Playoffs are upon us, and with the postseason getting underway we shift the format of our predictions to consult our entire Uniball team on who they think will be progressing to the second round!
And here we have it, the big tamale as 80% of the Premiership programme head to the postseason to compete for the Neil Reynolds trophy! (Assuming it’s still called that…?)
The postseason was preceded by controversy this year as the Durham Saints, undefeated on the field during the regular season, found themselves dropped to fourth seed from the North, following sanctions levied against them for unknowingly fielding an ineligible player through their first five fixtures of the season. This led to some big last minute shake ups across the seedings… and it’s fair to say few were happy about it.
Stirling Clansmen (North #1) vs Bath Killer Bees (South #4)
Despite taking three on-field losses this year, the first time the Clan have had that happen to them in a long time, the top Scots team found themselves once again wearing the Prem North Conference Crown following the Saints taking a tumble. They’re champs, but we’re fairly certain they would have preferred to have earn it of their own accord, and certainly won’t have been happy to round out the season with a second loss to the Saints – pipped to the post in the final two minutes of the fixture.
One team that’s also likely not particularly pleased about the Saints being stripped of wins are the Bath Killer Bees, whose expected trip up to Durham became even longer when they learned they would be facing the Stirling Clansmen, in Stirling, for the second year in a row. It was not a pleasant experience for the southern side last time around, conceding a postseason #50Burger… but they’ve already taken one surprise scalp this season with an xpLosION win… will be see another upset win for the Bees here?
Loughborough Students (North #2) vs Swansea Titans (South #3)
If the Bees were among the big losers from the Saints sanctions, surely two of the big winners are Loughborough and Swansea?
For Lugbug, suddenly they found themselves in a home berth for the postseason, whereas Swansea’s purse suddenly became fatter when they were saved what looked like a gruelling trip to Scotland… for the first round of playoffs at least.
We doubt either of these sides are wholly happy with their performances this year. Loughborough appeared inconsistent at times, and while their D put in a number of good showings (especially with their heavy loss to Durham wiped away) their offence never really displayed the firepower to keep pace with the top dogs in the North. However, scratch up two extra wins thanks to the Saints’ forfeits and they’re entering the postseason from a position of strength, with a home berth and coming in off a bye week to heal up all the bumps and bruises from a tough year in the top tier.
Swansea meanwhile – well, sure, you’d think they’d be ecstatic, going 5-3 in their first season in the Premiership – who wouldn’t be? But if you ask the Titans, they feel they left a lot of points on the field at various times this year, and will be chasing down a third shot at Birmingham in particular.
Week Eleven saw a great, confidence boosting win over Premiership South Top Dogs, Herts, but you have to wonder how well the Titans travel, with two of their three losses coming away from home, and certainly their poorest performances were when the Titans travelled.
Birmingham Lions (South #2) vs Derby Braves (North #3)
How very retro!
It feels like a long time since we saw a Brum-Derby match-up, hailing back to the MAC days when Derby were always nipping at the heels of the midlands powerhouse, but never quite able to keep pace with the Lions.
Birmingham’s season went a little awry early on with a surprise xpLosION loss, but QB Sammy Lee Baker seemed to get the pride back on track by the mid-point of the season.
However, with their QB1 going down to a season-ending injury against Bath, the Lions offence isn’t looking nearly as prolific as they lean heavily on their ground game – limping into the postseason after posting up only a single score against Herts in the season finale.
Their D is still a force to be reckoned with however, and this is something the Braves will need to keep in mind as they head down the A38 – the Braves might have started the season looking like an offensive powerhouse – and they finished it on fine form too – but there was also many a week where they struggled to notch up more than two scores.
The question is, will two scores be enough for a win against a depleted Lions offence?
Hertfordshire Hurricanes (South #1) vs Durham Saints (North #4)
Rumblings from around the Nation are that Herts are not happy about this situation – and you can understand why!
They battled through the top conference in the country to earn themselves a number one seed going into the postseason, and while this would normally earn a team the cushiest possible route to the National Championship game?
No such luck this time around, as while on paper the Durham Saints are a 3-5 team, ranked fourth in the North? Football games aren’t played on paper.
Let’s be clear: the Saints were the best team in the Northern Premiership this season, and it’s telling that even after the removal of their starting QB and the huge blow to morale that being stripped of five wins must have been? They still won out through their final three fixtures.
Best as we can tell, all appeals to BUCS have fallen on deaf ears and the top two teams in the country will be going head to head in the first round of the playoffs, rather than the last… So be it – someone grab a camera and share the show!!
There we have it ‘Nation – but who are YOUR picks to make it through the first round of playoffs in the top tier?