Game of the Week – BAFANL 2016 Week 6: Berkshire @ East Kent

Berkshire Renegades @ East Kent Mavericks

We’re back down to Division Two this weekend and have a big ask if we’re looking to stop our slide of inaccurate Game of the Week predictions as two teams face off that so far this season have proven to be a clear cut above their opposition faced thus far!

These two teams have a long history together, entering Britball together in 2006
These two teams have a long history together, entering Britball together in 2006

Who are they?

Similarly to last week, both these programmes are newcomers to the third tier. The Mavericks spent 2015 playing Division One ball, but struggled in a very competitive SFC1, picking up only two wins last season – one against a troubled Cambridgeshire Cats team and the second a shock victory over the Birmingham Bulls who had looked competitive up to that point in the season.

While disappointed with their drop down a division, East Kent knew last season was going to be a rebuilding one after the loss of a number of key players, and in fact Head Coach Glenn Lindley’s small coaching staff have seen a number of benefits from dropping down a division, with recruitment beginning to pick up once more and morale high in the locker room as the Mavericks currently sit proudly atop the division following three confidence-building victories.

With their goal set on the Division crown, it’s likely this weekend’s match up will play a pivotal role in fulfilling their aspirations – but are injuries and absences going to take a toll?

For Berkshire, their entrance to the third tier follows a withdrawal from the league for the 2015 season. Despite maintaining their premiership status through the summer of 2014, retirements and transfers saw the programme woefully undermanned to face another season balling in the top tier. Their request to voluntarily drop to Division One denied, the Renegades opted to take a year out and begin the rebuilding process from the bottom up.

It looks like the plan worked wonders for the Renegades, as they entered 2016 with an impressive roster of 70 registered players and coaches, with Head Coach Paul Gordon able to boast a well-rounded 10-man coaching staff. Associate games and preseason scrimmages ensured the one-time Premiership team did not enter the league untested.

Rather, they’ve found little to challenge them in their SFC2 South opposition so far, outscoring opponents 89-6 across two match ups and so will have just as much momentum as the Mavericks coming into this game. To two’s only common opponent thus far has been the Maidstone Pumas, who both dispatched with little trouble, so it’ll be the first real challenge for both division crown hopefuls this weekend!

The Renegades and Mavericks last squared off in 2014. Image courtesy of Ken Matchum - see more at https://500px.com/kenmatcham1
The Renegades and Mavericks last squared off in 2014.
Image courtesy of Ken Matchum – see more at https://500px.com/kenmatcham1

When last they met…

Our Research and Analysis Team were as thorough as ever, and we learn these two programmes have a well-storied history together. Both programmes celebrate the 10th year since their entry (or re-entry) into Britball in 2016, and over the years have faced off against each other in what are regularly highly competitive games.

Their last match up in 2014 was quite the shoot-out, with Berkshire edging ahead 41-35, earning only their second win in eight contests against the Mavericks.

 

What to watch out for:

  • Perhaps they’re looking for underdog status, but reports out of the Mavericks camp claim a good number of key offensive personnel will either be missing or hobbled this week which could prove troublesome if they intend to keep up a Renegades offence that is looking on form.
  • Top wideout Mark Hughes has had to move to Quarterback this season as the Mavericks continue to struggle to hold onto their gunslingers, and rookie RB sensation Chris Lacey, who put up four scores last weekend against Maidstone won’t be around this weekend – celebrating his breakout game in style with a trip to sun and sand! (We’re pretty sure he already had the holiday booked, to be fair). Further pain game in the form of veteran receiver Robbie McDonald who has been leading the team in receptions (8/game) but rolled his ankle on Sunday and is looking questionable for this weekend’s game.
  • On defence at least the East Kent team can feel more confident – averaging only a single score conceded per game thus far, Dave Squires has proven himself a force on the defensive line and former GB Linebacker Dudley Ross has pretty much taken away the inside run from opponents so far this year.
  • There’s a new man under centre for the Renegades as well, however Dan Storey (formerly of the Ouse Valley Eagles) is far from a true rookie, and brought his favourite target, Jermanie Leonard along with him as well – hooking up with existing veterans James White and Liam White to give the Berkshire side a dangerous passing game.
  • Despite featuring a couple of rookies, the Berkshire O-line has looked formidable so far, providing clear lanes for the Renegade’s stable of veteran running backs – Sam O’Brien, Paul Cook and full back Andrew Nielsen.
  • Transfers have given the Renegades some notable boosts on the defensive side of the ball – D-lineman Lee Baxter returned to the programme after picking himself up a nice, shiny,

National Championship ring with the London Warriors last season, and Hungarian international linebacker Dan Sam strengthens an already strong ‘backers corps headed up by defensive captain Steve Burrows.

Will the Renegades be able to take advantage of missing playmakers for the Mavericks?
Will the Renegades be able to take advantage of missing playmakers for the Mavericks?

What do they have to say about one another?

East Kent Mavericks:

“We expect another shoot out 2014 saw the Renegades win 41-35.   Berks and Mavs have both been in the league for 10 years and played 8 times with Mavs leading the series 6-2. (Eds: Shh! We told them our R&A team found this out!)

They look good on film, well drilled and strong.  I think if Robbie McDonald and Remy Cabache are fit we will win by 2 scores.  Without them we will still win but it will be closer!”

 

Berkshire Renegades:

“We share a long history with the Mavericks as both programmes originally joined the league in 2006 and progressed up the divisions, eventually ending up in the Premiership, where we last faced each other in 2014.

The Mavericks are a well-coached team, and this fixture is a good test for us as we return to playing competitive football again, and ensuring that we are a competitive team.”

 

 

And what do we think?

These two look a cut above the rest so far this season, so one way or tuther expect the outcome of the game to have a big impact on each team’s division crown aspirations.

Expect a fair few scores, but not the fifty-burgers they’ve put up against other opponents this year – this should be the first real test each offence has faced so far this season.

The Mavericks do seem to be missing some key cogs and therefore you surely have to give the edge to the Renegades who have shown no signs of struggle so far in 2016.

 

East Kent Mavericks 20 – 28 Berkshire Renegades

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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