Friday, 30 November 2012

Game Of The Week - Hull Sharks vs. Leeds Carnegie

We’re barely out of the starting gates in the North East division (partly due to the rain), but it’s already looking like this is the sort of game that could decide who tops the table at season’s end.

The University of Hull Sharks have exploded out of the blocks like shoppers storming a Walmart on Black Friday, shutting out Newcastle at their own ground before rattling through the Bradford defense and nudging past the Leeds Celtics. They’re looking every inch a playoff team, with captain and quarterback Seb Gogerly leading an offense that features running back options and weapons out on the sidelines such as Calvin Pritchard and first year player Michael Adebayo Sonariwo.

Carnegie started their season later than most, but have emerged as real challengers. They blanked Sunderland before taking down Northumbria 26-16, but will face a legitimate playoff foe this weekend.
Last season’s tie in the old Northern conference wasn’t exactly earth-shaking in the scoring department. Hull emerged with a 7-2 victory, in which the scores came from a punt return for a touchdown and a quarterback hurling the ball out of the back of the endzone.

Both teams stack up well on defense. Carnegie don’t give up many touchdowns, and have decent coverage skills. But you’re not going to see Hull blundering around the pitch flapping at shadows either.
The Carnegie offense appears to be stepping up this season, led by passing and running threat Dale Bottomley. This could be a real battle. Which one of these teams will be top by Sunday night? It may depend on whether Gogerly can win a deathmatch with Carnegie’s hungry D…

Prediction: Hull 19 Carnegie 13

Five keys to the game

Home field advantage: Both teams have confirmed this game is going ahead, despite the fact that the UK has recently turned into a grim undersea world fit only for mermaids and singing cartoon crabs. However, the tie has been switched from Hull to Leeds, giving Carnegie an excellent opportunity to gain an advantage over their playoff rivals. This one could be real close, so could that swing be enough to get them the win?

Gogerly vs The Miserly D: Seb Gogerly has had a pretty good start to the season. He has three passing touchdowns and one rushing score against Bradford, and has been a real nightmare for defenses so far. Of course, he’s also got a broken thumb to contend with, which could be an issue if enough Carnegie players land on him. Arguably, Hull haven’t faced a D of Carnegie’s quality so far this year, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can find their targets quite so frequently. Remember, Carnegie don’t give up many touchdowns, and have some commanding players including linebacker Paul Richardson and safety Chaki Smith. It will be interesting to see how rookie WR Michael Adebayo Sonariwo gets on after scoring twice on his first start.

The run game: There weren’t exactly a buttload of points in the meeting between these two sides last year. And if Carnegie does start putting the frighteners on the Sharks’ passing game this weekend, it may come down to who can get the chains moving on the ground. Hull’s Eric Gui hasn’t clocked up a touchdown this season yet, but he’s pacey and has caught the eye, while Carnegie’s rookie running back Zach Farr has Wales U21 rugby pedigree. Hull has size on their side on defense, while Carnegie has a great reputation for stinginess and an experienced offensive line to open up crucial running routes.

Penalties: You know that feeling when your team pulls off an excellent play or a solid stop, but it all goes wrong because someone drew a flag? Yeah, Carnegie players do. Head coach Paul Wake made a point of demanding that his team “get a handle on penalties” last week, after Carnegie gave up more yards to penalties than they did to Mustangs plays. If they can stay disciplined, they’ve got a shot to take control of top slot. If they can’t, they’ll have to beat two teams on Sunday: Hull and themselves. And that’s a major, major ask for any squad.

Who starts fastest?: This sounds like a punditry platitude worthy of the Match of the Day sofa, but the fact is that both teams have occasionally taken a little while to warm up this season. Carnegie didn’t open up a safe gap against Sunderland until late on (partly due to penalties again), and they were behind for a short time in the second half against Northumbria before finishing strong. Hull have admitted themselves that they can take time to get into the game, but they’ve put up some decent numbers by the final whistle and have been improving as a passing offense this year. If Carnegie can fluster the Sharks by making a quick start, their no-huddle offense may be able to add to the confusion.

Either way, this ain’t the sort of game where you can get away with just turning up for the second-half…

1 comment:

  1. Great article but the two interviews were not what I was expecting from a hyped up Game of the Week. Very conservative interviews and I don't know if that was down to the questions but the voters on the poll should have something juicy to munch on.


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