Josh Coxon Kelly closes out the A Tour previews for the 2015 season.
With rain lashing down around them, the players of Chevron and GB A may have been ready to move to the ‘bog ultimate’ tactics well honed in Mansfield and Wimbledon of years gone past. With their well-trained forehands back to fresher level consistency and layout bids taking players to the next field, surprise will have come as studs held fast allowing these teams to amidst most of June’s rain in one hour. The Watford groundsmen certainly came through with the unexpected A Tour performance of the weekend, and although many games were cancelled, the show pitch held one of the most exciting games of the season so far as a revived Chevron gritted out a sudden-death victory (sealed by a horizontal Tom Martin-Hall) against the Great Britain defensive line.
This victory presented a fork in the knockout structure as Chevron returned to the quarter-finals from their notable absence in Nottingham, and GB found themselves fully humbled after two losses in their pool leave them third, and out of contention for the finals. The other team to beat GB A was the GBU23s. This young squad took a dominant lead in the first half against the seniors, who had an opportunity to get to 11-10, but after failing to convert at 12-9 were unable to stop the U23s from storming to victory with convincing swagger.
The U23s weren’t able to replicate their ballsy performance against the other half of GB, who clinically and calmly beat the U23s on course to the final. France showed strength to meet this GB team in the semi-finals, however GB 1 focused at mid-game to get some separation, and this momentum continued into the final. Glasgow rose above the internationals to get to their first tour final which consolidates a fantastic season given their surprise entry to the top four in Nottingham. However, looking drained from their semi-final which had finished only minutes before, the Scots false started most of the first half. GB 1 didn’t turn down the opportunity, and took control of the game to seal their first Tour victory of the year, and the second of two events won by a GB squad.
Glasgow’s successes at the first two Tours would put them in a fantastic position to take the Tour title, as the only domestic team that managed to consistently post a high ranking. Unfortunately for them, a preseason booking of a mixed tournament that clashes with Cardiff will see them absent. This, combined with turbulent results of historically strong teams and the absence of Clapham throughout tour leaves a title race with some unexpected challengers. Joining Fire 1, Chevron, and EMO 1 in the overall top 8 are Reading, Birmingham Devon, Kapow! and Manchester, with Manchester second only to Fire 1 figuring in Glasgow’s not-attendance. With GB U23 and Masters remaining in the mix at the top, and plenty of room for crossover with the 13-20 bracket open on Sunday, the Tour title provides an entertaining story running alongside the actual on-pitch results at Tour 3, and games will be weighty with this extra significance from the first pull on Saturday.
In pool A, GB U23 will want to start to hit their stride and hold dominance over Ka-Pow!, Cambridge and Birmingham. Ka-Pow! will be keen to get an upset over them, and will certainly hope to take the second seed if they can’t manage this. The U23s are nearing their season peak for the World Championships, so should be fired up for every game. However – this will only make the prospect of standing in their way sweeter for the club teams in this pool.
GB U23 looks like he has beaten GB Senior Ashley Yeo …
… but as ever Yeo gets the timing perfect. Photos courtesy of Andrew Moss.
Pool B is surely the most wide open, and is a testament to the hard work of new teams this season, as well as perhaps the struggles of the more established. Manchester sit pretty at the top of the group, and will look to take full advantage of this position as they make a bid for the UKU Tour title. Fire of London have made ruthless selections based on attendance, and in doing so have ended up with some mixed strength squads. If they have stacked their firsts in a bid for the Tour final then Manchester will certainly have their work cut out, as well as the other teams in the group. Brighton have another shot to move up towards the lofty positions they held in previous years, and A Tour newcomers Curve will be looking to cause further trouble in this already unstable group.
Chevron will hope to find a more reasonable pool compared to the tough draws they have faced at previous Tour events. The team’s swift turnaround at Tour 2 showed a focused outfit, and whilst a loss to the Irish in the quarter-finals held them from the higher reaches of the event, wins against GB U23 and the GB D-Line show that they have the calibre to return to the top four. That said, EMO are ever dangerous and will want to prove themselves against Chevron, and Reading remain disrespectful of reputation. Sneeekys will enjoy their first A Tour start in the season. Unless they can draw deep from the ex-Fusion pick up list they are unlikely to trouble the top bracket, but they will certainly be grappling hard to stay in the top 16 on Sunday.
Pool D finds a new entrance into the A Tour of Bristol 1, coming off the back of a solid performance in London. Leeds have not yet threatened too much outside of their seedings, but Devon and GB Masters provide plenty of chance for seeding upsets given the importance of key players in their respective rosters. All in all, top eight predictions are quite vanilla (by americo
). All top seeds should advance to quarters, with second seeds EMO and Devon following in pools B and C respectively. Pools A and B may prove more interesting, and Ka-Pow! and Fire 1 stand a good chance of making the leap into the top eight. A Chevron – Manchester semi-final is possible, and would provide a suitably exciting stage to close out the exciting seasons of these two rival teams. GB U23’s top seeding gives them a great opportunity to make a Tour final, but expect to see EMO and GB Masters making life incredible hard for them on their way.
With no lack of disruption from new teams, roster changes and international preparations, the season has seen little stay still and whilst the groups seem quite well set for Cardiff, this tendency for upset will undoubtedly still dog the A Tour. As GB Open take on the best in America at the US Open, the remaining club Ultimate stars take to the Llanrumney fields to fight for the most wide-open Tour title in years. Things are certainly exciting right now in elite British Ultimate, and with World, European, and National Championships this year there is plenty still to come. Roll on Cardiff!