U17 | Week Nine Preview

Four tournaments in the Under 17’s game this weekend… And I swear I’m starting to feel more familiar with this facet of the game than the Adult league’s lately! Apologies for the lack of an U17 review these past couple of weeks – we’re a one man team in the U17 office at the moment, but we’ll see if we can get perhaps a double dose for weeks Seven and Eight out over the weekend perhaps?

A number of teams complete their regular seasons this weekend, so results will have HUGE ramifications on the playoff situation – which currently stands as laid out in our first If The Season Ended Today article of the year!

Scotland

The EKP expansion programme play hosts for the third tourney of the Scottish conference. With only four teams in the mix, every win effectively counts double north of the wall, and after the first two outings? It’s beginning to look my in-line with preseason expectations: a two horse race between the two teams that hoisted under 17 silverware last year: the East Kilbride Pirates and the Highland Wildcats.

Obviously, as in each of the four Scottish conference tournaments, the meeting between these two teams is likely to be the headline fixture. The Pirates hold the lead in the series so far this year, having bested the Wildcats in both meetings – including a historic first win for the Pirates over the Highlanders on their home soil –  a narrow 12-6 victory back in Week Seven.

Photography by Duncan Grey, check out his superb work at  https://duncolm.smugmug.com
Photography by Duncan Grey, check out his superb work at https://duncolm.smugmug.com

Undefeated so far this year, should the Pirates remain untarnished through today’s tournament it’ll be enough to lock up the conference crown, with three games in hand – holding the head to head over the ‘cats even were the two sides to finish out on the same record come season’s end. As such, expect the Wildcats to lay it all on the line on Saturday as they attempt to reclaim their spot atop Under 17s football north of the wall… and possibly across the entire UK given scots’ teams’ propensity to lift silverware!

The unique Scottish conference comes with the benefits of limiting travel distance, but there’s certainly some teams who are feeling perhaps a little hard done by the situation. The Hamilton Buccaneers and Edinburgh Wolves have proven well off the pace set by the Pirates and Wildcats so far this year – though the Buccaneers did at least manage to give Highland a scare back in Week Seven when they put up 28 points on their hosts.

Still, there’s still half a season ahead of both these programmes and therefore enough opportunities to completely turn things around should they find either a midseason epiphany, or some great late additions to their rosters!

1/7/17 Fixtures:
  • Hamilton Buccaneers v East Kilbride Pirates
  • Hamilton Buccaneers v Highland Wildcats
  • Hamilton Buccaneers v Edinburgh Wolves
  • East Kilbride Pirates v Highland Wildcats
  • East Kilbride Pirates v Edinburgh Wolves
  • Highland Wildcats v Edinburgh Wolves

 

North East

It’s been an impressive first year for the rookie North East Academy – currently neck and neck with preseason faves, the Leeds Academy Assassins, for the North East Title.

This of course immediately highlights the meeting between these two teams as a headline fixture – they held one another to a 27-27 draw when they last met all the way back in Week One, and since then both sides have gone undefeated in their subsequent tourneys.

The Assassins may come into the day a little rusty – having not seen competitive action since early May – but what action! The Leeds squad put in an utterly dominant performance at the Lincolnshire Bomber’s hosted tournament, putting up #50Burgers in each of their three fixtures!

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Ahead of their last tourney, the North East Academy spent part of their week fundraising at Alfie Taylor’s Fun Day, which you can learn more about on the North East Academy Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/theneaaf/

Meanwhile the North East Academy’s subsequent three victories, while more recent, were also much more modest – coming by a couple of scores or less and reliant upon a stingy D to ensure they kept pace with the Assassins. Perhaps they went into their last tourney overconfident, but expect them to be ready and raring to go for this weekend’s crucial fixtures, and with a home crowd behind them? Ready to go toe to toe with the high flying Assassins.

Of course, these top two teams are far from the only threats to one another on Saturday. The Lincolnshire Bombers in particular have shown real improvement as the season’s progressed! In their last outing they overturned a loss to the Doncaster Academy earlier in the year with a strong 26-0 shutout performance, put their first #50Burger of the year up on the Giants, and game within a score of being the first team to best the North East Academy. Their U19s have shown similar improvement in their recent fixtures, so there’s all the hallmarks of a developmental revolution taking place in the Bombers programme – at 3-3 on the season so far, the Bombers could easily put themselves in a great position for a postseason run with some strong performances today!

Lastly, the Doncaster Academy become the first team in the conference to wrap up their regular season with their fixtures on Saturday – as such they’re going to throw everything they have into finishing out the year with a winning record. If they can shore up their defence, it’s not beyond the former-Mustangs to compete with each of their opponents today – and a perfect day could yet see them, with a 7-5 record on the year, potentially even contend for a Plate playoffs spot if results go their way.

1/7/17 Fixtures:
  • North East Academy v Doncaster Academy
  • North East Academy v Leeds Academy Assassins
  • North East Academy v Lincolnshire Bombers
  • Doncaster Academy v Leeds Academy Assassins
  • Doncaster Academy v Lincolnshire Bombers
  • Leeds Academy Assassins v Lincolnshire Bombers

London

The Cobham Cougars White squad, still lacking their first win in the team’s existence, round out their season at home… Which is good…. But playing host to the top three teams in their conference… which is not so much.

A squad of rookies, the Whites have certainly had a trial by fire in their first season in the league, the tough London Conference including many of the favourites to contend for silverware this year.

The key for Cobham, if they have hopes of picking up their first win of the year in their toughest tourney to date? Will be shoring up their defence against teams that have each put 36, 43 and 52 points on them respectively.

For the other three programmes entering the day, they’ll be eyeing one another far more warily.

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The Kent Exiles Rebels currently head up the conference, but their lead is far from secure. They’ve taken two wins from the London Warriors, but each only by a single point, and are yet to face the #2 placed London Blitz yet this year.

In turn, the Blitz have turned their season around since losing their opening fixture against the Hertfordshire Cheetahs in a shoot out. They, too, bested the Warriors, though only barely, and have an offence that all their rivals need to be wary of – putting up over 200 points on the year so far!

While we shouldn’t discount the Cougars, by any means, with the Warriors also rounding out their regular season today they’ll be looking for nothing less than perfection from their day, and even than an 8-4 record on the year may not be enough for postseason balling in this highly competitive conference!

This one is likely the most competitive tournament of the day, and well worth a trip across to watch if you’re in the local area. Expect all these sides to take chunks out of one another – here’s hoping the Warriors’ shallow roster is enough to see them through to the wins they desire and keep this conference tense right down to the wire!

1/7/17 Fixtures:
  • Cobham Cougars White v London Warriors
  • Cobham Cougars White v London Blitz
  • Cobham Cougars White v Kent Exiles Rebels
  • London Warriors v London Blitz
  • London Warriors v Kent Exiles Rebels
  • London Blitz v Kent Exiles Rebels

 

South East

Hosts, the Kent Exiles Outlaws will look to continue their season turnaround they began in Week Seven, today. Following a disappinting 1-2 record in their opening foray, they went perfect in their last tourney, including victories over two of their upcoming opponents.

Yes, the Outlaws will be very familiar with a couple of their rivals this Sunday, as they’ve already bested the South London Renegades on two occasions, and are 1-1 in their series against the Kent Phoenix so far this year. In a tournament where the conference frontrunners, the East Kent Mavericks, aren’t in attendance, the Outlaws will be looking at Sunday as a great opportunity to gain some ground and contest a playoff berth.

One opponent they’ll be less familiar with are the Essex Spartans, who come into Sunday’s games – the last of the year for the Renegades-  having only played a single tourney so far this season! At 2-1 on the year so far, they’re nominally in second place in the conference, but with a lot of balling ahead of them.

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Do do dooo, come on and do the Conga… Photography (c) Ivan Marsh, via facebook.com/KentPhoenixAFC

Should they perform similarly to their previous outing, expect the Spartans to be a tricky prospect for all of their more-weathered rivals – they displayed a staunch D in their opening fixtures, even holding the dynamic Mavericks’ offence to only 13 points – their lowest output of the season so far, and by a long way!

Frustratingly, the Spartan’s own offence showed little spark of their own, managing just a single score in their opening tourney, so it’ll be tough to predict how they’ll fare in this second spate of fixtures.

Expect the Exiles to be hungry to keep pace with their other outfit, currently undefeated in the London Conference, while the Spartans might surprise if they’ve found their mojo on offence. The Phoenix and Renegades have each proven they can poach wins from other teams – all and all this is probably the most evenly balanced conference in the country, with not a single team having gone winless so far this year!!

2/7/17 Fixtures:
  • Kent Exiles Outlaws v South London Renegades
  • Kent Exiles Outlaws v Kent Phoenix
  • Kent Exiles Outlaws v Essex Spartans
  • South London Renegades v Kent Phoenix
  • South London Renegades v Essex Spartans
  • Kent Phoenix v Essex Spartans
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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