U17 | Week Seven Preview

A whopping FIVE tourneys taking place in the Under 17’s action this weekend, with some crucial fixtures if some of the currently-mid-table teams are wanting to gain ground on top contenders!!

Scotland

Every single tourney in the undersized Scottish conference effectively counts double – there’s no tourneys off for our most northern sides as all four teams come together to face one another four times this season, with each win also potentially knocking your closest rival further from a postseason berth.

North of the wall has great pedigree in the Under 17 game – Scots side hoisted all the silverware in 2016, with the East Kilbride Pirates lifting their first Britbowl, while the Highland Wildcats took home a confident Plate win. As such, all expectations are that these two teams will be the outfits to beat in this conference – and certainly things have played out this way so far.

Image courtesy of East Kilbride Pirates
Image courtesy of East Kilbride Pirates

Though their first tourney the two sides took clear wins away from the Wolves and Buccaneers – the Pirates shutting out their opponents, and notching up their first #50Burger of the year. In the crucial head to head clash, again advantage went to East Kilbride, their highly-productive offence taking them clear over the Wildcats in a 40-18 win over their rivals. Obviously the second meeting between these two will be a headline fixture on Saturday and the Pirates seek to continue their preeminence – but could the home crowd bolster the Highland side enough to take the win and tie up the conference?

Of course, nor should we discount the other two teams this weekend! The advantage of facing the same sides each tourney is that, while first time around the Edinburgh Wolves and Hamilton Buccaneers may have seemed well off the pace, between each tourney they have time to get to know their opponents all the better and prepare and strategise to best deal with their strengths and exploit their weaknesses. Look for much more competitive match ups from these two sides, and circle the clash between them as another headliner – they ran each other right down to the wire in their last meeting, the Hamilton Buccaneers eventually emerging with a narrow two point margin of victory in a nailbiter!

17/06/17 Fixtures

  • Highland Wildcats v East Kilbride Pirates
  • Highland Wildcats v Hamilton Buccaneers
  • Highland Wildcats v Edinburgh Wolves
  • East Kilbride Pirates v Hamilton Buccaneers
  • East Kilbride Pirates v Edinburgh Wolves
  • Hamilton Buccaneers v Edinburgh Wolves

North

This one might well be the tournament of the weekend as we see three teams who, judging be performances so far this season, are as close to evenly matched as we’re like to see this summer!

The Manchester Titans (South) may be undefeated so far in 2017, but it’s been a close-run thing, with a 25-25 tie against the Burnley Tornados way back in April, and single point victory over the Chorley Buccaneers in May thanks to a clutch safety from Ryan Weaver!

As such, with not much to separate these sides at the top of the table, expect the the clashes between these three programmes to be heated affairs – potentially coming right down to the wire once again. Certainly, should one team emerge dominant on Saturday? They’ll hold a distinct advantage in the North Conference moving into the latter part of the season!

Image result for manchester titans youth
Image via ManchesterTitans.co.uk

It’s been more than a month since these sides saw action, so we should expect rosters to be healthy. Even the Chester Romans, who came off worse for wear in the North tournament in May with heavy losses to the Titans and Chorley, will have had time to repair and rethink how they intend to slow down some of the high-power offences they’re about to face.

Advantage is to the Titans at this point in the year, but this could be all changed before the weekend is out!

17/06/17 Fixtures
  • Manchester Titans South v Chorley Buccaneers
  • Manchester Titans South v Chester Romans
  • Manchester Titans South v Burnley Tornados
  • Chorley Buccaneers v Chester Romans
  • Chorley Buccaneers v Burnley Tornados
  • Chester Romans v Burnley Tornados

North East

Representing a perfect opportunity for the contenders in this conference to gain ground on the front-running Leeds Academy Assassins, this weekend’s North East tournament will give those sides that have struggled to this point of the season a chance to show their potential and blow the dust out of some of the less-used pages of their playbooks.

With the Assassins absent, the mantle of top-dog surely passes to the North East Academy. Newcomers to the league, they displayed dominant form in their opening tournament way back in April, with two big wins followed by a tense 27-27 tie against the pre-season favourites, Leeds.

It’ll be interesting therefore to see if they’ve maintained momentum despite the two month break between competitions, as should they emerge perfect from this weekend’s games? They’ll be right back up there at the top of the tape with the Assassins, tied at 5-0-1 and really heightening the suspense ahead of the second and final meeting between the two teams at the start of July.

Certainly, the NEA will feel confident of their chances against the Lincolnshire Bombers and Sheffield Giants. They inflicted heavy losses on both sides back in Week One, though it’s worth noting both sides have shown consistent improvement in their subsequent outings. They’ll also be wary of Doncaster Academy, who were a tougher proposition in the opening tournament and have racked up three nice wins in the intervening fixtures – only otherwise losing out to the Assassins so far this season.

Image result for lincolnshire bombers youth

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For the Lincolnshire Bombers, they’ll come into this tournament with the objective of causing an upset or two at the very least. They fell narrowly to Doncaster with a single score loss last time the two met, so overturning that fixture will be a key objective of their day, as well in putting in a second strong win of the year over a Sheffield Giants side that have struggled so far this season.

The Giants have shown steady improvement, and they’re yet to be shut out in a single fixture yet this year, but with rumours abounding of a split with their parent programme, the focus may well be on keeping a healthy roster and proving they can keep themselves right in fixtures by stepping up on defence and slowing down opposing offences. If they can halve the number of scores they’re conceding, the Giants could be looking far more competitive before the season’s out!

17/06/17 Fixtures
  • Doncaster Academy v Lincolnshire Bombers
  • Doncaster Academy v Sheffield Giants
  • Doncaster Academy v North East Academy
  • Lincolnshire Bombers v Sheffield Giants
  • Lincolnshire Bombers v North East Academy
  • Sheffield Giants v North East Academy

London

Hosts, the Kent Exile Rebels, will look to keep their perfect streak alive at their home tourney, and keep their slim lead at the top of the conference. The lack of the 5-1 London Blitz in the line-up this weekend will have buoyed their confidence, but they’ll also be very aware they only managed a single point win over rivals, the London Warriors, back in Week Four, and that the Hertfordshire Cheetahs were displaying some impressive firepower early in the season!

Indeed, the 3-3 Warriors have appeared something of a conundrum so far this year – they’ve been competitive in every fixture, holding the high-flying Blitz and Exiles to narrow wins, but finished their last tournament with a surprise loss to the Wembley Stallions. With a small roster coming into the year, might the grind and attrition of the season be taking its toll and leaving the London side shorthanded? With around a month since their last outing, hopes are the Warriors field a healthy roster on Saturday, and as such none of their opponents should consider themselves safe – the Warriors won’t be happy with anything less than three wins, and they’ve proven when they play to their potential they’re more than capable of it.

Image may contain: one or more people, people playing sport and outdoor
Image via facebook.com/kentexilesafc

Similarly, the Hertfordshire Cheetahs will be looking for a return to form this weekend. They opened the season in style with a 3-0 start in their home tournament, including a shoot out win over the London Blitz. However, they were far less successful in their second outing, managing only a single victory and being entirely shut down by the staunch Warriors defence in their second loss of the day. Will we see the free-scoring firepower of Week One from the Cheetahs? Or the much more modest offering they displayed midseason?

Finally, the newbloods of the Cobham Cougars White come into the tournament off their first success of the season – a tie against the Wembley Stallions to give them their first PCT points of their young career.

An expansion side of rookie ballers, the Cougars gave their best performances to date in their last outing, and shouldn’t consider any fixture from this weekend’s match ups unwinnable if they can once again find a way to put up the four offensive scores they managed against the Stallions, while closing down some of the inconsistent offences they’ll face on Saturday.

17/06/17 Fixtures
  • Kent Exiles Rebels v London Warriors
  • Kent Exiles Rebels v Hertfordshire Cheetahs
  • Kent Exiles Rebels v Cobham Cougars White
  • London Warriors v Hertfordshire Cheetahs
  • London Warriors v Cobham Cougars White
  • Hertfordshire Cheetahs v Cobham Cougars White

South East

And finally, perhaps the most intriguing tournament of the day comes from the South East Conference, where we see four sides who are yet to earn themselves a winning record on the season so far, go head to head.

So far the only side winless in the South East, the first question that needs to be asked is whether the Colchester Gladiators will be able to successfully muster a roster for this weekends games? Despite being highly competitive in 2016, the Glads were sadly forced to face three forfeits when unable to attend their season-opening tournament a fortnight ago. Should they be able to field a squad this weekend however, this might well be the perfect fixture list to get their season right back on track!

So far none of the other contenders in Saturday’s competition have proven themselves convincing yet this season – the South London Renegades, Kent Phoenix and Kent Exiles Outlaws all traded wins off one another back in their Week Two meetings – Renegades over Phoenix, Phoenix over Outlaws and Outlaws over Renegades!

Of this weekend’s teams only the hosts, the Renegades, have seen any action since that opening tourney – and though they came away from the Week Five melee with a walkover win, they’ll otherwise be disappointed with their performance – two shut out losses to the Mavericks and Spartans – though they did impress by holding the Spartans to only a single score.

Still, with the top two teams in the conference not in the mix on Saturday, this competition represents a great opportunity for one of these four contenders to gain ground of the top two teams and put themselves right back in the mix of things in the highly competitive South East Conference!

17/06/17 Fixtures
  • South London Renegades v Kent Exiles Outlaws
  • South London Renegades v Colchester Gladiators
  • South London Renegades v Kent Phoenix
  • Kent Exiles Outlaws v Colchester Gladiators
  • Kent Exiles Outlaws v Kent Phoenix
  • Colchester Gladiators v Kent Phoenix
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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