The Northern and Southern playoffs are in the books, and we have our final four advancing to Britbowl. With so much to talk about, it’s time to name some Heroes and Villains!
We’ve got a tasty set of teams advancing to Britbowl this year. We have one team from each conference in attendance, and not many people can argue against their credentials. The HNC is represented by the Glasgow Hornets while the Sheffield Giants emerged as the class of the MEC. In the SWC, The Birmingham Lions reclaimed their dominance over the conference after a brief hiatus, while the Baker St. Buttonhookers advanced to Britbowl in their first season from the SEC. They’ll do battle on the 19th of August in Sheffield, and we can’t wait!
Revenge Is Sweet
A number of playoff scenarios saw teams take on familiar foes that they’d faced during the season. In the South, the Baker St. Buttonhookers have one blemish on their record – a loss at the hands of the Reading Lions. If anyone was going to stop the ‘Hookers’ march to Britbowl, it would surely be the only team to have a win over them this year.
Unfortunately for the Lions, the Buttonhookers were on the warpath, and handed the Lions a 46-6 loss. That probably felt good. Maybe not quite as good as the Birmingham Lions felt after silencing their doubters. They’d lost quite handily to the Cardiff Hurricanes earlier in the year to give them their only loss of the season. With the Hurricanes down star player Joe Cotterill, the Cardiff squad had no answer for the Lions’ onslaught, as they scored 62 points in a rout. In the previous contest, the Lions only managed 7 points. Ouch. The Lions reminded everyone why they’re to be feared, as the Tristan Varney-lead offence looked better than ever.
In the North, the Sheffield Giants got their dream match-up, as they had the chance to knock off the Newcastle Blackhawks and hand them their first loss of the season. The Giants fell in a sloppy performance to the Blackhawks on the final day of the season, and had a chance to right that wrong in Glasgow. They took full advantage of the opportunity, scoring late to give themselves a 32-25 win.
Also in the North, the Aberdeen Oilcats got another crack at the Grangemouth Broncos, who would come into the game full of confidence after ousting the Oilcats earlier in the season. The Broncos raced to a massive half-time lead, before an Oilcat comeback fell just short. The Oilcats left no doubt about their standing in the HNC after Saturday, as they posted a dominant 33-12 victory over the Broncos. They saved their best football for the playoffs, and got a well deserved win to give them the last laugh this year!
Meanwhile, the Warrington Revolution held their first V-Day tournament, which saw the Northants Titans White come away as overall winners. The build-up to the tournament was excellent, and the presentation on the day was slick, with very professional live-streaming and commentary on offer. For a rookie outfit, this was a tremendously impressive display of innovation and ambition!
While it can’t be helped, both sets of playoffs endured horrible conditions at points during the day. Ironically, the weather in Glasgow was probably better, as they only suffered monsoon levels of rain, but were fortunate to get some sun later in the day. This rain contributed to some sloppy play during the first round of action, as tackles were missed and catchable balls were dropped. Meanwhile in the South, there were two delays due to lightning, as the teams in attendance were forced to seek shelter until the conditions were safe. Classic British summer weather!
Oh boy, this is gonna be a contentious one. We’re often advocates of taking it easy on volunteer referees, and we believe, for the most part, the league does so. There’s not been any formal training for a couple of seasons now, so teams are only going to learn the rules and their functions as referees by doing. The playoffs however were graced with BAFRA representatives, who for all intents and purposes, should be the crème de la crème. No accusations of bias or incompetency, or even lack of interest could be thrown around, right?
What we’ve heard is very disheartening, as both crews in the North and South were subject to gaffes and overall absence of enthusiasm for the games. We mentioned in our Northern Playoff review that one game had the referee stopping the clock for every incompletion, meaning the Samurai had to spend more time on the field than necessary against the Broncos. Meanwhile, in the South, we’ve heard reports that the referees were completely apathetic towards the idea of refereeing flag, even remarking that they’d rather be refereeing a contact game. When challenged on a ball spot, one referee even scoffed at the player who was assisting in that game.
We should add that these BAFRA referees don’t referee flag football on a consistent basis, so to ask them to come in and do a perfect job is may be a little unrealistic. Perhaps the Hornets and Oilcats could have given their referee some more slack, as both teams let their frustrations get the better of them as they perhaps expected too much from the referee in their game. Also, not all referees in attendance were inept from the reports received. But by the sounds of it, the almost overwhelmingly negative feedback for these paid referees makes us question if it’s even worth the hassle.
Many teams and individuals have this perception that BAFRA will always make the right call in a game, and for the large part they do. To expect them to be flawless is naive, but would more exposure to flag help them? Undoubtedly it would. It’s certainly a debate that should be started – errors in refereeing is bound to happen one way or another, but should we be paying for the privilege?