In our ever-expanding goal to grow the game and promote the sport we love, we began our coverage the Under 17 game last week looking at the four tourneys taking place across the ‘Nation! This week we’ll be doing more of the same, and hopefully able to squeeze a few more details in there thanks to those programmes that have responded to our preseason questionnaires thus far!
As we’re new to covering this too-often neglected aspect of the British game, wWe’ve reached out to all the Under 17 and Under 19 programmes so that we can get to know you all a bit better and make sure we’re highlighting the great work you’re all doing, developing young athletes and creating the British ballers that are the future of the game!
Once more we have four Tourneys taking place this weekend, with the North, North East, London and the South East each kicking off their second tournament of the year – which for three of our four hosts will also be their very first fixtures of the season!
Hosts, Chorley Buccaneers, open their seasons at home and will be feeling optimistic about the season ahead of them following a fairly inconclusive opening tournament for the North Conference. Hosted by the Chester Romans, who went undefeated in 2016, the opening fixtures of the year saw teams trading wins, single score victories, and even a rare tied game!
Coming into the year, likely favourites to retain their conference crown will have been the Chester Romans, who made it all the way to Round Two of the National Finals before losing their first fixture last year. However, the Romans will have been disappointed with their opening home tourney, as while they opened with a big win, two shut out losses in their later games against the Titans (South) and the Tornadoes mean Chester come into Tournament two with some ground to make up.
Two sides with expectations upon them considering their parent programme’s ‘Programme of the Year, 2016’ status, are the North and South teams from the ever growing Manchester Titans programme. Both teams competed well in their opening tournament, but in a game of inches? While the Southern Titans come into their second tournament top of the conference, the Northern Titans sit winless. The Southerners opened their account with two victories, including shut out win over Chester, before tying their game against the Burnley Tornadoes, 35-35. Meanwhile, the Titans North will feel somewhat robbed and be out for vengeance this week, having lost two of their opening games by less than a score, including falling by a single point to their sister-team, in a 19-20 loss against the Titans South.
As such Chorley will need to get up to speed fast on Saturday, as all their opponents have already been blooded and are eager to improve their conference standing. Following a disappointing three win campaign in 2016, will the Buccaneers be able to pillage some wins in their home fixtures?
- Chorley Buccaneers v Manchester Titans North
- Chorley Buccaneers v Manchester Titans South
- Chorley Buccaneers v Chester Romans
- Manchester Titans North v Manchester Titans South
- Manchester Titans North v Chester Romans
- Manchester Titans South v Chester Romans
Similarly to the Buccaneers, the Lincolnshire Bombers open their 2017 campaign at home on Saturday and will come into the year with high expectations of themselves following an impressive 10-2 record in a hard-fought 2016 North East Conference.
Much the same as in the North West, one tournament in to the year and there’s no clear front runner in the conference – while the Sheffield Giants may have opened the year with three losses, they were within a score of the Doncaster Academy, falling in a narrow 14-22 as they hosted the opening tourney.
Both Doncaster and the Giants however were well off the pace set by the other two competitors in the conference’s opening tourney.
Newcomers to the league, the North East Academy got their time in the league off to a great start with a comprehensive 68-12 win over the Giants – a scoreline rivalled however by the Leeds Academy Assassins’ eerily similar 61-12 victory. In fact, with both sides taking away similarly strong wins against Doncaster, perhaps it was only fitting that when the North East and Assassins went head to head? The game ended in a 27-27 stalemate!
This scoreline sets up a great rematch
Saturday later in the year, and both teams propensity for putting up big points means the Bombers, who averaged over 35 points per game last season, will need to display the same calibre of firepower on offence if they want to open their season with success on their home soil.
- Lincolnshire Bombers v Doncaster Academy
- Lincolnshire Bombers v Sheffield Giants
- Lincolnshire Bombers v Leeds Academy Assassins
- Doncaster Academy v Sheffield Giants
- Doncaster Academy v Leeds Academy Assassins
- Sheffield Giants v Leeds Academy Assassins
To the capital, and hosts the London Blitz will be out for revenge after their perfect start to the season was scuppered by an on-form Hertfordshire Cheetahs side that hosted the first tournament.
Re-aligned the the London Conference for 2017, perhaps the Cheetahs were able to take advantage of their impressive roster depth and opponents’ lack of familiarity with them as they shot out to an early lead in the conference – three straight wins in their opening home tourney courtesy of an efficient offence that averaged nearly 40 points per game. These three wins mean the Hertfordshire side have already nearly equalled their win total from 2016 (4-8 in the now defunct Outer London South East Conference), but will be eager to keep this streak alive after taking confident wins away from the Stallions and Cougars in Week One.
However, they’ll need to be wary of a London Warriors side who open their season on Saturday. Traditionally a strong contender in every format of the British game, the Warriors came into the year with the smallest roster in the conference – reporting less than a dozen active ballers coming into the season – but considering the pedigree of their programme? It’d be foolish to underestimate them.
Clearly off the pace in the Conference so far, the Cobham Cougars (White) squad have a lot to live up to considering the Cougars’ final appearance last year. However, made up almost entirely of rookie ballers while their veterans form the core of the Cougars’ Blues, the Whites struggled in their opener – shut out by both the London Blitz and Wembley Stallions. Eager to catch up in the conference, the Cougars are not without firepower, as shown on the 20 points scored against Herts in Week One, but similarly to the Stallions, they’ll need to show more consistency moving forwards to compete in this conference – which looks to be one of the toughest in the age bracket!
- London Blitz v London Warriors
- London Blitz v Hertfordshire Cheetahs
- London Blitz v Wembley Stallions
- London Warriors v Hertfordshire Cheetahs
- London Warriors v Wembley Stallions
- Hertfordshire Cheetahs v Wembley Stallions
Finally, on Sunday we see the South East’s second tourney of the year – hot on the heels of their opening day of fixtures, last Sunday.
Early favourites in the Conference are the East Kent Mavericks who, following re-alignment out of the London Conference, impressed in their opening tourney with three big wins – racking up points on offence, while only conceding a single score across all three games!
Still, they’ll need to be wary of the hosts of this week’s tournament, as the Essex Spartans’ Under 17s went undefeated in 2016 – making it all the way to Round Two of the National Championship Finals before suffering their first loss on the year. With homefield advantage as well to open their campaign? Expectations are that Essex should be able to have a strong start to their season if they’re able to hit the ground running in these opening fixtures.
Hoping to carry over some momentum from last weekend, the Kent Phoenix had a mixed opening tournament as they were shut out twice, including a narrow 6-0 loss to the South London Renegades, but then upset expectations by poaching a 12-6 win from the Kent Exiles Outlaws. With first-tourney nerves now dealt with, the Phoenix will be hoping to take advantage of the fact that both their hosts, along with the Colchester Gladiators, are only kicking off their season on Saturday.
Yes, the Gladiators were a bit of a conundrum in 2016, which makes it very hard to predict what we’ll see from them this campaign. While they will have been disappointed with a 3-9 record, the majority of their games were within a score of going either way – suffering a whopping SEVEN losses by a score or less! So a smidge more offensive output and we could have seen a 10-2 Gladiators going to playoffs, which means they certainly shouldn’t be ruled out of being highly competitive this season!
- 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