bucs

University Ultimate 2016/17: Half time in the Men’s division

news, Open, Previews, University

As the biggest league in UK Ultimate reaches its halfway point, we decided it would be useful to stop and reflect on how the season has gone so far. Teams are just starting to find their groove – new players have assimilated, freshers have now learnt forehands, and captains have learnt what tricks are needed to drag star players on five hour coach journeys on Wednesday afternoons.

We’d love to inspire some discussion for who you think will be making Nationals this year. But for now, I’ll leave it in the hands of my very capable writers to give you a region-by-region rundown of how things are shaping up this year.

A small reminder here that there are five regions (Scotland, North, Midlands, West, South-East), each with six teams (except Scotland, who have nine). The top three teams go to Division 1 Nationals, the next three to Division 2. The bottom two teams in North, Midlands, South-East and West will be relegated at the end of the year. There is no relegation in Scotland, and the 7th/8th placed teams go to Division 3.

Scotland, by Haydon Christou

Scotland has once again proved to be dramatic. Unlike last season, where the league went down to the wire, most of the drama looks to be at an end with one massive game left at the top – Dundee vs. Strathclyde. St. Andrews have started well and lead the pack, their professional attitude to the big games has paid off well. They have Edinburgh and Strathclyde left, two teams which fought them hard last season (Edinburgh were the only team to beat Flatball, and Strathclyde only lost on universe). I expect good games but St. Andrews to win the title again. They are closely followed by surprise package Glasgow, who won both Men’s Indoor Regionals and Mixed Indoor Nationals, and have consolidated their Div 1 spot (and a minimum of second place). Almost a perfect semester for a team I did not expect to perform as well as they had, they are left with the bottom three to play.

The Dundee v Strathclyde game will decide the third spot to Division 1. Both teams are very capable of winning and know that their outdoor season will be decided by one game, made tougher by the fact it’s straight after the Christmas break. Dundee have just one game left before playing the bottom three; Strathclyde however have had a tricky semester and are also yet to play Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh and St. Andrews. I back Dundee to win and Strathclyde to finish fourth, it’s rough for them as they do have the quality for Division 1.

There are no major surprises elsewhere in the top six. Heriot-Watt are yet to play Edinburgh or Strathclyde, and Edinburgh have only played Dundee and Glasgow of the top six. The top match-ups would be between Heriot, Edinburgh and Strathclyde, but these will likely only decide seedings for Division 2, which would be second, fourth, and fifth (arguably not much difference).

The same three teams are also fighting it out for the two Division 3 spots as last year. The only fixture to have been played so far has been Stirling vs. St. Andrew’s 2 (the latter coming away with a huge 7-5 win). The potential for another 3-way tie at the bottom remains. I’d back Aberdeen to beat St. Andrews 2 (Aberdoomed was worth it for the pun), but the Stirling vs. Aberdeen fixture could go either way. Stirling had to pull out of the second day of Men’s Indoor Regionals due to injuries, coincidentally after a humiliating loss in the 9v16 crossover. If they can have their key players available along with the return of Fraser MacDonald it will be a tasty fixture.

Barring any outrageous upsets, we look forward to a massive game to go to Division 1 between Dundee and Strathclyde and the Division 3 dogfight is yet to play out. Keep up the drama Scotland.

1

St Andrews 1st (Flatball)

4

4

0

27

12

2

Glasgow 1st

5

4

1

13

12

3

Strathclyde 1st

4

3

1

28

9

4

Dundee 1st

4

2

2

9

6

5

Heriot-Watt 1st

4

1

3

-7

3

6

St Andrews 2nd

3

1

2

-23

3

7

Edinburgh 1st

3

1

2

5

3

8

Aberdeen 1st

1

0

1

-11

0

9

Stirling 1st

4

0

4

-41

0

 

North, by Tom Daly

As expected, Durham and Manchester have been the powerhouses in this division this year. They have both seen off all competition this year, capping every team they’ve played except Leeds. As such, you could be forgiven for imagining that the winner of Manchester 1st vs. Durham 1st on February 1st would provide the winner of the division. So, if you have a free weekend, are nearby or are not playing, I highly recommend getting down to Manchester and checking out what should be an intense, close and highly competitive final.

As for Leeds, they have played both Manchester and Durham 1, but also have a victory under their belt. They will now look to win the rest of their games in order to finish as high as possible. Their main threat would be Sheffield Hallam, who they will play on February 15th. The winner of that game will likely claim third place and the final Division 1 spot. Don’t count out Hallam or Durham 2, who will be looking to better each other each week and finish as high as possible (keeping an eye on the goal difference) to avoid relegation with a fifth place finish.

Finally, York. Currently the only team without a win, they will be looking to pick up the positives from each match and learn quickly in order to avoid the drop. They have the ability and the players to get a win or two this season, so while they are currently bottom, count them out at your peril.

1

Durham 1st

3

3

0

32

9

2

Manchester 1st

3

3

0

24

9

3

Sheffield Hallam 1st

3

1

2

-19

3

4

Durham 2nd

3

1

2

-14

3

5

Leeds 1st

3

1

2

2

3

6

York 1st

3

0

3

-25

0

 

Midlands, by Dan Hillman and George Webb

The Midlands sees Loughborough make a strong start, almost guaranteeing Division 1 Nationals qualification after only two games. Defeating the current Men’s Outdoor National champions Nottingham in sudden death at a disturbingly still Grove Farm, before defeating Birmingham on home turf, has really put them on the radar as the ones to watch. Reigning Men’s Indoor National champions Birmingham, with two victories under their belt, are in prime position to also retain a Division 1 qualifying spot, requiring only a win against either Nottingham or Warwick 1. Nottingham currently have one sudden death loss against Loughborough and one sudden death win against Cambridge; they’ll be hoping to have a smoother finish to the season to defend the title of BUCS champions this year.

Warwick 1 haven’t played any games yet, which makes a review of their season so far pretty redundant. Warwick 2 have so far suffered a convincing loss against Birmingham, and, like their first team counterparts, will also suffer from a busy schedule in 2017. Finally, Cambridge, after taking Nottingham to sudden death, also suffered a 2-15 loss against Birmingham. As such, it’s fair to say Cambridge have so far had a turbulent season, even with only 2 games played.

To look back on our predictions, it’s safe to say we have been conservative in our self-evaluation. Predicted-first Birmingham only require one more win to guarantee a top half finish, albeit requiring a slip up from Loughborough to have a chance at retaining the regional title. Our predictions of Nottingham coming second are still holding strong, the Birmingham vs Nottingham match up (1st Feb) will be a great indicator of the strength of the two teams. Having initially predicted Loughborough third, from here on out we are backing the Haze boys to take the Midlands title. Cambridge have started slow, and it’ll take a strong finish for the boys in blue to end up safe from relegation in fourth, as they are the team that have suffered the most losses in the league so far. Warwick 1 have questionably rearranged all their games to early 2017 (I know, it was the AU’s decision), meaning the pressure is on to secure results in a short time-frame. And finally Warwick 2, the other fresh team in the league, who have to win at least one game to have any chance at avoiding relegation. Everything is up for grabs in the Midlands.

1

Loughborough 1st (Haze)

2

2

0

3

6

2

Birmingham 1st

3

2

1

23

6

3

Nottingham 1st (Fling)

2

1

1

0

3

4

Warwick 1st (Bears)

0

0

0

0

0

5

Warwick 2nd

1

0

1

-12

0

6

Cambridge 1st

2

0

2

-14

0

 

West, by Andrew Eck

What can you really say about a region that has so far performed more or less exactly the same as the final results from last year? I predicted that Exeter had a good shot at defeating Bristol and seriously contesting Bath. They fell just short in both cases, however, losing to Bath 8-10 and 12-14 to Bristol. These losses will no doubt have been frustrating and disappointing for Exeter. Whether these results spur them on to train even harder or demoralise the team will be hard to say, but their tough matches ahead of nationals are behind them. Bath and Bristol have yet to play and that game is one to watch. Their relative performances against Exeter could indicate that the two are evenly matched, though seeing scorelines in a vacuum is not really solid evidence. (Bath vs. Bristol is on the 1st of February – follow @UOBathUltimate and @theMythagoBeast for updates on Twitter).

The bottom half of the league, consisting of FXU (Falmouth), Swansea, and Winchester has also largely performed as expected. There’s some hope for upheaval, though. FXU have only had one match so far (a victory versus Winchester), so an upset win against Exeter could realistically guide them to Division 1. Unfortunately, Winchester has only narrowly avoided being bageled in each of their three games to date. With this in mind, I would expect them to lose their matches in the new year as well and almost certainly face relegation. Meanwhile, Swansea have lost 5-15 to Bath and fought a surprisingly close battle against Exeter, losing 12-15. I maintain that the Swansea/FXU game will likely determine which of them gets relegated. The game is a toss-up, but slight advantage to FXU.

So, what does this all mean for the Western 1A region? Not much, unfortunately. Bath continues to dominate the scene followed by Bristol and Exeter, with all three likely to go to Division 1 nationals. The remaining teams scrap amongst themselves, trying to avoid relegation. A skill gap remains between the top three teams and the bottom three. But there are some encouraging signs too. The points differentials (excluding Winchester’s) are closer this year compared to last year. It seems that teams are, in general, stronger, or at least more evenly matched. Still, what most people care about is results, and the results for this year are mostly unchanged from last year. I’ll be watching with interest to see if Bristol can upset what is quickly becoming a Bath dynasty.

1

Bath 1st

3

3

0

26

9

2

Bristol 1st

2

2

0

16

6

3

FXU 1st

1

1

0

13

3

4

Exeter 1st

3

1

2

-1

3

5

Swansea 1st

2

0

2

-13

0

6

Winchester 1st

3

0

3

-41

0

 

South East, by Jonny Arthur

The South East division is finely poised with the top four teams all on six points. Top of the table sit Sussex Mohawks having won both of their first two games against Surrey and Portsmouth, both in practically perfect playing conditions. The story for the Mohawks so far is one of a near flawless offence that has been broken only once, late on in the game against Portsmouth, which in Ultimate means only one thing: if you can’t break them, you can’t beat them. In my pre-season prediction, I said that the South East title would go to the winner of the Sussex vs Portsmouth matchup, and with Sussex coming out 14-9 winners it will take a big upset at this point for them not to add to the Men’s Indoor Regional title they took in November.

Second are Hertfordshire, who have also won both their games following up a victory over St. Mary’s with a universe point 10-9 win over UCL. These results, coupled with a third place finish in East & London Men’s Indoor Regionals, show how this team is progressing and becoming a bigger threat than I maybe gave them credit for at the start of the season. Hertfordshire will definitely be looking to secure the Division 1 Nationals spot, but with tough games against both Sussex and Portsmouth to come they will probably be needing to pick up points against the highly unpredictable Surrey team to keep ahead of the teams below them.

In third place are UCL, by virtue of a solid 15-4 win over St. Mary’s and a walkover win from Surrey. This walkover win is making it very difficult to gauge the real strength of a few of these teams. The universe point loss to Hertfordshire suggest they are both close in terms of quality but with only Sussex and Portsmouth left to play they are most likely in need of an upset win over the two pre-season favourites to get into Division 1.

Portsmouth are also the final member of the 6 points club, leaving them in fourth over Christmas. Make no mistake however, the Sublime boys are still a class act, with only that loss to Sussex keeping them from looking truly dominant going into the break. With zone play that is stifling in even the calmest conditions I fully expect them to win out their last two games to secure at least second spot in the region and to go on as a real threat at Nationals.

In the relegation places we have St. Mary’s and Surrey, both winless. While St. Mary’s are still mathematically in with a chance of gaining a Division 1 spot, this would require a big upset win over Sussex, but then again, this is a highly unusual Ultimate team. This team was started with no “experienced” player or coach, so they have built their own unique style of Ultimate that plays to their strengths, so if anyone can create a random upset it will be them. In sixth place lies a very unpredictable Surrey. A tough first two games against Sussex and Portsmouth meant it always looked like it would have to be a comeback season for the Stags. There seemed promise after they reached the final of South East Men’s Indoor Regionals, but having to take a walkover loss (and the -3 points that come with it) leave Surrey in the position where relegation is guaranteed. As such, the Stags are now playing for pride and to show that they have the quality to bring home some wins to close out the season.

Seeing how results have gone so far, the only change I see happening in the table is Portsmouth to leapfrog up into second place, with St. Mary’s and Surrey battling it out for pride and fifth position.

1

Sussex 1st (Mohawks)

2

2

0

13

6

2

Hertfordshire 1st

2

2

0

8

6

3

UCL 1st

3

2

1

10

6*

4

Portsmouth 1st (Sublime)

3

2

1

18

6

5

St Mary’s 1st

3

0

3

-29

0

6

Surrey 1st

3

0

3

-20

-3*

*Surrey conceded their game against UCL

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *