Week three of the Opal Series North saw the first game-day with two hosts! The Manchester Titans and Chorley Buccaneers each hosted three other sides as we got some more clarity of where each team is headed with one week of regular season action left! Here’s the 5 things we learned!
Pirates Keep on Rolling
The East Kilbride Pirates avoided any banana peels with three professional performances against the Sheffield Hallam Rangers and Warriors, as well as a comfortable win over the hosting Manchester Titans. The defence conceded only 6 points on the day, while the offence churned out 166.
With that, the Pirates are guaranteed postseason football, but their day came at a cost. Late in the day, an injury to standout safety Kerry McLaughlin means she’s lost for the season. It’s the first adversity the Pirates have had to face all year, so it’ll be interested to see how they respond when they host the rest of the conference in the final week!
Giants Punch Their Ticket
In similarly dominating fashion, the Sheffield Giants are now guaranteed a spot at championship bracket at finals day – but they’ll be gunning for that #1 seed when they take on the Pirates at Ravenscraig. The Giants were as clinical as ever in their execution, racking up a whopping another 175 points.
That’s a hell of a response after suffering their first loss of the year. The Giants could be hitting peak performance at the right time. Barring catastrophe, they should be comfortably ahead of the Buccs and Warriors in second place for now, so they can empty the clip on the Pirates to try and snatch back top seed.
Titans Fall Back
The Manchester Titans were down several players on home soil, and were unable to overcome the Hallam Warriors to make a serious bid for a championship playoff position. They went 1-2 on the day, as the small squad performed admirably in difficult circumstances. Further injuries suffered on the day were played through, however the results never went their way.
Now, the titans sit 2 games back from both the Buccaneers and Warriors with three games remaining. They need a lot of help, and perfection in their own games, to have any hope.
The overall picture is mostly set, but we’re still waiting on final seeding in the North to settle itself.
The top 4 are set, but the order isn’t for sure. As mentioned, the Pirates and Giants will play out once more to see who earns #1 seed from the North. The Warriors and Buccaneers, at best, can hope for #3 or #4 realistically. The Hallam Warriors have 2 wins over the Buccaneers, and also have arguably the easier schedule on the final day, with three very winnable games against the Nottingham sides (though don’t sleep on the Gold outfit), and the Hallam Rangers. Meanwhile, the Buccs have the Pirates, Titans and Giants in what will be a real tough test. If the Titans (who sit #5 currently) can pick up a a win against the Buccs, then they’ll have a real shot at upsetting the order and breaking into the playoffs. They’ll need to upset the Pirates or Giants to just get level with the Buccs in this instance.
Meanwhile, Nottingham Gold look comfortable at #6 in the conference after another good set of performances in Chorley. They’re 2 games ahead of the Rangers at #7, while Nottingham Green are 0-11 at #8, despite having more points than the Rangers to this point. It’s all or nothing in the final day of the year for the Nottingham Green, as they have the Hallam Rangers on their schedule.
Two Host Thoughts
The final thing we learned was that the format of this Opal game-day was very, very successful. In the past, all teams have descended upon one location to play (usually) 4 games. While this sounds great in theory, the actual running of a day like this can prove to be long and tiresome. Often the game-days can run between six and eight hours, leading to some late journeys home for some of the far travelled teams.
This most recent set of fixtures, with the Buccs and Titans hosting, meant that the days breathed much better. Teams were able to keep firing on all cylinders for longer, as they didn’t need to worry about a tricky fourth game. This format also is closer to the BAFA mixed league, which works extremely well.
We hope to see this continue. The feedback we’ve gotten has been positive. But what do you think?