Opal Series 2017 – Round 2 Preview

Yup, we’re know we’re a little late getting to this, and we’ll likely never match the uber flag knowledge of those fanatics over at FlagFootballWorld.com who produced some great reviews of the Round One tournaments, which we’ve definitely lent on here!

But let’s take a rapid fire look at what lies ahead this weekend!

Opal Series 2017 North, Round Two

With twelve fixtures lined up across the three pitches, the eye is immediately drawn to one key fixture in this weekend’s tourney, as the day opens with a top-of-the-table clash between two undefeated teams – the East Kilbride Pirates, and last year’s Championship Runners-Up, the Hallam Warriors.

Both teams emerged unscathed from the first tournament, the Pirates playing back-to-back-to-back… to back? fixtures, and making a statement with some of their scorelines – including a 64-0 shellacking of the Warriors’ sister-squad, the rangers.

Jem Thomson of EKP picking up one of her three scores against the Hallam Rangers. Photography by Garry Charles©MyLonelyTreeMedia

It’d wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Pirates however, as they opened the day barely scraping past a feisty looking Giants side – 13-12 in the opener. Even so, this represents a huge step up from a Pirates side that’s already bested their win total from the whole of last year in their first tournament, going 3-6 in 2016. With efficient receivers and a ball-hawk defence, they’re a side to watch out for.

They square off against a Warriors side that really established itself in their 2016 campaign, losing only a single game in the regular season, and upsetting the stakes to make it an all-North final in 2016, taking on the Coventry Cougars for a second time in a finals fixture that spun on a couple of key plays. With the Cougars now shifted sideways into the Southern Conference, Hallam must surely be favourites to succeed the Northern Crown?

Photography by Garry Charles©MyLonelyTreeMedia

Well, we’ll learn a lot more about that on Saturday morning!

The other match up to circle also features the Warriors, when they take on local rivals, the Giants, in their third and final fixture of the day. The Sheffield Giants are a new addition to the series for 2017, but impressed in their debut, running the Pirates close before dominating the two University of Nottingham teams with back to back 60+ to zip wins. A win over the Warriors would keep the Giants within touching distance of the Pirates at the top of the table and likely ensure great seeding ahead of finals day.

Also worth looking out for, two of the University expansion sides, Hallam Rangers and Nottingham Green, will have their chance to pick up their first Series victory when the two go head to head in Game One on Pitch Three. Each team, stocked mostly with rookies who’ve literally picked up flag in the past few weeks, struggled to put up points through tough opening day schedules, so it should be a great chance to see the potential of their playbooks in this early fixture.

Opal Series 2017 South, Round Two

Similarly in the South, your eye is drawn to a couple of key fixtures on this weekend’s slate.

The headline fixture might be, once more, Game One on Pitch One, as the 2015 Opal Champions, the London Warriors, take on a new and rising star in Southern Flag – the Hyde Park Renegades.

Hyde Park Renegades
Photography by Vince Machi, via FlagFootballWorld.com

The Warriors return to flag football once more after spending 2016 focused on their impressive Sapphire Division One debut, and the only team to best the mighty Coventry Cougars in recent Opal memory made a strong start to their return to flag – with confident wins against Iceni and Wembley.

They came up short, however, against the Cougars themselves at the first time of asking – a 46-25 defeat still the most point the Cougars have conceded in a fair while, and perhaps foreshadows a great rivalry re-emerging between these two powerhouse teams.

First though, the Warriors will need to make it past newcomers, the Hyde Park Renegades who went undefeated through their Opal debut, including two shut out wins and a nail-biting 7-6 victory over the Coventry Cougars’ Youth squad. Coached by GB Lions QB, National Champion and Jags7s Finalist, Vince Machi, the Renegades have gotten off to a fast start and a second straight undefeated tourney would definitely turn heads and set them up as a true contender in the south, making their expected Round Three clash with the Cougars a likely Southern title decider.

Of course, we can’t not mentioned the Coventry Cougars themselves.  They rocked, undefeated and largely unchallenged, to yet another Opal Series Championship last year, and while their  switch to the southern conference has meant some new challenges, so far they’ve proven more than up to the task. They racked up 169 points through three games last tourney, with only the Warriors capable of scoring even a single point on a team that boasts a healthy chunk of the British Women’s National Team on its roster.

Cougars 2
Photography via Coventry Cougars Flag American Football Facebook page

While no game’s ever a gimme in American Football, a schedule that includes two currently winless Portsmouth Dreadnoughts expansion teams means there’s a very real possibility of some painfully high score lines appearing out of this weekend’s tourney!

With nine game seasons, these second tournaments will already take us past the point of no return for some teams in terms of reaching championship playoffs, so it’s all to play for this weekend!





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