2A South West
By Lydon Ward-Best
Gloucestershire Gladiators v Bath Spa Bulldogs
So here we go, football is back!
Bath Spa have been busy playing some additional games and even registered a non-league win against the FXU tridents (apparently they still exist?!)
However, in competition fixtures, struggles on both sides of the ball have hampered the Bulldogs – shipping too many points and not scoring… any.
The Glads meanwhile have got to be a bit disappointed with the shape of their season so far. When the Blitz left via promotion, they must have thought they could run roughshod over the conference?
Instead, the emergence of the Stags has narrowed their chances of taking top spot, though postseason balling is on track if they win out.
We would like to think that Bath Spa have been recruiting hard and or have picked up some ringers to make this one a tougher contest… But really the Glads should be looking to take out their frustrations on the Bulldogs.
Glads to keep chasing the playoffs.
Oxford Lancers v Bristol Barracuda
In the same way as the Glads, Cuda must have been rejoicing with the Blitz being promoted – an opportunity to return to prominence in their conference, right?
Well, little were they expecting the sideways shift by the Stags into the South West, or the Panthers to suddenly find teeth.
Having played four games Bristol do seem to have quite a stingy defence, but as with last year getting points on the board does not seem to be their forte… At 1-3, they’ll likely be needing a bit of help, and of course to win out, if they’re planning on seeing any postseason balling…
On the other side of things, the Lancers made the drop down from Div 1 and have had a middling impact in the conference so far. In a tough schedule last year they were better than the record suggested but dropping into the ever-physical south west will not suit their finesse style.
I think this is going to come down to offences, not defences and as such I believe think the Lancers have the edge.
Lancers to win.
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Chichester Spitfires v RHUL Bears
Hearing this game has been postponed due to waterlogged pitch. Awaiting confirmation.
At 1-2-1, the RHUL Bears might be the only team in the leagues without a win on the field of play, that still have their focus set upon a postseason. Yes, an unexpected 6-6 draw against the Regents, combined with the withdrawal of BNU to give the Bears a walkover win, has the club considering the possibility of squeaking into the postseason at 3-2-1 – quite possible at the rate teams are taking chunks out of one another in the other southern conferences! In their way, however, stand the Spitfires, who’ve themselves had a very up-and-down season so far – narrow loss, big win, big loss. Truthfully, on paper these two teams look to be about as evenly matched as they come – with very similar scorelines against common opponents. While a conference crown is looking well out of reach for them both, they still each have the potential of postseason balling to aspire to… And here we think the Bears gain their edge: they’ve tasted playoff balling before, and we think they want it more. Bears edge it in a claw-biter… That’s a nail-biter, but for Bears.
2A South East
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Essex Blades v UEL Phoenix
UEL have done the ‘hard part’ – in last week’s Rain Week fixture they overturned their narrow Week Three loss to the Viper, and while they’re nominally sat in second in the table, their head to head advantage over QMBL now means the conference is theirs for the taking… So long as they don’t slip up!
Their road to their first title lies through Essex, and the Blades in fact make up 50% of the Phoenix’s remaining fixtures, as the two teams will meet once again in Week Ten.
At 2-1, the 2017/18 iteration of the Blades are looking far from blunt – their only loss so far this season coming in an overtime defeat to table-topping QMBL.
As such, they’re not beyond contesting for the conference crown themselves, and are very capable of playing spoilers this weekend should the Phoenix be found wanting!
Between the Phoenix shaking off the winter cobwebs last weekend, and buoyed by their victory over the Vipers, I think they have the confidence to take this one… But I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Blades bite back in the second meeting between the two, and really shake things up in the 2A South East.
Greenwich Mariners v QMBL Vipers
When these two teams met back in Week One, the Vipers notched up their first win of their campaign… But it was hardly the emphatic victory they’d have looked for to kickstart a title campaign.
Indeed, the South East is looking like the most evenly balanced conference in the tier, and so while the Mariners may be sat at 1-3 and look well out of the title race, it’s not beyond them to turn things around and really mix things up!
Only seven points separated these two teams last time around, and while both saw Rain Week action, each team’s tout told a different tale:
For the Vipers, a demoralising first loss on the year that may have cost them their shot at the crown. For the Mariners, an emphatic first win for 17/18, with the offence firing on all cylinders against the Rhinos.
As such, we think this’ll come down to how the Vipers bounce back from last weekend’s defeat… We’ll give them the edge for now, but don’t be surprised if the Mariners sail their momentum from last weekend, so an upsets very much in play.