Friday, 8 February 2013

Week Nine Predictions




Saltire
Edinburgh Predators (2-3) vs. #19 Glasgow Tigers (4-1)
Game of the week in the Saltire. If Glasgow wins, it’s all over as far as the top 2 seeds are concerned and the Tigers, with the Clansmen, advance to the playoffs.
The Predators will be buoyed by last weekend’s 30-0 win in the Varsity game but were effectively gift wrapped the victory by their cross town rivals.
What remains to be seen is if, like last year, the Pred’s can use their Varsity victory to launch a comeback charge at a playoff run. The Tigers eked out a 6-0 victory over UWS last weekend in what were described as Glastonbury-like conditions. The Tigers remain the form team but this could be a close one and we’re going with the upset
Prediction: Predators by 2


UWS Pyro’s (1-3) vs. #6 Stirling Clansmen (4-0)
The Pyro’s may have got the go ahead for last weekend’s fixture versus the Tigers but the soggy pitch may not pass inspection this time around. And judging by this weekend’s opponents they may want to slip their grounds man some Nightol.
The Clansmen return from their long winter break and attempt to fit their 4 remaining fixtures into the 2 available weekends. Their plan is to build on their impressive steamroller of an offense and plough straight into the playoffs with as much momentum as possible. It would be a surprise if they were any less than efficient this term and it seems unlikely they will take long to blow of the cobwebs.
Their speed run game and vertical pass may be slowed a little by the conditions, but if this gets the all clear, expect a traumatic score line that see the Pyro’s extinguished.
Prediction: Clansmen by 60
North Eastern

Northumbria Mustangs (2-3) vs. #7 Hull Sharks (5-0)
Northumbria will feel extremely unlucky this year. Not because of the results, but because of the divisional realignment. 6-2 last season, with a relatively easy schedule, they were second only to local rivals Newcastle. But with Hull, Carnegie, Celtics and the Bears all joining them, they find themselves slumped near the bottom of the table with a 2-3 record that shows no signs of improving. Hull on the other hand have pretty much won the division, and with only 3 post-Christmas games to play, can conserve their energy for the post-season.
Northumbria have a resolute run defence, but Gogerly will open the Mustangs up with accurate passing and quick running. With their derby match against Newcastle next week, Northumbria could be 2-5 before their final game against Teesside and a world apart from last season’s success.
Sharks by 24.
Durham Saints (2-2) vs. York Centurions (1-3)
This has suddenly become a really difficult game to call after the Saints sprung the surprise of the week on us and beat Bradford last Sunday. Albeit in overtime [no surprise for the Bears there!] the Saints now sit 3rd in their division at 2-1 and can have genuine hopes of making the trophy competition. York sit surprisingly at 1-3, despite only narrowly losing those losses. The Saints will be oozing with confidence ahead of this clash, knowing that a win would make them favourites to enter the post-season in some capacity. York however traditionally do not give up, and will want to prove their doubters wrong and earn a second win of the season. Don’t rule overtime out as this one will be very close.
York by 2
Bradford Bears (3-3) vs. Teesside Cougars (0-4)
This game couldn’t have come at a better time for both sides. The Cougars will be looking for a first win and will smell blood after Bradford’s shock loss. However, the Bears are still chasing playoff football and should come out all guns blazing with a physical display of intent. With Carnegie beating the Celtics at the weekend, a loss was the last thing Bradford needed. A win here would set up a clash with Carnegie that could potentially decide who goes where in the playoff race. Teesside have performed surprisingly well this season, although just in odd flashes during games. Bradford will dominate the game from start to finish and look to repair the damage done from last week
Bradford by 30+
#17 Leeds Carnegie (4-1) vs. Newcastle Raiders (2-3)
Fresh from their varsity victory at the weekend, Leeds Carnegie now have breathing space in their division. At 4-1, they are favourites to keep second spot and enter the playoffs alongside Hull. They should be wary though; despite Newcastle’s 2-3 record, they were 8-0 last season and have posted up some big scores this season when they’ve got going. If Carnegie can put early points on the board and stop the Raiders from gaining momentum, they shouldn’t have too much trouble. Their defences have only conceded 110 points between them in ten games, so early touchdowns could be vital. Carnegie always seem to leave games close and never finish teams off, so this should be close until the end. Both teams are capable of winning, but Carnegie have momentum and know that playoffs are all but certain after a win here.
Carnegie by a touchdown.
Big North Western
#6 Derby Braves (6-0) vs. #8 Sheffield Sabres (6-0)
This is the weekend’s big game in the Big North Western as Derby Braves take on the Sheffield Sabres, in a game which ultimately could decide the Conference and the post-season. Both teams are currently undefeated and something has to give!
This season with the restructuring of the conferences the Derby Braves have come into the Big North Western and utterly dominated, the club look in good shape to secure the conference title, with their only real challenge coming from Sheffield Sabres. How far they can go into playoffs remains to be seen, but this game will surely decide the Conference title.
The Sabres have already played two games since the mid-season winter break, beating the Stallions 39-6 in the snow of late January and Hallam Warriors in the Steel Bowl (40-20) in what ended up being a fantastic warm up for the SuperBowl last Saturday.
The current roll the Sabres are on I feel that all the momentum is with them… but it’ll be close – Sabres by a single score
Bangor MudDogs (1-3) vs. Staffordshire Stallions (1-4)
Sunday sees the Stallions travel to North Wales to take on a Bangor side, which will be buoyed by their first win of the season against over the Liverpool Fury.
After a defensive stalemate Bangor managed to secure their first win of the season by a single score winning the contest 6-0. That win catapults the MudDogs off the bottom of the Big North Western conference and into 8th position, although a 6-0 will do little for their points difference.
Sitting one place below Bangor in the conference are Staffordshire, who didn’t play last weekend. Their last fixture saw the Stallions put to the sword by the Sabres and ultimately come away with a 39-6 defeat.
Both of these sides are in dire need of another win, but based on points scored this season Staffordshire look to have the more potent offence – Stallions by two scores
Liverpool Fury (2-3) vs #24 Hallam Warriors (2-2)
Since their inception in 2008 Liverpool Fury have only faced Hallam Warriors once (35-0 Warriors win), so the Fury will be looking to get their own back this Sunday.
The Warriors will be encourage after their 22-8 midweek win over the previously undefeated UCLan Rams, but now face the prospect of four games in 12 days, if their re-arranged games can be confirmed. That many games in such a short space of time is going to take its toll and Head Coach Richard Batty admits he will be ‘blooding’ his rookie’s. Based on their performance in the Steel Bowl they should be alright!
Liverpool were looking to kick on from their most successful season to date, but lost 6-0 to Bangor last weekend. Before the Christmas break they held a 2-2 record after wins over MMU Eagles and Huddersfield Hawks, but will be disappointed by last weekend’s defeat.
Hallam by at least three scores
Huddersfield Hawks (2-4) vs. #21 UCLan Rams (3-2)
Sunday see’s the first meeting of the Hawks and the Rams at the Batley Sports & Tennis Centre.
The Hawks are still a team in transition, but have been one of the most interesting to watch from my point of view. Despite losing to MMU, the Tyrants, Derby and Sheffield the results have improved as the team have gelled and become more comfortable with their double wing offence. In fact two of those games were lost by one score.
Last week saw the Rams suffer their first defeat of the BUCS regular season after suffering a slender 6-0 loss to Lancaster Bombers. That losing record was extended to two defeats after their midweek loss to Hallam Warriors 22-8. Those results have seen the Rams slip to 4th in the table, they will need to get back to winning ways to keep their hopes of reaching the postseason alive!
Despite the Hawks improvements, the Rams offence should have too much - Rams by a single score
Manchester Tyrants (4-2) vs. Lancaster Bombers (1-4)
Finally Manchester Tyrants take on the Lancaster Bombers at Burnage Rugby Club
Last weekend’s local derby win over MMU (30-14) at Burnage Road and UCLan’s disastrous week has catapulted the Tyrants into third place in the Big North Western and have a real possibility of achieving a playoff berth if they keep their recent run of form going.
Lancaster returned to action with a bang after the winter break with a slender 6-0 win over the previously undefeated UCLan Rams. That win took them off the bottom of the Big North Western Conference, I previously said I thought it would be tough to see where that first win of the season would come for Lancaster – well that shut me up.
Can it happen again? Come on Lancaster prove me wrong – Tyrants by two scores
MAC
Leicester Longhorns (2-4) vs. Northampton Nemesis (3-3)

Last year’s Varsity defeat avenged, Leicester actually have a shot at a decent record if they play up in the second half of the season. In their way this weekend however are Northampton, wounded by a heavy loss to #1 Birmingham.

The Longhorns have been repping the Double Wing Nation (respec') for a while now, but seem unable to consistently get into the rhythm it requires to move the ball a la olden days Hallam/Newcastle. Northampton on the other hand have binned the Wing after one (reasonably) successful season, but haven't lost a step with some impressive showings in 2012/13.

Northampton probably have too much in their locker for Leicester, but this may be a bit closer than on first inspection.

Northampton by a score in a shootout

#20 Warwick Wolves (4-1) vs. Wolverhampton Wildcats (0-4)

This game *will* go ahead. We've been told so. By people. So there.

It's very clear that Wolverhampton have serious problems on and off the field. They struggle like heck to get games played and venues secured, while their players’ evident heart and positive attitude is nowhere near enough to make up of a lack of experience. It's a baptism of fire, but if they stick it out, who knows - they may improve.

In contrast, the Wolves (surely more appropriate for Wolverhampton?) have made good progress this season. Their players have matured and moulded into a solid footballing outfit, and should have little trouble dispatching the Wildcats if they stay disciplined.

Warwick by four scores

#15 NTU Renegades (4-1) vs. #3 Loughborough Aces (6-0)
Likely the 2nd toughest game on Loughborough’s schedule, NTU have as a good a chance of anyone (besides Brum) of upsetting the MAC powerhouse. The Renegades should be buoyed coming off a dominant Varsity win over Nottingham (28-0), but event that momentum (Loughborough won last week thanks to a Colonial’s forfeit) may not be enough to turn the tide against their hosts, who’s depth and quality will ultimately prove too much for a spirited NTU performance.
Loughborough by 3 scores
Lincoln Colonials (1-5) vs. Coventry Jets (2-3)
Lincoln’s coaching situation may well put in jeopardy what would otherwise be a nicely balanced affair amongst two of the mid-table MAC lurkers. Should the game be played, I expect a closer outcome than their records would suggest. Coventry have only beaten struggling DMU (twice), and whilst Lincoln have likewise only beaten Wolverhampton they have 2 losses due to forfeits and another due to an extremely tight point loss to the Longhorns.
Despite their misleading records I would still expect Coventry to win this one, in no small part due to Lincoln’s long period of inactivity.
Jets by 1 score
SWAC
#11 UWE Bullets (4-1) vs. Bristol Barracuda (2-1)
In what is sure to be a grudge match between the two Bristol teams the 4-1 Bullets will be looking to get a win over the 2-1 Barracuda to keep pace with the likes of the Bath Killer Bees at the top of the SWAC.
With the ‘Cuda’s’ wins so far this coming against two of the conference’s more lowly ranked teams, the Worcester Royals and the Cardiff Cobras, expect UWE’s third SWAC ranked points offence (24.2 ppg) to be able to score on the ‘Cuda from the outset, something that happened in the Cuda’s last match with the team losing 52-15 to the Plymouth Blitz.
It's odd that this match up takes place this weekend instead of last as it could be easily classed as a derby. There is the extra incentive of local bragging rights, so expect the two teams to come out of the blocks firing.
UWE by 14 or more.
#8 Bath Killer Bees (5-0) vs. Cardiff Cobras (1-3)
Coming off what would have been a frustrating 12-6 win for the Killer Beas over their same-town-rival Bath Spa Bulldogs, the Bees will certainly be buzzing (Ed: stahp!) for this week’s match up against the Cobras.
The Cobras, in the midst of a disappointing season so far, will be looking to kick-start the second half of their campaign with their first game since a 2-0 defeat to Tarranau in the Welsh Bowl before Christmas.
All signs would point towards a Bees win in this game but if Bath in any way continue to struggle like they did last week against the still winless Bulldogs the Cobras could strike.
Bath by 14.
Exeter Demons (1-3) vs. #23 Gloucester Gladiators (3-1)
The Exeter Demons will be looking to get back to winning ways this week when they play the Gloucester Gladiators, having last week narrowly missed out on an upset of the local rival Plymouth Blitz.
The Gladiators however will be on winning form having just disposed of the Worcester Royals (51-0), and with both teams beating Worcester by similar amounts this season expect the game to be relatively tight.
If Gloucester (3-1) want to prove themselves as a serious SWAC conference contender they will have to put Exeter, a mid-table team, to the sword. A spirited Exeter team will provide a sterner test for the Gladiators who since week one (20-24 L vs. Plymouth) have arguably not faced a top team.
Gloucester by 7.
Bath Spa Bulldogs (0-5) vs. Tarannau (2-1)
Bath Spa will be heartened by their performance on Sunday, having a poor Killer Bees side on the ropes but not quite having enough to grab the win. Their performance was excellent though, and if they replicate this against a lesser side they should chalk up their first win of the season.
Aber were cancelled on again last weekend, and will surely struggle to complete their schedule having only completed three games so far. They certainly possess the quality to beat the Bulldogs, but with two month break since their last game, the five hour coach journey and Bath Spa coming into this fixture full of confidence, I’m predicting an upset here!
Bath Spa by one score
#14 Plymouth Blitz (4-1) vs. Swansea Titans (2-3)

Plymouth just squeaked past Exeter last weekend, but crucially lie at 4-1 and are clearly one of the strongest teams in the SWAC. A win over Swansea would put them in a fantastic position for a final run on the postseason.

Swansea impressed on Wednesday, utterly demolishing a Worcester side that appears to be in freefall. Chances are that Swansea will just miss out on the playoffs this year, but I still see them giving the Blitz a good game.

Plymouth by two scores
TVC
Oxford Lancers (0-4) vs. Reading Knights (1-4)

Oxford are certainly still finding their way in the TVC. Not scoring and losing by a wide margin to their cross-city rivals the OBU Panthers will not have helped their confidence at all. Reading also lost last weekend, succumbing to BNU and the double wing.

Reading did, however, put up a couple of scores on a formidable BNU defence. Oxford have shown no such positive signs all season.

Reading to win by 4 scores

#12 Brighton Tsunami (5-0) vs. #25 BNU Buccaneers (3-2)

The #12 Tsunami's win against Southampton Stags has seen them rise above the Stags in our power rankings and are now the only undefeated team in the TVC. They made good use of the bulletin board material which we provided for them in our predictions last week, picking the Stags to win by more than five scores.

Brighton, however, were held to less than 50 yards of offence by the Stags up to the two minute warning in the fourth quater, where Brighton's QB hit his man down the sideline for a huge gain, which eventually set up a game winning field goal. In order to be competitive in the playoffs, their offence will need to be more consistence. Their defence, on the other hand, put in an impeccable bend-but-don't-break performance, denying the Stags in the red zone countless of times.

The problem for the #12 Tsunami this week is the double wing offence. Having just arrived for the SEC, the bulk of their players are unlikely to have faced it before. BNUs offence put up solid numbers on Reading last week and will be looking to build on that performance by making sure Brighton don't have the chance to go undefeated.

Brighton must not get complacent. Their final game of the season after BNU is Kingston. To beat Portsmouth, Southampton, BNU and Kingston one side of Christmas is an incredible tough task. If they pull it off then we will know they are for real. The strength of their D-line should be enough to limit the double wing. So please stop with the mean tweets Brighton. You really hurt our feelings.

Brighton by 6

Surrey Stingers (0-4) vs. RHUL Bears (0-4)

As the flags flutter proudly over Surrey’s fantastic sports facilities in Guildford, the black sheep team of the University will be fighting for their first win since Sauron first lost the one ring. Surrey’s one score loss to Brighton many moons ago now looks impressive. Though we are brought back to reality when we see they didn’t field a team against Portsmouth and let in a cricket score against Solent. The next 2 weeks will provide them with a chance of saving yet another lost season.  

Holloway on the other hand are probably the best 0-4 team out there at the moment. They are still pretty bad but they are improving. Decent performances against the TVCs top teams leads me to believe they will walk this one quite easily and get some confidence for the final few games.

Holloway by 30

#10 Southampton Stags (5-1) v #22 Solent Redhawks (3-2)

This time last week I would have put this month’s beer money on Southampton tanning the behinds of Brighton. Well I’d have kept it, as they did.  The difference being that the Stags O led by Dana Neale could not punch it in the endzone. This lead to a ridonkulous 3-2 scoreline and the loss of their unbeaten run. Quite possibly the conference title. Brighton are now a shoe in for the crown, the national championship and the Super Bowl if their players Twitter and Facebook is to be believe.

Solent’s season is all but over. 2 losses and a 3rd coming at the end of the year via BAFA means that a win against their brother from another mother may not do them much use. Maybe they should do the honorable thing and commit seppuku here so at least one team in Southampton has a shot at the Championship berths.

Southampton by 14

OBU Panthers v Brunel Burners

I’m going to name this the “OMG I thought these teams were supposed to be good Bowl”.  OBU went 6-1-1 last year for crying out loud. Brunel have more Head Coaches and funding than the Saltire division. Yet they are a combined 4-5 on the year.  It’s like the rest of the TVC has an agreement that the South Coast teams win all the games.  

Maybe we should combine the Thames Valley bit of the Thames Valley Conference and call it the OBNUBRU Stinging Knightbears. They have Surrey’s facilities, OBUs defence, BNUs scoring but not their playbook, Brunel’s athletes, Holloway’s cheerleaders, Kingston’s athletic ability, Oxford Lancer’s intelligence and Reading’s……… long snapper?

OBU by 7


SEC
#2 Hertfordshire Hurricanes (6-0) vs. #10 UEA Pirates (4-0)
On paper this should be the Canes toughest matchup of the year. On paper, and everywhere else you can put things, this will be the toughest matchup for UEA this year. Hertfordshire have been playing for fun this year, putting up big scores at will. While they have been slightly leaky on defence when compared to Birmingham they have stood up well (especially when you consider their ridiculous record of scoring every week).
UEA are looking like the favorites to take the second championship spot in the SEC, with Kent and Cambridge standing in their way. The bootyful Pirates have established their identity with a strong run game and tough defence led by middle linebacker Steve Omanyondo.
If Herts can’t put this game to bed early on, expect it to be a closer affair than their other encounters, although depth will tell in the second half with the UEA RBs undoubtedly tiring and the rotation for Herts showing their class.
Herts by 4 scores
Imperial Immortals (2-3) vs. Greenwich Mariners (1-3)
I was shocked that Imperial lost to Westminster last week. It wasn’t even that close, and Westminster put forward a convincing win. Luckily for Imperial, I doubt that Greenwich will put forward such a challenge.
Imperial by 3 scores.
Westminster Dragons (1-3) vs. KCL Regents (1-4)
These two teams are pretty evenly matched on paper, with the Dragons riding high on the win over Imperial I can imagine momentum may play a factor. KCL on the other hand have come off a loss to Essex, and need to find something from somewhere and soon.
Westminster by a score or less.
#24 Cambridge Pythons (3-1) vs. Canterbury Chargers (1-3)
The SEC has been rife with rumors concerning an influx of Americans and ex-rugby players into the Pythons ranks and while this is unconfirmed, it would appear that the Pythons have kick-started 2013 with a fresh impetus for victory.

A big 40-0 crushing of the ARU Rhinos has given them a winning start to the new year, but then again the Rhinos have hardly proven to be a worthy opponent.  Another win here would see the Pythons begin to constrict around the remaining play-off spots.

The Chargers have suffered from an absence of game time, with no action since their 39-22 defeat to the UEA Pirates back in Week 4.

Pythons to win by 12+ Points. 
ARU Rhinos (1-3) vs. Essex Blades (2-3)
The Blades are still in contention for a play-off spot, but must maintain a winning record until the conclusion of the season if they are to challenge for silver wear.

Luckily for the Blades they visit the second worst defense in the SEC in the Rhinos, a team who have only managed a single win against the catastrophically, self-destructing Mariners.

The Blades have been a shadow of the team that reached the championship play-offs last year but should come good here.  Blades to win by 20.
Essex Blades win 1-0 due to ARU forfeit

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