2A South West
By Lydon Ward-Best
Bristol Barracuda v Southampton Stags
So here we go. Another tasty battle in the South West.
The Stags have made the move west and so far layeth the smack down on all comers. In the shorter season of Div 2 it can be one loss and out.
The high scoring offence and stout D have made the Stags the favourites in the conference this side of xmas.
Cuda so far have continued the story of last year, with offensive woes. They’re simply not putting enough points on the board to keep pace in the conference.
The JPC experiment at QB looked to be a waste, but has found traction in recent weeks.
I think Cuda keep pressing forward but don’t have the firepower to hang with the Stags.
Bournemouth Bobcats v Gloucestershire Gladiators
Postponed until 4 February 2018
The Bobcats have been my plucky underdog team since last year. They were the only team to take down the Blitz last year until the Burners in the final and have shown a stalwart defence even when their O is prone to stuttering. They have made steady progress over the years, but need to be winning against the likes of Cuda, OBU and the Glads.
Which brings us to this week! The Glads must have thought that the Blitz leaving would gift them the conference, but those pesky Stags have romped in from the east – Sauron-esque.
Gloucester need to win out for playoffs and should have the ability to do that this week. While it’s not beyond the Bobcats to pull off another giant killing and make the conference interesting, I’ve got to take the Glads to win. Prove me wrong, Bobcats
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BNU Buccaneers v UCL Emperors
First home game of the season for the Bucs, who’ve had rough year so far –
only emphasised by the 40-0 stomping by the Spitfires last weekend. We’ve had no info out of BNU themselves, but it seems likely that the side, which struggled with numbers through last season, are still struggling with depth in the 17/18 season.
Life will get no easier Sunday as they face an Emperors side that are likely better than their 1-2 record would imply. They’re the only team so far this season to put up any points on the table-topping Brighton Panthers.
Eager to repeat their playoff-berth earning performances from last year, the UCL team will look to quickly get back to winning ways this weekend – mostly likely needing to win out the year to see any postseason balling.
Coming in fresh off a bye we think this is Emperors’ game to lose and they should head into a long two-month break with a second W under their belts.
Brighton Panthers v Chichester Spitfires
The Chichester Spitfires are coming into this match up off the best result in their short history – their 40 to zip win over the BNU Buccaneers matching their offensive output for the entirety of last season.
But will this productivity be enough to carry them past the Panthers?
Well, it’s certainly going to be an uphill battle, as Brighton have been battling hard to keep their time in the lowest tier to a minimum, following relegation last season. Two shut outs on the year so far, including a crucial win in their top-of-the-table tilt against the Regents last weekend.
Tough to not see the Panthers heading to the break undefeated, but if the Spitfires can continue to put up points? Could set them up well for a strong second half of the year.
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 on Sunday, making a late comeback to challenge the give the undefeated Vipers a scare.
Ahead of last weekend’s games we’d have probably picked the Mariners to sail to victory here, but with their offence floundering and the Rhinos putting an unexpected scare on 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 last week, 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’ll be coming in feeling fresh, following a bye week, 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 half time 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!