Only four games across three conferences in the Division Two South as we see two games scratched in the troubled 2A South East, whereas the seasons begin to wind down for those teams that have managed to stick to their schedule so far this year.
That said, lets take a look at the fixtures left standing in Uniball Week Nine!
City Sentinels v UCL Emperors
The 1-3 City Sentinels play their penultimate game this weekend against the 3-1 UCL Emperors. The Sentinels aren’t completely out of the race for the postseason, but it’s looking like a long shot now. They could still potentially catch up with the Emperors were they to win this weekend and then over the Regents in Week Ten, and with the Emperors unlikely to be favoured against the Conference leading Burners, the Sentinels would snatch the #3 spot and a potential playoff berth. With high hopes for luck to fall their way, the Sentinels will fight tooth and nail this weekend for the win.
The Emperors sit uncomfortably in second place with six points, but they’ll be very aware that the Southampton Stags, who took the Emperors apart in Week Four, are right behind them in the table, with a lot of football still to play. The division remains close and will likely come down to the last week of games later in February. A win this weekend for the Emperors would see them pull further away from the teams lower down the conference and lock them into at least third place in the conference.
Every game from here counts and the Emperors know it.
Emperors to win.
KCL Regents v Southampton Stags
The Regents are winless in their two games for the season. This, however, doesn’t put them out of the running for a playoff spot in the conference. With a streak of wins, and some other results falling their way? The conference could be reshuffling its order as the weeks draw on and the team rises through the ranks.
With four games remaining the Regents still have the majority of their season ahead of them, though it’s likely to be a gruelling task to complete four fixtures in four weeks for a squad that’s never had great depth.
The Southampton Stags are living up to their goal this season to stay undefeated and attain promotion to the 1A-South. Speaking to the Stags Head Coach Graham Thorpe about the return from the Christmas break he said:
“Practices have gone extremely well since the Christmas break, despite the challenges of attendance during the busy exam period.”
Attendance is a struggle at this time of year as students return to exams and a period of scheduled stress. Almost all teams deal with this issue but the Stags seem to have managed it well. Moving on to the team and players performance so far this season Coach Thorpe said:
“In terms of technical development and fitness levels, the limited number of games has been a positive so far this season. However, the team judges itself on game performance, so we are really looking forward to a busy and productive February.” …”We have preached a ‘team ethic’ all year, so whilst there have been some standout performances, these have only been made possible because every individual has contributed and done their job to the best of their current ability.”
With consistent good performance in training and a well-grounded team ethic, the Stags may be on to a winning combination for the rest of the season.
Stags to win.
Plymouth Blitz vs Gloucestershire Gladiators
So here we go, the one we’ve all been waiting for.
The potential decider for the conference, the Showdown in P-Town, The Slaughter by the Water… You get the picture.
One thing we know for certain is this will be a very blue affair! No, the weather hasn’t given the players S.A.D, but both do don very similar colours.
The Blitz got the opportunity to knock some rust off against Bath Spa last week, coming away with an easy win but this week will be a different matter. There’s no clear picture on whether unorthodoxly shaped Blitz QB, Fen Trudgian, could be making is return from a shoulder injury, though they have gained confidence in seeing both QB2 and QB3 move the ball comfortably against the Bulldogs last week. The defence is buoyed by the return of defensive end JJ Edwards, providing some added beef to let Safety Luke Holloway swarm to the ball.
Gloucester have to be out to prove a point on Sunday. Yes they are perfect so far, but they have their biggest games ahead of them, have never beaten Plymouth before, and with a win here would appear locked in as favourites for promotion and postseason glory.
They need to continue their physical style of play to keep the Blitz O off the field. Coach James Wilford has reinvigorated this team and their fate is in their own hands.
This is a real head vs heart one for me as I spent nigh on a decade with the Blitz. Were it not for the choke against Bournemouth I think both parts of me would be going the same way, however this time I think the physical ends up beating the finesse.
Glads to win.
LSBU Spartans 0-1 ARU Rhinos
UEL Phoenix 1-0 Westminster Dragons
ARU Rhinos v Greenwich Mariners
Strictly speaking, yes, these two teams are currently each sat at 2-2 on the season so far. However, those wins have all come from walkovers, and rather, we’re actually seeing two winless teams go head to head on Sunday, as both programmes enter the latter half of a season they’re each likely to be very disappointed with.
Both programmes would have had high hopes for a strong year in a conference filled with teams that struggled through 15/16, but as it stands they’ve each faced, and fallen short, against the top two contenders in the conference – a versatile looking C4 Chargers, and the surprisingly strong rookie outfit – the QMBL Vipers.
ARU have not been helped in their quest but their AU’s insistence they don’t play without the correct Jerseys, however we hear Rhino have finally come through for the Rhinos, and if we’re able to get highlight tape of this weekends fixtures we’ll finally get a glimpse of the Rhinos’ new robes.
Look good, play good is the old adage – so will the new jerseys be enough to get the Rhinos off to their first win of the year?
Sadly, we’re not seeing it. We don’t know precisely what’s gone wrong for the Mariners this year – they seemed on point in 2015/16 and were confident of another strong year coming into the season, but they simply haven’t matched their potential on their field so far this campaign.
We get the impression the Mariners will feel they have more on the line in this one, and used that energy to drive them to a W.