They’ve all made the cut and will be playing Div One ball next year, but there’s yet more glory to be had for the best of the basement tier as the final two teams from each region go head to head.
LJMU Fury v Manchester Tyrants
Fury found success in their long trip up north to Scotland as they made short work of the Napier Knights. Their roster is stocked with senior talent, with a good number of players having gained great knowledge, confidence and experience playing for the Merseyside Nighthawks during their hugely successful 2015 season.
Putting up 30 for nothing in return, LJMU clearly outclassed the Scottish side, with the Edinburgh team having no answer to the Fury’s ferocious ground game. Heading up the rushing attack, Laurent Tshimanga appeared utterly unstoppable in space, seemingly untouchable in one-on-one situations, including hurdling a defender for the opening score. Complemented by the forceful running of Daishawn Honohan, this strong ground attack allows QB Alex Housden to pick and choose his opportunities.
The Fury D line looked to be winning the battle in the trenches all day long with Linebacker #7 (let us know who this is!) making big plays and big hits all across the field.
The Tyrants found a little more competition in their first playoff opponent of the year at least, as the Jets headed north to take on a Manchester team that went largely unchallenged during the regular season. The Coventry bus broke down during the trip up, and the Jets D apparently broke down during the game as the Tyrants torrential offence put up more points in 48 minutes of balling than the Jets had conceded all year long.
Similar to the Fury, the Tyrants can boast a wealth of talent that’s been buoyed by senior success, with a core of veterans that played with the Manchester Titans through the summer – going undefeated in the regular season before losing out narrowly in the Division Two semis.
Lawrence Sarpong heads up a rushing attack that’s proven highly effective in all conditions, behind an O-line anchored by Henry Betts – who spent his summer playing in Finland for the Wasa Royals.
Former conference rivals, these two teams met last season with the Fury emerging narrow 13-12 victors… and the Barnies are gunning for vengeance!
Two teams that look very similar in ability and focus, this should be a cracker of a game – our writer picks were completely split!
Still, you should always heed a woman’s advice, and as our woman’s writer is the closest thing we currently have available (send in DC staff applications on a postcard ladies!) we’ll follow his lead and opt for the Fury in a tasty northern grudge bowl.
Portsmouth Destroyers v Oxford Lancers
Both these programmes exceeded expectations last weekend as they clearly dominated their round one opponents.
Oxford were clearly well prepared for the Mariners last week and their defence mustered a complete shutdown on a Greenwich offence that appeared to have finally found its groove going into this game. The only points for Greenwich came from their previously impressive-looking defence that snagged a safety and returned a PAT for a further two. However, they also allowed Oxford to put up 30 points of their own and indeed the Lancers have been unstoppable this side of Christmas – outscoring opponents 177-9 in the five games since the Christmas break.
We’ve not had an opportunity to catch up with the Lancers this season (we’re blaming Mr Autocorrect) but we have suspicions a combination of maturation of squad veterans and perhaps a small stateside influx has brought the Lancers to a new level of balling that will carry them into Division One with great momentum.
Portsmouth similarly dominated last week. The first half was a little slow as the Destroyers and Blitz came to terms with one another’s abilities. Portsmouth’s first half scores came off two fumbles from the ailing Blitz backfield, and in what would come to be the key to the game QB Lewis Popley hooked up with wideout Leslie Qwesi for a long passing TD immediately off the interception.
While Blitz were able to answer with a FG before the half, Popley and Qwesi hooked up again for another score pretty much immediately out of the break, and it looked like the fight went out of the home side. The Blitz offence looked headless against a fluid bend-don’t-break Destroyers defence, and Portsmouth took advantage of a lacking Blitz secondary to begin racking up the scores and emerge clear and confident winners in the second ever #DockyardDerby.
We’re clearly looking at two teams that have built themselves into fine form by this point of the season – dynamic and talented offences, supported by effective and turnover hungry defences. This could actually be one of the most competitive matches in a weekend full of great match ups!
While the majority of our BUCS writing staff have opted for the Destroyers, we’re going to hedge our bets with this pred and opted for Oxford to spear themselves a narrow victory.
Oxford Lancers 22 – 20 Portsmouth Destroyers