2A South West
By Lydon Ward-Best
OBU Panthers v Oxford Lancers
So here we go.
The battle of Oxford is on.
The Panthers have rocked into this season as the team we expected them to be last year. Tough, physical football has them at the top of the conference at 3-0 with almost an air of a middle finger wave to my predictions so far.
The Lancers meanwhile made the drop down to Div Two this year and have had both sides of the coin so far with a 70 point performance on the seemingly ever-winless Bulldogs, followed by a beat down from the stampeding Stags.
These match ups in the past have been quite heated and both teams play very different styles with the Lancers being much more finesse compared to their crosstown rivals.
I will probably doom them by choosing them, but I’m sticking with the undefeated Panthers. Also, I hope they keep winning so I can say “Panthers are going to State”.
(Eds. How many current uniballers will get that reference?).
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Chichester Spitfires v BNU Buccaneers
After a lengthy wait to get their season underway, putting up a mere 3 pts is not the start to the season the Buccaneers would have been hoping for. There still an awful lot of balling ahead of them, but suddenly the 2A South is looking a lot more contentious than we were expecting, with the Panthers looking primed to fight for promotion, and both KCL and City both looking capable of postseason contention.
With no preseason questionnaire back from either programme, we don’t know a whole lot going into this one except that the 0-1 Spitfires might be the best chance for the Bucs to get the year back on track – and vice versa for UoC, who’ve taken a narrow 12-6 defeat to table-topping KCL as their only result.
Given the fact the Spitfires at least found paydirt in their opener, and against the nominally top team in the conference? Chichester get the nod ahead of this weekend’s game.
KCL Regents v Brighton Panthers
Ooh, a tasty top of the table clash between these two teams, as the Panthers seek to put themselves in position for an immediate return to Div One balling.
Certainly KCL don’t seem to be coming into this match up with as much momentum as they’d like – a 6-6 tie was the result of their game against RHUL being called short – the single score a surprisingly pedestrian performance for the KCL squad that seemed to be developing a productive offence through their opening two fixtures.
Essentially, the tie most likely makes this match up a must-win for the Regents if they have aspirations of promotion, as they now have a half-game disadvantage against any other side that might go otherwise undefeated in the conference.
Of course, Brighton will also be all-too aware of this, and certainly come into this game appearing the stronger of the two squads – they made short work of RHUL, 34-0, only the week before KCL faced them, and took a two-score win over the Emperors last Sunday, maintaining momentum on offence.
Potentially the Regents’ poor performance against the Bears was a sign of overconfidence, and the scare will have put them back on track, but right now this looks very much like the Panthers’ game to lose.
2A South East
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ARU Rhinos v QMBL Vipers
Another clutch performance from the Vipers on Sunday, proving they’re a team that not only knows how to win the easy games, but also how to muscle their way through the tough ones too!
In what’s turned out to be a surprisingly feisty 2A South East, they’re sat undefeated by the skin of their teeth, and wrap up their ‘first leg’ tour of the other teams in the conference as they travel to the currently winless ARU Rhinos this weekend.
Yes, it’s been a far from ideal start for the Rhinos, who admittedly picked up the majority of their wins on paper rather than the gridiron last season, and have so far suffered two fairly hefty losses to start the year out. Even with the South East being the only eight game conference in the tier, if the Rhinos don’t right the ship soon, they’re likely to be too far off the pace to contend for any potential postseason.
A busy first-half-of-the-season schedule might have the Vipers puffing (they’re lined up for five games in six weeks, this side of Christmas) but we can’t see the snakes slipping up in this one, and should have more than enough bite to rumble the Rhinos.