by Twm Owen
Local rivalries can usually be counted on to add spice to any sport and this Sunday a Severnside derby will be reintroduced to the British American Football League.
The South Wales Warriors will cross the Severn Bridge to face the Apache in competitive action for the first time since the Bristol side entered the league in 2011.
Like trains passing through the Severn tunnel the pair missed each other in 2018. The Warriors started their first season back in the bottom tier in seven years as the Apache found themselves in Division One having won promotion from Division Two in 2017.
However the middle tier proved tough for the Apache who won just one game with their season ending in relegation.
Their return to Division Two West in April started with a loss to last season’s runners up the Torbay Trojans, 20-12, in Devon but in their second game registered their first win when they defeated the Somerset Wyverns 14-44.
Somerset, who made their debut in the league in 2018 with a narrow home defeat to eventual West Division champions the Warriors, had impressed during the opening weeks. They recorded a narrow 8-12 victory away to the Cornish Sharks to open the season and at home defeated the Worcestershire Black Knights 42-6.
The Warriors have been placed at number one across all of Division Two in the Double Coverage website’s power rankings since before the season opened and have justified their position putting up 33 unanswered points at the Cornish Sharks and thumping the Black Knights 55-0, at Llanharan, last weekend.
— South Wales Warriors (@swwarriors) May 16, 2019
The Apache, who are ranked tenth, are part of a wider gridiron programme in the city which also includes the Warriors’ former Premiership rivals the Aztecs. The Bristolians will not enjoy seeing the Welsh side earning the plaudits and will know a victory will throw the West Division wide open and make the entire Southern Conference take notice.
Rivalry between teams from south Wales and Bristol stretches back to when American Football leagues in Britain were first established in the mid 1980s but Warriors coach Geraint Roberts is simply pleased at the logistics of an away game that doesn’t involve a long journey.
“It does help and it means we can have a later start” said Roberts of the trip to the 3G facility at the SGS College, Wise Campus at Stoke Gifford for Sunday’s game that kicks-off at 2pm.
“It is easier on the guys and they will not be so lethargic as after a three-and-a-half-hour trip, such as down to Cornwall, which is a long journey. The hour or hour and ten minutes it takes to get there will be nice.”
However Roberts isn’t expecting a comfortable afternoon once the team arrive in Bristol. His side were barely challenged during the regular season last year, and he said they had coped well with the expectation they would produce a big win against the Black Knights.
“We have got to be better. We know the Bristol game is going to be completely different. They have had a nice win against Somerset but I haven’t seen any film of Bristol so I will try and get some this week, but if we don’t get the film we just have to play our own game.”
On offence the Warriors have threatened both on the ground and through the air this season and the defence has scored in both games to contribute 14 points without conceding any. The goal line was breached by the Black Knights however but their 39-yard tochdown catch and run was called back for a penalty.
“I think we just switched off and we know we are better than that and it was the kick up the back side we needed,” said Roberts of what would have been the first touchdown given up this season.
Despite the Black Knights having no reward from their trip to the Dairy Field their offence was at times able to move the ball against the Warriors but were undermined by repeated mistakes and giving up four turnovers to the Warriors defence.