Game of the Week – BAFANL 2016 Week 16: London @ Wembley

London Hornets @ Wembley Stallions

We’re headed to the capital this Sunday as we finally have another tense London rivalry to discuss that isn’t between the Blitz and Warriors!

The Wembley Stallions and London Hornets have been two of the top young programmes to enter the league in recent seasons. Despite being newcomers to the league, both programmes have already built up positive WLTs (16-10-1 for Hornets, 13-5-0 for Stallions) and both programmes saw playoff football last season.

Earlier in the season we had thought these two teams would be coming into this match up undefeated, but the Cambridge Cats threw a spanner into the works with their defeat of the Stallions in Week 13 and now Wembley’s guaranteed playoff spot is in jeopardy!

We’ll look to give you the inside scoop on this crucial match up!

Photography by Paul Borzone, check him out at flickr.com/photos/chilternfox Shared via thestampede.co.uk
Photography by Paul Borzone, check him out at flickr.com/photos/chilternfox
Shared via thestampede.co.uk

Who are they?

These two teams only caught DC’s eye once we’d reached the midway point of the season, when we suddenly became aware they were both quietly putting together undefeated seasons. With the Big Guns of 2015, the Bury Saints, having smashed their way into the first division (and now en route to the Premiership?) these two strong young programmes have come into their own this season, and it’s now certain that one or other of them will wear the conference crown before the season’s out!

The Hornets were rather tight-lipped when we contacted them looking for some info for this weeks #GOTW. Like… Two sentences, total, tight-lipped!

Perhaps this should come as no surprise as they’ve quietly played their way into already securing playoffs and are sporting to second best defence in the third tier at this point in the season (4.6 papg).

They’ve also kept quiet about sporting some of the funkiest lids in Britball – complete with angry insect eyes, about which we have unsubstantiated reports of mesmerising their opposition when the lineman drop into a 3-point stance!

The Hornets set a tone in their rookie season, entering the league before the Div1/Div2 split they earned a hard-fought four wins in their first outing in the league. This was followed up by a 5-4-1 season in 2015 that saw them snag their first playoff berth and now Head Coach Anthony Price’s side look set to earn their first conference crown – with only the Wembley Stallions in a position to snatch it from them!

If possible, Wembley have had an even more impressive entrance to the league than the Hornets. The programme noticed the lack of a team catering to the Britballers of North West London and have sought to fill that void – building a community-focused programme for the boroughs of Brent, Harrow and Hillingdon.

Despite it being the first ever season on the gridiron for 70% of the Stallions roster, Head Coach Warren Smart’s team shocked the league by securing a playoff berth in their very first season. While their trip to the postseason was brief, a 32-17 loss to the Bristol Apache, the squad showed clear development over the offseason when they took on the Apache once more in a preseason match-up and flipped the score line for a 33-17 victory!

The Stallions made it to 7-0 in 2016 before suffering their first loss of 2016 – having barely edged out the Cambridgeshire Cats in week one (13-12 win for Wembley) the Cats, who have been hot on the tails of both the Hornets and Stallions all season, were able to shut down the Stallions’ offence in the return fixture and scupper the Stallions’ chances of a perfect season.

All is not lost however, as the 7-1 Stallions still have the opportunity to clinch the conference crown with their final two fixtures of the year squaring off against their cross-city rivals.

The Hornets hold the slight advantage as they know they’ve already clinched playoff balling, and expected to win their Week 17 against the Essex Spartans (who they handily defeated 48-9 earlier in the season) the Hornets can afford to lose one of these two match ups and still book themselves in for a coronation at season-end.

For the Stallions, this means they will ideally want to win both these clashes with the Hornets, and just to up the ante? Were they to lose both remaining fixtures and the Cambridge Cats take a W from their final game against the winless Ipswich Cardinals? Suddenly the Cats would leapfrog the Stallions into their #2 spot – and #NanaBritball will be able to wear an ‘I told you so, DC!’ t-shirt to every Cats game in the postseason and 2017! :/

Tell me those lids aren't giving you a buzz?! Photography by Joe Allam - check him out at joeallam.co.uk
Tell me those lids aren’t giving you a buzz?!
Photography by Joe Allam – check him out at joeallam.co.uk

When last they met…

These two split their match ups last season, as the Hornets drew first blood against their rookie rivals, confidently saddling the Stallions with a 32-12 loss early in the season.

However, the Stallions were clearly still finding their feet as when the two teams met again in their penultimate games of the 2015 regular season, the Stallions swatted the Hornets, riding roughshod over them for a 41-0 shutout.

Their performances against the rest of the conference so far this season have been eerily similar – comfy wins against most, pushed right to the wire by the Cats – so we should be looking at a pretty tasty rivalry game this Sunday!

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What to watch out for:

  • As noted, the Hornets have been particularly evasive in sharing information regarding their roster. Their website roster is spookily empty and their game day reports mention few names… We did briefly suspect the Hornets are actually a team of Mi5 operatives.
  • However, a bit of digging and we’ll give you our best guess as to who to keep an eye on!
  • The Hornets have a strong stable of ball carriers including RB Pascal Kränzlein who drove in both the scores for the Hornets in their tense 14-13 victory over the Cats in Week Seven.
  • A balanced offence that makes good use of misdirection, they have pace to make plays anywhere on the field.
  • This speed also extends to the defence where dangerously fast blitzes even gave the Saints’ Fred Boyle trouble last season and has allowed the Hornets to notch up three shutouts on the year so far.
  • The Stallions, thankfully, were a little more talkative!
  • Even in the basement division the Hornets are regularly fielding a roster of 57 active players giving them great depth across the board.
  • Especially dangerous in the ground game, Aaron Greenidge and Junior Ejehu have both posted multiple 200+ yard rushing games.
  • Wideout Krys Czadowski provides a deep threat, opening the season with two 40+yd TD receptions to edge a win over the Cats in Week One.
  • Lawrence Wild heads up the Stallions offence from under centre, but with four QBs on the roster they’re not averse to switching things up – Art Bakmanidis has made some great plays from under centre as well this season.
  • The Stallions may not be able to boast the same calibre of defence at the Hornets – Wembley have yet to keep their endzone clear in a single game this season – but they do have a dynamic secondary that have allowed them to avoid scores from big passes or broken plays – ensuring their #1 offence in the conference keeps them ahead of their opposition. Henry Young makes plays across the breadth of the field from Safety and the secondary has solid support in Joseph Bobo (CB), Alex Brockhurst (S), and Sam Adekanmbi (CB)
Photography by Paul Borzone, check him out at flickr.com/photos/chilternfox Shared via thestampede.co.uk
Photography by Paul Borzone, check him out at flickr.com/photos/chilternfox
Shared via thestampede.co.uk

What do they have to say about one another?

 

As we say, we only got two sentences from the Hornets so we’ll share those:

Samantha Bingham – General Manager, London Hornets:

“Thank you for making us game of the week, regarding your questionnaire we are very happy with the outcome of last season making the playoffs in our second year and this year is also going very well. We are looking forward to the game on Sunday against Wembley knowing it will be hard as they are a very good team and will fight to the end to beat us to the title.”

 

Warren Smart – Head Coach – Wembley Stallions:

“The Hornets are a physical team with lots of strengths.  They have the jump on us after our loss but we will rise to the challenge.  Their defence plays quick and straight up which puts pressure on our execution.

The Hornets Offence is well drilled and we need to be disciplined and quick off the mark.

A win will reset our season and secure the playoff spot we are looking for.”

 

Photography by Joe Allam - check him out at joeallam.co.uk
Photography by Joe Allam – check him out at joeallam.co.uk

And what do we think?

Ooh-ee this one’s a toughie to pick!

On paper both teams have performed similarly all season long – a single score vs the Cats is the only difference maker between these two teams’ records at this point in the year.

The Hornets are probably coming into the game with the better form, rolling into this fixture with a lot of momentum off the back of a 43-0 thumping of the Cardinals, but the Stallions have a lot riding on this game and a point to prove after their close defeat to Cambridge ended any hopes of an undefeated season.

This one’s probably a bit of a coin toss and will really come down to execution on the day. If you’re not heading to Sandwell for their charity game, this one is likely to be a great one to watch down at the London Post Office Sports and Social Association (LPOSSA) pitches!

If only because it makes for the more interesting story line and keeps the Cats’ in the running for the #2 spot? We’re taking the Hornets to edge it thanks to their stalwart D.

Wembley Stallions 14-17 London Hornets

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Nick

Nick 'Willy Tee' Wilson-Town hails from the South West where he's spent the last decade bouncing around various teams at the university and senior level. He came to fame on the now departed unofficial forum thanks to his regularly irreverent Uniball predictions and general 'BUAFL wafflage'. Follow him on twitter @WillyTee1