Review: AFI Gameweek 12

Gameweek 12 certainly did not disappoint! With Saturday and Sunday both having a game finish with a margin of less than a field goal, while another game wrapped up with an upset shutout. With plenty of knock-on effects for the last month of the season, let’s see how this Premier Division-heavy slate played out.

Premier Division
UCD (3-3) 24-25 Dublin Rebels (5-0)
A tight contest that went down to the wire at De La Salle RFC! The lead changed multiple times in this one, with both Arun Mooney and Ty Henry having great scoring days by contributing for 4 touchdowns each. The story coming out of this one will be the Rebels holding the Students to 0-4 on 2pt conversion attempts, which kept them in the game throughout. The game was decided just before the 2-minute warning, with Ty Henry throwing his 3rd passing touchdown of the day to Dave King to put the Rebels ahead by one point. A defensive stop on the ensuing drive ended the game and secured the Rebels’ fifth win on the season, keeping their undefeated season alive. UCD fall to 3-3, and while they still seem to be penciled in for a postseason appearance (provided they win one of their last 2 games: vs Panthers, vs Knights), it’s safe to say the vibe on campus right now is slightly more agitated than going into the season. The Rebels, meanwhile, are all but locked into a home playoff game this July. They travel to Cork Sunday June 4th in a showdown with the Admirals in a game that will see one team lose their perfect record.

Division 1
NI Razorbacks (3-4) 12-14 Cill Dara Crusaders (4-2)
Another close game in this one, with the Razorbacks putting up a tough test to the hosts here. The visitors got on the scoreboard first early-on through Alex Kusmirek, but the Crusaders defense showed up in a hard-fought battle where touchdowns became a premium. Ultimately, Cill Dara went over in this one, with scores from Luke Carey (who added what turned out to be a crucial 2pt conversion) and Ben Costello proving to just be enough for the hosts to hang on to victory, despite a late comeback attempt and QB sneak from Mark Thompson threatening to tie the game late. Cill Dara play the Dublin Rhinos (2-4) this coming Sunday in a return fixture that will prove to be a key matchup in the Division 1 playoff picture. The Razorbacks chase for the #4 spot is in jeopardy after this loss, with a win now needed over the 6-0 Mavericks and two losses for the Rhinos to make the Razorbacks playoff eligible.

Premier Division
Belfast Knights (1-5) 0-27 Westmeath Minotaurs (2-4)
The Minotaurs managed to reverse the result of their away trip to Belfast 3 weeks ago with a big win at home Sunday over the Knights. Joe Kinahan and Jack Lynch connected for 2 scores Sunday and ran in a third, while Shaun Dalton housed an interception that killed a Knights drive that reached the redzone. The Knights reached the redzone multiple times Sunday but couldn’t push the ball over the goalline as the Westmeath defense stood their ground. The Minotaurs, now sitting at 2-4, have created a bit of momentum on offense that they’ll look to carry through to the end of the season with tough games against current undefeated sides Cork and the Rebels. Playoffs are still mathematically possible but even the most ardent of Westmeath fans will be more focused on finishing the year with good performances rather than living or dying by playoff dreams. The Knights, meanwhile, hit a bit of a roadblock and have 2 games left on their own campaign. @ Cowboys and @ UCD remain, and with the threat of relegation still looming, the Knights need to win 1 of those 2 games to secure survival in Premier Division.

Craigavon Cowboys (0-7) 0-26 Belfast Trojans (4-2)
The Trojans put up their own shutout at home Sunday when they hosted the Cowboys and came out with a 4-score win. Mo Ramadan has been a big piece for the Trojans for years as a hybrid-FB, but had an outstanding day even for his standards this past weekend — the Trojans offensive MVP caught 1 of Dom Lynn’s 2 touchdown passes, and punched 2 touchdowns in on the ground. On defense, Head Coach Phil Gunning had asked for better play after their visit to Mullingar and they delivered, keeping the Cowboys at bay all game with multiple players getting in on numerous TFLs and limiting Cowboys yardage. A complete team performance will always act as a morale boost to any team, and its one the Trojans will be happy to have come by as they come into the last 2 games of the regular season, staring down playoff football. June 18th’s matchup with the Panthers (3-2) essentially acts as a “win and you’re in” game, and the Trojans will be chomping at the bit for that matchup. The Cowboys have just 1 game left this year, which comes June 11th at home vs the Knights. A loss relegates Craigavon to Division 1. All eyes will be on Peter Loughran’s availability at QB as his on-field presence is undeniable and a certain game-changer. A knee injury suffered at the beginning of May, though, may rule him out for that one.