Setting this week’s controversial rumours surrounding the Durham Saints aside, we’re likely to see the ‘INs’ and ‘OUTs’ of the Premiership postseason determined this weekend!
Loughborough Students v Derby Braves
Derby’s season has fallen a long way since their shootout winner to open the year, and at 2-4 are the only team mathematically capable of still ending up below NTU and dropping out of the prem.
However, their fate is entirely in their own hands, as they only need a single win from their final two fixtures to lock themselves into another year in the top tier.
Neither Loughborough or Derby have had a particularly comfortable 2017. Each have taken very narrow wins away from NTU, while being comfortably beaten by the top two teams in the conference. Both sides offences have struggled to put up as many points as they were managing pre-mid-season break so we’re likely looking at a tough grind of a match up in this weekend’s fixture. Look for a couple of big breakaway plays to be the difference maker.
Derby have more on the line, but Loughborough will be eager to not hit the postseason with a losing record… And what is more, given all the controversy surrounding the team at the top of the Prem North at the moment, it’s well worth fighting for a third place spot in the Prem North in case it suddenly becomes the second place spot… …
Edge to Loughborough who outscored the Braves two-to-one when last these two teams met.
NTU Renegades v Durham Saints
It’s make or break time for the Renegades and time to prove all their close-but-not-close-enough scorelines were more than just flukes and put in their best performance when it matters most.
They’re 0-6 but their average margin of loss is barely 7 points, with four of their six losses coming by less than a score. However, a single loss and ostensibly their time in the premiership is at an end.
The potential controversy surrounding their star Quarterback, Dominic Bona, aside? The Saints have had a perfect season so far. And, hells, even without Bona taking the field last week they managed to come from behind at the half to put in a 27-12 win over the Braves, reportedly safety Seitu Smith II stepping in at QB.
If Bona remains unavailable to the Saints, now’s likely the best chance the Renegades will get to give them a fighting chance at staying up… But Durham’s team has proven they’re bigger than one man, and we can’t see the Saints letting a game slip as they rally around their programme.
NTU’s time in the premiership appear to be done… barring a huge shake up of things in the Prem North, which suddenly doesn’t look beyond the realm of possibility.
Bath Killer Bees v Kingston Cougars
In what is potentially the biggest match up of the weekend the Bath Killer Bees host the Kingston Cougars in what has become a must win fixture for both teams. It is likely that the losers will be forced to take relegation to Division One for 2017/18, whereas the victors will be making the trip to Durham in the Quarter Finals of the playoffs.
The last time these two teams faced each other the Kingston Cougars claimed the bragging rights in a 26-20 game that went back and forth throughout all four quarters.
Since then the Bath Killer Bees defence has been stout only conceding 29 points against the high flying Birmingham Lions & Swansea Titans combined. However, the common theme this season has been the struggles of the swarms’ O as they’ve failed to score more than a single TD in all but one of their fixtures so far this year.
Will another poor offensive performance be the end of the road for offensive coordinator Ben Wiltshire? Or can Dom Ferdani and the Bees’ offence step up to the mark when it’s most needed of them?
However, poor offensive performances seem to be a trend in this match, with the Cougars losing their last two matches 31-0 and 35-0 (to the Lions and Hurricanes respectively), and as such they are yet to score a TD in 2017.
We expect this to be a nail biter and go down to the final minutes, but we are going to give the edge to the Bees using the home field to their advantage.
The Bath Killer Bees to win
Swansea Titans v Hertfordshire Hurricanes
The Hertfordshire Hurricanes are on fire, having scored 35 points in each of their past four games, they sit at the top of the table with a perfect 6-0 record.
These two teams met in an unusual Wednesday fixture last week, the ‘Canes comfortably winning 35-18 with their aerial attack proving to be too strong for the Titans blitz heavy D. However, Swansea has always been a tough away day for any team and we expect the reverse fixture to be closer.
Swansea have had the bye week to prepare for this one, which has given the fourth QB of the season, Joe Cotterill, half a chance to prepare, however, as the team’s leading receiver early in the season he won’t have himself to throw to, and in reality it’s likely that this is too little too late and the Hurricanes will take one step closer to a perfect season on Sunday.
The Hertfordshire Hurricanes to win.