Hull Sharks v Sunderland Spartans
By Samuel Stoddart Durning
While both of teams were on the back of pretty nasty losses in Week One, we are hoping this weekend will be played with an ‘all to play for’ attitude. The Sharks are clearly struggling to click without the playmakers they had on offence last year, and having the defence on the field for long periods of time is going to take its toll after a while.
The Spartans took a pretty nasty beating on the opening weekend of the year, with the Tiger’s physical playing style taking it’s toll on a Spartans side struggling with depth. With that in mind Sunderland will be looking to take advantage of a weaker Hull side this season with the chance to edge out an early upset win and get their season back on track. A second straight loss for either of these two teams and they’ll already be warily eyeing the relegation spot at the bottom of the conference.
Last time the two sides met Hull came out on top with a pretty comfortable win margin… however, we don’t think it will be as clean cut a score line as before. Now the rookies that Hull were boasting in the preseason have had their first taste of Div One football, perhaps they’ll come into this game more prepared having gotten rid of those first game jitters
With a vulnerable Hull side, an upset win would be a clear momentum booster for the Spartans… however, we are going to go with stats on this occasion and look for the Sharks can get their title chase back on track.
Glasgow Tigers v Edinburgh Napier Knights
It’s the first round of the East v West battle north of the wall this weekend as the Knights travel through to take on the Tigers who are coming off the back of a comfortable win.
The Knights begin their foray into middle tier balling off the back of two conference championships and multiple playoff trips before being promoted out of Division Two at the end of last season. Expect the Napier boys to come out firing on all cylinders, looking to cause an early upset and not be seen as the leagues new whipping boys. Napier will be looking to second year QB Joseph Hough, after the departure of two year starting QB Cameron Smith to the US, to command the offence and take control of the team this year.
We are hearing the Knights have recruited well boasting a squad size of 50+ players, with a few key offensive and defensive returning weapons such as Riccardo Burrows (WR) and Scott Murray (LT). The Defence will also be expecting to match the tone they set last year, allowing less than 30 points scored on them during the regular season, and will be achored at Defensive Tackle by All-DC 16/17 selection Matt Allison, looking to cause mayhem to the Glasgow Oline.
This will be the first time that Glasgow have played a Scottish side since 2014 and we are hopefully seeing the beginnings of a brand new rivalry between the two teams in anticipation for the Superbowl showdown the two teams will have later in their campaigns.
The Knights will have a good fight on their hands going into this game, and even HC Pete Laird will be out to make a point that his team is here to stay and not just to make up numbers, it’s tough to pick against a Tigers side that have more than proven their Division One credentials in recent seasons.
Multiple playoff trips, a massive Week One win, and some All-DC ballers on the O? We’re backing the big kitties to take leg one of this Scottish showdown.
By Andy Loch
Leeds Gryphons v LJMU Fury
The Gryphons trial by fire last week, facing off against 16/17 conference champs, Hallam, went pretty much as we expected. The Warriors boys running rough shod over Leeds, after the Gryphons took an early lead.
Therefore, looking at the big picture, if the the Gryphons are hoping to stay in Division One, it is the games against LJMU that may hold the key.
For the Fury, who whethered the scholarship storm in the 1A Midlands last year, it doesn’t get any easier moving across to the 1A Yorkshire this year, with both conferences boasting some of the strongest and most competitive programmes in the tier. We haven’t heard anything out of LJMU in the off-season so we’re not completely sure what to expect from them coming into this campaign… We’re going to have to wait a week or so to see what LJMU have to offer this season.
This game could be a close affair, but based on the Fury having a brief playoff trip last season, we’re giving them the edge over the newly promoted Gryphons.
Sheffield Sabres v UCLAN Rams
Not so long ago the Sabres were plying their trade in the Premiership North, but after falling back to Division One, they nearly fell even further last year with only points difference against Manchester Tyrants saving them in the end. The Sabres endured a torrid time in their 2016/17 campaign, with multiple injuries to important players, causing them to move back to a double wing offence for most of the season. The Sabres defence struggled throughout last year, shipping 25+ points in all but one of their games, and 40 or more points in four of them.
In contrast, the Rams has yet another solid season last time out. They fell twice to Carnegie in the regular season, but split the wins with Hallam – the only team to best the Warriors during the regular season. The second Carnegie game was a dead rubber for both teams, as both had already made playoffs, and the outcome may have been different had there been some skin on the line.
The Rams boast one of the best setups in tier one, and can always be expected to have a strong showing. We have heard very little from the team in the off-season, but from our sources we still expect them to have a strong team and are expecting the top of the conference to be contested by the Rams and Hallam.
The Sabres have a lot of room for improvement from last year, but the Rams will be too much for them here.
By Erick Jupp
Nottingham American Football v Leicester Longhorns
The University of Nottingham headed into their first game against the Staffordshire Stallions ready and to prove a point, and did they do just that in some fashion. They sealed the game in the first quarter by going a few scores up through big plays, on both defence, special teams and Patrick Daley looked good in his first outing of the year, making plays with both his feet as well as throwing for a few touchdowns before being rested for the remainder of the game.
After the opening set of results in the conference, this looks like at the moment the battle for the top will be between both Nottingham sides, and their fixtures in Week Four and Week Ten will be the defining moments at who will be given the crown of the 1A Midlands…
Unless a major upset was to occur, and having done just that to poach a conference crown and promotion from the basement tier last year, the Leicester Longhorns are not without history when it comes to upsetting the odds.
The Longhorns were promoted last season with a 5-1 record and they will be looking to compete with the other sides in the conference this season to keep their place. Most likely, this means battling it out with Warwick and Staffordshire as to who will remain and who will be relegated, but it is early doors yet, and the ‘Any Given Sunday’ adage always holds true, even in Britball.
The Longhorns have a great opportunity to start their new life with a bang that would stun the Uniball world, and with some returning players still in the roster as well as new players coming in. All the preparations have been good for them, now it’s just time for them to prove themselves… But on this occasion we’re thinking it’s a bit too much of an ask for the plucky promotees.
We have to go for Nottingham to win it here – their big win on the opening weekend just showed a glimpse of their potential this season as they quest for nothing less than premiership balling.
Warwick Wolves v Staffordshire Stallions
Last week, the Wolves travelled in a tough away fixture to the NTU Renegades, and the big 45-0 blowout win for the hosts showed that Warwick are still struggling with some of the shifts in their roster. But with prior experiences that they have had, expect them to bounce back from this heavy Week One defeat to take on a much more manageable calibre of opponent in Week Two.
The Staffordshire Stallions also suffered a gruelling opening to their season, a 41-6 defeat to the University of Nottingham. A mistake-riddled first half performance gave Nottingham the start that they needed, and with their calibre of players, any slip up will be capitalised upon – putting the game out of reach for the Stallions.
However, there were some positives for the Stallions too. They caused a few turnovers, as well as putting a score on the board, which can give them some confidence heading into the next fixture against the Wolves.
This game last year was a more contested than the scoreline suggests, with the Stallions scoring first and making Warwick work hard for their 28-7 win. However, both teams have started their campaigns quite slowly, so there really isn’t a lot to separate them in this match-up.
As emphasised elsewhere, the match-up itself is important for both teams, as we’re likely looking at a three horse race for relegation, and neither of these two teams want to head into their next fixture 0-2. Both teams need momentum and whoever can get the win here will build some confidence that will be needed when facing other teams in the division.
We’re expecting a close one, but the Wolves should edge it.