Friday, 4 January 2013

Mid-season reviews: Saltire

Cut adrift from the rest of league, the 5 team Saltire division has been more one sided than an Offensive Lineman at a pie eating competition. With one team ahead of the rest we could be witnessing a splintering of standards that could be detrimental to the university game north of the border. 

Only 4 players from 2 teams in Scotland attended the latest GB trials and with a small playing pool the Saltire really needs to add teams to make this a truly competitive division. It seems unlikely that lost programmes at Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian could be revived so perhaps the answer lies further North with expansion to Inverness (University of Highlands & Islands), Aberdeen or even Dundee or St Andrews.

The Stirling Clansmen have proven to be the head of the class this year, thumping their opponents in 4 straight wins and racking up 295 offensive points. The job here for Coach Rob Orr is to keep the ship sailing straight into the playoffs without losing focus and preparing to meet a tougher opponent from south of the Border that will give the Clansmen a harder game than anything they have faced so far. 

An impressive passing game has emerged with senior Quarterback Dutch Stevenson to compliment FBU Europe back Grant Isdale. Are the Clan National Championship contenders? Could be, but it’s very difficult to tell. The clue perhaps lies in the fact that Stirling only sent 1 player to the recent GB trials a suggestion that perhaps they are focusing on a title first? They also seem to have generated a ‘Them against Us’ mind set which is always helpful when motivating the troops.  Expect a run at the semi’s at the very least and possibly further.

Whilst Stirling pull away, their old adversaries the Glasgow Tigers have headed the ‘best of the rest’ column. A 3-1 record saw wins against the rest of the Saltire teams but their ground and pound offense won’t challenge any scoreboard operators to keep up. Second place is probably where they will end up and a short run in the Plate playoffs to follow.

The Edinburgh Predators vertical offense has only disposed of West of Scotland so far but they will be looking to their 2 varsity games and an away rematch against Glasgow to try to challenge for that second spot.  They will be disappointed not to have played the Knights pre-Christmas but will relish the challenge of holding onto the Varsity trophy in Scotland’s biggest game of the year. Scheduled for Meggatland stadium on Superbowl Sunday, 3rd February, this event attracted nearly a thousand spectators last year.

The West of Scotland Pyros got their season of to a great start against the under-whelming Napier Knights but has failed to build on that. A good squad of tough competitors they perhaps just lack one or two more explosive types to compliment player coach Bud McFerrin.  A second Knights game to end the season shouldn’t be the Pyro’s focus; it’s how they fare against Glasgow and the Predators that will be their measuring stick. The Pyro’s have also yet to face Stirling

In a surprising last place has been the Edinburgh Napier Knights. The Defense is still the 2nd best in Scotland so it would seem all their problems come from the offensive side of the ball. Problems with turnovers and a new East Kilbride style running game has failed to get the best out of GB selection Jamie Welsh. The Knights will be hoping that Santa has brought them some Lineman and that their woes can be fixed in time for the Varsity Game match up.

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