Three tournaments this weekend, and even though we’re into the fourth week of the season we see at least one team kick off their season in each of the four tourneys – Central hosts, the Birmingham Lions kick off their year in an already hotly contested conference and are joined in cutting the ribbon of their season with the Tamworth Phoenix, while the Kent Exiles Rebels travel to a London Warriors side that impressed in their opening tournament last week, despite one of the smaller rosters in their conference coming into the season. Finally, the Sussex Thunder will get their campaign underway in the South Conference – thrilled to no longer be aligned in the ‘South West’ and making the gruelling trip across to Cornwall.
With one of the largest rosters in the Under 17 game, the Birmingham Lions will be thrilled to finally get their season underway, with the goal of gaining ground on their rivals in the conference. One of the most contentious conferences in 2016, both the Lions and Tamworth Phoenix will look to get their campaigns off to strong starts after both sides posted winning records last year, but traded wins off one another that allow the Bulls to ultimately finish out the season on top.
Indeed, following the trend set last season, it was a mixed opening tourney in the Central in Week Two, with the big winners on the day emerging as the Black Country Vipers, taking three wins from the day with their small but well-developed roster – including a win over early favourites for the conference title, the Birmingham Bulls, who topped out the Central Conference last season.
Indeed, you’ve got the think the Vipers, despite it being only their first season in the league, have now positioned themselves as the team to beat. And so while rivals the Lions and Phoenix will have had the opening meeting between them circled on their calendars since Week One, both squads will also have been prepping especially hard to face this new threat in the region.
Finally, fellow rookies to the Under 17 game, the Etone Jaguars, enter this tournament have acquitted themselves well in their first outings in Week Two. Sure, they’ve got some ground to make up this week as they were unable to keep pace with the Bulls or Vipers in the second halves of their fixtures, but an opening day win against the Steelers will have giving the Jaguars a taste for Ws that they’ll hope experience again this weekend. A win for the Jags over any of the early-season top contenders they’ll face on Saturday would be an impressive feat and continue to shake things up in this conference.
With the Vipers impressing early, and two veteran programmes expected to be top contenders entering the fray, Saturday’s tournament should be a cracker!
- Birmingham Lions v Etone Jaguars
- Birmingham Lions v Tamworth Phoenix
- Birmingham Lions v Black Country Vipers
- Etone Jaguars v Tamworth Phoenix
- Etone Jaguars v Black Country Vipers
- Tamworth Phoenix v Black Country Vipers
With the London conference entering its third tournament this weekend, the Kent Exiles Rebels open their season having had plenty of opportunity to scope out their upcoming opponents.
A product of the Kent Exiles programme’s great success in the developmental game, the Rebels are one half of the Exiles’ Under 17 contenders this season, alongside the ‘Outlaws’ over in the South East Conference. With big shoes to fill following the Exiles 2016 iteration topping out their conference with a 10-2 record last year, the Rebels will need to come out of the gates swinging in this opening tournament for their season, because their opposition are looking in great shape, and the conference in general is looking like one of the toughest.
Hosts, the London Warriors, emerged from their opening tournament last weekend with an impressive 2-1 record, considering there were concerns ahead of the season they would not have the numbers to potentially even compete this year. In fact, rather than pleasure at taking two wins from the day, the young Warriors will likely have been frustrated not to have made it a perfect three, as a strong second half against cross-city rivals, the London Blitz, saw the Warriors come within a few points of inflicting Blitz’s only loss of their home tournament. As is, they took comfortable wins from their other two fixtures and will have expectations no lower than perfection while playing on their home turf this Saturday.
Meanwhile, two teams looking to gain some ground in the Capital race are the Cobham Cougars White and the Wembley Stallions. Similarly to the Rebels, the Cougars represent an expansion team following the Cobham programme’s success in 2016, with the ‘Whites’ being made up largely of rookie ballers, their brothers in arms the ‘Blues’ over in the South boasting the bulk of their veteran players. As such, it’s perhaps not so surprising the Cougars came out of their opening tourney without a win, but with a couple more weeks of balling under their belts already will have their eyes set on a first competitive victory.
Meanwhile, the Stallions are two tournaments in and will be similarly smarting to get a couple more wins under their belts to stay competitive. Their only win of the season so far was a shut out victory over the Cougars, so they’ll have expectations to at least repeat that feat, but also goals to gain ground on the other strong programmes in their grouping.
Expectations are the Warriors will want nothing less than three strong wins, but none of their three opponents are likely to hand a W over without a good fight!
- London Warriors v Kent Exiles Rebels
- London Warriors v Cobham Cougars White
- London Warriors v Wembley Stallions
- Kent Exiles Rebels v Cobham Cougars White
- Kent Exiles Rebels v Wembley Stallions
- Cobham Cougars White v Wembley Stallions
The largest conference in the Under 17 game kicks off its third tournament of the summer, and hosts, the Berkshire Renegades will be looking to much-improve on their disappointing 0-3 record following a rough opening tournament back in Week One. They’ll be hoping their bye weeks have given them a chance to develop their offence. The Renegades notched up just 6 points across three games in that opening weekend, and in front of their home crowd they’ll be squaring off against a couple of the early favourites for the conference. Still, they’ll hopefully be coming into the tourney healthy and looking to cause some upsets.
The Cobham Cougars ‘Blue’ represent the true heirs to the Cougars impressive 10-2 campaign in 2016. Boasting the expanded programme’s more experienced players, the Cougars dominated their opening tournament, hosted by the Farnham Knights, back in Week Two. They notched up three big wins to emerge as early-season favourites for the conference crown – particularly when they put up a 38-12 win over the Buckinghamshire Wolves. The Blues will be gunning for another three victories today, no doubt.
Of course, one side that may have something to say about that are the Solent Seahawks! Newly split from their Thrasher forebears, the Seahawks Academy has found its sea legs early, and reported the largest roster in the league coming into the season at 34 players. With a core of playmakers who went undefeated as the Thrashers in 2016, they had a strong first tournament and will be gutted not to have come away perfect after three strong performances saw them take good wins away from the Renegades and Blackhawks, but fall just a single point short against the Wolves. Circle their clash against the Cougars as possibly the headliner of Saturday’s tournament.
Finally, the Sussex Thunder are something of an unknown factor at this point of the year, playing their first fixtures this weekend. The Thunder only found two victories in 2016 so will certainly want to improve on that record – which will certainly be necessary to keep pace in a conference of eight teams – literally twice the size of other groupings in the Under 17 game! They’ll be bouyed by the decreased travel times at least – the cause of three of their losses in 2016 was simply the unmanageable trek down to Cornwall for their opening tournament that cost Sussex three forfeits, so expect the Thunder to be much more in the mix of things this season!
- Berkshire Renegades v Cobham Cougars Blue
- Berkshire Renegades v Sussex Thunder
- Berkshire Renegades v Solent Seahawks
- Cobham Cougars Blue v Sussex Thunder
- Cobham Cougars Blue v Solent Seahawks
- Sussex Thunder v Solent Seahawks