Hatfield’s University of Hertfordshire hosts Round Three of BAFA’s Division One (South Conference) Sapphire Series on Saturday and whilst Birmingham’s high flying Lions are still unbeaten the chasing pack are only an upset away from causing havoc in the conference.
With only the top two spots going forward into the National One Play-Offs (alongside the two highest finishers from the North conference) this is the last chance teams have to finalise their finishing places.
|London Warriors (+)||4||2||0||114||100|
The defending national champions, on paper at least, should book their place in the 8th April Play-Off’s with two wins from two, if form is anything to go by. Averaging this season a concession of just 4pts per game, complimented by 43pts in attack – the Lions have taken convincing scalps against last year’s second and third seeds (Hertfordshire and Leeds respectively). Stats won’t stand for much however if the team can’t close out their games against a London and Derby this weekend.
Birmingham have met London only once before, in the 5-a-side version of the game in 2015, and whilst back then the Lions won handsomely (32-0), utilising this result as a baseline would serve neither team well. The Warriors have hit the ground running this season – only thus far losing out to Herts (19-32) – and will prove a handful when they certainly bring their A-game to the conference leaders on Saturday. The Warriors challenge will be to decipher how to attack and where to defend against Birmingham’s stack of GB Lions talent. Expectations are for a Birmingham win, but this should be a mouth-watering match-up.
Derby, who always give the Lions a good game, despite the inflated (62-0) score line from their Round One encounter, will look to push the same buttons as previouslywith their well-oiled defense, their undoubted premium provision. It’s unlikely that the Derby’s offence will again ship 40 odd points to Schecter and Co (the Lion’s D outscoring their O last time these two teams met) and buoyed by two good wins in Round Two it’s expected that the Braves enter the tourney with a spring in their step whilst attempting to enforce a game-plan to unhinge Birmingham’s high-scoring offense. Again, we’d expect a Lions win, but Derby o settle down the score line from a few weeks prior.
Home-side Hertfordshire will commence their run-out with a maiden outing against Derby – the two teams, surprisingly, having not yet met this season. The Tornadoes, however, have never lost to the Midlands’ outfit, and despite some notable injuries notching up, Hertfordshire should still possess the requisite firepower, on both sides of the ball, to handle a Braves sides that, whilst improving, is not yet on a par with one of the longest standing women’s team in the country. Derby’s defense might frustrate the home side, but not by enough to steal a win.
Finally, to conclude, Hertfordshire vs London!
Having met in round one, the Warriors giving a good account of themselves in a 32-19 defeat, the visitors will be hoping they can swing a 13pt deficit in their favour to cause a significant upset. Based on a crude observation of points for and against (which we realise isn’t wholly comparable, but let’s see where it goes anyway…) Herts will go in to the game enjoying a higher ranked offense (notching up 130pts to London’s 97pts) before the tables are flipped when it comes to defense: the Warriors boasting just 59pts conceded, to Herts 98, though admittedly that’s with one less fixture actually played on the field for the Warriors.
With a nicely balanced O v D therefore potentially marking spectators’ cards, Herts will have to be at their sharpest to see off the challenge, a challenge that will not only be fought on the field but in the proverbial dug-outs as Warriors’ Head Coach Tony Allen takes on his counter-part Tom Roberts for the all-important strategic bragging rights to boot. Considering a certain social media mishap this past week it’s very likely we might see some sparks fly between these two sides on Saturday. On home soil we’d expect Herts to nick it, but this could be the Battle Royale the Series has been waiting for.