Stirling Clansmen vs. Birmingham Lions
Our writers unanimously picked Birmingham, however I think this game is less of the foregone conclusion that it might appear to many to be (judging by the perceived weakness of the Saltire division by many). Birmingham hammered Leeds Met in the wild card round, and seemed to dominate on all sides of the ball, scoring on O and D. However, rumours have been flying about an injury to star QB Tristan Varney, with news of apparent reinjury to his knee being rife. While its not possible to know until Sunday whether he will play or not, his absence could hamper the team somewhat. That being said, they got to the final last year without him, and they have plenty of backups on the team to take his mantle and make plays.
Stirling have been posting scores this season that have some people shifting uncomfortably in their seat. Grant Isdale scored numerous touchdowns for Team Europe at Houston, and they have depth all across the board. I think the Clansmen will be very much looking forward to getting their teeth into this game, but their lack of experience against quality opposition (especially along the OL and DL) might hamper them significantly.
Hull Sharks vs. Bath Killer Bees
Bath pulled out the biggest upset since David beat Goliath in the bible! Seems some people were genuinely upset too, with a 4th and 33 being converted being somewhat reminiscent of Ray Rice against the San Diego Chargers this year (ok, it was a pass interference penalty, but let’s ham it up). Bath are now turned from the underdogs to the favourites by our writers, with only Rich and Piachaud going for Hull over the Killer Bees.
Hull are somewhat less impressive than some other conference champions in the posting of their scores, but they are still deserved of the position, and this should turn out to be a great game. I think the question must be, how can they stop spectators eyes bleeding with the kits on show?
Prediction – Hull to rely on home field advantage and win by a score.
Derby Braves vs. Portsmouth Destroyers
Could we all be having déjà vu from two years ago. The Destroyers post a quiet season, then really start to pick it up post season, with Hell week (4 games in a week) out of the way, and sweeping aside (albeit not easily at 22-18) TVC rivals Kingston, they are now well and truly on the path to the final. The advantage for a predictor in the wild card round is you can judge the relative strength of a conference based on the outcome of a game between two cross conference opponents. As Portsmouth played someone in the TVC, it’s incredibly hard to tell how they might fare outside of the conference, and on the road, especially against a team like Derby.
Now, call me old school, but the old adage used to be that the South was better than the North at football, no matter what. Although the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th seed are all held by Northern teams! Also, having seen film, it seems they have learned to throw up there too! Perhaps this is why Hallam’s double wing has been less effective this year, although Saul’s turncloak may have more to do with it!
Derby, horrible uniforms aside, look good this year, and the Destroyers must be somewhat exhausted from so much football! Only Luke (repping the TVC) thought the Destroyers would pull out the win on this one.
Prediction – Derby win this by a score.
Hertfordshire Hurricanes vs. Sheffield Sabres
The champion fixture. National champs vs Challenge champs. Sheffield have impressed this year, scoring lots, and conceding few, and if they were going into any other fixture than this, I’m sure there would be something more to be said about their possibility of victory, especially given how easily they dispatched SWAC champs UWE. However, they are playing the only remaining purple people eater team, Hertfordshire. Firstly, I’m sure the Hurricanes are Killer Bee fans allowing them to avoid Loughborough (a fixture that is always tasty). Secondly, the Herts offence has been on fire this year scoring 440, and their D only conceding 33.
I really wish I could dish out an upset prediction here if only because the Sabres have finally emerged from the Warriors shadow and are a real force, but this Hurricane is blowing all the way to the final say DC towers.
Prediction – Herts to run away with this one.