The BAFCA Convention provided a little break for Ballers across the Britball Nation, but we’re back on it again this weekend – including in the Under 17 game where we see three tournaments get underway, and a few teams finally kick off their campaigns!
North East (Postponed. Moved to 22 July)
Hosts for this weekend’s tourney, the Leeds Academy Assassins have quickly emerged as hot favourites to battle for a Britbowl this year – though six fixtures they’ve been busting more burgers than a hungry lineman – four fifty burgers through six games, alongside a narrow miss against Doncaster – 12-47. The only blemish on their record is their third and final fixture of the opening weekend back in April, where the Assassins tied 27-27 against the North East Academy…
…Which sets up an absolute treat of a second leg this weekend! The North East Academy similarly took two comfy wins from the conference’s opening tourney, and following more than a month off from competitive fixtures will come into this weekend well rested and will the goal of ousting the Assassins from the top spot in the conference. They don’t play the Assassins again until July, so a loss here will put them behind the cart for much of the remaining season – it’s a crucial fixture for both young teams.
That said, wins for these two programmes against the other tourney attendees are far from a given. While the Sheffield Giants are winless so far this year, they continue to find ways to score in every fixture and if they can figure out a way to shore up their defence? Can yet compete in the tough North East conference. Will a few bye weekends have been enough time to patch their leaks?
The Lincolnshire Bombers meanwhile will have been disappointed to have come away with only a single win from their home tourney back in Week Three. A narrow loss against Doncaster has left them off the pace in the conference, so they’ll be desperate to poach a win from one of the favourites this Saturday, while avoiding a slip up against Sheffield. They’ve shown their capable of putting up points, but similarly to the Giants need to hope they’ve found ways to slow down the high-powered Leeds and North East offences.
- Leeds Academy Assassins v Sheffield Giants
- Leeds Academy Assassins v Lincolnshire Bombers
- Leeds Academy Assassins v North East Academy
- Sheffield Giants v Lincolnshire Bombers
- Sheffield Giants v North East Academy
- Lincolnshire Bombers v North East Academy
Opening their season in Week Four, it was a tough start to the year for the Sussex Thunder in what looks like one of the best conferences in Under 17 football.
Boasting teams with talented and deep rosters, including the Cobham Cougars, Buckinghamshire Wolves and Solent Seahawks, the Thunder’s opening tourney was plagued by a lack of offensive production – though they impressed on D, keeping even the high calibre offences like the Cougars and Seahawks down to sub-thirty points scored. With the home crowd on their side, the Thunder will be looking to overturn their narrow loss to the Berkshire Renegades and shouldn’t consider the 5-1 Buckinghamshire Wolves beyond their reach if they can match their stingy defence with three to five scores per fixture from their offence.
Similarly, Berkshire will be looking to gain some ground in a conference that’s quickly getting out of reach. Every game from here on out becomes a must-win for the Renegades if they have postseason aspirations – but again, we’re looking at a team that needs to get their mojo working on offence in order to be competitive – in five of their six fixtures so far this year the Renegades haven’t managed more than a single score. Had they upped their output to three or four scores per game? We might be looking at a 4-2 team rather than 1-5.
More of a mystery are the Swindon Storm, who kick off their season on Saturday. The Storm’s development set up has been showing great progress in recent years. They finished third in their conference last season with four wins, but only really found their rhythm at the very end of the season – taking big wins over the Cornish Sharks and Sussex Thunder in the final tournament of 2016. If the Storm have managed to maintain this level of performance through the offseason? There’s certainly potential for the Storm to really shake things up in their opening tourney of 2017.
The Buckinghamshire Wolves will be eager to keep pace with the teams at the top of the conference – their only loss on the year so far has come against the high-flying Cobham Cougars, and they snagged a crucial single point victory against the Seahawks. Only playing each of these teams the once this season, the Wolves have placed themselves in a position to lock up the second place spot at the very least if they’re able to win out through their final two tournaments. With the four opponents they’ll face over the next two events boasting only two wins from fifteen fixtures between them? The focus will be on not making foolish mistakes.
- Sussex Thunder v Swindon Storm
- Sussex Thunder v Berkshire Renegades
- Sussex Thunder v Buckinghamshire Wolves
- Swindon Storm v Berkshire Renegades
- Swindon Storm v Buckinghamshire Wolves
- Berkshire Renegades v Buckinghamshire Wolves
The South East’s gathering represents perhaps the biggest enigma of the weekend – as we’re yet to see two of the four teams in action so far in 2017 after the Essex Spartans‘ Week Three tournament was shifted back to the final weekend of the season.
As such, the Spartans who went a perfect 12-0 last season in a competitive Outer London East Conference, kick off their year with a chunk of ground to make up against this weekend’s hosts – the 3-0 East Kent Mavericks.
It’ll be interesting to see whether the Spartans have been able to maintain form over the offseason – they won the majority of their games by comfortable margins last season, but how will ‘graduations’ have effected their roster? Will they have the firepower to keep pace with a Mavericks side that stomped through their opening tournament for three big wins – including two shutouts!
Finding ways to crack the Mavericks’ defence will be key for any team hoping to poach wins from the host side and tarnish their perfect record. So far the South London Renegades, small in numbers but big in camaraderie, have been the only team to put any points on the Mavericks – but it’s likely to require more than the six they managed against the Mavericks last time around if they want to steal a victory from any of the other competitors on Saturday.
Finally, the Colchester Gladiators also see their year get off to a delayed start in Week Five. They were highly competitive in almost all of their fixtures in 2016, and indeed a score more from their offence in each game might have seen the Gladiators go 10-2 and head to the Plate Finals! As such, they’ll be looking for a fast start to their campaign and brawl their way to some early wins. If they’re able to show some development from last year’s performances? No team should be out of their reach on Saturday.
- East Kent Mavericks v South London Renegades
- East Kent Mavericks v Essex Spartans
- East Kent Mavericks v Colchester Gladiators
- South London Renegades v Essex Spartans
- South London Renegades v Colchester Gladiators
- Essex Spartans v Colchester Gladiators