By Samuel Stoddart Durning
Northumbria Mustangs v Glasgow Tigers
Third times a charm with the hopeful rescheduling of this classic Division One matchup!
It just goes to show that anything can happen in football. Prior to the Christmas there were strong indicators that Glasgow would have this conference sewn up and their eyes set on playoff football with half the season still ahead of them, but an upset win from the Hull Sharks threw a spanner in the works and seemed to give other programmes a shot at the 1A North crown.
Fast forward to last Sunday and following Glasgow taking the Mackenzie’s challenge cup trophy in an East vs West match up against Edinburgh Napier Knights, things appear to be back on track for the Tigers.
A hard fought victory that saw touchdowns scored through the air and on the ground by the Tigers, it was a bittersweet win for the Glasgow side as they suffered some heavy injuries – particularly in the trenches. We hope they’ve iced up and recovered well on the short week, as they’ll be looking to put another notch in the W column on Sunday and position themselves one win away from a conference crown.
Northumbria will be looking to capitalise on the momentum swing that comes from their victory over the dwindling Sunderland Spartans. Although we are hearing from the Spartans social media there was some possible ‘refereeing concerns’, the win for the Mustangs still stands and they have pulled themselves out of the relegation spot at least for now. That said, Northumbria’s own player numbers seemed to be shrinking in a similar fashion to Sunderland’s heading to the break, so we hope the win was a sign of a second semester bolstering, solving any depth issues the Mustangs had in first semester.
Though they put up three scores against the Spartans, Northumbria’s offence will need put in their best performance of the season so far for this weekend’s matchup against a hard hitting Tigers defence who have only allowed 39 points to be scored against them this season – the lowest in the conference.
The win’d put Glasgow one away from the crown, but it’s also significant to the Mustangs as it’d almost certainly seal the deal on Division One balling for another season – only a potential, messy, three way tie of 3-5 records at the bottom of the conference the only way the Mustangs Div One credentials could yet be swiped away from them.
We aren’t ruling Northumbria out of the fight against what will be a very short week turnaround however, with the Tigers win over their only challengers so far Napier we don’t see them losing this one.
Tigers take down the Mustangs
Hull Sharks v Sunderland Spartans
Hull have been a team of peaks, troughs and head scratchers. They are the only team to have bested the seemingly unstoppable Tigers this season and were pipped to the post in a 7-0 loss Napier earlier this year.
Their big issue seems to be lack of offence, putting all the pressure on the defence to come up with points (that’s not their job guys!) with only 46 points scored in five games. That aside, they seem a solid side with solid foundations to rebuild on after suffering the loss of ten offensive starters. Rookies and back-ups have certainly stepped up this year which does not reflect their current 2-3 record and how close some of those losses have been. If Hull continue with this solid base, we could be looking at a side which swings back to the top half of the table next year. For now, they will be looking to turn their season around by winning out their remaining games, potentially sneaking into a third place postseason berth. It all starts with a victory over the Spartans this weekend.
Of course, this game means just as much if not more to the Spartans. Sunderland’s oss to the Mustangs last weekend means defeat on Sunday would all-but guarantee them Division Two baling next season.
Poor retention through the offseason saw them field a gameday squad of only 20-30 players for most of this campaign so far, dropping towards the twenty mark in their recent outings.
This lack of depth might be sustainable in the lower tiers of the game, but in this feisty Division One conference the numbers don’t lie. 32 points scored in six game and 176 points conceded.
While no teams looks for relegation, in some respects their may be some benefits to the Spartans programme in the long-term by using a season or two of Division Two balling to rebuild the roster.
However, there is still pride to play for and an upset win against middle tier Hull would go a long way for team morale and give the team the slimmest of chances of staying in the middle tier.
Sunderland have shown competitive streaks in the early quarters of their games but the lack of numbers in their ranks shows as the game grinds on and ironman ballers run out of steam twice as fast, taking its toll in the later stages of a game.
A shock win is always exciting but we think Hull will put this one away early
Spartans to sink in the Shark tank.
By Andy Loch
Sheffield Hallam Warriors v UCLan Rams
Well the last two weeks have been as shocking to Uniball, as I guess they have been to the Hallam Warriors themsleves.
Except from their season up in the Prem, I honestly can’t think of a season in recent memory where Hallam have lost two games in a row… Answers on a postcard Uniball historians!
Not only is it two losses, also two games without the Warriors, who were averaging 36.75 points per game heading into Christmas, finding paydirt even once – their lone touchdown on a return against LJMU last week called back for a block in the back, and instead resulting in a field goal that is their only points this side of the break.
Meanwhile, while the Warriors woes have been mounting, the Rams have seen a huge upturn in their fortunes since the Christmas break. After losing their first two games UCLan have steamrolled their way into a postseason berth and will be looking at this weekend as their chance to take a shot at the 1A Yorkshire title!
Tied at 4-2 at the top of the table, the Rams do however have something of a mountain to overcome in the form of the 31 to zip drubbing they took at the hands of the Warriors back in Week Three. Winning this game would move them into the top spot, but they’ll not hold the head-to-head over Hallam unless they take it by 32 points or more. It matters for nought if they win out against Leeds too, to round out the year, but definitely something for the Rams to consider if they’re able to pull ahead in this one.
Although it wasn’t a totally comfortable win against the Sabres last weekend, getting wins is all that matters to the Rams now. This will be their fourth match in a row, before they can look ahead to a bye week before facing the Gryphons in the final regular season game.
Odds are the 1A Yorkshire crown is decided in this match up, and the outcome is likely determined by which Warriors show up – the pre-Christmas promotion contenders, or the shadow-of-their-former-selves they’ve appeared since the break?
This game could go either way, but based on the last few weeks results and Hallam’s loss of talisman Ronel Daley-Thomas, I believe the Rams will take this one!
Sheffield Sabres v Leeds Gryphons
These two teams played a rare Wednesday match up this week. Even more unexpected was two teams from Yorkshire playing in Liverpool…?
The Sabres came away with the win on Wednesday, in what was nominally the Gryphons’ home game.
The Sabres wins moves them a step closer to keeping their Division One status for another season, and following up with another win this weekend will not only seal the deal on Div One balling, but also put them right in the running for postseason action.
Of course, that makes this win just as crucial for the Gryphons as a fifth loss on the year would lock them into relegation.
Their shock win against Hallam nowithstanding, the Gryphons have struggled all year and it’s tough to see them finding an extra 20 points of offence in only four days, but maybe desperation to save their middle tier status holds the answer?
I’m not seeing it. Sabres to repeat the feat from Wednesday and seal the win.
By Erick Jupp
Staffordshire Stallions vs Warwick Wolves
The Stallions are on the brink of seeing the drop to Division Two next season. They were keeping it close against the Longhorns for the first quarter or so, but once the Longhorns turned on the burners the Stallions simply couldn’t keep pace – seeing a barrage of scores headed their way for the rest of the game, giving up the first #50Burger of the season in the 1A Midlands.
It was the last thing that they needed makes this weekend’s game against the Warwick Wolves a do or die moment for Staffs who have a steep climb ahead of them if they intend to be playing Div One ball next season.
The first thing that they need, of course, is to win this weekend’s game… and by at least 8 points, to steal the head-to-head… And that’s the easy part. They’d then also need to turnover an impressive looking NTU Renegades in Week Eleven, while waiting to see if the Wolves fall against table-topping Nottingham (ok… that bit at least sounds pretty achieveable!).
Of course, don’t be the Wolves to be unaware that their Division One status is more than likely decided by this weekend’s game. The Wolves will be looking to make sure that their place in division one is sealed for next season by coming out victorious in this fixture. Last week, they came up short against the Renegades in a 34-7 loss.
For the matchup itself, these two had a cracking affair back in Week Two where it went down to the wire in a game that was all about turnovers. With both teams coming into bruised off heavy defeats? It might just end up being a very similar situation.
This will be another close one to call, but with the Wolves edging out the Longhorns a couple of weeks back, who in turn speared the Stallions, we think Warwick have enough here to walk away with a narrow victory, locking the Stallions into the drop spot.
NTU Renegades v Nottingham American Football
Britball miracles aside, odds are this one decides the 1A Midlands crown, and with these two teams ranking as two the top teams in the North? We’ll likely see the frontrunner for promotion emerge from this local rivalry game…
The Renegades will be looking to redeem themselves after the 33-0 thumping they tookin the first meeting between these two. They have looked good against the other teams in the conference, but the reality is that odds are they don’t just need to win this meeting, but dominate it if they intend to snatch the top spot in the Midlands from Notts.
That’s going to be a big ask as we’ve seen very little variation in Nottingham’s form all season long – their last outing saw them beat the Stallions in a 42 point shutout. They’ll be rested following a bye and know that a win here locks up a second-straight midlands title.
In this matchup, UoNaf will look to break down NTU again with the #1 offence in the tier, averaing 38.s points per game. Alongside a D that’s also ranked #1 in the nation, and while we’d probbaly pick the pretty-in-pink Renegades against almost any other outfit? We won’t be picking against Power Rankings topping Notts this side of the postseason… and even then…