Three weeks ago, a statement victory for the Bombers over fellow title contenders Chiefs Esports Club looked to have ended discussion about who was the leading light in the Oceanic Pro League. Now, just three weeks later, the Chiefs have reminded the Bombers and the entirety of Oceania that they cannot be counted out.
Described by many as the ‘game of the split’ after the Bombers’ nexus exploded, it was more a sense of simple satisfaction for Chiefs coach Tim “Volt” Clay. For the returning club helmsman, it was the payoff of a “long, hard slog” in the past few weeks.
“[The win] gives us a lot of confidence, [we wanted] to get to the point where we could comfortably say we were better than them on the gameday,” Volt said.
“The first time we played one mistake from them snowballed into a win for us, and the second time we got completely rolled. The third time we played better throughout the game and earned the win.
“It gives us a lot of confidence. Last time we played the Bombers you could see they were a better team than us in every regard, and outclassed us in every aspect – even draft, which is my area. Now everything went in our favour and it showed we’ve come a long way.”
Down go Bombers.
— The Chiefs Esports Club (@ChiefsESC) March 9, 2019
Although the match was eventually decided off the back of a nail-biting teamfight in front of Baron Pit nearly 35 minutes into the game, high-level contests raged across the entire game. While Jordan “Only” Middleton dictated the early side-lane tempo with his movements on Kindred, Hyun-jin “BalKhan” Choi combined with Tommy “ry0ma” Le to shutdown Brandon “Claire” Nguyen.
The early battle between the two junglers quickly spilled into a series of skirmishes that were dominated by sharp damage bursts from ry0ma and major assaults from Brandon “Swip3rR” Holland on Renekton and Quin “Raes” Korebrits on Lucian.
Despite ry0ma’s incessant danger on LeBlanc, the Chiefs were able to win out in the major team fights throughout the mid game, before the final penultimate clash saw Claire pull off a three man Shockwave to turn the tide. After the Orianna ultimate pulled in the Bombers trio, Swip3rR was able to dish out massive damage on the Butcher of the Sands, confirming the upset victory in Round 8.
“I can’t even explain how good it feels, I’m ecstatic,” Chiefs jungler Only said after the 25-18 win on Saturday evening. “I was happy with how I played out the early game, but a few of my teammates had a rough early game including Brandon [Claire], so I was really happy to see him come back with the most clutch shockwave I’ve ever seen.”
Only, who ended the game 8/3/6 on one of his favourite champion picks in Kindred, said once Volt had drafted him the Eternal Hunters he was “super confident” in how the game was going to play out. After the victory, he focused in on the “positive win rate against the best team in the league”, and the main reasons they were behind the Bombers in the standings.
“I’m really happy we have that positive win rate, that feels good, but at the same time I’m a little bit upset that we’ve dropped wins elsewhere,” Only said.
“It’s up to fate now, we still need Bombers to lose a game to get that first seed going into the finals. Overall however, it’s still a huge confidence boost that if we do make the finals we’ve already beaten this team twice out of three chances, so they should be the ones afraid of us.”
“It’s all up to Bombers now, but I think teams like Avant, Mammoth and even Order can take games off the higher up teams, so there’s the chance that the Bombers slip. There’s a chance that we slip as well, but I’m really confident going into the last few weeks now.”
After the Chiefs fell to Bombers in Week 5 in a disappointing 0-2 weekend, they haven’t seen their nexus explode on stage. Six straight victories, including their revenge against the Essendon club, now puts them just one win behind the high-flying Bombers.
With the first seed, and a path straight to the OPL 2019 Split 1 grand final, now within touching distance for the former kings of Oceania, there’s everything to play for in the remaining five games.
“There’s always a chance [we can place first], taking down Bombers means we should be in the driver’s seat for all the rest of our games this split,” Chiefs coach Volt said of their potential chances at the top spot.
“We have a hard game versus Mammoth, and a hard game versus Avant, and they’re all good teams, but we’re coming in aiming to win those hard games and hoping Mammoth slip up Bombers. It’s always possible, we lost to Mammoth and Order earlier in the split, so it can happen to anyone.”
For Volt, there’s no confirmation yet that the final could be another battle between the Chiefs and Bombers, but from where he’s standing there’s a good chance they are both in the big dance come the end of the split.
“There’s still two more weeks of regular season, so it really depends on how practice goes, but I think that we’re confidently top two,” he said. “I said before the game that Bombers are probably a better team than us, and I still believe that because I think we still have a fair way to go before we’re comfortably better, but I think we’re better than the rest of the league at the moment.”
Also in the eighth round of the OPL, Gravitas scored a crucial 2-0 weekend with wins against Avant Gaming and the Dire Wolves. Mammoth were the third team to clinch an undefeated weekend and improve their standings, knocking aside the same teams.
Legacy Esports joined the Wolfpack and AV in the loser’s circle with a 0-2 weekend against Bombers on Friday evening and Order on Saturday, while Order locked a 1-1 after their Friday loss to the Chiefs.
STANDINGS: Bombers (14-2), Chiefs (13-3), Mammoth, Avant (9-7), Gravitas (8-8), Order (7-9), Legacy (3-13), Dire Wolves (1-15).