Predictions | BUCS 18/19 Division One Week Eleven

Two crowns might be locked up, but that still leaves an awful lot to play for in the middle tier as we hit the penultimate week of BUCS action!

We’ll see two more teams have a shot at sealing the deal on a title this Sunday, in a max-capacity schedule that sees two fixtures in each of the six conferences – possibly only the 1A North and 1A South West Champions will remain a mystery when the final whistle blows on Sunday’s action…

 

1A North

Glasgow Tigers v Hull Sharks

Glasgow had a helluva a highlight in Week Ten, as a Tiger clawed their way through the protection on a Napier extra point kick, plucked the airborne pigskin out of thin air, and took it back the length of the field for two points!

The problem, however, was that these were the only two points of the game for the Tigers. In fact, they’re the only two points the Tigers have scored since November.

Graduations have hit Glasgow hard this year, with a number of key veterans moving on from the team, and though they looked like they had some teeth in a close game against the Raiders in Week One, since then they’ve had real troubles putting up points against a talent-stacked and hotly-contested Northern conference.

Given that Edinburgh University have secured promotion into this conference, if Glasgow want to be waiting for them come November? This game is an absolute must-win.

The Hull Sharks have already taken the Tigers apart once this year, a 21-0 win back in Week Five, and though the Sharks themselves have had a couple of rough weeks of their own since then, they’ll come into this game confident in their 21-point buffer against risking the drop to D2 football.

Backs to the wall, can the Scottish side survive at least another week in the middle tier?

Who wins?

We polled six of our team of eight BUCS correspondents…

While to of our team think the Tigers will finally find their teeth on Sunday, the bulk of our writers think it’ll be the Sharks who secure D1 football for 19/20 in Week Eleven.

 

Northumbria Mustangs v Newcastle Raiders

We finally get the local derby game we were robbed of back in Week Nine. Given that neither of these sides have seen all that much action since then, we’re going to borrow heavily from that fortnight old prediction:

Each on four wins at this point in the year, it’s fair to say that both teams putting together strong-looking seasons so far, making this a very tasty matchup – probably a Game of the Week contender if I could get far enough ahead on content to get one out this side of Christmas!

There’s not just local bragging rights on the line in this game on Sunday – the top spot in the 1A North will also be the prize for whichever team takes the W this weekend!

For the Mustangs it’ll be their first action in 2019, so they’ll be hoping they’ve carried some of their momentum from a four-game win streak with them into 2019. So far this season they’ve proven they can win big, but also that they can win tough – two nail-biting wins over the Knights setting them up as the current team-to-beat in this conference, currently ranked #4 in our middle-tier Power Rankings.

Newcastle, however, will also come into this game with a lot of confidence – their win last weekend moved them into the top spot in the table, sitting pretty as the only undefeated team in the conference at 4-0. What’s more, their scorelines show they’ve been steadily gaining momentum, fixture by fixture.

Last week the Raiders made short work of the Sharks for a second time this season – which is worth noting, as Hull are the only outfit to have bested the Mustangs so far this season!

The rumblings we’re hearing out of both camps is that each of these two teams think this could well be the toughest test of their seasons so far… and I’m inclined to agree with them!

One further query I have about this game? Newcastle are currently in the rather unenviable position of having four fixtures to fit into only two weeks of remaining regular season… Might this be the first doubleheader fixture of the 18/19 season?

Who wins?

We polled our team of eight BUCS correspondents…

The Raiders edge the poll 3-5 – the fact we haven’t had sight nor sound of Northumbria since before Christmas probably doing them no favours as we can’t really be sure of what shape they’re in after more than two months away from competition!

It looks like the Raiders are ready to sit alone atop the 1A North…

 

1A Yorks/Lancs

LJMU Fury v Sheffield Hallam Warriors

The Fury caused quite the upset in Week Ten… and for the second weekend in a row, at that!

Having had some narrow scorelines through the first half of their campaign, it looks like the Fury have found their form during this late-season stretch of home games!

Sure, it’s realistically too late to contest a playoff berth, but boy can they play the role of saboteurs if they can cause yet another upset this weekend as they play hosts to a Sheffield Hallam that have had a couple of squeakers themselves since the midseason break!

Hallam locked up the Yorks/Lancs crown in Week Ten with a win over the Rams, but the one-point margin of victory follows on from a three-point one the week prior – the former ‘North Western’ is continuing to earn its reputation as one of the most hotly-contested conferences in the tier, even if the title’s already been locked down!

Sure, the Warriors made short work of LJMU when the two teams met back in Week Five… but we were saying the same about the Sabres vs the Fury last week, and look how that turned out!

Will any of our BUCS office roll the dice of the Fury going Hulk-Mode this weekend too?

Who wins? 

Understandably, few pundits are willing to pick against an undefeated outfit, and while the Warriors may be uncatchable at the top of the table, they’ll also be very aware that they’re playing for more than just pride over their remaining two fixtures:

We currently have the Warriors sat in the #1 seed in the North, a powerful position that would give them home-advantage through all postseason fixtures prior to the D1 National Final, and it’d be rather silly to let that slip away from them in these final two weeks of the season.

 

Manchester Tyrants vs UCLan Rams

 

If the Barneys want to stay a middle tier outfit, Manchester’s only hope is winning out their remaining fixtures, while hoping for an LJMU loss in the conferences’ other game this week.

However, with their remaining two games against teams that beat them 44-16 and 52-6 earlier this season? That’s quite a mountain Manchester need to climb over the next fortnight.

UCLan meanwhile will also be very aware that there’s no room for any more slip-ups this season – the Sabres’ surprise loss in Week Ten has opened the door for the Rams to potentially swipe the #2 playoff berth, but to do so they need to win both this week, and next (against the Sabres themselves)

One team fights for survival, the other to extend their season – who wants it more on Sunday?

More importantly, who has what it takes to make it happen?!

Who wins? 

Perhaps our pundits are feeling guilty about the fact only one of them thought the Rams stood a chance last week, only for them to come up just a single-point short?

Either way, it’s our first unanimous polling of the Week in the middle tier.

Manchester are seemingly destined for Division Two football once again.

 

1A Midlands

Loughborough Students v Leicester Longhorns

Loughborough’s road to the top of the 1A Midlands table hasn’t perhaps been as smooth a one as many might have expected coming into this campaign, but the former Premiership North outfit have appeared to find their groove in recent weeks, particularly on defence, and as such they find themselves heading into Week Eleven with the potential to seal the deal on the 1A Midlands title with a game in hand!

Perhaps it’s only fitting that their race to the crown might well end where it began back in Week One: facing off against local rivals, the Leicester Longhorns.

Credit where it’s due to the Longhorns, they made a helluva game of it in November. Loughborough had come into the season ranked #1 in our middle tier Power Rankings, but the narrow 3 point margin of victory saw them plummet down the polls – only recently rising back into the position of potential promotion contenders.

Leicester certainly turned heads with their shock first victory of the season over the Renegades last weekend – can they extend that upset-streak to two?

Who wins?

We polled our team of eight BUCS correspondents…

Not according to the majority of our BUCS office!

Just one writer was tempted by the long-odds on a Longhorns win, whereas the rest seem sure it’ll be Loughborough locking up a conference title come Sunday evening.

Leicester, meanwhile, will be Division Two-bound.

 

Warwick Wolves vs Coventry Jets

There’s a lot more riding on this one than might be apparent to the untrained eye…

Sure, Warwick’s admittedly pretty respectable loss to Loughborough in Week Ten means they’re out of the postseason race, but it’s worth mentioning a win here would ensure they can’t be leapfrogged by the Longhorns…

Coventry, meanwhile, can lock-up guaranteed postseason action with a second win of the season over the Wolves – they already hold the head-to-head over NTU, meaning a ‘5’ in the win column is all they need to seal the deal on at least the #2 berth out of the Midlands…

Oh, yeah…

And it’s the two teams’ Varsity game.

Blue vs Red is the branding for this local rivalry, and for the Jets that means some rather swanky new kit, crisp and fresh for this crucial fight!

Will look good – play good be the determining factor in this one?

Who wins?

We polled our team of eight BUCS correspondents…

Warwick have probably been playing their best football of the season over the past couple of weeks… but that’s not enough to distract from the fact that the Jets took them apart 28-0 less than a month ago.

Jets soar into the postseason!

 

1A South West

Exeter Demons v Cardiff Cobras

We’re truly hitting crunch time in the 1A South West.

Come Sunday the clock starts on a mere eight days of the regular season remaining, and as yet not a single team in this conference is even all that close to locking up playoff football!!

On the one hand, it’s disappointing that these teams find themselves in such a predicament that at least two of the conference’s outfits will find themselves playing three fixtures in eight days.

On the other…

Damn, are the next eight days going to be exciting for fans of South West football!

A massive pro of four out of five contenders in this conference being in with a very realistic shot at playoff football is that all four committees have a massive incentive to ensure every single game gets played – by hook and by crook, the teams of the 1A South West have squeezed six fixtures into Weeks Eleven and Twelve – kicking it off with a clash between the Cobras and Demons!

At 4-2, the Demons have used a couple of comfortable wins over local rivals, the Plymouth Blitz, to edge themselves into the #2 spot in the South West conference. That said, staying ahead of the chasing pack is going to require the Demons to up their game, as the only way to guarantee postseason football would be to win out – and that means besting two teams that have already gotten the better of Exeter once this season!

Cardiff and Exeter last met in Rain Week, so far the Cobras’ only action this side of the holidays, with the Welsh side coming away with a 28-12 victory.

Since then, however, the Cobras have been sidelined by a Week Nine weather postponement against the Bees, so while they’ll be coming into this game fairly fresh, it’s questionable whether they’ll be carrying the same momentum as the Demons.

With both sides also scheduled for some midweek action, they’ll have to strike a careful balance between both gunning for the W, but also keeping key players healthy enough for a quick turnaround just a few days later.

Depth and resilience could be key in this one…

Who wins?

We polled seven of our team of eight BUCS correspondents…

Game One:

Coach Ward-Best might not be allowed a say in this one, but it turns out his vote wasn’t needed anyhow!

The Demons have been boosted by a couple of big wins over the Blitz, and it looks like our team think that momentum will be enough to carry them to the W against the Cobras on Sunday!

 

Plymouth Blitz v Southampton Stags

Southampton suffered their first loss of the season in Week Ten, as the Bath Killer Bees bounced back from a 21-0 loss on the Friday to sting the Stags with a one-point defeat on Sunday!

As such, it’s potentially with some relief that Southampton will kick off a gruelling final few days of their regular season with what, on paper, is the perfect game to get back in the groove.

Plymouth know their time in the tier is done and are now only playing for pride – not that the possibility of the programme’s first-ever winless season will be an easy pill to swallow.

Even so, the Stags steamrolled the Blitz back in Week One, and even in a season stacked with upsets, surely it’s a lot to ask for an underdog to turnover a team that put up 65 points on them earlier in the season?

Who wins?

We polled our team of eight BUCS correspondents…

Any spark the Blitz seemed to show against the Cobras back in Week Six looks long-gone.

Knowing they’re headed for D2 football, Plymouth might be tempted to start prepping for 2020 by repping depth through their final two fixtures… Though that implies they’re willing to accept the team’s first-ever winless season.

Either way, our team thinks the Stags sweep this one.

 

1A South

Reading Knights v  Kingston Cougars

One of the wealth of fixtures lost to the weather in Week Nine, the Knights and Cougars each look to get their seasons back on track with this reschedule matchup.

With only one team having played a game in the interim, I’ll borrow heavily from my previous prediction:

Two teams we had high hopes for this year, both as eager as the other to stop a poor run of form turning into a full-blown rout that runs them right off the precipice and down into Division Two football!

Reading opened their campaign with a nice 2-0 start to the season, but things went awry in Week Six when they got stung by Surrey in the second meeting between the two teams. Two further losses followed against the Burners and Panthers, and suddenly these early-season playoff hopefuls will now be oh-too-aware that they’re only a single W ahead of the dropzone at this point in the year…

They’ll draw some confidence from the fact they’ve already bested the Cougars once this season… but then again we thought the same when they went into their second leg against the Stingers – will we see another the Knights split another set of fixtures?

Certainly, the Cougars will be all too aware that this is potentially the best chance save their season. Their conference title defence is already a long-lost hope with the Burners locking up the Crown back in Week Eight… but for a team that started the season with aspirations of a return to top tier balling to find itself playing D2 football next year? That’ll be a tough blow to take for this proud programme.

Kingston have to win, and by at least 16 points, to steal the head-to-head from the Knights… And even then that might not be enough…

Who wins?

We polled our team of eight BUCS correspondents…

Reading might be experiencing a serious slump in form, but on the flipside the Cougars haven’t scored a single touchdown since Week Two.

Should the majority of the team pick correctly and the Cougars notch up a six loss of the season here, even a shock win over the already-crowned Burners in Week Twelve wouldn’t be enough to save the former Prem South side from Division Two football come the fall.

 

Brighton Panthers v Surrey Stingers

The Stingers come into the penultimate weekend of the season in an interesting position.

Despite last week’s win over the Cougars, Surrey aren’t out of the danger zone just yet… But nor are they without a shot at postseason football, either, if they can win out.

Brunel may have sealed the deal on the #1 spot in the 1A South, but the #2 berth, currently held by Brighton, is still very much up for grabs should a team be willing to fight for it!

Of course, we expect Brighton have no intention of releasing their hold on postseason balling, and outside their heavy Week One defeat to the Burners, the Panthers have proven themselves a particularly resilient outfit this season – conceding just two touchdowns through their last four outings.

Neither side have exactly been setting the scoreboard alight this season, so look for both defences to take the lead in this one…

Who wins?

We polled our team of eight BUCS correspondents…

The Panthers are riding a three-game win streak and that’s enough to swing the majority of the BUCS office in their favour to take the W on Sunday.

The next question, however, then becomes whether we’ll see a resurrection of these two teams’ Week Nine fixture that was lost to the weather?

 

 

1A South East

Imperial Immortals v Canterbury Chargers

Let’s be frank – neither of these programmes will be happy with their performances prior to this point in the season.  I try to keep these previews pretty positive, but the reality is both the Immortals and Chargers simply haven’t been able to keep pace with the other three teams in the 1A South East.

With both teams winless heading into the closing days of their respective campaigns, we now know for sure that one of these two teams will be playing Division Two football next year… but which?

Conveniently the powers-that-be in scheduling have made things really simple from this point onwards: two back-to-back fixtures to close out the season will almost certainly determine which team takes the drop.

Who wins?

We polled our team of eight BUCS correspondents…

At a glance, it’d be easy to pick the Chargers as the better-performing of these two teams at this point in the season. Though neither side has numbers to boast about, Canterbury do at least have higher average points scored and lower points conceded coming into these final two fixtures…

However, whether it’s due to home advantage, or that the Chargers’ form seems to have particularly slumped since the midseason break? The poll gives the edge to the Immortals to stay alive in the middle tier.

UEA Pirates v Kent Falcons

The Falcons held off a late-comeback from QMBL to earn their sixth W of the season last Sunday, and as such they’ll head into Week Eleven with the prospect of a Conference Crown tantalizingly close!

However, if Kent want to make it back to back 1A South East titles, the most direct route lies through Pirate-infested waters – victory over UEA this Sunday would cement the Falcons’ place atop the table for a second straight season!

Of course, no good swashbuckler goes down without a fight! UEA made short work of the Chargers in Week Ten to reclaim their familiar #2 berth, and they don’t even necessarily need to overcome the Falcons’ 14point head-to-head buffer to swipe the top spot – the Falcons’ loss to the Vipers means a Pirates’ win by any margin would give them a narrow lead in the race to the crown…

But the Pirates winning against Kent is something that’s proven rather troublesome in recent seasons! Speaking with sources familiar with both teams, they’ll tell you the Pirates are more than talented enough to take down the Falcons, but that Kent simply seem to have an almost mystical power over the Pirates – spooky!

Indeed, you’ve got to go all the way back to 2015 for the last time the Pirates plucked the Falcons, which between regular and postseason clashes means Kent come into this one riding a seven-game win streak over UEA!

That’s a helluva monkey for the Pirates to shake off their backs…

Who wins?

We polled our team of eight BUCS correspondents…

Whether it’s by momentum or magic, Kent take the poll 6-2 and look set to seal the deal on the 1A South East title!

,,,and I have to figure out if I can still find their Crowned logo from last season, else make them a new one!

 

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Nick

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