North versus South and for the first time in what seems like forever there may well be clear favourites and underdogs in each of these matchups.
The one thing we DO know is we won’t be seeing a repeat of last year’s National Championship attendees… Beyond that? It’s all on the table this weekend as we take a look at each fixture and how the Double Coverage BAFANL office, as well as the Britball Nation itself, see them playing out!
Tamworth Phoenix vs London Blitz
A Britbowl XXXI rematch in the first round of the postseason means we know for sure that it’ll be different teams contesting the National Title in two weeks time… But will it be Tamworth getting a shot at retaining the honours they won for the first time last season, or the Blitz progressing to their incredible THIRTEENTH straight Bowl game appearance?!
Certainly, Tamworth have looked untouchable domestically this season. Whereas they had a close call or two on their way to an undefeated regular season in 2017, the Phamily breezed to 10-0-0 this summer. The closest any Prem North side got to them this year was 43 points as Tamworth racked up an enviable seven fifty-burgers and five shutouts through ten top-tier games this year.
Still, it’s not like their year has been without competition. Tamworth took their first foray into European balling in the Northern European Football League earlier in the summer, and it’s fair to say the Phoenix were slow to get off the ground against the top flight competition they faced – losing heavily against both the Copenhagen Towers and Carlstad Crusaders before eventually getting into a rhythm with a big win over the Oslo Vikings to finish third overall.
The European adventure meant the Phoenix had a cramped end to their season, only broken up by the top tier’s break for the European Championships where they Phoenix sent six players to Finland with the GB Lions. However, they came through a busy end to the year fairly unscathed – quite something seeing as a number of their players will head into the postseason having played a stacked summer of sixteen competitive fixtures!
Across from the Phoenix are a London Blitz side that are likely coming into this game with something to prove. The last time these two teams met was in Sixways Stadium where the underdogs, the Phoenix, inflicted a surprise final-quarter defeat on a Blitz side that have fallen at the final hurdle in now five straight Britbowls.
Ever a title-contender, London’s season has mostly gone as one would have expected coming into the year – big wins over the vast majority of the Prem South sandwich a close-fought loss to local rivals the Warriors in Week Ten… before something of an anomaly to end out the season as the Blitz suffered their heaviest defeat in recent memory – a 51-8 second-half slaughter against the Warriors!
Best we can tell from this one, once the Blitz got a couple scores down they realised they would struggle to swipe the head to head away from their rivals (needed at least a 9 point victory) and started repping their depth, keeping starters fresh for this weekend’s trip to Tamworth – so perhaps 7-0 scoreline at the half is a more accurate reflection of the relative strength between the capital’s top two teams?
Even so, taking a bloody nose the week before the postseason can’t be a great morale builder and perhaps for the first time in close to a decade a southern side will be heading north as something of an underdog.
But lest we forget: the Blitz have been to twelve straight finals, it’s going to be a helluva job to stop them making it thirteen on the trot… right?
London Warriors vs Manchester Titans
Two teams heading to the playoffs each with something to prove!
For the Titans, many will say it’s already an incredible achievement for the team to have made it this far. In a summer of success for the Manchester programme, the Titans adult team have made to the premiership postseason in their very first year in the top tier. Still, making it is one thing – taking it further quite another!
The Titans already have their U19s contesting a Britbowl Championship this weekend… might they be able to send a second team to a title game?
Well, it’s certainly going to be tough sledging. While the Titans impressed in their first year in the Prem with a 7-3 campaign, they had a lot of hard-fought fixtures along the way, and on the two occasions they met with the Phoenix? It was pretty brutal, the Titans falling to 7-60 and 56-13 losses.
Still, Manchester have proven eminently resilient. They made a point of testing themselves against the London Blitz in the preseason and certainly didn’t shame themselves. They well know they’re coming in as heavy underdogs here, but are likely to relish that role and use it as fuel.
Another team that’s likely used adversity as fuel all season-long is the Warriors, who fell short of a fifth-straight National Title last year, coming up just short in the semis away to Tamworth. From the get-go it was clear the Warriors weren’t willing to risk another away-berth seeding this season – their defence has been hotter than this unexpectedly toasty summer, leading the top tier by quite some margin by conceding an average of less than a single TD per outing – four shutouts through their eight games played.
Indeed, if anything the Warriors’ biggest frustration has been missing out on game-time – with both the Saints and Knights bowing out of games against the London side this summer.
Still, it means they’ve kept fairly fresh and healthy – something they notably struggled with in 2017 when they perhaps overstretched themselves with their own first experience of European football in the first iteration of the Northern European Football League.
The Warriors boasted the Lions share of GB Roster spots for the Euros (eleven) so will be bringing a wealth of international experience into the postseason, including a number of household names, particularly on the defence.
We’re pretty sure there’s a clear underdog here but which way have the Team and Nation picked?