BUCS Playoff Predictions 17/18 | Last Few Standing

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…

The Beast from the East has taken its toll and from the weekend’s proposed fixtures. Of the intended twenty fixtures, we’re left with only five four, perhaps six five.

Still, we sat our BUCS correspondents down and got their take on each of the few fixtures still going ahead.

We got ten of our BUCS team to pick a team to win each fixture, with the Editor acting as a tiebreaker… Which way do #TeamDC see these fixtures falling?

Division One North

Sheffield Sabres (3) v UCLan Rams (6)

In what’s probably the most discussed game of the postseason before it’s even kicked off, the UCLan Rams will host their conference rivals, the Sheffield Sabres.

The Rams, still pained by their loss of conference title and drop from #2 to #6 seed due to a voided fixture, host this weekend’s fixture thanks to the generosity and solidarity of the Sabres, who assumed UCLan’s spot atop the 1A Yorkshire following the voiding by BUCS of the Rams’ Week Twelve game against the Leeds Gryphons.

It’s not the way either of these teams would’ve wanted to meet in the postseason, but even so we bet these two long-time rivals are ready to make a helluva game of it.

They split the games during the season, the Sabres taking the initial meeting by 12pts in Week Two, before the Rams turned it over during their strong run to round out the year – taking a final-seconds 6pt win over the Sabres in Week Nine.

Both teams are riding hot streaks, the Rams have six straight wins at their back, while Sheffield haven’t dropped a game since the last time these two met.

But what do the team think?

Spoiler

Rams take it 8-2, and certainly of the two teams they had the more convincing wins to round out their season.

Even so, expectations are for it to be a close one, and ultimately this likely boils down to how well the Rams players and coaches have been able to navigate the tumultuous week they’ve just had – will they bounce back from losing their 1A Yorkshire Championship status by proving they’re still Championship material on the field of play? Might the Sabres regret offering the Rams the opportunity to host?

Potentially this is one of only two Final 16 fixtures that’ll even get played, and it should be a cracking match up.

 

Division One South

Kent Falcons (1) v Reading Knights (8)

#1 seed in the south, the undefeated Kent Falcons host a Reading team that scraped into the postseason by the skin of their teeth – following a forfeited fixtured against the Cougars the Knights were the beneficiaries of an unexpected Imperial Immortals win in the 1A South East to keep their postseason aspirations alive.

Still, having opened the year with two heavy defeats and a heart-breaking midseason departure from their roster, it’s been an impressive turnaround-year for the Reading outfit.

They pushed themselves into playoff contention with a surprise shutout win over the Burners in Week Eleven, and they’ll be gunning to cause another upset this Sunday against the #1 seed, the Falcons.

Speaking of, we may have briefly rooted against them for the sake of keeping the 1A South East interesting, but the truth is the Falcons are a very worthy #1 seed, with the #3 scoring offence and #1 defence in the entirety of Division One.

They’ve got great playmaking potential on both sides of the ball, but what we particularly noticed from them this year was their stout interior defence and ball-hawking secondary.

Will the BUCS team stick with the system and take the top seed?

Spoiler

Absolutely – While a couple of our team with a soft spot for underdogs have plucked for the plucky Knights, it’s an 8-2 majority backing the Falcons.

Considering the inclement weather, don’t expect a high-scoring affair, but with the Knights averaging only seven points a game this season, it’s going to be a big ask for them to keep up with the high-flying Falcons.

Division Two North

Bangor MudDogs (4) v Huddersfield Hawks (5)

There was a time when the MudDogs were a Uniball punchline… but no more.

In recent years they’ve become a consistently competitive outfit, and it seems only a matter of time for they get a shot at middle-tier balling.

In fact, their most consistently unbeatable opponent in recent seasons appears to have been the Welsh weather – they’ve played more ‘home’ games in Liverpool than Wales in recent years, and will head to JMO Sports park to host the Hawks this weekend.

Meanwhile, this is all new territory for the Huddersfield side. Despite decades in the league, 2018 is the Hawks first ever playoffs trip, and with the reworked seeding jumping them up into the #5 spot, they’ve done a nice job of dodging some of the most daunting opponents for their first foray into the postseason.

While their seasons has had its ebbs and flows – big win, followed by big loss, then barely scraping past Worcester in Week Ten, they’ve really found some form in recent weeks and rounded out the regular season with a convincing 34-6 win over their MMU when it really mattered.

As such, they come into this one with great momentum – will that be reflected in #TeamDC’s picks?

Spoiler

Ooh, interesting!

A clean split as the team clearly think the Hawks have taken flight at the perfect time, coming into the postseason debut.

That leaves the tiebreaker down to me, and while I like the moves the Hawks have been making lately… I’m gonna have to back Bangor.

The ‘Dogs dabbled with postseason action in their last campaign, earning their first-ever playoff win over the Predators and coming close to grounding the Gryphons too. While their results definitely looked less impressive in the latter part of the year – I’d’ve liked to see more convincing scorelines against the likes of the Vikings and Bears – when they’re playing to form I think they’ve got the playmakers to take this one.

Low scoreline… could be that the first team to two scores takes it.

Division Two South

Brighton Panthers (1) v RHUL Bears (8)

Another game we didn’t expect to be predicting, the RHUL Bears were the beneficiaries of a voided matchup for the Gloucestershire Gladiators. Another voided game, this time for Essex, almost saw the Bears hopped into the #7 seed, but the newfangled way of seeding scuppered that, and similarly thrust the Panthers into pole position.

As such, we’ve got a top-versus-bottom game that neither team will have had much time to prep for.

Luckily, as 2A South rivals, these two teams will be at least somewhat familiar with one another.

The Panthers have performed well all year long, with the best defence in Uniball by the numbers. They’ve allowed only 14 points through five outings, and completely shut down the Bears the last time the teams met, way back in Week Three – a crushing 34-0 win for the panthers in their second biggest scoreline of the season.

However, does expect this matchup to be the same kinda pushover. The Bears bounced back from a shaky start to their season, two shutout losses to open the year, with a resilient second half of the season. Sure, they’re far from setting the scoreboard alight with anything close to a high-powered offence, but they’ve found ways to beat the teams in front of them since the Christmas break, their small number of sports scholars beginning to shine through.

Can they figure out a way to turnover their conference champs? Let’s see what the team thinks…

Spoiler

Yeah… no.

While fan-of-the-underdogs JJ has broken ranks for the Bears, it’s a tsunami of votes in the other direction that give the Brighton side the nod.

Brighton may have only played a single fixture this side of Christmas, but it was their most convincing performance of the season so far, 36-0, and scuppered any chance of the Wolfpack seeing playoff balling.  Considering the Bears barely edged past the ‘Pack a few weeks ago, it’s tough to see them matching Brighton’s bite this weekend.

 


Who are your picks #BritballNation?

Let us know in the comments down below!

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Nick

Nick 'Willy Tee' Wilson-Town hails from the South West where he's spent the last decade bouncing around various teams at the university and senior level. He came to fame on the now departed unofficial forum thanks to his regularly irreverent Uniball predictions and general 'BUAFL wafflage'. Follow him on twitter @WillyTee1