The worst effects of the Beast from the East are hopefully passed, and so now Division Two tries to play catch up on the majority of fixtures that were missed last week!
Southampton Stags (2) v Essex Blades (7)
With the Panthers pushing the Bears out of the postseason, this Stags vs Blades game sees the biggest seed differential in the south this weekend.
Coming out of the highly competitive South West conference, Southampton overcame a very so-so middle of their campaign to pick up the big wins when they needed them, rounding our their regular season with a winner-takes-all showdown against OBU.
Their offence might have rounded out the year not looking quite as high-powered as earlier in the season, but as an outfit they’ve consistently found ways to win all year long, besting preseason-promotion favourites, Gloucestershire, and avoiding the trap in their game against Bournemouth.
Meanwhile, it’s been an strange season for the Blades, bouncing back and forth between contending with the top dogs in their South East conference, and then nearly scuppering their postseason chances with a 14-9 loss to Greenwich in Week Eleven.
Still, they rounded out their season on a high with a big 34-0 win over ARU (even if it was later voided with the end of season BUCS shenanigans!) so should be hitting the postseason with some good momentum.
Do the team think it’ll be enough to carry them past a stampeding Stags side?
QMBL Vipers (3) v KCL Regents (6)
We’re hearing this fixture might get shifted slightly – though we’re not sure to when, and how considering the tight window of opportunity to get these games played – due to KCL having a midweek Varsity fixture the following week.
Still, assuming the game takes place this weekend, we see an interesting match up of a young QMBL Vipers team who have been hot right out of the gates, and a KCL Regents side on the rebound after a couple of poor seasons.
QMBL only entered the league last season, but saw playoffs in their first year, and earned promotion to the middle tier with a resilient 7-1 campaign in 17/18.
They rarely won big, but by an inch or a mile the Vipers found paths to victory in almost every fixture this season – highlighted by an impressive second-half comeback against UEL in Week Three that truly set the Vipers up as crown contenders.
Further, due to the differing conference lengths in the lowest tier, they’ve certainly got a chunk more football under their belts this year than their upcoming opponents, as while the Vipers completed an eight-game season, the withdrawal of BNU means the Regents come into this matchup with only five fixtures played.
Still, KCL made the most of those five games, only taking a single loss on the season, against the undefeated Brighton. Elsewhere, the Regents proved to be resilient, if not flashy, picking up their wins by modest margins, perhaps more reliant on their D to keep them in their fixtures.
With two outfits used to winning by narrow margins, who do the team see picking up the W this weekend?
OBU Panthers (4) v UEL Phoenix (5)
The Panthers will be gutted to not be heading into the postseason with promotion already locked up and a higher seeding, but OBU fell at the final hurdle in their conference crown deciding showdown against the Stags.
Still, their 5-1 season was enough to earn them a home berth, and coming into the playoffs undefeated at home this season? They’ll be eager to bounce back from their loss to the Stags with a solid start to their postseason action.
Solid defence and consistent if unspectacular offence seems to have been the key to the Panthers campaign, as the only time they really looked to rack up a big scoreline this year seems to have been in their Cavalier Cup showdown against their local rivals, the Lancers. Still, they only conceded more than one score in a single fixture this year, and should prove a tough nut to crack for the Phoenix.
Across from them, UEL have been a tough team to get to grips with this season. They appeared to have set themselves up as frontrunners for promotion with a 18-7 win over the Vipers back in Rain Week, only to see their middle-tier dreams flounder as inconsistent form from their offence saw them fall from grace – picking up losses against ARU and Essex.
From averaging 23.5 points per game through their first four fixtures, the Phoenix slumped to 3.33 through their next three, and only seemed to reclaim some of their early season fire in their final fixture of the year – a 15-0 win over the Mariners, that was subsequently voided in the BUCS deadline purge.
A matchup between these two teams playing to form should be a fine showdown… but do #TeamDC think the Phoenix have refound their form ahead of the postseason?