This Saturday sees the final weekend of the Opal Series regular season tournaments and the last chance for those programmes still in the running to book their place into the playoff finals on December 3rd in Sheffield.
Let’s take a look at who’s in, who’s out, and who’s got it all to play for on Saturday!
It’s pretty much win and in for the Cougars Ladies. So long as that one win is over Manchester, they could simply play Pokemon Go through their other two match ups and still qualify.
Similarly, Cougars Youth and Hallam Warriors have their fates in their own hands as two wins out of three guarantees them playoff football – though it should be noted that these two will go head to head on Saturday so one of them will come away from the weekend with at least two losses on the season.
The big race will be between Manchester and Teesside. Both sat at four and two, they each come into Saturday with a very similar schedules: Titans face Nottingham, while Teesside take on Staffs, followed by each of them taking on one of the two high flying Cougars teams. Finally, they close their day in game five going head to head in a fixture that will more than likely decide the final playoff berth! Exciting stuff!
East Kilbride, Staffordshire Surge and Nottingham are all nominally still in the playoff race, but each will not only need to more than likely win out, but also look for help from elsewhere. While East Kilbride current have the lead in points differential, they’re also in the awkward position of having already lost head to head against any of the teams they can theoretically catch up with.
Gist is, it’s a long shot, but each of these three teams has everything to fight for going into this final Saturday.
Sadly for Chorley and Sandwell, with only three fixtures remaining and more than four teams on four wins or more, neither can mathematically make the playoffs. However, their season does not end here as ALL teams participate in the final tournament in December, playing for overall National ranking!
As noted above, the big match ups to watch are when Hallam and Coventry Youth go head to head in Game Two on Pitch One, and then more than likely when the Titans and Teesside Steelers square off in the final fixture of the day on Pitch Three!
It’s a slightly simpler situation in the South, as having taken a closer look at things, four out of the nine teams in the south are now effectively out of the running.
Due to the South only playing an eight game season, Peterborough and Chichester don’t have enough fixtures left to equal the minimum of four wins they’d need to attain a playoff berth.
Wembley and Cardiff can reach four wins with the fixtures they have remaining, however they’ve both already lost their head to head matches against teams that already have four wins coming into this Saturday.
Therefore this leaves Iceni as the only team not yet in a playoff berth that can still fight for one, though they might also need some help from other teams to get there.
If the Spears can win out, including defeating the Portsmouth Dreadnoughts, this should see them through to the playoffs.
There is potential for a three way tie at 5-3 (Iceni go 3-0, Portsmouth Beat Warwick, Warwick beat Chichester but lose to Panthers) but then… We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it :p Iceni can win two out of three and still make playoffs, so long as one of those two is Portsmouth, and the Wolverines help them out by also defeating the Dreadnoughts.
As noted, Warwick have a pair of important fixtures in their final three matches as they not only have an opportunity to climb the rankings if they can defeat the Panthers, but also have to defend themselves from the Dreadnoughts who will be gunning for their number three spot.
At the very top, it’s win and in for both the Panthers and the Northants Titans, though we can guarantee at least one of these two will finish the day with their undefeated record in tatters as the two go head to head in Game Three on Pitch Two.
As noted, even if teams can’t make it to the playoffs, every programme has a place waiting for them at the National Finals in Sheffield as North and South mix it up to establish the National Rankings for Opal 2016.
Double Coverage are hoping to attend the event and potentially even bring you all some live coverage of the finals, so keep an eye out for more information on Opal soon™!