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Assessing the pitch battles in Newfoundland senior soccer leagues

Ryan Garland of the C.B.S. Strikers and Marek Nakonieczny of Feildians (right) compete for a ball during a game on a rainy day earlier in the 2017 Challenge Cup provincial senior men’s soccer season. It could very well come down to Feildians and C.B.S battling it out for the final berth in the four-team Challenge Cup playoffs in early September. The teams sit fourth and fifth in the league standings, with Feildians ahead by a point, but C.B.S, holding a game in hand.
Ryan Garland of the C.B.S. Strikers and Marek Nakonieczny of Feildians (right) compete for a ball during a game on a rainy day earlier in the 2017 Challenge Cup provincial senior men’s soccer season. It could very well come down to Feildians and C.B.S battling it out for the final berth in the four-team Challenge Cup playoffs in early September. The teams sit fourth and fifth in the league standings, with Feildians ahead by a point, but C.B.S, holding a game in hand.

On a rainy evening in St. John’s, it may be a good time to take stock of what’s taken place so far the summer on the fields in local senior soccer leagues.

We’ll start with what might be seen as the only true provincial senior circuit in the province, the Molson Challenge Cup men’s soccer league, where the St. Lawrence Labatt Laurentians look very much like the team to beat, and not just because they are the defending champions.
A five-game unbeaten streak has helped move the Laurentians (11-3-3) to the top of the standings, nine points clear of the second-place Holy Cross Kirby Group Crusaders (8-4-3), who have been riding a hot streak of their own, with six wins in their last seven games, helping make up for a start to the season that saw them go winless until their sixth game.
What’s more, Holy Cross has a couple of games in hand on the Laurentians.
While it’s never a good idea to look too far ahead, it would appear that any Crusaders hopes for finishing first could hinge on how they’ll do on an early August trip to the Burin Peninsula to face their arch-rivals for two games at Centennial Field in St. Lawrence.
It will be a showdown between what has been — to this point — the league’s stingiest team in the Laurentians, who have allowed just eight goals in 17 games and have 10 shutouts, and a Holy Cross side that has scored more times than any other team — 34 in all.
Not that a Laurentians-Crusaders final is a certainty.
As it stands, and ignoring games in hand, Holy Cross may be seen as not only chasing St. Lawrence, but as having to deal with teams chasing them. In fact, Holy Cross, with 27 points, heads up a group of five teams separated by just six points with just four weeks left in the regular season.
Mount Pearl First Choice Haircutters (7-4-5), runners-up to the Laurentians in last year’s final have 26 points. Mount Pearl has played one more game than Holy Cross, but it’s worth noting that three of its remaining six contests are against the last-place Corner Brook Steers Insurance United, which has but one win so far this season.
Feildians Ernst and Young (6-6-5) hasn’t really been able to build on a solid start to the season (the Double Blues were unbeaten in their first five games), but still owns a .500 record and holds what would be the fourth and final playoff position.
The C.B.S. That Pro Look Strikers (6-6-4), who have had the biggest transformation this season, are in fifth place, just a point behind Feildians and with a game in hand. Considering the Strikers didn’t win a game in 22 outings in 2016, it can already be said to be a successful 2017 for the Topsail-based team. However, with a roster reinforced by international players now permitted to play at the senior club level, C.B.S. has probably reached a point where it would be disappointed by not getting a twirl in the playoff dance on the Labour Day weekend at King George V Park In St. John’s.
The Gerry O’Brien Financial Canada Games team (6-7-3) definitely won’t be in the playoffs — he youngsters are competing only on an exhibition basis and will play their last Challenge Cup game July 30 before preparing to head to Winnipeg, site of this year’s Canada Games. However, they would be a challenger for a post-season berth if they were full-time members of the league, what with 21 points, just two fewer than Feildians.
Corner Brook (1-15-1), with just four points, has been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention and is left to play for pride and a chance to play the spoilers’ role in its remaining five games.

JUBILEE TROPHY
There is absolutely no uncertainty about who will advance to the playoffs in the four-team Breen’s Jubilee Trophy senior women’s soccer league.
Holy Cross Avalon Ford, C.B.S. Kirby United and Feildians have been guaranteed the three available playoff berths since the start of the season. The fourth Jubilee entrant this year has been the Canada Games team, which like their counterpart on the male side, has only been taking part on an exhibition basis. In fact, the Games team played its last Jubilee Trophy game of the season last Thursday, downing Kirby 6-0.
That result was indicative of the strong play this summer of the Games team, which suffered just two losses in its 12 contests, both to league-leading and defending champion Holy Cross (the Games team had a win and tie in its other meetings with the Crusaders).
Between them, Holy Cross (10-1-1) and the Games team (8-2-2) have 18 of the 19 wins registered in Jubilee play this season. Once-dominant Kirby — it had won eight straight championships before losing to Holy Cross last season — has just one win and six points in a dozen games, although the C.B.S. team (1-8-3) is expected to get a boost after the Canada Games. That’s because Newfoundland’s Games team includes a number of key players who would normally be playing with Kirby and are expected to return to C.B.S. when the competition in Winnipeg concludes.
With Holy Cross having long ago clinched first place, it will be Kirby taking on so-far winless Feildians (0=8-4) in the Jubilee Trophy semifinal Aug. 17 at the Topsail Turf Complex, with the winner advancing to meet Holy Cross for the championship at the same pitch two days late

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