Pulling The Flag

Britbowl – Under 12s Flag National Finals Preview

On Saturday, at approximately 11am. Four teams will take the field at Sheffield Hallam Sports Park and compete for the National League title.

Those teams are spread from all corners of England, from the capital London, where the Warriors will return to the finals after a few years absence, to the Waveney Wolves, in Suffolk on the East coast. Both teams will be representing the South Conference and they will be joined by their counterparts from the North Conference by midlanders, the Leicester Huntsmen and last years champions from Preston, Lancashire, the Chorley Buccaneers Red Beards.

To throw confusion into the mix, a controversial late change in the format by BAFA, whereby the last two years format of a group stage round robin, has been changed back to the previous format of semi-final, third/fourth playoff and final has been put in place.

This will also be the case for the under 17s format, which we will be covering in tomorrows article.

As part of the format, unlike the Adult league, the participants will already know who they have to face off against, because it’s actually pretty simple and rewards the conference winning teams with a better match-up on paper, by having the winner of the North Conference play the runner-up of the South Conference and vice versa for the other semi final.

So who will play who in the two semi- finals?

Game 1 – Chorley Buccaneers Red Beards v London Warriors

The reigning champions have been handed a plum draw in this first match-up. The experience of being perennial attendees at finals day is the first key element to the Red Beards having the advantage over their opponents. We’re not sure if the London Warriors have been to finals at this level? They certainly haven’t for the past 4/5 years.

The second factor is having won it two out of the last three, having only lost to the London Blitz in the well publicised final in 2015. Although the team may have transitioned, the coaching staff are well established and have been there with them throughout.

With the London Warriors coming in a full five games behind the Waveney Wolves in the standings, on a 7-5 record, that is factor three that works in the team from the North’s favour. The Red Beards, like the Wolves also went unbeaten in the regular season, finishing at 12-0.

The London Warriors only just scrapped into the finals on that 7-5 record, just ousting the London Blitz who finished 6-6.

At home, a  2-1 start in game day 1 saw them lose out to the Waveney Wolves 33-22 and beat the Waveney Timberwolves 32-26 and bye win over no shows the South London Renegades.

After a no show at the Waveney Wolves tournament by the Warriors, Blitz and Renegades, all of London, on April 29th, the real action got underway at Finsbury Park where the Warriors narrowly edged out the Blitz for a 32-30 win and also took wins from the rookie teams, the Solent Seahawks 53-16 & Waveney Timberwolves 48-19.

They weren’t due to play in the June 3rd game day in Waveney’s other game day, so their last chance of wins came in game day four, where they looked to be on thin ice after a 2-1 day having beaten the Solent Seahawks 55-20, South London Renegades 35-14 and losing to old foes the Blitz 40-30.

That meant they had to rely on the Blitz blowing up against the Renegades. Guess what? That’s exactly what happened, the Blitz out of nowhere lost to the Renegades 24-22, in what we hear was a real show of discipline by the Blitz, who were not happy with their squad not acting appropriately and benched some of their starters to teach them humility. Fair play! That cost them a finals place and handed the Warriors a place at finals.

The Red Beards had a very different route to finals. An undefeated regular season for two years running now, see’s them look like a sure fire bet to make the final and give them a chance to retain.

Their first game day, was a little tricky with a narrow win over the Leicester Huntsmen 19-12, but a comfortable couple of wins against the Studley Bearcats 39-6 & 34-6 win over their second team the Black Beards saw them start 3-0.

Although not involved in game day two, game day three at home, saw them pick up another three wins, 31-6 v Burnley Tornadoes, 26-12 over the Studley Bearcats and a close 19-12 victory over the improving Coventry Cougars advanced them to 6-0.

Game day four was their best day of the season. Traveling to Coventry, the shut out the Cougars 26-0, beat the Black Beards 32-20 and then secured a 26-15 win over the Huntsmen, realistically giving them another Conference title with three games to play, unlikely to lose in their last game day.

They’d skip game day five and finish off on game day six, besting the Burnley Tornadoes 32-6, Black Beards 48-12 and finally being handed a forfeit win over the Studley Bearcats, who couldn’t take part.

All in all, this should see the Red Beards advance to the final, with little fuss, but who will they play?

Game 2 – Waveney Wolves v Leicester Huntsmen

The Huntsmen retain all of the last years fourth place squad, bar one who they lost through injury mid season. After a disappointing placing last year at finals, they will be looking to improve and make their first final after coming third in 2015.

A 9-2-1 standing isn’t bad at all, but they will have been looking to have given the Red Beards a closer run for the Conference title.

Not quite in the same boat, the Wolves will also be looking to better last years performance, where they came third, after being hotly tipped to win in their rookie season.

Progressing through a perfect season of 12-0, they made easy work of their South Conference and our favourites to win, after also claiming a second straight Huntsmen Bowl back in March as well.

The Huntsmen, despite those losses had a decent season. The game day one loss to the Red Beards was also off the back of a 51-6 win over Studley and a 26-18 win over the Chorley Black Beards.

Hosting game day two, the Huntsmen laid down a marker putting a 58-6 win on the Burnley Tornadoes, 30-0 over Studley Bearcats and a 20-0 win over the Coventry Cougars.

They weren’t scheduled in for game day three, but headed over to Coventry and held the Cougars for no score again 19-0, Black Beards 41-0, but lost that 26-15 game to the Red Beards.

Finalising their place at finals the Huntsmen needed a win to get in, that came against the Burnley Tornadoes 25-12, followed by a 6-6 draw against the now much stronger Cougars and a final win from a 34-0 against the Chorley Black Beards.

Waveney got off to a solid start, picking up wins from a 33-22 Warriors win, 31-18 over their second team, the Timberwolves and a forfeit from the Renegades.

Game day two was a complete shambles, with Waveney due to host, but nobody travelled to Suffolk, handing the Wolves three wins.

Thankfully for the Wolves, their second team would host game day four and they would nail down a finals place, really laying down a marker, with a 47-12 win over the Timberwolves, a staggering 83-0 win over the Solent Seahawks and a 36-6 beating of the Blitz

They had to wait till game day five to play again on July 1st, where they easily bested the Renegades 26-6, Timberwolves 46-6 and Seahawks 61-0 to complete their undefeated season and will go to finals as number one seeds.

This match-up should be far more closer than the other. Both have the ability to put points on the board, it’s exciting prospect, but we probably favour the Wolves to win by a score or two.

After the semi-finals, there will be a third and fourth place playoff, followed by the final and you will be able to follow all the action live on Pulling the Flags YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEhH7nqg7CqCF9XGuQkw9Ww, linked to our Facebook page, with full commentary once more.



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