Week Twelve of the BUCS was… Well, tempestuous probably doesn’t do it justice! With a wealth of midweek games, a sprinkling of Sapphire Series action, and a light dusting of playoff-seeding controversy the climactic end of the regular season certainly didn’t disappoint!
Dreams were made… and shattered. But which teams had the best and worst of it in the final week of action for the majority of Uniball?
- The Birmingham Lions are heading into the playoffs with about as much momentum as a team that hit midseason with a losing record could ask for! With three straight wins since the Christmas break, it wasn’t quite enough to swipe a home berth away from Swansea, but they’ll head north to Leeds with their heads held high.
- The Oxford Lancers came into Week Twelve with no hope of playoffs and only local bragging rights on the line when they took on cross-city rivals, the OBU Panthers in the 2019 Cavalier Bowl. Apparently they really wanted those bragging rights as they pummeled the Panthers 48-0.
- The UCLan Rams will perhaps feel the shadow of last season no longer hanging over them as their impressive win over the Sabres not only allowed the Rams to leapfrog Sheffield into #2 in the 1A Yorks/Lancs, but also ensure the team that removed the Rams from the 17/18 postseason would narrowly miss out on a playoff berth this year!
- We mentioned them last week, but they deserve another shoutout – kudos to the UEA Pirates who sealed the deal on a long-sought-after 1A South East crown in emphatic style with a big win over the Vipers!
- And finally, credit where it’s due to the Hull Sharks, who wrapped up their season with a hardfought win over the Mustangs. It may not have been enough to see the Sharks through the ever-baffling BUCS playoff tiebreakers, but it does allow them to end their season on a high, and send off Head Coach Gareth Wild in style.
Steelers emerge supreme over Sapphire 2 North
The Sapphire Series Division Two North has easily been the most contested conference in the latest iteration of the Women’s contact season, with all three participating programmes entering the final weekend of the regular series still possible of claiming the crown!
In fact, this one was so hotly contested that it quite literally came down to the very final seconds of action to decide which outfit would emerge on top:
The game is tied at 20-20, with the Teesside Steelers desperately needing the win to clinch the Division Two North title and higher seeding going into the playoffs…
It’s quite possibly the very last snap of the game… …
Raiders Reign Over the 1A North
The Newcastle Raiders haven’t made a lot of noise this season… In part, that’s thanks to the fact that it took nearly half the season for their campaign to get underway, but it’s also down to the fact that I really think most followers of the Uni game simply weren’t expecting a newly promoted programme to make such a strong showing of it in one of the regularly-most-contested conferences in the middle tier!
However, courtesy of an incredibly resilient Raiders defence that only seemed to get stronger as the season went on, Newcastle will head into the playoffs undefeated and owning the #2 seed in the North – home football potentially right up to the Northern final.
Credit to the Newcastle committee for finding a way to get it done given the number of setbacks their season suffered due to weather delays.
Another team very worthy of a shoutout due to sheer amount of effort they’ve put in over the last few weeks?
The Southampton Stags have been utterly relentless over the past few weeks having gone into the midseason break with only three fixtures played, and emerging in the new year facing yet more delays due to weather-disruption!
The Stags’ organisational skills are to be envied, as the team moved mountains to play five fixtures across the space of just three regular-season weeks, and came just a single-point loss to the Bees away from an undefeated season in their first year back in the middle tier!
UEL Rise From the Ashes
Well… We didn’t see that one coming… and truth be told, I suspect the UEL Phoenix might not have either!
A combination of the Phoenix’s surprise win over the Pythons in Week Twelve, an awarded walkover win over the Rhinos, along with my inability to comprehend the BUCS postseason tiebreaking procedures, means the Phoenix suddenly rise from the ashes of a 3-3 season to swoop into a postseason berth in the Division Two South playoffs, ahead of two 5-2 teams!
Credit to the Phoenix, they don’t make the rules, but did what was needed to snag themselves an extended season.
To clarify the situation for those who, much like me, couldn’t figure this out earlier this week?
BUCS has two mini-league systems. One for internal tiebreakers within a conference, and another for comparing two teams in different conferences, particularly those with different season lengths.
With the undersized 2A South East being the only conference with a six-game schedule, this lead to these particular regulations kicking in, that required the BUCS team to look at the performance of the three third-place southern finishers’ (UEL, Bristol, Sussex) against the top three teams in their respective leagues.
Hence why the win over Cambridge proved so crucial! While neither Bristol nor Sussex had bested either of the teams above them in their conference, the Phoenix’s win over the Pythons allowed them to bump Bristol out of the postseason!
Right outta left field, the Royal Holloway Bears bag themselves Div One Football!
Over the course of two days, with only one fixture actually played out on the gridiron, the Royal Holloway Bears pulled off something of a minor miracle this past weekend – leaping from a season-ending fifth-place finish in the 2A South, to suddenly standing alone atop the table courtesy of a 6-1 record!
The Bears took care of business on the field with a win over Greenwich, and then let the BUCS Sport office do the rest as awarded wins over BNU and Chichester rocketed Royal Hollway to the top spot in the 2A South, snagging them home football for the first round of the playoffs and Division One football next season – the goal of the programme since their disappointing relegation a few seasons ago.
The Bears look set to return to a hotly contested 1A South conference where only a single team managed a winning record in 2018/19 – can they follow in the footsteps of many of last year’s promotees and follow up promotion will a strong showing in their first year back in the middle tier?