What. Just. Happened. We could barely keep track of all the changes in the HNC Premier Division on Sunday. Here’s 5 things we learned from all the action!
Starting with the most obvious and startling results from the weekend, the Aberdeen Oilcats were a shadow of themselves in Grangemouth. Down a number of their top performers, including Greg Sim, Callum Stopani and Calum Young, it would always be a difficult day, but we did not think it’d go this pear-shaped.
First up, the Comets came into the day needing two wins to keep their premier division status alive. They came with their strongest squad of the season, with the returning David Pasnik having a telling impact. He scored a huge pick six to blow the game open as the teams traded scores. The Oilcats looked primed to still pick up the win at the death as they found themselves 6 yards from the endzone with seconds left. A false start at the worst time made the task even more difficult, and an incomplete pass gave the Comets an improbable victory, 34-32.
With this loss, the Broncos suddenly had the chance to add to the Oilcats’ misery and keep their own season alive, but with all the injuries suffered by the Grangemouth side throughout the season, it was going to take a monumental effort to stop the Oilcats. The Broncos, down Kevin Woods and Fraser Thomson, had an injured Callum Woods limp into the starting lineup to try and strengthen their weakened side. A massive interception return from Woods gave the Broncos a lead at half-time that the Oilcats were never able to overcome. The Oilcats again had a chance to tie things up with a late 2 point conversion, but a bat-down from the Broncos defender gave the Broncos a season-saving victory, and also resigned the Oilcats to their third loss of the year.
Where does this leave the Oilcats? At full strength they’re one of the most fearsome teams in the league, but we saw obvious chinks in their armour. Their next game-day suddenly has them playing for seeding as opposed to a division crown, which they’ll be disappointed with.
Broncos Battle Ends
The Broncos have really had a season of nightmares. They were rarely able to field their strongest team, and found themselves on the outside of the Britbowl picture from week one. Their final stand on their home soil was a stirring one, as they defeated the Oilcats and pushed the Hornets to the brink.
The Broncos took an early lead after poor Hornets tackling gave Scott McKenzie an easy walk-in score. The Hornets replied in typical fashion, but were made to work for their scores. As the first half wore on, both sides showed how long a season it had been. With Grant McLennan missing due to injury, Tom Jeffereys stepped in with devastating effect. Two deep receiving scores and a tipped pass leading to an interception on defence from Tom gave the Hornets a two score lead that they didn’t relinquish. The Broncos hung around though, and continued to frustrate the Hornets. The score ended 39-27, but this doesn’t tell the whole story, as the Broncos put in an admirable effort. With this loss, the Broncos need a genuine miracle to catch the Oilcats, as they’re two games behind with two games to go. With their points difference, they’ve been effectively resigned to the Plate competition.
Comets Hopes Intercepted
The Comets pulled out arguably the upset of the season with their win over the Oilcats. The team battling relegation were celebrating a famous victory over a strong Britbowl contender, but failed to capitalise on the momentum as they fell to the Edinburgh Outlaws. After some cagey early exchanges, the Comets started to show signs of desperation, throwing multiple interceptions, giving the Outlaws great field position. An early score in the second half looked to give the Comets hope but Jamie Archibald broke free for another strike. The Outlaws held on to a slender point lead with time running out, but as the Comets began to drive, the Outlaws returned yet another interception for a score. Edinburgh curiously went for a single XP attempt, as opposed to putting the game to bed with a 2XP, but they needn’t worry, as Jamie snagged another pick to seal the win. After running sideline-to-sideline to burn even more clock, the Outlaws were victorious, and sealed their status as a Premier Division team for next year.
The Comets on the other hand will find themselves taking on either the Grangemouth Colts or Aberdeen Silvercats in a relegation playoff. While both of those development sides have been impressive, the Comets figure to just have too much. The win over Aberdeen showed exactly what the Comets are capable of on their day. They’ve struggled to get their strongest five to any game-day this year, which could cost them dearly. We think they’ll stick around in the Premier Division for 2019 though.
With their win over the Comets, the Outlaws could celebrate another year at the top table. As one of the elder statesmen of the league, we’re all just waiting for Edinburgh to take that next step. We have to give props to Liam Clutterbuck at QB, as he’s improved throughout the year and kept the team plugging along. The defence, led by the aforementioned Jamie Archibald, is one of the stingier stop units in the league, and makes up for any deficiencies in the offence. If the Outlaws can get some improved output from the QB position, they could definitely find themselves pushing the Hornets, Broncos and Oilcats harder than they have this year. Their 32-18 loss to the Hornets put them 1-1 on the day, but they showed that they’re a cut above relegation. On week one, they were celebrating making a first down. By week five, they’re home and dry and look like a strong contender for the Plate competition with other favourites ailing.
Hornets Put a Bow On It
With the Oilcats going 0-2 on the day, the Hornets just needed to avoid any banana skins thrown their way by the Broncos and Outlaws to wrap up the division. They had too much quality for both those sides, putting up two more high points totals as their efficient offence continued its form, even when down their top scorer. The Hornets will appreciate the Oilcats opening the door for them, as their injury list has been growing by each passing game-day. With the final set of games having little bearing on their post-season, we wonder if the Glasgow side will use the opportunity to get healthy and rest some starters.
The Hornets win another consecutive HNC crown, and remain undefeated. They also sealed top seed from the North, as the worst they can finish is 12-2. But they’ll hope to improve on their recent Britbowl efforts, as they’ve disappointingly bowed out far earlier than they would have liked.