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From the Saracen Press

Regular Season Wrap-up, Playoff Preview

Posted on 2001-09-05 by Agustin Louro

With all Saracen squads finishing top-four in the regular season, there is reason for optimism this fall.

The Saracen First XV have had their best regular season in recent history, but everyone knows it should have gone better. Victories over Spring Cup runners-up Canucks and ever-despised CCIAC are overshadowed by a draw with the Lep/Tigers— a game which should easily have been won— and a defeat at the hands of our sister club in the provincial capital, the Nor'westers.

Despite Edmonton's domination of Calgary representative sides this season, the northern clubs fall short of the level of play of their CRU counterparts. Nevertheless, our top squad found itself on the wrong side of a 20-10 scoreline in their last game of the regular season and were left with a lengthy break before the playoffs to ponder their future.

Had it not been for the aforementioned disappointing and surprising loss, the Saracens would have found themselves atop the Alberta Cup Pool A standings, but alas, they handed their destinies to the Canucks and Irish as they played the Green and Black into a second-place finish.

Due to the cross-over playoff scheme, the Saracens First XV's opponents come from Edmonton. Pool B second runners-up Druids will make the trip south to face off against a much stronger squad than the one they lost to last year. However, by all accounts, the Druids are also an improved side and may prove formidable opponents, depending on their mood. It is apparent by their regular season behaviour (a narrow defeat of the Hornets and a relative thrashing of the Clan) that the Druids are as unpredictable a team as are the Saracens.

The seconds finished our topsy-turvy regular season competition with a win over the outmatched and outclassed Saints last Friday. Before that, we started each match slowly and lethargically, leaving ourselves in a sometime-inescapable hole. Victories over the Irish and our two draws were demonstrative of our potential, but defeats at the hands of the Hornets and Banff showed us we still have work to do if we want to win the competition.

The Southern Alberta Second Division competition is the most unpredictable of all in the city, as demonstrated by a five-point Saracen victory over wooden-spooners Rams and draws with league leaders and runners-up Canucks and Lethbridge. Last year's winners from the 'Bridge are not as strong as anticipated, and the table-toppers seem weak in certain positions, leaving the city trophy wide open.

The greatest downfall of the Second XV has been inconsistency, especially in key positions such as halfback and number eight. Towards the latter part of the regular season, the squad finally started to migrate towards its playoff form, and we were able to succeed on game day: we take a two-week undefeated “streak” into the playoffs.

Quick reactions from set pieces will be crucial for a Saracen victory over their first-round opponents Hornets. In our last match, the Black and Yellow number eight was able to break loose from the back of the scrum on various occasions, causing the Saracen defence all sorts of troubles and resulting in a disappointing loss. If he can be contained and backline defence is strong, the Saracens should easily advance to the city semi-finals.

Thanks to a large shuffle caused by the disappearance of the Stingers' first division team, the Lady Saracens faced much stiffer competition than they have done in their infant years in the league. As a result, they were unable to defeat regular season winners Saints or second runners-up Stingers, and split a home-and-home with their playoff rival from the 'Bridge.

This is not the first time the women have found themselves in fourth place after the regular season, however: they defeated first-place Lethbridge in the 1999 city semi-finals in their first year of existence. They will be looking to do the same this year as they face off against the third place Stingers, who finished ahead of the Green, White, and Black by a two-game margin.

The Thirsty Thirds began their season with two consecutive victories, but undid their hard work with two defeats at the hands of the Saints; and continued the up-and-down pattern for the rest of the regular season. They were plagued, as usual in the past few years, by a lack of consistency in their line-up and an unfortunate inavailability of a full-time coach. In spite of this, they managed to finish third in the division, making them one of the top Saracen squads of 2001 so far.

Their playoff picture is encouraging, as their first-round opponents Hornets A were defeated on both occasions this season and there is no reason to think the pattern would be broken. In fact, the Hornets will be further depleted of their resources by the travelling Hornets B side, which will also need its best performance combined with an off day from its opponents to win.