By Pete Laird
Lancaster Bombers v YSJ Jaguars
You remember the first day back at work after the Christmas Holidays and you can’t remember where you left off before the break? That’s about the level we’re at with the Rain Week predictions.
There was much rejoicing (and some surprise) when York Saint John belatedly kicked off their season on the last weekend of term one.
The Jags may have conceded a 50 burger to the table-topping Newcastle Raiders, but they should be commended for holding them to that in their baptismal league fixture. They will be looking for their first points this weekend as they travel to a Lancaster team faltering near the bottom of the table with a 1-2 record.
To be fair to the Bombers, their only losses thus far have come against the Raiders, and the second placed Predators, and they scored against both teams. They should have enough nous to move up the table with a home win over the new boys.
By Charlie Coe
Edge Hill Vikings vs Bradford Bears
This is a battle between the North 2A’s bottom two teams, with both teams having been on the wrong side of lopsided scorelines so far this season.
Edge Hill in particular had a bad time of it against the apparent conference champions-in-waiting, as they lost 71-0 on the road to Manchester.
That said, at least the Vikings have fielded squads for all their fixtures so far. The Bears, meanwhile, appear likely to have forfeited their Aberystwyth game, due to being unable to field a sufficiently sized roster to play the game. As such, it’ll be interesting to see how the Bears fare in the second half of their season, and whether post-Christmas numbers have been bolstered enough to complete what’ll be a packed second half of the schedule.
Both sides will be desperate to get off the mark, but we’re tipping the Vikings to do so owing to the fact that Bradford have tended to struggle against larger rosters in the second half of games.
Vikings to take the victory.
Keele Crusaders vs Chester Legion
In a matchup of the conference’s two middling outfits, if either side is planning to take a shot at playoffs? Now’s the time to bust a move.
Keele have struggled to get any sort of momentum of their own going in recent weeks, with the postponement of the Manchester game before Christmas meaning they missed out on some meaningful game experience.
As such, only two games into their year, all we have on the Crusaders is that they ran a playoff-chasing Bangor close on the MudDogs own turf…
Similarly, the Legion have only picked up a pair of games in the first half of the year, leaving a stacked second half of their schedule. They enter it, at least, with great momentum from ahead of the Christmas break – a 40-6 win in their last outing, over the Bradford Bears, for the Legion’s first ever competitive league victory.
This game might be close, but a Legion side with momentum is a dangerous one.
2A South East
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Greenwich Mariners v ARU Rhinos
Donut versus diddly as two winless teams take to the field to see who can shift themselves off the bottom of the pile.
Both sides will be disappointed with their year so far. The Mariners’ defence has been steady, but nonetheless, Greenwich are coming into this game following back to back shut out defeats. They’ll be eager to find some sort of spark from the offence before taking two months off through the holidays..
The Rhinos meanwhile at least showed a bit of flair in Week Five, making a late comeback to give the undefeated Vipers a scare.
Ahead of their Week Five games we’d have probably picked the Mariners to sail to victory here, but with their offence floundering ahead of the break and the Rhinos putting an unexpected scare on table-topping Quimble?
ARU to take it in a tight one.
QMBL Vipers v UEL Phoenix
Round Two… Fight!
In what looks like it has the chance to be a conference crown-deciding rematch, the QMBL Vipers host a strong UEL Phoenix team who’ll be eager to return the favour following the narrow win for the Vipers back in Week Three.
Yes, the Vipers may be looking pretty, undefeated atop the 2A South East, but it’s been a bumpy road to the top for the young QMBL side. All four victories have been by a score or less, including their come-from-behind win against the Phoenix, and a clutch overtime triumph against the Blades.
Even in Week Five, in a fixture we expected the Vipers should have more than enough bite to take a comfy win from, the Rhinos made things competitive with a late comeback. QMBL are certainly keeping things interesting right down to the final whistle so far this year!
As such, it’s easy to lean towards picking the Phoenix as phavourites to take this weekend’s game.
They’ve got to be coming in healthy following the break, and their last outing saw a confident 21 to zip shutout of the Greenwich Mariners.
The last meeting between these two was a tale of two halves – UEL certainly seemed to have QMBL’s number through first two quarters, jumping out to an early lead… But the Vipers halftime adjustments completely changed the shape of the game, with a dominant rush attack and suddenly stingy D putting the Vipers on top as time expired.
How each programme has adjusted once more ahead of this Sunday”s game will likely play a massive role in the outcome…
And while we think the Vipers have shown great grit this season and could easily push their tally to 5-0 here, we’re going to pick against the young programme for the first time this season, and select the Phoenix to win this one…
By two points. Just to make things even more interesting in the 2A South East!