UKU University 2017: Men’s Outdoor Nationals Div 3 Preview

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Harry Mason bring you the Division 3 preview with added BUCS League reviews.

Welcome to the true grit of UK Ultimate. The lower leagues. This is where you really earn your stripes in Ultimate. To truly prove yourself as a top team, you need to be near flawless all season. One loss in the cup? You don’t play nationals. One loss in the leagues? You’re unlikely to get promoted this year. And when one loss is so important, you’d better also remember how many games you’re playing. A typical team can play between around 8 games in a year, reaching up to 12 for some teams. That’s a lot of matchdays, a lot of travelling, a lot of pulling in favours, and a lot of haranguing players to come along to games.

There are four regions, each with two lower leagues. The top in each of the eight leagues gets promotion for the next year.

In addition, each region has a set of cup matches. The top two in each cup (those who get through to the ‘final’) get to go to Division 3 Nationals that year. Sure, it’s highly dependent on the draw. And sure, it seems weird that a team can get promoted and yet not go to nationals. That’s how it is.

NB: the final of a cup is not explicitly played, but those two teams that win their semi-finals get to go to nationals. Yes, it took me a couple of tries to understand it too.

Finally, those finishing 7th and 8th in the one Scottish league also go to Division 3 Nationals.

Right, with all that out of the way, here’s a summary of each league and cup. I’ll keep it brief, because we’ve got a lot to get through.

North

Northern League 2A

1

Bangor 1st

7

6

1

35

18

2

Sheffield 1st

7

6

1

50

18

3

Liverpool 1st

7

5

2

14

15

4

Sheffield 2nd

7

3

4

-23

9

5

UCLAN 1st

7

4

3

32

9

6

Keele 1st

7

3

4

-12

6

7

Lancaster 1st

7

1

6

-51

3

8

Huddersfield 1st

7

0

7

-45

-9

Concessions (-3 points if you conceded, +3 if you get conceded against):

  • UCLan to Sheffield 2
  • Keele to Bangor
  • Huddersfield to Liverpool, Lancaster and Keele

Demoted Last Season:

  • Liverpool (5th in Northern 1A)
  • Sheffield (6th in Northern 1A)

Promoted:

  • Bangor

Summary:

The resident teams of the Northern 2A league seem to have been unlucky, with both relegated teams finding their way into this league from last season. In addition to an already strong Bangor side, this fight for promotion was always going to be scrappy; however, Bangor clinched victory. Despite a 8-9 loss vs Sheffield 2, a 12-7 victory vs Sheffield 1 leave Bangor champions via the head-to-head rule*, and Sheffield’s captains scratching their own heads about their selection policy. This will certainly be a league to watch next year though, as Liverpool and Sheffield start to eye each other up for next year.

*If two teams are tied on points, the winner of the match between those two teams is placed higher. If three teams are tied, it goes to goal difference

 

Northern 2B

1

Newcastle 1st

8

8

0

91

24

2

Hull 1st

8

6

2

50

18

3

Northumbria 1st

8

6

2

34

18

4

Durham 3rd

8

6

2

10

18

5

Newcastle 2nd

7

3

4

-9

9

6

York St John 1st

8

3

5

-41

9

7

Sunderland 1st

8

2

6

-25

6

8

Teesside 1st

8

1

7

-41

-3

9

York St John 2nd

7

0

7

-69

-6

Concessions:

  • Teesside to Northumbria and Durham 3
  • York St. John 2 to Hull and Durham 3

Promoted:

  • Newcastle

Summary

Newcastle absolutely dominated this division. Their closest result was to local rivals Northumbria (10-7). Beyond that, no team scored more than 4 on them. A fairly dominant performance, with no extra points from walkovers required, and the highest goal difference across all leagues (even when you account for the number of games played). Hull managed to squeak out a closely contested 2nd place, and Durham 3 seem to have the unusual honour of most points gained via concession in any league against active teams. All that is secondary to Newcastle, who have fought through last year’s disappointment to capture promotion with two hands this year.

Northern Conference Cup

Even with UCLan’s upset victory against Bangor in the round of 16, the Northern region will still be sending two very strong teams to Div 3 Nationals. Newcastle kept up their season-long unbeaten streak (their closest game was an 11-8 victory vs UCLan, who must have been cursing the cup draw at that point), and sent a strong message to anyone who will face them at Nationals.

On the other side, Sheffield proved victorious. For most observers, the game to watch would have been their 12-7 victory vs Liverpool. With both relegated teams from the top division facing each other in the cup, it appears Sheffield were determined to show that despite finishing below them last year they were going to give Liverpool all they had. Actually, it was the semi-final where Sheffield managed to squeak through in a sudden death home victory against Hull that proved to be the real test of Sheffield’s steel.

Midlands

Midlands 2A

1

Oxford 1st

7

7

0

79

21

2

Leicester 1st

7

6

1

50

18

3

East Anglia 1st

7

4

3

33

12

4

Coventry 1st

7

3

4

17

9

5

Oxford Brookes 1st

7

3

4

-33

9

6

Nottingham 3rd

7

3

4

-42

9

7

Loughborough 3rd

7

2

5

-45

6

8

Anglia Ruskin 1st (Cambridge)

7

0

7

-59

0

Demoted Last Season:

  • Oxford (5th in Midlands 1A)

Promoted:

  • Oxford

Summary:

Despite a couple of narrow games (notably against East Anglia and and Coventry), Oxford seems to have run away with this league. Last year saw Loughborough 1 in this league too, meaning some of the other teams may feel themselves a little hard done by with luck of the draw. Second place Leicester put up strong performances against all other teams, but a 3-15 home loss to Oxford shows the boys in blue weren’t messing around when it counted.

Nathan Wragg celebrates last years silver ware for Oxford. Photo by Andrew Moss.

Nathan Wragg celebrates last years silver ware for Oxford. Photo by Andrew Moss.

Midlands 2B

1

Nottingham Trent 1st

8

8

0

77

24

2

Nottingham 2nd

8

6

2

44

18

3

Worcester 1st

8

6

2

33

18

4

Lincoln 1st

8

5

3

33

15

5

Loughborough 2nd

8

5

3

32

15

6

Birmingham 2nd

8

3

5

-22

9

7

Staffordshire 1st

8

2

6

-15

6

8

Derby 1st

8

1

7

-85

3

9

Leicester 2nd

8

0

8

-97

0

Demoted Last Season:

  • Staffordshire (6th place in Midlands 2A)

Promoted:

  • Nottingham Trent

Summary:

The Midlands 2B league seems a little more flexible than Midlands 2A. Last year saw Warwick 2 gain promotion. This year sees Nottingham Trent go undefeated in the league and earn a place in the top leagues (and a guaranteed nationals spot) for the first time. Aside from an end-of season league-is-already-won game (against cup semi-finalists Loughborough 2) no team got closer than 6 points on them. A strong performance. The magnitude of the drop off of previous top team Staffordshire worth noting though, even despite the loss of a couple of their superstar players. They performed second-best out of all the relegated teams in Division 2 last year, so it seems as if an era may have ended.

Midlands Conference Cup

On one side of the draw you had Leicester vs Trent (8-10), Trent vs Oxford (7-15) and Oxford vs Loughborough 2 (14-3). With all four teams finishing first or second overall in their leagues, it’s a shame the cup format only lets one of them show their stuff on the national stage. Either way, a clinical Oxford side won out through the draw of death and earned themselves a nationals spot.

However, strong showings from Worcester and UEA had to show great consistency and grit to fight through on the other side of the draw. Especially Worcester, who had to overturn a league defeat against Nottingham 2 that eventually claimed 2nd place in their league (via head-to-head). Sadly, the Worcester boys ran out of steam against a strong UEA side who recorded decent margins in every game, including their final 11-7 score against Worcester.

West

Western 2A

1

UWE 1st

4

4

0

24

12

2

Cardiff 1st

4

3

1

23

9

3

Bath 2nd

4

2

2

4

6

4

Bristol 2nd

4

1

3

-25

3

5

Swansea 2nd

4

0

4

-26

0

Demoted last season:

  • Cardiff (5th in Western 1A)

Promoted:

  • UWE

Summary

Given the much smaller league size of the West leagues, the 2A always looked to be a show down between the first teams in the division. After Cardiff had essentially been demoted last year by Swansea, they were looking to show their skill and earn their way back up. However, a resolute UWE (with home advantage) managed to earn a 12-8 victory against a reduced Cardiff side, and earn a place in the big leagues next year.

West 2B

1

Southampton 1st

5

4

1

35

12

2

Plymouth 1st

5

4

1

24

12

3

Exeter 2nd

5

4

1

8

12

4

Bournemouth 1st

5

2

3

4

6

5

Southampton 2nd

4

0

4

-34

0

6

Plymouth 2nd

4

0

4

-37

0

Demoted last year:

  • Southampton (6th in West 1A)

Promoted:

  • Southampton

Summary:

In a manner some are describing as ‘nail-bitingly close’, Southampton won their promotion back to the big leagues at the first time of asking. Albeit by goal difference. Between three teams. The results between the big three were: Plymouth 6-3 Southampton; Exeter 2nds 15-13 Plymouth; Southampton 15-3 Exeter 2. Judging from results against other teams, it appears that Plymouth only have themselves to blame, and Exeter 2 can congratulate themselves on an upset well done. Southampton on the other hand will be wiping the sweat from their brow and looking forward to having fewer games next year, so that their postgraduate students won’t have as many to skip.

Western Conference Cup

With UWE, Plymouth and Exeter 2 all falling in the first round (Plymouth via concession) the Western Cup was always bound to be an interesting affair. In particular, the first round match-up of league winners Southampton vs UWE would have been interesting to see at nationals. As it is, with only 11 teams (and at least 2 walkovers), the Western Conference Cup was over almost before it had started. Southampton get to prepare for life in Western 1A again on the national stage, with Cardiff joining their demoted brethren from the previous year. Both recorded comfortable victories, and will be pleased the draw didn’t see them face off against each other early.

South East

South East 2A

1

Imperial 1st

6

6

0

51

18

2

Chichester 1st

6

5

1

35

15

3

Reading 1st

6

4

2

26

12

4

Brighton 1st

6

3

3

9

9

5

Sussex 2nd

6

2

4

-10

6

6

Surrey 2nd

6

1

5

-63

3

7

Portsmouth 2nd

6

0

6

-48

0

Demoted last year:

  • Imperial (5th in South East 1A)

Promoted:

  • Imperial

 

Summary:

Another team gaining promotion on the first time of asking, Imperial’s roster proved just too strong for all competitors. A startlingly close 11-10 victory away to Sussex 2 was their only close game for them all season, but don’t let their perceived dominance distract you from what they’ve achieved here. With places 2-5 all earning cup semi-final spots, this appears to have been a very tough league and one a postgraduate heavy team like Imperial could have struggled with. Who knows what would have happened if they couldn’t rearrange their Brighton and Sussex 2 games to a Saturday. As it is, they claim a decisive first place, with Chichester finishing a strong second.

South East 2B

1

LSE 1st

4

4

0

6

12

2

Brunel 1st

5

4

1

7

12

3

Kent 1st

5

3

2

4

9

4

Essex 1st

4

1

3

-6

3

5

King’s College 1st

5

2

3

-11

3

6

Goldsmiths 1st

5

0

5

0

-15

Concessions:

  • Goldsmiths to everyone

King’s College to LSE

Demoted last year:

  • Kent (6th in South East 2A)

Promoted:

  • LSE

Summary:

While Brunel showed themselves one of the more entertaining teams of the season (out of their 4 games played, two were sudden death and one was only a two point margin), an 11-12 loss to LSE sees them staying in the division for another year, although a 12-11 victory against Kent saw them claim 2nd overall. LSE managed a 14-9 away victory to Kent to see off a potential three-way tie, and seal the fate of the newly demoted team. Goldsmiths round off the league with the dubious honour of being the only team to concede every single game.

South-Eastern Conference Cup

Imperial losing at home to Brighton in their first game (6-12) has to be the story of this cup, showing just how ruthless the format can be. With LSE also falling early, the South East will be sending two teams to Division 3 who won’t be getting promoted this year.

And, keeping up the show of entertainment from the leagues, the games-to-go to nationals both ended in sudden death showdowns. Brighton won their spot at Division 3 nationals for the 2nd year running vs a strong Chichester side, and, harkening back to the old days, Sussex 2 will once again be going to nationals as well. It may not be the Division 1 spot they were once used to, but they can be very happy after seeing off a strong Reading side.

Also, as a point of notice, all the semi finalists were from league 2A – meaning some bragging points definitely have to be taken there. In fact, any game between the two leagues that was actually played (e.g. not a walkover) was won by league 2A. It seems some rebalancing may be in order before next year’s leagues.

Scotland

1

St Andrews 1st

8

8

0

55

24

2

Glasgow 1st

8

7

1

43

21

3

Dundee 1st

8

6

2

35

18

4

Strathclyde 1st

8

5

3

39

15

5

Edinburgh 1st

8

4

4

28

12

6

Heriot-Watt 1st

8

2

6

-28

6

7

St Andrews 2nd

8

2

6

-52

6

8

Aberdeen 1st

8

1

7

-53

3

9

Stirling 1st

8

1

7

-67

3

Stirling’s victory vs Heriot-Watt was almost (but not quite) enough to cause some upsets in the final Scottish table. As it goes, we will see St. Andrews 2 take Stirling’s place from last year. St. Andrews as a whole team in general have been doing very well this year across all divisions. The fact their 2nd team claimed 7th in the league marks them as a team we’ll also have to watch in future. Scottish teams may lack the game time of cups that every other Nationals team will have, but they will have the experience of actually playing high-level opposition. For a more in-depth look at the Scottish table, see the Division 1/Division 2 piece.

Division 3 Nationals Preview

Looking at the teams that qualified, you have to favour any team that showed consistency to win both their league and their cup. As such, you’d expect Newcastle and Oxford to be favourites to claim the title. Both sides have looked dominant throughout their seasons, and would almost certainly have a decent shot at Division 2 as well. Certainly the ones to watch this weekend.

Newcastle captain Ivan Mladjenovic (GB U24, Smog) would be right to feel confident heading south to Nottingham. Newcastle’s performance at the regional warm-up tournament (held alongside Women’s Regionals) was very impressive – they came first, scoring victories over Nottingham, Loughborough, Leeds and Leicester. That experience is likely to be tremendously valuable, and proves their strength beyond just their league. Last year’s silver medal squad from Division 3 nationals is only looking stronger, with 3 other Smog open players (Eric Webber, Will Mulvaney and Fred Davies), and the two captains of the Brown (Chris de Leeuwe and Alex Thompson), Ivan has a huge amount of depth to pick from. Expect to see them giving some opponents a nasty surprise as they challenge for Gold.

Oxford, in contrast, are very untested in high level at Men’s. Their absence from the warm-up tournament (and from Men’s Indoor Nationals due to an administrative error) have meant it’s very hard to see how they match up nationwide. Their Mixed results certainly seem impressive for Division 3 guys (10th in the country indoors, 11th outdoors) but it can be tough to see how that translates across to Men’s (especially when their women are so strong). A 9-6 varsity victory against Cambridge is the only real information out there about the strength of their Men’s team. Instead, their overall experience, a list of a few star players (Captain Nathan Wragg – Fire; Ian Roper – Deep Space; Jon Daly – Ka-Pow!; Harry Mason – Various), and their strength against the next strongest teams in their region give an indication that last year’s Division 2 champions might be back for more silverware this year.

So, which teams are most likely to cause an upset? After all, every other team has faced defeat of some sort this season. For my reckoning, you have to stay in the North region and look at Sheffield. While Newcastle walked through their league with ease, Sheffield fell via the head-to-head rule against a very strong Bangor team. In addition, captain Max Larkinson (GB U24s, Manchester Ultimate) might be able to convince some of those more experienced players who returned to Ultimate to help Sheffield 2 claim revenge against Bangor. With the looming shadow of GB U24/Manchester teammate Sam ‘Slender’ Higginbotham by his side, expect this team to do big things. Unlike the top two, they’ve already had to show grit this season and pull out some sudden death victories (notably against Hull in the cup semi-final). This is experience that might matter when it really counts. Although the experience of beating Division 1 team Hallam 12-7 at Varsity certainly wont go amiss either (watch the full game below).

However, you can’t talk about potential wildcard teams without mentioning Brighton. It takes a lot of skill and consistency to qualify for nationals through the lower leagues. It takes even more to qualify twice. And, when you do it by claiming cup victories against the top two from a tough league (including an otherwise dominant Imperial team), you can consider yourself a force to be reckoned with. Captain Elliot Canning (Clapham) has already seen one final this year (Club Mixed Indoor Nationals with Hex), and he’ll be hungry to claim victory if he manages to see another. His Brighton City players Ricardo Fungarino and Lewis King will be providing some experience to a fresh-faced team, albeit one that gets to see and train with a lot of local high level players.

It may be possible I’m being a bit harsh to league-winners Southampton here. After all, they won their league! Captain Piers Dunford’s side also put in a good show at the warm-up tournament against some good sides (losing narrowly to Warwick and Swansea), and do have some depth in their roster. Tristan Millington (Reading) staying for a Ph.D will add some long term stability to a team which has managed to weave a delicate path to promotion and Nationals, despite having a relatively young team. Expect them to be building for next year, they have a solid base to do so.

The main reason I’m not placing them higher? Another team already has them marked out. Captain Chris Brough’s UEA team (Aye-Aye) may have struggled this year in the league – they aren’t exactly local to a lot of teams and an 8 hour round trip isn’t particularly appealing to many – but they really performed when it mattered. Having been Oxford’s closest game all season, you’d have thought the main thing they’d be keen for was a rematch. Nope. They’re out for Southampton, and ex-Aye-Aye player Kieran Patel. Clearly this is not a team to cross, even if they claim they don’t take themselves too seriously. Their international training element in Billy Lawrance-Thomas (Sydney Ultimate) and American Mike Mashman come back (from a year abroad and an injury respectively) to provide some strong passing and height to the team.

Rounding off the division, we have the second teams. Some of the older players will certainly feel a twinge of fear seeing a Sussex 2 team return to the national stage. It may not be the Division 1 team of days past, but captain Jack James will still have a strong team as his disposal. Including Charlie Butt (who managed a Brighton City call up in his first year), this is a tight-knit group of players who will be challenging for bigger titles than Division 3 in years to come. Possibly still as Sussex 2. Expect big plays, creative formations and athletic bids from a team you shouldn’t underestimate.

This paragraph contributed by Haydon Christou

Finally, should we be surprised that the St Andrews 2 made nationals, considering the depth of their first team? Probably not, but their route to nationals was a little fortunate. Although they should be credited with the big win over Aberdeen (14-5), their match against Stirling was much tighter and their opponents suffered from missing GB U24 Fraser MacDonald. In these must-win games, this team prevailed and even put 7 and 8 points past Dundee and Glasgow respectively, which is something that excites Captain Andrew Boyce. He knows his team have points in them, but can they perform on the national stage? They’ll need their best players available and two of them are missing. Fresher Aidan Steer has been nabbed for the first team; Robbie Jones, on the other hand, has got himself caught up in controversy and now the seconds think they’re better off without him. Regardless of their exclusions, this is a team with handlers adept at hucking, but also cutters who will run hard. It will be tougher to get a result without key players, but they if their deep game is on point it will take them far.

Final Predictions

  1. Newcastle
  2. Oxford
  3. Sheffield
  4. Brighton
  5. Southampton
  6. UEA
  7. Sussex 2
  8. St. Andrews 2

*Aberdeen and Cardiff both dropped out. It’s sad that we won’t get any replacements, given how hard many teams have fought through the cup this year. However, given how tight many of the cup semi-finals were, I wouldn’t have liked to be the ones trying to choose the replacement.

Feature image by Andrew Moss.

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