Arguably British university football’s biggest attended event (even more so than the final), xpLosION enters its 10th year at the University of Birmingham as the Birmingham Lions take on the Bath Killer Bees at Bournbrook tomorrow afternoon.
The Lions come into this fixture in imperious form. They are on a 12 game win streak,
stretching back to the beginning of last season; one which was rounded off by winning the Championship, beating Stirling Clansmen 19-13 – who, incidentally, are the last team to beat them.
For Bath, this game will be a good measuring stick for the progress they have made as a side as we begin the new season. Bath finished 4th in the BUCS Premier South Division last year, finishing with a record of 3-8. They have been a solid mid table side for a few years now, having enough resources to beat weaker teams comfortably, but never really troubling the higher echelons of the league.
During the off-season, the Lions lost several key offensive personnel, as is the nature of university sport, but they’ll be pleased that quarterback Sammy-Lee Baker remains.
The task facing Baker, coach Wayne Hill, and his backroom staff is now getting the new recruits up to speed with the playbook, and testing which of the experienced players can step up to fill the roles of the veterans that have left the side.
Last week against the Kingston Cougars, last year’s xpLosION opponents, it was business as usual for Birmingham as they ran out 30-13 winners. Scoring touchdowns on both sides of the ball is something that is bound to please Coach Hill, but there were issues with the side getting it together in the second half.
After shutting the Cougars out in the first half, they allowed 13 second half points through missed tackles and poor coverage, and only added one score of their own as rookie integration and playbook experimentation played their part. They were also unfortunate to lose Nik Evans to injury after breaking his arm during a sack, which caused a massive delay in the game.
Bath lost their opening fixture, losing to the Herefordshire Hurricanes in a rather low scoring affair 3-10. However, this won’t deter them from giving it everything tomorrow given the added spice of playing the champions at their own packed out event, with the opportunity to cause an upset that would reverberate throughout British uniball.
The Birmingham Lions have never lost an xpLosION event in its entire history, and they are unlikely to start losing now. Many pundits and fans around the league have them ranked as favourites to retain the title for what would be a 6th time in their history.
What it all promises is that we’re bound to see a hard-fought, competitive, quality fixture on Saturday as these two sides meet, showing us some of the very best of what uniball has to offer. With performances by the ever-present Birmingham Pussycats and the Birmingham University Dance Squad, plus fireworks, food, drink and NFL merchandise all available at this free event, you’d be mad to miss it.
xpLosION begins at 4:15pm at the Bournbrook rugby pitch with kick-off at 4:30pm. Attendance is free for all. For those unable to make it, the game will be streamed live at xplosion.tv in a collaboration between Burn FM and Guild TV, or you can follow Burn FM Sport’s Live Blog throughout the game, right here at www.burnfm.com.