Three weeks into Elite Series Season 3, and this was the first week that felt like make-or-break for many of our teams. Some were clinging on to playoff hopes by a thread after a bad start to the season; others were already eyeing top spot having come out of the blocks fast. This weekend didn't disappoint, with some huge upsets and absolutely crucial results – and obviously, no shortage of pop-offs and noise in the Gfinity Arena. Let's break it all down for you, shall we?
FIFA 18An excellent performance saw Nordavind take all three points against the much-fancied Hashtag United in Friday's first match. A very nervy first game saw Chnewar fight back from a goal down to prevail over Hashtag Ryan 2-1 to set the tone for his team, before Damie enjoyed the perfect Gfinity Elite Series debut with a utterly controlled and formidable 4-1 victory against Agge. After Diogo_Peixoto's antics last week, it would have been easy to assume Nordavind would have been in trouble without him against the might of Hashtag, but this was a fabulous performance to give Nordavind a much-needed first win of the season – and catapult them to joint-top of Group A on 4 points.Vitality clinched a much-needed 2-0 win against a strong exceL side in their third game for the season. Brian grafted hard and closed out a strong 2-1 victory over Painter to commence the tie, then Moolzn was able to vanquish the demons of his near-miss last week as a spectacular early goal sent him on the way to a frenzied 4-2 win versus Der Gaucho. It felt like a game of musical chairs at several points, with both young players matching each other stride for stride, but unlike last week Moolzn ended up in front when the music stopped – and powered Vitality back into playoff contention.Outright wins have been very hard to come by for our Elite Series teams, such is the level of competition and how evenly matched the teams are. And we saw another hard-fought draw in the third match of the evening between Epsilon and Method. Fully had the first game wrapped up before half-time as he roared into a 3-0 lead and saw it home to a 3-1 win against Pricey, however Zelonius then returned the favour by dispatching of Dingo 3-2. Both teams sit on 2 points, so neither are out of playoff contention yet – and Method still have a game in hand on 2nd place FNATIC.Friday night's final match was a strange one; an incredibly close duel as ARES edged to a 1-0 victory over FNATIC after a goalless first-leg draw. Rannerz and Janoz were the two involved in the Gfinity Elite Series' first ever 0-0 result, a classic case of two defences winning out and chances at a premium, but luckily the second leg wasn't lacking for goals as Mobacha came from behind twice to prevail 3-2 over Zimme. With only one leg won, ARES only pick up a single point for their first victory of the season and therefore remain bottom of Group B – but they still have a match in hand on Epsilon and FNATIC above them.
Rocket LeagueAn exciting opening game on Saturday saw Renault Vitality clinch the reverse sweep and a 3-2 triumph over previously unbeaten Envy. It looked to be smooth sailing for Envy as once again EyeIgnite and co's clinical finishing was paying dividends. But Vitality tightened up, went back to basics with their passing plays and immediately reaped the rewards, clicking off three straight games on the bounce and overwhelm Envy for their second win of the season. Envy's losing bonus point means they remain top of Group A on 7 points with a place in the playoffs all but secure, whereas Vitality's win moves them level with exceL in 2nd just one point behind Envy.We were then treated to a second straight reverse sweep, and one of the biggest shock results of week 3 in the process as UNILAD clinched their first win of Season 3 against ARES. After their absolutely epic match last week with fierce rivals Method, ARES came in full of confidence and absolutely dominated the opening two games, scoring goals for fun all over the park. But UNILAD have been threatening a big performance in the opening fortnight of this season, and they came to life in spectacular fashion – for any weaknesses Calix, Caro and Speed have defensively, their offense was crisp and razor-sharp. And as soon as they got their act together going forward in Game 3, they came storming back into the contest, growing in confidence and eventually knocking ARES to the canvas with some fabulous passing and finishing plays. Speed lead from the front and can be incredibly proud of his team's performance; the victory keeps UNILAD's playoff hopes alive, as although they remain bottom of Group B they are just a point behind both Method and ARES in the playoff places. As for ARES, this is the second shock defeat they've suffered for Season 3, and although they remain favourites to secure a playoff place, questions remain over which version of ARES will show up each week.Next up ExceL took their second win of Season 3 with a comfortable straight-sets victory over Nordavind. Much like UNILAD, Nordavind have shown some promise this season and the potential for an upset with their fast starts; unfortunately they were caught cold by an exceL team brimming with confidence from their win over Hashtag United last week, and their attacking plays shone with Markydooda helping his team cause absolute havoc in front of goal. The 6-0 thumping in the final game was a brutal exclamation point on such a dominant performance, and they move joint 2nd in Group A with two matches to play; as for poor Nordavind, three losses means they are all but eliminated from Season 3, and they have one last chance to recover some pride against Hashtag United next week.
The final match of Saturday's session saw Epsilon back up their impressive opening round win over ARES with a strong performance against FNATIC, dispatching them 3-1. They didn't quite have it all their own way this time, though; such a potent FNATIC team with such great finishers like Lauty means the shutout was never on, but the reality is that FaykoW, Pugsay and D7 are quickly establishing themselves as one of the strongest trios in all of Rocket League competition. Rock-solid defence allied to smart offensive plays make them an incredibly difficult opponent, and they deserve their top spot in Group B on 6 points with a game in hand over 2nd place ARES. FNATIC remain in 4th on 3 points with two matches still to go for them.
SFVWith a week off to regroup after their humbling in week 1 at the hands of Nordavind, former champions exceL came back firing and blew away Hashtag United 4-0 in Saturday evening's first fixture. It's been a baptism of fire for Hashtag United in SFV competition as they slip to two straight defeats and are yet to win even a single set in Season 3, but players like MossMossMoss showed some promise this week and actually had Brian on the ropes momentarily in their matchup. However, you need an almost perfect performance across the board to trouble exceL, and Infexious, Brian and Hurricane were able to move through the gears with ease to storm to their first win of the season.Speaking of first wins of the season, UNILAD finally got off the mark for Season 3 with an absolutely crucial – and very emotional – 4-2 victory over FNATIC. Whilst UNILAD and the #FKEEArmy will never lack for crowd support, they just weren't able to back that up with results in the opening fortnight of Season 3. Having taken the bold decision to rotate Boltstrike out of the starting lineup this week, it was down to their draft players to deliver a much-needed victory - and they did exactly that, fighting back from 1-0 and 2-1 down to clinch a fantastic win. VegaPatch anchored the team and used his Fang to nail two crucial wins against Shakz, and AngryMojoSan and Cobelcog showed nerves of steel to close out incredibly tight sets against Akainu and Atrosh respectively – the latter finding a great time to finally get his first set win in Elite Series competition. The outpouring of sheer joy and emotion at the final whistle was wonderful to see; this result was just reward for the team continuing to improve week-on-week. They move level on points with FNATIC – denying them a losing bonus point could be crucial, as one more win against Epsilon next week will almost certainly qualify them for playoffs.After week 3, there is only one team in SFV competition with three wins from three matches – the hugely impressive ARES. Their latest victims were Method, themselves coming off a victory over UNILAD last week and who would've entered this one feeling confident. And as one-sided as the result looks, it certainly doesn't tell the full story; every round was close, and ultimately it was the relentless attacking positivity and brilliant move choices under pressure from Will2Pac, Nas and Abdess that saw them home. Nas deserves particular praise for bouncing back from a first set loss to Packz and grabbing a crucial win against ImStillDaDaddy to put his team 3-1 up. This victory means they are the first team to guarantee their spot in the playoffs; one more win against FNATIC in a fortnight could see them through as group winners.Saturday night concluded with everything we love about SFV; a fantastic contest, spectacular pop-offs, and an upset victory as Nordavind toppled the defending champions Envy 4-3 in an instant classic of a match. Much like ARES, Nordavind are one of the top breakout teams of Season 3; any team lead by SaltyKid will never know when they are beaten and will always brim with bravado and hubris, and Momi and Phenom have had an immediate impact in the tournament. And having already swept aside Season 1 champions exceL in week 1, they went stride for stride with an Envy team missing Layo this week but subbing in the hugely talented JonesArcade instead. Envy kept their noses in front early on and actually reached match point first, but it was a brilliant final set under huge pressure from Phenom against Mr Crimson that sealed a massive result for Nordavind. Having defeated both the former champions of Elite Series SFV, Nordavind have announced themselves as major players for Season 3 – and now sit 2nd in Group B, just one point behind Envy. And scarily, Phenom was quick to identify ways in which Nordavind could get even better in his post-match interview. As for the defending champs, their losing bonus point means they still lead the group on 7 points, so no reason to panic just yet. And who knows, eating a loss now could only make them stronger come playoff time – a daunting prospect for their rivals.Three weeks in, and teams are edging closer to playoff qualification – but there's still so much to play for. Next week will be huge for many of our teams – you won't want to miss any of it. Get your FREE tickets to come and watch all the action in the Gfinity Arena here, and you'll also be able to watch live exclusively on Facebook every single week: