By Samuel Stoddart Durning
Hull Sharks v Glasgow Tigers
A flashback to an old conference championship battle this weekend, however times have definitely changed.
The Hull programme is struggling with the loss of the majority of their starting offence during the off season, including veteran QB Sam Foulds, currently sitting on a 1-1 record with their single victory coming against Sunderland.
This game feels fairly one sided going into this weekend, though we can’t completely rule the Sharks out. Their offence seemed to find some sort of form putting up 24 points in their last outing, as rookie find their feet.
Could this be the turning point for the Sharks after a shaky start? The Sharks are teetering in the mid table slot at the moment – a win would mean one of the biggest upsets this conference has seen and ultimately send the league into a level playing field prior to the Christmas break. Another loss will see them fall into the basement to join the Mustangs.
Glasgow are currently steamrolling their way through into what looks to be another conference championship run. Could this be the rebirth of the 2015 Tigers we saw before which just missed out on a Premiership opportunity? With the Tigers defence under defensive coordinator Andrew McGowan only conceding 14 points so far, the Tigers will be hoping to play lights out this weekend and allow former Highland Wildcats QB Ewan Crawford to command his offence and take them to 3-0 on the season.
Hull will be putting everything on the line for this one, yet the Tigers look next level this year so don’t expect them to be slowing down anytime soon.
Tigers retain their stripes.
Sunderland Spartans v Edinburgh Napier Knights
My oh my this cofnerence just gets more and more interesting – an upset win by the Spartans over a dwindling Northumbria side suddenly sits them avoiding relegation with a head to head victory keeping them afloat, whilst Northumbria seem to have gone from a very competitive side to one that is now feeling the cliff edge of relegation at their backs, sitting at a 1-2 record and in the basement of the northern conference.
Although Sunderland came out and got the first win under their belt (and ruined my prediction percentage, cheers lads) this matchup with the Scots coming south of the wall for the first time this season will be no easy feat. Home field advantage will be a big help in keeping the Spartans as fresh as they can be after a short week, whereas Napier are coming in off a bye week with momentum from their first Division One victory since promotion. This one is all to play for as a victory here (combined with a loss for Hull against first place Glasgow) would see Napier move into the second place position in the conference.
It’s fair to say the Napier defense has seen a few knocks and bumps whilst adjusting to the physicality of the higher division, however we’re hearing that they are firing on all cylinders with Team MVP Matthew Allisson returning from a pulled hamstring, and veteran defensive lineman Campbell Roberts and Zak Watson also coming back to full health, giving the Napier defense that much added boost in depth and enhancing the physical style of play they pride themselves on. With the addition of their Linebacker core consisting of All DC linebacker Ross Edwin, expect this hard hitting defense to set the tone from play one with the intention of cementing their place in the conference.
Sunderland will be breathing a huge sigh of relief having finally rallied to edge out North Eastern rivals Northumbria in a 10-6 victory. We heard Sunderland were looking like a new football side with lots of Offensive adjustments making use of the personnel available. Sunderland will still need to address their depth issue with both interior defensive lineman playing on the offensive side of the ball. Playing in the trenches both ways will be taxing on any player, so let’s hope they can keep the fresh with rotation of rookies and backups.
It’s all to play for this weekend and so with carrying momentum from their victories, this is going to be a good one… But with the more convincing W over their common opponent, we’re backing the Knights to vanquish the Spartans in this Deadliest Warrior themed clash.
By Andy Loch
Sheffield Sabres v Sheffield Hallam Warriors
This is the first meeting of the Steel City Varsity Rivals for the 2017/18 season. The last time the teams met was last year’s Varsity match, where Sabres scored a long TD on the first drive of the game, before succumbing to Hallam’s offensive dominance.
The Sabres have had an up and down season already, beating UCLan for the first time I can remember, but then losing to the realigned LJMU. With how it looks now, it will be a battle between the Sabres and Rams to sew up third place and potentially sneak into the playoffs?
Hallam are still doing Hallam things – winning in Division One.
LJMU took a brief lead over the Warriors during their last outing, but Hallam powered through, racking up points in the second half to fully cement themselves as conference favourites, and potentially the only team that could stop UoNAFs march towards Prem Balling.
Hallam to win.
UCLAN Rams v Leeds Gryphons
The battle at the bottom.
…Didn’t think I would ever be saying that about a match UCLan are involved in. The perennial ‘strong but not spectacular’ team, have only a solitary loss to their name, but at the hands of the Sabres is a shock!
Expect them to comeback with a vengeance in this one, and prove they belong back up the top with the Hallam boys.
The Gryphons are struggling in their new Division One home. They were handsomely beaten by Hallam, and then fell to LJMU in a much closer affair. This confernece could turn out to be one of the most highly competitive when it comes to the end of the season, but I believe the bookends are already in place, with Hallam at the top, and the Gryphons hanging onto the coattails of the other three teams.
Rams to win handsomely.
By Erick Jupp
Warwick Wolves v Leicester Longhorns
It’s been a while since we’ve seen the Wolves in action and they will be looking to pick up where they left off when they beat the Stallions in a close 19-12 victory. Their defence played well with a pick six and their offence found the end zone twice. As for the match-up against the Longhorns, they will look to close down Leicester’s ground attack.
The Longhorns got their first win of the season last weekend in some bad weather conditions, but they got the job done at the end of the day. Their offence had some big plays which stretched the Stallions defence and their defence had a couple of sacks and fourth down turnovers. It was a big sigh of relief to get their first win and they will be looking to build on that when they face another opponent that, looking at common opponent scores, they have the potential to snatch another win from.
Both teams need this victory to keep them competitive and dodge the drop, and this will be one of those close match-ups where both teams will be looking to leave it all out on the field. The Wolves will look to make big plays on offence and the Longhorns will look to break Warwick’s defence with their ground game.
But in this occasion, the Wolves should just have what it takes to get the W here.
NTU Renegades v Staffordshire Stallions
The Renegades had a day to forget last weekend when they were shutout against the University of Nottingham in their first defeat of the season.
Their offence struggled to get anything going and the defence simply couldn’t match the firepower UoN’s starts could put out.
A setback for the Renegades, dropping them from the top spot, however, they will be looking to the Week Ten fixture against their local rivals as a shot at redemption.
As for this week, they have the 0-3 Staffordshire Stallions coming to town.
In their outing last week against the Longhorns, the Stallions struggled to keep Leicester’s run-heavy offence off the field which lead to their 24-12 defeat, a result that now has them at the bottom of the table as the only winless team.
They desperately need a result from somewhere if they are to stay in the division. There were some positives from their last outing – Zac Green stepped in at QB for the injured Alex Mackenzie-Grist, throwing two touchdowns with no turnovers and plenty of yards through the air, and their receivers looked sharper in contrast to previous games.
For this fixture, expect NTU to bounce back from their loss. Look for the Renegades to start quick and put the game out the Stallions reach early on. The Stallions meanwhile must look to sustain longer drives to keep their D getting winded by spending too much time on the field.
Renegades should see a return to winning ways this week.