Open Tour 3 preview: southern teams descend on B-denbridge

Open, Previews

Making his bow for the Show Game, Cloud City captain Andy Sluman previews the first-ever B Tour South tournament.

The town of Edenbridge has the pleasure of hosting the ‘other’ Tour this time around (and will be a test of the venue ahead of Southern Regionals in two weeks’ time). A fortnight ago, B Tour North received mixed reviews as an event. With just twelve teams and a large disparity in quality, many results were one-sided. In an effort to avoid a repeat of that, the scheduling gods have split this 20-team event into a top 12 and bottom eight. The winner of each of the top 12 pools go straight to quarters, while second and third go into a pre-quarter.

    Pool Predictions

Fire 2 had a good weekend in Cardiff, finishing second in B Tour, following on from their disappointing performance in Nottingham. They are the top seeds in Pool A and have been bolstered by four regular first-team players. Camden are without stalwart Tom Bannister-Fletcher after a nasty accident in Cardiff but with Dave Greenberg returning, they are likely to be of a similar strength to last time around. Reading 2 are always difficult to predict given the squad rotation between each Tour. Sources say they’ve rotated out Sam Gunbie but gained Mark Bignal and Dan Tanner, and should therefore be solid round the back with lots of young receivers downfield. Fire 2 should emerge from the pool as victors, but there’s certainly scope for an upset.

Pool B matches up Cloud City 1 with Helix and Plymouth. Cloud City have continued their climb up the rankings this year, and have the same “undeniably strong” squad that finished third in B Tour in Cardiff, along with the addition of Charlie Galloway. Despite high aspirations when merging established open teams ABH and Curve, Helix have underperformed so far, winning just two of their 13 games at Tours 1 and 2. Plymouth improved on their 51st place finish at Tour 1 with a 32nd place finish at Tour 2. Having beaten Helix 15-5 in the Pool stages at Tour 2, Cloud City will be confident of topping the pool.

Devon 2, Bristol 1 and Cambridge 1 make up Pool C. Devon 2 had a reasonably strong Tour 2, finishing 23rd. Their squad has been strengthened by a few of their regular first team dropping down for this Tour, but without their usual third team entering this time around, expect a broad range of skills and experience. Bristol 1 have had an interesting set of results this year. Having beaten Cloud City on Universe in their first game of Tour 1 and respectable showings against GB and Ireland, they then faded, finishing below their second team. They fared much better at Tour 2, finishing 21st, including Universe point wins against Purple Cobras and, interestingly, Devon 2. Cambridge have had a notable change in personnel this year, and were unfortunate to have been so highly seeded at Tour 1. They broadly held seed at Tour 2, finishing 38th. I see Cambridge finishing third in this pool, with a tight game between Devon and Bristol 1 to top the pool.

The final top 12 pool includes Purple Cobras, Brighton Legends and Bristol 2. Purple Cobras shot up the rankings at Tour 1, losing just one game (to Brighton Legends). They then had a solid Tour 2, finishing 22nd. Ryan Harris returns to the team but they will be missing the tallest 5’6” man in British Ultimate, Michele Gansah (ed note – this seems wrong). Brighton Legends are a stalwart of mid-B Tour, using their experience and unconventional tactics to bring consistent results. Bristol 2 have added some “extra height” for Tour 3, but if results in Cardiff are anything to go by, should have a difficult time making headway in this group. Expect this group to go according to seed.

Brixton feel a touch aggrieved to have fallen foul of the new methodology used this year to rank teams by their average performance. Despite finishing ahead of Helix, Bristol 2 and Cambridge at Tour 2, they have been seeded 13th and therefore unable to contest the top eight. I expect them to top Pool E while Kent should top Pool F.

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