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The July 4th Weekend has come and gone, and Gameweek 15 certainly provided plenty of fireworks! With 186 points scored across just 3 games (a 62 point average!) and playoff opportunities closing up, every game had a lot of weight to it. How did each game go down? Let’s see.
Record: ¹ = Secured Playoff Appearance
² = Secured Home-Field Advantage
³ = Eliminated from Playoffs
#8 Belfast Knights (0-7)³ 26 – 43 #5 Belfast Trojans (4-3)
The Trojans kept themselves in contention for playoff football with their 4th consecutive win this past Saturday. Playing their final home game of the season, the Trojans put on a show in this rivalry game, in all 3 phases. RBs Jona Siri and Mo Ramadan combined for 3 TDs, the defense had 2 pick 6s through DBs Thomas Boyd and Donal Jones (the latter’s going the length of the pitch after intercepting McDowell’s pass on the Trojan’s goalline), and Chris Larmour housed a kick return. Never giving up the lead after going ahead early on, the Trojans have truly been revitalised during their home series, and look set to carry that form forward. After an important win for the Big T they are right within reach of playoff football — though a win away to Cork next weekend, or at the very least a tie — is necessary for them to achieve that goal, something that seemed near impossible just a few months ago.
The Knights continued their offensive hot streak but, as has been the story with the Black and Gold this season, also continued their cold streak on defense, allowing 40 or more points in each of their last 3 games. The offense kept in rhythm and kept fighting when the game was all but done, scoring at the death to get another TD on the board. Of course, when speaking about the Knights offense it’s hard to omit QB Spencer McDowell, and therein lies the issue for the Knights next weekend. Ejected in Q4 of a game in which he ran the ball twice into the endzone and threw a passing TD to WR Jordan Clinton, McDowell has ruled himself out for the first half of the survival game vs #7 Rhinos (1-6) this upcoming Sunday, a task that will certainly be more difficult without their starting signal-caller.
#2 UCD (6-1-1)² 28 – 28 #3 Cork Admirals (4-2-1)
UCD got involved in their second consecutive banger of a game, and while they didn’t quite get to see this one out for a win, the result means they did secure themselves home-field advantage for the playoff semi-final on July 24th. A slow game to start, the game was tied 6-6 at halftime. From there, both offenses turned it on, with a back and forth battle that saw the game tied late on. UCD almost sealed the game in the dying seconds, with the ball ending up as close as the Admirals’ 3 yard line, though the clock hit zero before they could get another play off. UCD finish the regular season scoring 28 or more points in each of their last 4 games, and should be seen as a favourite to at least be one of the 2 teams competing in Shamrock Bowl XXXIV.
Cork also played a great game, limiting the UCD offense to less points than the Rebels did this time last month, and putting the second-highest points scored this season on the UCD defense. QB Stephen Hayes balled out with another 4 passing TD performance, rocketing him up to 18 on the league leaderboard. Declan Maye came down with 2 receiving TDs, while Jahn Dasini had a great day on both sides of the ball, coming away witha receiving TD and an interception on UCD QB Arun Mooney. While the Admrials performance from Saturday is certainly a positive, the tie here was nowhere near as helpful to them as it was to UCD. With a record of 4-2-1 heading into the final game of the year, they can still be caught by the #4 Panthers (4-3) and #5 Trojans (4-3), the latter being Cork’s opponents this coming Sunday. While another tie or a win at home vs Trojans will send Cork to the playoffs, a loss would mean the Admirals would be relying on the #1 Rebels (7-0) to see off the Panthers and complete their undefeated season.
#6 Craigavon Cowboys (2-6)³ 6 – 55 #4 South Dublin Panthers (4-3)
Not the way the Cowboys would have liked to end their season, the newest team to the Premier Division finished their year 2-6 with a lopsided loss to a Panthers team still looking for playoff football. QB Peter Loughran got the ‘Boys on the scoreboard with a touchdown pass to WR Miguel Heatherington, and Sean Slater forced a Panthers fumble on defense, but little else of note happened from the Cowboys camp. WR Christian Cowan took plenty of snaps at QB as Craigavon decided to see what they had on the field without starter Peter Loughran, which may serve as a preview for the future. Craigavon will certainly be glad they remained afloat in the Premier Division this season, though plenty of work will need to be done to avoid a similar 6-game losing streak happening in the future.
For the Panthers, last Sunday served as a get-back game, needing a refresh after their loss to the Trojans. They did just that, putting up 8 total touchdowns on offense, 3 coming through the air via QB Ian Cahill, 5 being punched in on the ground with the rushing offense. RB Ben Arulogun shone brightest Sunday, adding 3 of those 5 rushing TDs himself. On defense it was just as dominating of a performance, forcing 3 interceptions through Eoin Neville, Andrew Reddy and Mike Massari (who added his 3rd on the season). The Panthers next face an incredible task in the undefeated Rebels. The Panthers will need to at least match the Trojans result with the Admirals as both the South Dublin and the Belfast outfits are tied on record. An underdog win vs the Rebels will automatically secure playoff football for the Panthers, regardless of the Trojans result.