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22.03.2016
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After some near misses in the past two seasons the Birmingham Lions once more sit proudly at the top of the British University tree. This past Sunday in Leeds they overcome old adversary Stirling Clansmen 19-13 in a game as close as the scoreline suggests. As was expected both teams defenses were on top for the majority of the game and the Lions had to rely on two well executed long passes to get a foothold in the game. On a bright, clear day perfect for football it was the Clansmen who opened the scoring when Alex Crowe caught a well-designed pass play from Andres Donat. The response was swift as the Lions’ Michael Akinlade hauled in a pass from Sammy-Lee Baker and raced 65 yards to the end zone. Image courtesy of Andy Neale - Whizzyfingers Photography Stirling started to boss the play and dominated for large periods but couldn’t punch the ball in. The Lions D had been on top form all year and that form didn’t desert them when it mattered. Two 4-and-outs and a blocked field goal were enough to galvanise the Birmingham offense and Xavier Ajuwon bulldozed his way in to score from 30 yards out, shrugging off would be tacklers. 13-7 down it was time for Stirling to bounce back and QB Donat tied the scores up when he dashed into the end zone. Akinlade then broke the tied game and got the winning score with another long run slicing through the Stirling D. The Lions D were not letting their colleagues on offense have the final say as they intercepted a last ditch Hail Mary to secure the win. Michael Akinlade was deservedly named the games MVP with his two scores proving pivotal moments in the game. Image courtesy of Andy Neale - Whizzyfingers Photography In the Division One title game the Swansea Titans prevailed over the NTU Renegades in another close game. NTU were first on the board with a short pass from Callum Doherty to Kieran Goncalves. After a fumble recovery for a touchdown the Titans were back in business. NTU tacked on a field goal but Swansea QB Joe Cotterill ran in for a short score before finding Rui Rodrigues for another TD. The Renegades kept on plugging away but couldn’t seem to find that killer touch that saw them progress through the playoffs, Swansea ending up 21-16 winners. Titans Jacob Amadi was named MVP with his bruising running help keep the clock ticking.
The two most successful University programs meet on Sunday in Leeds, for the right to be named National Champions. For the Stirling Clansmen they are hunting an unprecedented third straight title, whereas for the Birmingham Lions it’s a case of trying to reclaim a title they have not won since 2013. Birmingham really set the standard in British Uni ball reaching six straight title games from 2009-14, winning three times. Then the Clan came along and swept all before them as they took the Lions crown in a thrilling game which can be viewed below, and then retained their Championship last season with a 46-6 demolition of Hertfordshire. A look back at how the teams reached the Final shows that even though they had the same record, the paths differed. Birmingham got off to a flyer with back-to-back shutouts in their opening two games, before close rivals Hertfordshire managed to put up some points against them. Stirling got off to a slow start with a single point win at home to Derby and a two point victory in their third game against Durham. After that Stirling went on a scoring rampage averaging 38.2 points per game, with a defense that only allowed 6.5ppg in those remaining five games. The Lions have always been known for their stingy D and conceded just 5.6ppg all season. Lions in the trenches v Durham Action from the Lions Semi-Final game against Durham. Courtesy of Andy Neale – Whizzyfingers Photography https://www.flickr.com/photos/whizzyfingers/sets/72157663362100283 The playoffs were to be another show of offensive strength from the Clan as they put up 101 points in their two games. Not to be outdone the Lions scored just one fewer, but alarmingly allowed their opponents to score 22 on them in each of their postseason matchups. Here is the full list of games that led the teams to the John Charles Centre for Sport in Leeds this Sunday, with kick off at 12pm. BIRMINGHAM LIONS v IMPERIAL 47-0 v KINGSTON 36-0 at Hertfordshire 32-12 at Bath 27-9 at Imperial 20-6 v BATH 41-8 at Kingston 2-0 v HERTFORDSHIRE 27-10 Quarter-Final v LOUGHBOROUGH 42-22 Semi-Final v DURHAM 58-22 STIRLING CLANSMEN v DERBY 21-20 at Loughborough 26-7 v DURHAM 30-28 v HALLAM 41-12 at Durham 32-10 at Hallam 33-8 at Derby 43-0 v LOUGHBOROUGH 42-3 Quarter-Final v BATH 59-21 Semi-Final v HERTFORDSHIRE 42-13 Following the Premier Championship Final, the two teams that gained promotion to the Premier Divisions next season will face off for the National Championship. Swansea Titans will join the South after they dispatched Surrey handily last weekend 45-9. The North will have a new team to worry over after the NTU Renegades defeated Glasgow 13-9 in a great game that went right to the wire. NTU had a great playoff run this season and will look to cap it off with the National title, but in Swansea it could be a game too far. This game is at the same venue and will kick off at approximately 4.15pm.
12.03.2016
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For some of the teams the hard work has been done in the fact they have gained promotion to the next level. That doesn’t mean that pride is till at stake and a National title up for grabs. The Division 1 teams have still got all to play for as not only are they playing for their North/South divide titles it also means promotion to the “promised land” of the Premier Division next season.   Glasgow have arguably been the most consistent team in all of Division One this season and will start as favourites against an NTU side that has defied the odds to make it this far. NTU have won two very close and hard fought games against what on paper at least looked to be a game too far in their season. Can they go one step further and reach the National Final? In the South we could have a high scoring game as Surrey seem to be scoring t will right now, 63 points in their two playoff games so far including a shutout of Kent. They face a very talented Swansea unit that will be out to prove that last year’s success was no fluke and they see this as their opportunity to claim their Premier place. DIVISION 1 NORTH FINAL GLASGOW v NTU DIVISION 1 SOUTH FINAL SWANSEA v SURREY Promotion has already been secured for the four teams battling out their respective North and South finals in Division 2. Does that mean they won’t play hard in this final game of the season? I think we all know the answer to that question! LJMU have been on a mission all year and they breezed through their semi-final last week with a shutout of Edinburgh Napier, they come up against a determined Manchester Tyrants team that have also played with a point to prove all season and this has the makings of an epic game with lots of points on the board. Portsmouth are always a consistent team and they got past Plymouth last weekend with relative ease that may have shocked some outside of their Uni but the confidence has been on display every week. Likewise Oxford, who have come through a feisty division and then knock off Greenwich last time out. Both teams will have to up their game next season but this game will go some way in showing what they could be capable of come next September. DIVISION 2 NORTH FINAL LJMU v MANCHESTER PORTSMOUTH v OXFORD  
04.03.2016
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One week closer to finding out this year’s Champions of British University football. Can Stirling win it all again? Well they eased through, eventually, last week so they are still on course. We lost 12 teams last week in the opening salvos of the postseason, another 10 will fall this weekend. The Division 2 teams start their playoffs and the North/South divide continues there as they chase down promotion. PREMIER DIVISION – SEMI-FINALS   STIRLING v HERTFORDSHIRE BIRMINGHAM v DURHAM   All four top seeds went through last week so this really is the cream of the Uni ball coming together. Birmingham will start as favourites to beat Durham, but their visitors will not lay down. Herts won an abandoned game so not fully tested in the postseason, and they will have to bring their game throughout to get past Stirling. DIVISION ONE NORTH SEMI-FINALS   GLASGOW v NEWCASTLE NOTTINGHAM v NTU   DIVISION ONE SOUTH SEMI-FINALS   SWANSEA v CARDIFF SURREY v RHUL   Glasgow squeezed by Sheffield to face a spirited Newcastle, who last week knocked out higher ranked Warwick. Nottingham caused perhaps the biggest shock last week when they beat UCLan in a thrilling encounter, and host rival NTU. The battle of Wales has Swansea play host to Cardiff in what could be the best game of the weekend, and Surrey coming off a strong shutout of Kent have to deal with RHUL, who themselves had a great a win at Brighton last week. DIVISION TWO NORTH SEMI-FINALS   EDINBURGH NAPIER v LJMU MANCHESTER v COVENTRY   DIVISION TWO SOUTH SEMI-FINALS   PLYMOUTH v PORTSMOUTH GREENWICH v OXFORD   After a week off the 8 teams in the Division 2 playoffs start their road to promotion. All teams are very strong and therefore even if a lower ranked team won on the road it would not necessarily go down as a shock.  
This weekend sees the start of the BUCS Playoffs. After 13 weeks of action – not including the festive period break – the top 32 teams from around the UK have booked themselves a postseason place. Division 2 teams have earned themselves a break this weeks, also due to the fact they have one less game to play than the rest. So they join the playoff picture next week. This weekend sees the Premier and Division 1 take centre stage and there are some cracking matches amongst the quarter finals. Stirling are the current National Champions and will host Bath as they look to retain their title. Birmingham are still the biggest threat to taking the crown, and they host Loughborough in the opening round, Kingston have had an impressive debut season at the top table of the Uni game, and face dark horses Durham, and lastly Derby travel to Herts trying to spring a surprise.   PREMIER QUARTER FINALS STIRLING v BATH HERTFORDSHIRE v DERBY BIRMINGHAM v LOUGHBOROUGH DURHAM v KINGSTON Glasgow have been the pick of the Division 1 North this year and play host to Sheffield looking to avoid the banana skin slip-up. Warwick, UCLan and NTU also have home games in the North side of the draw. Down South the pick of the games is arguably Kent’s visit to Surrey, although Sussex will be hoping to cause an upset when they go to Cardiff.   DIVISION ONE NORTH QUARTER FINALS GLASGOW v SHEFFIELD WARWICK v NEWCASTLE UCLan v NOTTINGHAM NTU v LEEDS BECKETT   DIVISION ONE SOUTH QUARTER FINALS SWANSEA v UWE CARDIFF v SUSSEX SURREY v KENT BRIGHTON v RHUL      
26.02.2016
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Report and Images by Jason Brown The Southampton Stags travelled to Uxbridge for their last game of the season against the Brunel Burners, who apart from being beaten by the Portsmouth Destroyers, have had an impressive run this season.   It didn’t take long for Brunel’s running game to show its strength however, as on their first possession second and ten, their running back managed to find a big hole in the Stags defence and ran for their first touchdown. Standing on the Stags sideline you could sense that the Burners were fired up for this match and were looking to score big.   As the first half developed it became apparent that the Stags were not going to be so easily defeated. Both defences took charge on the field and made it difficult for the opposing offence to gain much yardage. The Stags defence however appeared to find another gear and were clearly dominating the Brunel offence as they forced several fumbles during the first half and made a very important forth down stop on a fake punt. You could feel the momentum beginning to swing in favour of the Stags.   Approaching half time the Stags managed to get themselves on the scoreboard with a perfectly timed end zone pass. They went for a two point conversion but it was stopped short by the Brunel defence, making the half time score 7-6 to Brunel.   Both teams were poised for a battle in the second half with the atmosphere around the field that either team could win this final game of the season. It was Brunel once again who got the scoring under way in the third quarter, as their running game began to take charge on the field. By the end of the third quarter Brunel had moved ahead 14-6.   As the game entered the last quarter the momentum was clearly with Brunel, as they controlled the ball well, moved up field and scored their first passing touchdown of the game, followed a good extra point, making the score 21-6. The Stags offence at this point of the game just couldn’t find their feet to progress enough on the field to give their defence a rest and it was beginning to show. With the Stags defence feeling tired, Brunel took full advantage on the field and ran in for another impressive fifty yard touchdown by #52 Samuel Emem. Brunel lined up for a two point conversion which was good, making the final score 29-6.   The Burners ended their season on a high, however their loss to the Destroyers in January puts them second in their BUCS division, and sees they out of this year’s playoffs.   Images from the game can be found here; https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.986649384758501.1073741894.100220113401437&type=3
Report and images by Jason Brown The Southampton Stags and Chichester Spitfires met again for the second time this season. With the Spitfires winning the first game, the Stags would not want to walk away with another loss. Both teams were looking to improve their win tally so it was an important fixture.    Both team’s defences were playing hard from the whistle, with many 3 and outs and turnovers, with the offences taking some time to find their feet.   It was the Stags who struck first in the opening quarter, scoring on a short pass into the end zone for a touchdown caught by #13. The extra point was no good giving them a 6-0 lead. The Spitfires managed a field goal in the second quarter and were yards away from scoring a touchdown when the Stags forced another turnover via an interception. The Stags preceded to move the ball downfield which ended in field goal, just before the half time whistle, making it 9-3 as the players left the field.   After managing to get a brief chat with the Stags head coach he said they were determined to start the second half with the same intensity and it was important to get on the scoreboard first.   This proved difficult for both teams during the third quarter as the defences were still in charge on the field. The offences exchanged punting the ball until it looked like the Spitfires were starting to find some rhythm. They moved up field and were again in the red zone. On second and goal, the Stags defence stepped in and intercepted the ball, forcing another turnover.   The Stags offence looked like they found another gear as their running game pounded down the field for their second touchdown by #24. The extra point was no good and the score moved to 15-3.   The Stags dominated in the fourth quarter; their defence held the Spitfires from scoring again and the offence continued to run the ball down field, taking time off the clock and scoring their third touchdown of the day. A two-point conversion was no good and a late field goal attempt from the Stags went wide. As the final whistle blew the end result was a fair 21-3 win for the Southampton Stags.   The Stags offence, once they gathered momentum, started to look like a team with potential. The O line protected their quarter back well and made holes that their running back could and did take full advantage of when asked to. Their running game eventually worn down the Spitfires defence and started to take control, which was a huge turning point in the game, making it difficult for the Spitfires to mount a come back.   Credit has to go the Stags defence, who only allowed a field goal for the entire game, forced several turnovers and sacked the Spitfires quarter back a couple of times. All in all it was a very spirited and well-fought match.   Game images can be found here; https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.981911918565581.1073741893.100220113401437&type=3
One of our friendly photographers has been busy over the last couple of weeks. Andy Neale AKA Whizzyfingers Photography was able to capture some great images from the Birmingham v Bath game in Week 11, and then the Warwick v Worcester game in Week 12. Below are the links to both. If you wish to use any of the images please contact him personally or via us at our usual address. WEEK 11 BIRMINGHAM v BATH     https://www.flickr.com/photos/whizzyfingers/sets/72157662276871853 WEEK 12 WARWICK v WORCESTER   https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.528020247370434.1073741909.158374481001681&__mref=message
17.02.2016
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Just one week to go in the BUCS League and where most issues have been sorted in terms of who has qualified for the playoffs, there is still some jostling for position to see who will get home field in their games. The full picture will be realised after Sunday and good luck to all those trying to secure a position as well as those that are trying to keep the relegation trap door from opening. That being said all the playoff rankings have been sorted in the Premier and this also means that the trap door has already caught two teams. Once more it’s the Stirling and Birmingham brands that have led the way all season, but they may not have it all their way in the coming weeks. Here is how the Premier playoffs shape up, the North and South divide gets lifted for the playoffs. STILRING (n1) v BATH (s4) DURHAM (n2) v KINGSTON (s3) BIRMINGHAM (s1) v LOUGHBOROUGH (n4) HERTFORDSHIRE (s2) v DERBY (n3) This means that the odd teams out from each division are Sheffield Hallam and Imperial, who will be playing Tier 1 ball next season.   Into Tier 1 then and the structure allows the top two teams from each division to reach the playoffs and after the two best records enter as Wild Cards. The system for tiebreakers isn’t complicated (avg points allowed in games played – forfeits not included) but does require a calculator at times, and with this in mind the Wild Card teams are far from settled, whereas the teams currently ranked 1-6 in both the North and South are in but their rank could change. So if the playoffs were today… NORTH GLASGOW (1) v NOTTINGHAM (wc8) NTU (2) v SHEFFIELD (wc7) UCLAN (3) v LEEDS BECKETT (6) WARWICK (4) v NEWCASTLE (5) SOUTH SWANSEA (1) v UEA (wc8) SURREY (2) v KENT (wc7) BRIGHTON (3) v SUSSEX (6) RHUL (4) v CARDIFF (5) Bear in mind that the North/South divide remains until the final, but then both teams will already be celebrating promotion to the Premier, so in effect the Finals in their respective regions will be the promotion deciders. Relegation threatens for Lancaster and Huddersfield in the North, and Aberystwyth and KCL in the South. Still with us…good.   Tier 2 has just the top team from each division enter the playoffs and 6 of the 8 are settled with just two titles going down to the final day of the season. Again we have a North/South split with the two finalists gaining promotion. NORTH LJMU (1) v EDINBURGH NAPIER (4) COVENTRY (2) v MANCHESTER (3) SOUTH PORTSMOUTH (1) v PLYMOUTH (4) GREENWICH (2) v OXFORD (3) With a full round of games to go it’s still very much all to play for around the country before the postseason begins and the intensity goes up a notch or three! *We must stipulate that all the above has been worked out by the formula presented to us and therefore unofficial, but were fairly certain this is correct. As soon as we have an official line-up next week we will bring it to you.  
Article and photos by Gordon Dedman Complete set of photos from the game  - https://www.flickr.com/photos/107007642@N02/sets/72157663362148020/with/24498725342/   Unbeaten Surrey visited a strong Solent team Sunday on a mild January afternoon and both teams gave versatile performances in an attempt to gain the important win. With Solent’s running game dominating the opening exchanges, Surrey began slowly. The Redhawks scored two touchdowns in the first quarter before the Stingers edged their way back into the game using at times their outstanding passing game. The 20-20 halftime score reflected the balance of play in the first two periods and the determination of both teams to avoid defeat. As the second half began, the Stingers proceeded to self-destruct giving up a series of sacks before having their punt blocked gifting superb field position to their opponents. Stern Surrey defending saw the team survive before they took their first lead with a superb pass completion. Solent hit straight back using their powerful ground game to burst through Surrey’s defense, but the Stingers air attack propelled them back into a lead they didn’t relinquish to remain unbeaten. Their 48-34 victory ensured they remain top of their division. This was a glorious advertisement for English football. Surrey’s magnificent passing game and the hard nose ground game from Solent were a pleasure to watch as both teams fought for the win. With quarterback Jake Simpson’s passing prowess to Joseph Binney, combined with the ground game of Nicholas Argirous and Jacob Eltherington, the Stingers have the potential to progress to the playoffs.