The final day of the Under 17 regular season is upon us!
Four tournaments and the last chance for sides to book their tickets to some postseason balling…
Bizarrely, with so much at stake all across the Under 17s game, the final tournament of the Central conference comes upon us with no postseason ramifications whatsoever!
That said, there’s still a lot more at stake than simple pride as these four teams come together for one last time in what has been a hotly contested conference.
Hosts, the Sandwell Steelers will be desperate to pick up their first win of the season. They’ve come close, but no cigar, on a number of occasions and must feel having the home crowd at their backs is their best opportunity?
However, beyond breaking the seal of their W column, neither themselves, nor the Birmingham Bulls or Etone Jaguars are capable of stealing away a postseason spot.
This will be particularly tough to bear for the Bulls, who so impressed in 2016, but were decimated by graduations during the offseason. Even were the Bulls to win out, they’d be half a game shy of even a potential postseason berth from a #3 spot in the Central conference – held by a Black Country Vipers side who impressed in their first season.
Similarly, the Jaguars, despite a strong start to their time in the league, struggled down the stretch – though they’ll be eager to leapfrog the Bulls in the standings if they have a strong day, else avoid the wooden spoon should the Steelers come out swinging.
In fact, even though the Birmingham Lions have locked up the conference crown in the Central, it may well be that they have the most at stake in this tournament.
While the Lions, perfect on the year so far, cannot be dethroned and are headed to the Britbowl Championship tourney even were they to lose out this weekend, they’re currently seeded 4th and lined up to take on the feisty Cobham Cougars Blue in their opening fixture of the Bowl tourney.
Strong shut out victories could see the Lions climb the seedings, lining up a potentially softer opponent for their opening Championship fixture – while a loss would likely drop the Lions into the #7 seed and present them with a much more arduous road to hoisting some silverware…
- Sandwell Steelers v Birmingham Bulls
- Sandwell Steelers v Etone Jaguars
- Sandwell Steelers v Birmingham Lions
- Birmingham Bulls v Etone Jaguars
- Birmingham Bulls v Birmingham Lions
- Etone Jaguars v Birmingham Lions
To cut to the chase? In terms of postseason stakes, this tournament is all about the hosts, the Buckinghamshire Wolves.
8-1 on the year so far, the Wolves haven’t seen game-time action since all the way back at the start of June! But coming into their home tournament currently sat as the lone #2 ranked side headed to the Britbowl tournament, they can afford no slip-ups this Saturday!
Should they struggle to shake off the rust? A single loss from their three fixtures would likely see the impressive Solent Seahawks swoop in to steal their seeding!
Luckily for the Wolves perhaps, they’re familiar with each of their upcoming opponents, and familiar with how to defeat them – having taken clear victories over each of them thus far this season.
The Bedfordshire Blackhawks, Swindon Storm and Sussex Thunder have each struggled in the highly competitive South Conference, and the three teams combined would not match the number of wins picked up by the Wolves alone so far this year.
That said, there’s still a lot at stake as any of the three squads are still mathematically capable of ending up with the wooden spoon should this weekend’s fixtures go poorly!
While hosts Buckinghamshire are clearly favourites going into this tournament, it’s likely that the fixtures between the other three sides will be the more interesting – likely hardfought contests between three squads fighting for prestige and pride at this late point in the year!
- Buckinghamshire Wolves v Swindon Storm
- Buckinghamshire Wolves v Sussex Thunder
- Buckinghamshire Wolves v Bedfordshire Blackhawks
- Swindon Storm v Sussex Thunder
- Swindon Storm v Bedfordshire Blackhawks
- Sussex Thunder v Bedfordshire Blackhawks
Again, frustratingly little playoff-ramification drama from this tourney, as the East Kilbride Pirates and Highland Wildcats locked up the opportunities to defend their 2016 Britbowl and National Plate titles respectively, last time the undersized scots conference met.
All that said, all expectations are that the Pirates will want to maintain their perfect season, and maybe even sneak up a seeding or two ahead of their Britbowl outing – a strong defensive showing could easily see them climb a spot in the seedings, while even a single loss would send them plummeting.
Similarly the Wildcats will be eager to avoid a fourth loss on the season – locked into the National Plate tournament a strong series this Saturday could see them climb into the top couple of seedings for the Plate – and hey, the Highlanders will never say no to an opportunity to take a win against their rival Pirates.
Least we forget of course, the Hamilton Buccaneers and Edinburgh Wolves also have more to play for here than mere pride. The two squads might feel a bit hard done by having to play all four tourneys this season against the two sides who hoisted silverware in the Under 17s game in 2016, but with the Wolves having gotten the better of the Bucs when the two teams last met? There’s a lot at stake when they meet four a fourth time this year on Saturday.
Not only can the Wolves tie up the series 2-2 on the year if they best Hamilton, but win by enough and they can also lift themselves off the bottom of the conference for the first time this year, at their final opportunity!
- East Kilbride Pirates v Hamilton Buccaneers
- East Kilbride Pirates v Highland Wildcats
- East Kilbride Pirates v Edinburgh Wolves
- Hamilton Buccaneers v Highland Wildcats
- Hamilton Buccaneers v Edinburgh Wolves
- Highland Wildcats v Edinburgh Wolves
Ah ha! Now here’s a tournament with some real postseason perks at stake!
Hosts, the Essex Spartans, tumbled out of a postseason berth following their two-loss tournament only last weekend – a single score loss to the Kent Exiles Outlaws dropping the Spartans to an, at best, third place finish in the South East.
That third place, however could still yet be enough for the Spartans should they impress this weekend – a perfect 3-0 tournament would put the Spartans in position to swipe the #16 seed and head to the National Plate…
A single loss however? Well, then things will get messy and calculators come out.
Therefore, the fixture to watch on Saturday will be the Spartans going head to head with the East Kent Mavericks once more!
The Mavs are currently the #1 seed in the nation, not only perfect at 9-0, but with a hugely impressive Points Against Per Game of only 3.11 coming into this tournament?
They’ll be looking for nothing less than a perfect tournament, and ideally to keep their points conceded to a minimum once again – it’s worth noting that almost half their total points conceded however came against these said same Spartans – so with the home crowd at their backs, might the Spartans be able to turn around their loss from last weekend, scupper the Mavs perfect year AND book their slot in the postseason in one fell swoop?
Should be a great one to watch!
Of course, nor should the other two attendees be discounted – if the results from the South East Conference this year have shown anything? It’s that the old adage of ‘Any Given Sunday (Saturday?) still holds true in the Under 17s game – no side will emerge from this conference without a win on their season, and the Glads and Phoenix can still play upsetters.
Hopes are that the Colchester Gladiators will return to action after missing their second tournament of their campaign last week – forced to forfeit all three fixtures of their home tournament a highly unfortunate situation for the Gladiators, who have struggled for numbers this season. Similarly, the Phoenix bowed out of a tournament earlier this month, so in truth simply getting a full attendance for this weekend’s tournament will be something of a triumph for the sport, even if it’s only the Spartans and Mavs playing for the big stakes…
- Essex Spartans v East Kent Mavericks
- Essex Spartans v Kent Phoenix
- Essex Spartans v Colchester Gladiators
- East Kent Mavericks v Kent Phoenix
- East Kent Mavericks v Colchester Gladiators
- Kent Phoenix v Colchester Gladiators