With just six short weeks to go until the start of the 2014 BAFA campaign, we thought it best to rewind the clock six months and look back at how the National League season came to an exciting climax, and the promotion of two teams to the Premier League.
The Colchester Gladiators and Solent Thrashers ended the 2013 season with a perfect 10-0 record, and were heavy favourites for the National League title, even though the Chester Romans and Gateshead Senators were just behind them with just one loss each on the year.
The opening round of the playoffs, saw the Gladiators handily beat the 8-2 Bristol Apache 33-7, while Solent put their unbeaten record on the line against another 8-2 side. The Kent Exiles were also put to the sword and the Thrashers eased to a 43-8 win. Gateshead ran out comfortable 44-15 winners against the 7-3 Merseyside Nighthawks and in the last quarter-final Chester took on the Clyde Valley Blackhawks, a game which was broadcast in audio live and exclusive to readers of this site, the Romans victorious 33-15.
The semi-finals saw the Romans long road come to a stop as they met a Gateshead team that was simply unstoppable on the day, the Senators running up the score and coming away with a 50-22 win to advance to the final.
The second semi put together the unbeaten teams, and the game was a close one throughout, Colchester had the upper hand though and posted the only shutout of the playoffs and breaking Solent hearts with a 12-0 victory.
Leeds’ John Charles Stadium played host to the National League final and after a close and tense opening to the game it was the Colchester Gladiators who eased away form the Gateshead Senators to win by a final score of 33-13. Both teams had booked their place in the Premier League for 2014, but it was the Gladiators who fought their way through the 2013 season unbeaten and crowned champions.
You can see a recording of the Final in its entirety below with commentary, courtesy of Gridiron TV.