BUCS University football emerged from its Christmas break last weekend and the UK’s winter football league continued with some teams having four games to play before playoff positions can be decided.
In the Premiership North, the unbeaten Durham Saints travelled to play Leeds Beckett and shut out the promoted team 36-0 and now stand unbeaten at 5-0. Durham’s 34-13 win over the (3-1) Stirling Clansmen in November tilted the division title their way and the Saints could seal it on February 25 when they travel to Stirling.
In the Premiership South, the other promoted team the Portsmouth Destroyers lost to the Birmingham Lions 28-6 who advanced to 3-1. The next couple of weeks in the division will be interesting as the main contenders for the division title face each other. February 3 will see the (2-1) Swansea Titans travel to Birmingham and the following weekend Swansea will host the (4-1) division leading Hertfordshire Hurricanes.
With four games remaining, it might seem premature to talk about relegation, but the (1-3) Destroyers and the (0-4) Killer Bees will battle it out Sunday in Bath in an attempt to improve their lowly positions.
In the 1A Yorkshire division, the surprise of the weekend was the previously unbeaten Sheffield Hallam Warriors losing 6-0 in a gritty battle at the Leeds Gryons who are no longer winless. The Warriors still head the division at 4-1, but with the UCLAN Rams 42-13 defeat of the LJMU Fury moving them to 3-2, there is still a lot of football left to be played.
The 1A Midlands division saw the Nottingham team tame the winless Stafford Stallions in a 42-0 shutout and progress to 5-0. Next week the unbeaten team will travel the short distance to the (3-1) Nottingham Trent Renegades in an intriguing meeting of Nottingham’s two teams.
In division 1A North, rivals (3-1) Glasgow Tigers travel to the (4-1) Edinburgh Napier Knights next weekend. The Tigers won 35-12 when they hosted the Knights for the season opener and will be looking for a similar result to keep the division title open.
The Manchester Tyrants rolled over the Keele Crusaders 66-6 to maintain their momentum in the 2A North and preserve their unbeaten record at 5-0. The (4-1) Bangor MudDogs are snapping at their heels after being awarded the fixture against the Chester Legions although the Tyrants own the tiebreaker.
The (4-1) Plymouth Blitz are top of 1A South West and the division title could be decided on February 18 when they travel to the (3-1) University of West England Bullets who they have already beaten 28-16 at home.
In division 1A South next Sunday, the (4-0) Kent Falcons travel to the winless Imperial College Immortals in a game the Falcons must win to stay in touch with the (5-1) University of East Anglia Pirates. February 18 could be the Pirates and Falcons D-Day when the teams meet in Kent.
Anyone who witnessed the division 2A South East game between the University of East London Phoenix at the Essex Blades saw a defensive battle with a soccer style result. After a first half in which no points were put on the board, Essex forced a safety to give them a two-point lead, but UEL’s Ahmed Yassin hit back with a 30-yard field goal to take the 3-2 win that keeps the Phoenix one game behind the (5-1) Queen Mary University Vipers who squeezed passed the Greenwich Mariners 8-0.
Two unbeaten teams meet this weekend in the 2A Borders division when the (4-0) Newcastle Raiders host to the (3-0) Teesside Cougars. The (4-1) Edinburgh Predators, who still have an opportunity to have a say in the division title, host (1-3) Heriot-Watt.
As the new kids on the block, the York St John Jaguars had a real baptism of fire in December when they made their league debut going down 52-0 to the Newcastle Raiders. Their journey didn’t get any easier with postponements and a 50-0 loss at the weekend to the Edinburgh Predators.
The division leading (4-0) Southampton Stags in the 2A South West play their next game on February 11 when they will be looking to continue their winning ways after the break.
The (4-0) Brighton Panthers will consolidate their position at the head of division 2A South this weekend when they are awarded a win against the Buckinghamshire New University Buccaneers who are unable to complete the rest of fixtures.
The failure of the Buccaneers to fulfil their schedule is a sad indication of the lack of application given to football in the UK. It’s not easy for teams to maintain a level of playing ability and player enthusiasm when losing. Additionally, in the University league it is not easy to keep a solid organisation with the annual changes of students. Unfortunately there are teams in the league other than the Buccaneers with similar challenges.