by Twm Owen
The South Wales Warriors return to British American Football League action this weekend when they open their season with a long trip to Cornwall.
The Llanharan-based side swept all before them in the west division of British American Football Association (BAFA) Southern Conference Division Two last year but bowed out at the semi-final stage when the Portsmouth Dreadnoughts became the first team to beat the Welshmen in 2018.
On Sunday the Warriors face the Cornish Sharks (2.30pm), a team they twice beat comfortably last season, when they posted an 8-0 regular season record.
Warriors head coach Geraint Roberts said the team’s aim is to win promotion back to division one, which they were relegated from in 2017, and acknowledged last season had finished in disappointing fashion.
Roberts also agrees with the pre-season predictions that have again made the Warriors clear favourites for the west title but warned other teams also have their eyes on claiming top spot in the division.
“The goal is promotion back to Division One. We were so close last year, and we know we let ourselves down in the playoffs,” said the coach who is in his fourth year in charge of the only Welsh team competing in the BAFA league.
“Following our excellent divisional record last year we will be favourites again this year. But, we know we have a big target on our back and that other teams in the division are working hard to put one over on us this year.”
Sunday’s opponents have found a new home this year at Newquay Football Club’s Mount Wise Stadium and the Sharks, that had been competing near the top of the division in previous years, are ambitious to improve on a dismal 2018 that only produced two wins.
Though this Sunday is the first time the Warriors will see competitive action this year the season started a fortnight ago and the Sharks and the five other divisional rivals have already seen league action.
Cornwall’s first game of the season was a narrow, 12-8 home loss to the Somerset Wyverns, who are the only team in the division to have played twice.
The Wyverns’ second victory was a club record 42-6 thumping of the Worcestershire Black Knights that will have put the Warriors on alert of the Taunton-based outfit’s intention to wrestle the west title.
Last season was the Wyverns’ first in the BAFA league since the team, that was originally established in the 1980s, reformed. Their debut fixture was their only meeting with the Warriors who escaped with a 6-8 victory in a scrappy opening encounter and was the closest anyone came to a victory over South Wales in the regular season.
Victory over the Black Knights was significant for the Wyverns as the Worcester side just pipped them to play-off qualification as one of the two best third placed teams across the Southern Conference last year. Despite earning a play-off berth it was easily relinquished by the Black Knights who forfeited their post-season trip to Llanharan having suffered 48-0 losses, home and away, to the Warriors in the regular season.
With preseason wrapped up and less than a month to go until the season officially kicks off. Here is the schedule of our home and away games for the 2019 South Wales Warriors football season. pic.twitter.com/P6bY8PJePu
— South Wales Warriors (@swwarriors) April 1, 2019
The fixture list has however handed the Black Knights a swift return to South Wales and they will be the first visitors to the Warriors home at Llanharan Rugby Club’s Dairy Field ground on Sunday, May 12.
Last year’s division runners up The Torbay Trojans also got their season off to a winning start in week one with a 20-12 victory over 2017 west champions Bristol Apache who spent last season in Division One. Torbay matched the Warrios until the later stages of last season but a cagey 6-14 home loss was followed by a heavy defeat in Llanharan.
The Bristolians found life tough in the middle tier winning just one of their nine games to send them straight back down.
Roberts says he is wary of reading taking too much into early season results and says his focus remains on what his own team can do.
“I haven’t really paid much attention to the other results so far as it’s very early in the season. I’m aware that Torbay and Somerset have made some great additions to their squads so they will be pushing us this year. However we know where we are and what we can do, so I prefer to concentrate on ourselves.”
With just eight fixtures for each of the six sides in the bottom division the Warriors will only face four of their opponents in home and away fixtures. Despite the Apache being the Warriors’ closest geographic rivals the schedulers have spared the West Country men a trip across the Severn Bridge while the Warriors do not travel to Worcester.
The Welshmen did head to the West Midlands in pre-season to face Division Two North side Birmingham Bulls. But the early March fixture was marred by poor weather and the friendly finished 0-0 while the Warriors completed their pre-season preparations with a scrimmage against Division Two South side Swindon Storm.