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What set of results Gameweek 7 provided!! With only 3 games on the slate last Sunday, there were a lot more eyes on each game, as teams looked at the standings of their divisions and wondering just how their seasons would be affected. While we would all love a 6-game weekend to look forward to, the 3 games we did get last Sunday have shifted paths of Premier Division and Division 2 in ways many never saw coming. Let’s break each game down and find out.
#1 Dublin Rebels (4-0) 38 – 6 #7 Belfast Trojans (0-3)
The T in “Big T” may very well stand for “Trouble”, as that is exactly where the Trojans find themselves as they approach the midpoint of their season. While their losses have come against as-of-yet unbeaten teams — so some leeway must be given their way — the defending Shamrock Bowl champions have not started this season on the right foot at all. This game was actually quite close for most of the game, with the Rebels up 14-6 at the end of the third quarter. The Trojans then suffered a complete collapse in Q4, turning the ball over twice — INTs from McKelvey to DB Dylan Paisley and LB Gustavo Souza — and giving up 24 points. Panic alarms may not be ringing just yet, certainly not when it comes to relegation anyway, but the Trojans have very quickly slipped down the seeding order for that 4th playoff spot, which now seems to be their only way to get back in the picture to defend their championship. The Trojans next host #4 Craigavon on May 29th, with both sides needing wins to keep their playoff hopes in tact.
The Rebels, meanwhile, are cruising atop the Premier Division after their dominant fourth quarter performance. QB Ty Henry threw for 3 TDs, all to WR David King (who also racked up a fumble recovery off a muffed Trojans punt return), while RB Wello Omorodion added a score on the ground. Long-time Rebel Conrad Cook made sure the defense wasn’t left off the scoring chart, taking a fumble recovery to the house in the first quarter. The Rebels found a way to break the Trojans after 3 tough quarters of football to put this one away quite convincingly in the end. The Dublin outfit travel to Malone RFC to take on #8 Belfast Knights on May 22nd, in a game that could mathematically secure the Rebels a spot in the Premier Division playoffs.
#5 Dublin Rhinos (1-3) 28 – 16 #4 Craigavon Cowboys (2-2)
Author’s note to start this review: I did not see this happening at all. To some around the league the Rhinos seemed destined to finish 0-8 after their start to the season and how they matched up against others in the Premier Division. And yet, the Rhinos put in a performance we’ve not seen from the club since perhaps their 2018 Division 1-winning campaign. QB Ethan Foster ran in one score and RB Rodrigo Nieto punched in two, with Nieto’s TDs being interrupted by a Foster-to-David O’Neal touchdown pass. Foster’s passing TD and Nieto’s second score sealed the game for the Rhinos after the lead changed hands multiple times in the second half. The Rhinos schemed up pressure brilliantly throughout the game, creating 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and a recovery in the game: DE Gary O’Rourke, putting in a standout shift, tallied one of each on the day. DB Patrick Gahan helped finish the game in the 4th with an INT on Cowboys QB Peter Loughran, the second on the year for the Rhinos and Gahan’s first. The Rhinos leapfrog a few teams into the #5 seed, with a trip to #2 UCD on May 22nd on the cards. Will the Rhinos ride the wave from last Sunday to another shock upset? Only time will tell.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, will certainly be looking back at the weekend as a missed opportunity. The strong start to the season has flamed out, with the Craigavon side not reacting well to their loss to UCD a few weeks ago. QB Peter Loughran threw for 2TDs to WR Luis Alberto, but there was little else to speak of from the rest of the team. With a brief break to prepare for back-to-back clashes with the #6 Admirals (May 22nd) and the #7 Trojans (May 29th), it will be interesting to see what version of the Cowboys we see in those games: the side that came out guns blazing in Gameweek 1, or the more reserved side we’ve seen since then? Coaches will be hoping for the former as Craigavon look to put their return season to the Premier Division back on track.
#2 NI Razorbacks (2-1) 20 – 16 #4 Antrim Jets (1-2)
The Razorbacks denied the Jets the clean sweep in their series with the closest result from Sunday’s action, claiming a 20-16 victory that sends them to the #2 seed. QB Mark Thompson scored once each on the ground and through the air (the latter going to TE Zakk Appleyard for his first TD of the year). RB Gary Busch was also on the scoresheet with a rushing touchdown. The Razorbacks defense played their part too, coming away with 2 INTs and 2 fumble recoveries — DE Jonny Graham tallied up a force and a recovery, while DB Liam McCarren notched an interception late on to seal the win. The result puts the Razorbacks ahead of the Giants with the same 2-1 record, though the ‘Hogs’ have a tough test ahead with the #1 Mavericks (3-0) in Gameweek 8’s lone matchup.
The Jets fall to 1-2 and the #4 seed after a failed comeback attempt. QB Scot McLean keeps his streak of being involved in every offensive TD Antrim have scored this season, adding another score on his passing and rushing touchdown tallies. It’s an interesting situation for the Jets now, who give up the “points difference in head-to-head” tiebreaker in this series, which may end up affecting playoff seeding later in the year. Still, while they would have hoped for a better defensive output, this loss doesn’t derail Antrim’s chances at the Division 2 final too much. And, with McLean under center, the Jets may soar up the standings in time for that game.