Martyn Brown brings us the second piece in his coverage of the 2015 Mixed Tour
It’s safe to say that Cardiff will be a tournament most people won’t forget. Whilst Saturday was challenging, it was no more difficult than the conditions we experienced in Nottingham or Cheltenham for Mixed Tours 2 & 3 respectively last year. However, Sunday delivered some of the most difficult weather that we have had to play in for a number of years with wind, rain and mud in plentiful supply.
Despite the conditions the games got under way in earnest. Pool-play threw up few surprises with both GB teams topping their respective groups. The GB U23 teams also impressed, improving on seeding and giving themselves a chance to move up the order next tour. Ireland Mixed comfortably topped Pool C after a convincing victory over Thundering Herd 1. Pool D provided the most interesting results with Shiny Happy Meeple comfortably topping the group ahead of both Black Eagles and Brighton Breezy, with returning players helping to show that they are one of the strongest contenders at Tour this season.
Elsewhere, Rebel Ultimate swept aside their opposition in Group G and Glasgow 2 enjoyed a good day, suggesting that this is a club with a lot of talent this season. Surprisingly, National Champions Birmingham Ultimate had a tough day, finishing bottom of their group suggesting that either there has been a high turnover of players this season or the quality of Mixed Tour is significantly stronger than Mixed Nationals.
Following the group games, there were some interesting match-ups in the 5-12 crossovers. Black Eagles overcame the GB U23 Arriba whilst Glasgow 1 lost out to GB U23 Andele, ensuring that they remained the top Scottish team at Mixed Tour. The two Scottish clubs look evenly matched so I look forward to seeing them play head-to-head. Elsewhere, former Thundering Herd players Ben Groombridge and Kate Markey helped Bristol 1 to victory over their old team to ensure that Bristol stayed on track for a high finish in the overall Tour race. BAM, (with the help of experienced players Dani & Matt Anderson) had earlier recorded two sudden death victories, however they were unable to overcome Reading who were looking to bounce back from two earlier losses.
By Sunday, the weather had deteriorated considerably. There was little enthusiasm to get play started and just fifteen minutes before the start of games only a handful of individuals were out practising and warming up. It was not a day for conventional ultimate and the teams that did best and managed the upwind scores were those that adapted their tactics to the conditions. Many teams changed up their lines and stacked the upwind points with big throwers and deep receivers. Saying that, there were some nice, patient displays of teams working it up the field. However, these points were few and far between.
Never has winning the toss been so important, highlighted by the scores in the quarter-finals, all won by a single point. Had it not been for Reading scoring the upwind point in sudden death against GB Mixed A to snatch victory, all of these games would have been won on the toss.
The semi-finals offered two interesting match-ups with a pool D rematch between Reading and Shiny Happy Meeples and a first-look match-up between the GB and Ireland National teams. However, with Meeples forfeiting their game and the other semi-final going with the toss, the games were not as exciting as they could have been in fairer conditions. With rumours at this point spreading that the M4 bridge was closed, most teams took the UKU’s advice to abandon their final match leaving few people around to watch the final.
Further down the standings Glasgow overcame a loss against Thundering Herd 1 to top the round robin pool and claim 9th. Rebel were undefeated to claim a share of 13th alongside JR who recovered well after finishing bottom of their group on the Saturday. Thundering Herd 1 and Brighton Breezy had a disappointing start to the season finishing 11th and 15th respectively, so will be looking to bounce back up the table as the season progresses. Cambridge 1 made a move up the rankings improving on their 26th placed seeding to finish 18th, which should be enough for them to be seeded in the top 16.
In all, my predictions were largely blown out of the water. Reading and Shiny Happy Meeples finished high up the standing, but with the absence of the GB and Ireland Mixed teams, Salford promises to shake things up yet again.
Finally, a quick note on the communication on Sunday. It is good to see the UKU statement (and now defined process) released on the need to improve communication. As a captain, I was given conflicting information on what should happen which made it very difficult to make a decision on whether to play and what the implications would be if we didn’t. The UKU and Tournament Directors did the best they could on the day but there is a need to have this process clearly laid out for future events so I look forward to seeing some guidelines [see above] as we approach Mixed Tour 2…
Although only three weeks apart, Mixed Tour 2 is set to be very different from the opening event in Cardiff. The weather is expected to present almost perfect ultimate conditions with it set to be dry, bright and slightly breezy. This should ask different questions of the teams competing and should provide a more accurate representation of their relative strength. Also, with both GB Mixed senior teams and Ireland Mixed not entering we will certainly get a better idea of who the strongest domestic club teams are this season.
The schedule is formatted slightly differently from Mixed Tour 1. Instead of top 16 pools consisting of four pools of four, there are now two pools containing the top eight seeds. This format is largely replicated lower down the schedule. With progression from the pools directly into the semi-finals, there is a lot to play for so expect to see closely fought games on Saturday.
Pool A sees Mixed Tour 1 winners Reading 1 attempting to maintain their top seeding. They’re in a tough pool which features a strong Glasgow team that are well drilled, and look like they’ve played together a long time. Bristol 1 have some new faces that seem to have strengthened their squad and will be looking to push back into the top four, and GB U23 Arriba will be looking to take more scalps against these well-established mixed teams to help build their confidence in the run-up to the U23 World Championships.
Shiny Happy Meeple top the seedings in Pool B and will fancy their chances of maintaining their strong start to the season. They have a large pool of talented players to choose from and whilst they seemed to have made a few changes since last season, they look like a squad that can challenge for tour titles. However, rumour has it they are short of players this weekend, and this may hamper their bid for finals. GB U23 Andale will be hoping to stay ahead of their teammates Arriba and take the experience as well as bragging rights into their training sessions. With the (reported!) better conditions, both of these teams will be looking to execute and perfect the plays they have been working on in the off-season.
Black Eagles look to have made a solid start to the season however they should be eyeing a spot in the semi-finals based on the squad they have built. Thundering Herd were disappointed with some of their results and are currently seeded seventh. However, with some returning players to strengthen their team, they will also be looking at a top four finish.
Further down the seedings, Mighty Hucks have a young, promising looking team so expect them to move up the rankings should all their players be available. Cambridge proved they are still strong despite losing some of their best to the senior GB Mixed Squad; they will have a good shot of topping their pool. 2014 champions Birmingham will be looking to rebound from their disappointing start, and I would expect them to also top their pool and look to climb back up the overall standings on Sunday.
It’s really tough to predict the top 8 especially as we didn’t get to see teams in their full stride at Mixed Tour 1. However, I think the seeding looks accurate and don’t expect any upsets in the 5-12 round. My prediction for the final standings are as follows:
Shiny Happy Meeple
GB U23 Arriba
Best of luck to all teams attending #ukumt2!