going into the final Sunday of the season, and MMU only needed a win over a previously winless DMU side to lock up the #3 spot in the 2A Midlands.
Well, the Colonials owe DMU a beer, as the Falcons LIT UP the Eagles and thrust Lincoln into the postseason…
That said, they may want to see what change they have left after hiring a coach for a looooong trip up north before they cough up to thank the Eagles.
Leeds Gryphons (#2) vs Heriot Watt (#7)
A perfect season for the Gryphons, who rebranded from the Celtics in order to work more closely with their Athletic Union – and they clearly made the right choice, as the improved support and facilities has seen the Leeds side position themselves as the team to beat in the North, finishing as the top team in the Northern half of Division Two in our Power Rankings for 16/17.
They’ve won big against the softer teams in their conference, with two #50sBurgers this year, and found ways to win out against more competitive programmes like Bangor and Liverpool as well.
Meanwhile we’ve seen a much-improved Heriot Watt side make an assault on the top of the 2A Borders this year. With an experienced and massively expanded coaching staff, and access to superb new facilities, Hawoo put themselves in a position to snatch the conference heading into the penultimate week of the season – but couldn’t find ways through the stiff Knights D.
Even so, they’ve shown they can move the ball well, racking up a the first #50Burger of their BUCS tenure this season, and having felt robbed of a deserved title at the final hurdle? Expect Hawoo to enter the postseason playing with a chip on their shoulder and an eye on earning a rematch against conference champs, Napier.
Leicester Longhorns (#3) vs Coventry Jets (#6)
One of the surprises of the season, the Leicester Longhorns came from nowhere to snatch the 2A Midlands conference right out from under the noses of a Coventry Jets side that had sat atop both the conference, and our Power Rankings, for almost the entire season!
Despite starting the year with a loss right out of the gates to the Lincoln Colonials, and far-from-convincing wins through much of the season, they pulled it out of the bag when it counted most – shutting down a previously unstoppable looking Jets defence and snatching the title in Week Ten.
It’s apparent the Jets were fairly blindsided by Leicester’s performance. Despite averaging 35pts/game going into the Christmas break, they’d had two full months without a fixture coming into their clash against Leicester, so perhaps they simply weren’t able to shake off the rust that had set in over Christmas?
Certainly only playing a single fixture in this half of their season – following a walkover vs the withdrawn Northampton Nemesis and no fixture played against the DMU Falcons – will have done them no favours in getting their offensive groove back and upping morale…
Bangor Muddogs (#4) vs Edinburgh Predators (#5)
Two teams whose seasons likely turned on single plays – but such is the nature of football.
For the Muddogs, a rookie’s lack of understanding of the ball being live on kick offs led to a Leeds recovery of the opening boot of the day, deep in Bangor territory, and the Muddogs were playing catch up from there onwards – both in that came, and in the conference in general.
For the Predators, a late score vs their cross city rivals gave them the choice to kick the PAT and most likely take things to overtime, or drive for two and take the win, and the conference to boot!
Having moved the ball well through the second half, the Preds opted for two… but came up short, allowing the Knights to close out the game.
There we have it ‘Nation – but who are YOUR picks to make it through the first round of playoffs in the northern half of Division Two?