PLAYOFF FOOTBALL IS HERE! Yes, there are Premier and Division Two games also being played this weekend, but many an eye will be on the second tier as the Division One quarter-finals take place. We’ve cobbled together 12 of the DC writing staff to choose their winners of the four matches. We’ve also brought on board a couple of MFC 1 coaches in Neale McMaster of the Ouse Valley Eagles and Alan Steel of the Birmingham Bulls to share their thoughts too! So, without further ado…
EDINBURGH WOLVES (#1) vs NOTTINGHAM CAESARS (#8)
The Wolves enter the post-season as the only 10-0 side in the entire second tier, wrapping up the #1 seed with a convincing 7-31 road win over Yorkshire Rams. With only 54 points conceded over 8 games (two walkover wins over Clyde Valley not included), the Wolves’ 6.75 PAPG is the #2 ranked defense in Division One. Couple that with a #1 ranked offense (39.875 PPG) and it is easy to see why so many believe the Wolves will be in the Division One final.
Their opponents on Sunday, Nottingham Caesars, enter the knockout stages of the season having lost 3 of the last 4 games (walkover over Peterborough not included) and having taken a beating in the final regular season game against Sandwell, losing 42-7. The season had started well, with the Caesars going 4-1 and only narrowly losing 0-6 to Sandwell. So to find themselves at 6-4, and the #8 seed, come the end of the ten game schedule will be a bitter disappointment. Sadly for Nottingham, the disappointment hasn’t quite finished…
If it wasn’t for the fact that Kieran is on the Caesars roster, we’re pretty confident that this would have been a whitewash in favour of the #1 seed in Division One. The road to the Division One final runs through Edinburgh in 2016, and Nottingham get the first pop at redirecting the SatNav. Alas, the Wolves are hungry for success having narrowly missed out in recent years, and they won’t be letting any team stand in their way.
Edinburgh Wolves 38-7 Nottingham Caesars
BURY SAINTS (#2) vs YORKSHIRE RAMS (#7)
Team USA Bury have taken a fair amount of stick from #BritballNation for the apparent number of American players on the team. That said, Bury have done their talking on the field, with the crazy, crazy tie against Sussex Thunder the only blotch on their record. Finishing the regular season at 9-0-1, the Saints got off to a quick start, easily dispatching their opponents. Surprisingly though, they never once registered a 50-burger (and snagging one of Tee’s wonderful Photoshop creations in the process) during the season but also carry the #2 ranked offense at 37.8 PPG. With back-to-back victories to end the campaign, the Saints enter the post-season brimming with confidence.
The Rams shocked many here at DC Towers with their week 7 victory over Manchester Titans, especially considering the beating they took from the Titans a fortnight earlier. With home and away defeats to Edinburgh the only other losses on their record, the Rams enter the post-season as the #6 ranked side. Word has reached us here though that Yorkshire are light on offensive players, and averaging only 17.625 PPG over the season, this will likely be a one and done playoffs for the Rams.
Much like our first quarter-final, it’s almost a clean sweep for Bury Saints, with Drizzy having sent in his predictions whilst drunk. That is probably the only reason for him going with the travelling, depleted Yorkshire side over the Saints.
Bury Saints 42-10 Yorkshire Rams
SANDWELL STEELERS (#3) vs MANCHESTER TITANS (#6)
Sandwell have taken to Division One (#ItsOnlyD1 though, right gents?) like a duck to water. After a perfect 13-0 season including a D2 title win in 2015, the Tipton-based outfit flew out of the blocks en route to a 4-0 record. The streak came to an end with a 6-3 road defeat to Doncaster, but in reality, this merely served as a kick to the rear of the Steelers. Centered around the #1 ranked defense in Division One, the offense began to find it’s form. A 42-17 win over cross-town rivals Birmingham Bulls was followed by a 48-0 win over the Mustangs and a 42-7 win over the Caesars to close out the regular season.
This Sunday they play host to one of the best run clubs in all of Britball. The Titans have been transformed over recent years, with huge on-field progress shown by the adult, junior and women’s sides. Like Sandwell, Manchester were promoted from Division Two following the 2015 campaign and have proven they can cut it in the second tier, with the #3 ranked offense firing them to a 7-3 record.
So, how do our guys see this one going down? 11 see Sandwell taking the win and heading in to the semi-finals, whereas 3 see the Titans taking home the road win. Despite the split, this game caused the most debate amongst DC writers, with up to 4 of the writers that plumped for Sandwell being very tempted to go for Manchester. This should be the closest quarter-final on the day.
Sandwell Steelers 30-28 Manchester Titans
KENT EXILES (#4) vs DONCASTER MUSTANGS (#5)
Incredibly, four teams plying their trade in the third tier in 2015 are contending the second tier playoffs 12 months later, with Kent Exiles wrapping up the #4 seed. Take away the Saints, and Kent have dominated the SFC1 division. An 8-2 record, the Exiles have surpassed many expectations this season. They’re entertaining too, averaging 40.66 PPG over the final three games of the season, including a wild 36-45 road shootout win over Solent in the season finale.
Doncaster, meanwhile, enter the game this weekend with nearly a month of training, rest and recuperation behind them. The Mustangs last played a competitive game on 3 July where they were manhandled by Sandwell. Since then they’ve been on the receiving end of walkover wins over Peterborough and, prior to that, Ouse Valley under bizarre circumstances when Bedford International Stadium was turned in to an overnight car park despite the Eagles having booked BIAS for the following day. Anyway, we digress. One of only 2 sides with a negative points differential (Caesars being the other), don’t expect a tremendous offensive performance from the visiting side…
Another 13-1 in favour of the home side, with Drizzy once again going against the grain by picking the travelling Mustangs. It’s a long trip for Doncaster, and with the Exiles firing on all cylinders entering the post-season, this could get out of hand quickly.
Kent Exiles 34-7 Doncaster Mustangs