Thursday, 10 January 2013

Mid Season Review: SEC

The Hurricanes have had somewhat of a dream start to the season. They aren’t going to end up with the top scoring offence (I would imagine that accolade will belong to Stirling), and are looking a little leakier than usual on the defensive side. One big pro for the Canes is that they have played 5 games before Christmas. Given the previous year’s weather problems, this could be a massive benefit for the team in fulfilling all their fixtures and also keeping them fresh into their undoubted playoff run.

Believe it or not the second half of the season could be described as the hard part. With Greenwich likely to be a walkover, the other two games are against the other two undefeated teams in the division UEA and Kent. With UEA most likely giving them the toughest test in week 9. The Canes are looking on course to enter the playoffs as one of the top two seeds in the south, and making a deep playoff run, hopefully culminating (for them at least) in a repeat.

Like last year Kent have had a great pre-Christmas run.  They opened by spanking Greenwich, however this became somewhat of a normality in the SEC this year with Greenwich appearing to be significantly weaker than previous years. A close game against Canterbury perhaps thrust Canterbury into the top of the division talk, then a trouncing of Essex and Westminster showed that Kent were in it to win it.

Post-Christmas Kent face their spoilers of the year last year the Pythons of Cambridge, in a game which will have significant post season implications. The rest of their season gets no easier with UEA and Herts to come afterwards. Look towards the Kent/UEA game to be a cracker.

I have said it before and I will say it again that I think the Pirates are the class of the division outside of the Canes. They have a lethal running game, and a strong defence, and to be honest that can win it for you in this league. They breezed past LSBU and Westminster, with some closer games against Imperial and Canterbury.

The post-Christmas run for the Pirates is again a tough one, with Essex being somewhat of a lesser team they shouldn’t have too much trouble, however playing the Pythons the week after the Canes could yield a surprise, as well as playing the Falcons the week afterwards.

Sitting at 2-1 after the Christmas break is not a bad position for a second year team, also factor in that the loss was against the current national champs (even if it was a drubbing!) you couldn’t be mad at the Pythons for being somewhat happy. One thing to remember is that the three above teams have played 5, 4 and 4 games respectively, with the Pythons only having played 3. 

A close victory against LSBU, and a more convincing one against Essex show that they are not an offensive powerhouse but can grind it out when needs be, even scoring a passing touchdown on the Canes which is a feat in itself.

Post-christmas the Pythons have a tough 5 week back to back schedule. While no teams are to be scoffed at (some pompery in there!), 3 games which the Pythons will undoubtedly be focused on are Kent, UEA and Canterbury. Win 2/3 of those and the Pythons could be playoff bound.

Imperial were moved from the TVC to the SEC which to us at DC provided a great experiment to compare the divisions, given the lack of cross conference matchups under BUCS. Imperial were a mid-table team in the TVC and now stand at 2-2. Losses came from UEA and Herts with wins against KCL and ARU. It will be interesting to see how imperial perform against some of the mid-table teams.

Imperial have the postponed Canterbury game to still be scheduled, and games against three of the bottom teams, Greenwich, LSBU and Westminster. With some favourable results from different teams, Imperial could end up in the Plate.

From being the first university to have two teams, to being the only team of the university ARU and the Rhinos, the Rhinos are now the only rookie outfit in the SEC, and managed to secure their first win. The Rhinos do boast some great coaches, and some good numbers, however I think that inexperience will not be on their side this year.

They, like the Pythons, have a 5 game streak on the other side of the break, and will need to stay healthy all the way through for the hope of another win in their inaugural season. They will set their sights on winning the first local derby of the season against the Pythons!

The Mariners started out the year with a shoot out of a game against the Dragons, 39-32. However, since then results haven’t gone their way, losing against Kent and ARU. Greenwich seem to have slipped a little from last year, and losing to a rookie programme can always send a jolt through the system (no offence to ARU who no doubt earned the win!).

Another team with a 5 game run after the break, they won’t be looking forward to playing Hertfordshire, however should look to bounce back and try and eek out a couple more wins.

King’s college have had a couple of close encounters, the 18-19 loss to Canterbury, the 10-6 loss to Imperial. They also won big against ARU, and lost big against Herts. Unfortunately for KCL it’ll be tough to bounce back from 2 losses for playoff contention.

The four games post-Christmas are somewhat easier than the three leading up to it. It must be noted that KCL don’t play UEA, which could help them down the stretch, however they do face Kent, who could pose a threat. The three games against Essex, Westminster nad LSBU cannot be taken for granted either as it’s easy for teams to improve over the break and cause an upset.

Canterbury are a strange team this year, they brought Kent so close in the one point game which they eventually lost, however they lost to Essex who seem to have slipped somewhat this year. This could be due to a couple of things, an injury to a key player in any of the games which gave favour to the other team or are Kent as good as everyone thinks they are?

The post-Christmas games for the Chargers are interesting given their significance, the game vs Imperial could show us what Imperial are made of, and the game vs the Pythons will have significance when it comes to playoff standings. One thing to note is that they do not play Hertfordshire which potentially could really screw the pooch in this division for teams that have played Hertfordshire.

Essex are perhaps the biggest surprise in this division, falling from perennial second place contenders, to bottom of the pile in one season. Their only win comes off an offensive shootout with Canterbury, with the W coming by the narrowest of margins. I don’t think 1-3 are where they expected to be this year, however I believe they do have a new coaching staff, even if they run the same offensive system.

Barring some special imports things won’t get any easier for the Blade after Christmas, with UEA the first game back, they need to find a way of stopping their run game if they have any chance of keeping it close or even winning. They see the year out against the Rhinos and Mariners who should at least provide the blades the opportunity to win a couple more games. They also still have to rearrange the weather delayed KCL match.

The Dragons are lounging at 0-3, however it is noteworthy that they have managed to score 56 points over those three games,  more than Essex over 4 and Cambridge over 3! The results coming out of Westminster are somewhat odd, given that they held UEA to 26, and held Kent to 34, but couldn’t hold Greenwich to below those scores, perhaps injuries have had a role to play over the course.

With the LSBU game needing to be rearranged the Dragons have got a tough run of 5 games post-Christmas. KCL, LSBU, Imperial, ARU and capping it off with Cambridge. I think a realistic target for this team is 2-6, however I’m sure the players will have been training hard over the break to prepare for the upcoming games.

LSBU haven’t started off great, let’s be honest, then again they have faced 2/3 unbeaten teams in the conference in UEA and Herts, so perhaps 0-3 isn’t indicative of where they belong. Massive coaching changes have given the Spartans a very London Hornet feel, with lots of their players also involved with the BAFANL team. By score alone the Cambridge game was decided by a 4th quarter safety, however there were 225 yards of penalties on LSBU in that game.

After the break the Spartans square off against, Greenwich ,Westminster, ARU, KCL and Imperial. I think the Spartans will find their first win of the season against one of the above teams however if they want to carry on winning and make the most of their talented roster the coaches need to reign in discipline.

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