UK University Ultimate 2017/18: BUCS Men’s Second Leagues Preview

Midlands, North, Open, Previews, South East, University

Our new second leagues writer Tom Claxton gives a quick recap of last season, and a preview of who will be the big names fighting for promotion this year.

Welcome to the second leagues: full of grit and determination, where a team’s Nationals prospects can be made or undone in just a single game. And with the weekly league structure it is not just your prospects for this season, but for the following as well. Promotion into the top leagues guarantees a Division 1 or 2 Nationals place the following year. But this requires a team to be near undefeated for the entire year, which is made further challenging by having to play on average eight games a season with a lot of travelling and persuading players to make up numbers.

Three regions (North, Midlands, and South East) have two second leagues (2A and 2B), from which only the top team gets promoted each season. The Western region however only has one second league this year (Western 2A).

Alongside the league system is a set of cup matches, with one cup for each of the four regions mentioned above. The two cup finalists from each region get to go to Division 3 Nationals, along with the seventh and eighth placed teams from the Scotland 1A league. This does mean that there is no qualification for Nationals based on league performance, and it can occur that a team finishes mid-table in their league, yet still makes Nationals. Last season this is precisely what happened to Sussex 2, coming fifth in the South Eastern 2A league, however then becoming one of the cup finalists in a thrilling, giant-killing campaign.

Division 3 Nationals last year culminated in a gold and silver for Oxford and Newcastle respectively, alongside impressive undefeated league performances (and promotions) from both teams. Sheffield achieved bronze last year, but were sadly unable to secure promotion themselves, losing away at Bangor in the final game of the year, upon which Bangor gained promotion via the head-to-head rule.

Elsewhere in the leagues, Southampton managed to edge out of a three-way tie between Plymouth and Exeter 2 to gain promotion from Western 2B league. Imperial, Nottingham Trent, LSE and UWE all maintained unbeaten league records to get promoted, although none of them were successful enough in the cup to qualify for Nationals.

This season will also see the second leagues joined by the eight relegated teams from the top leagues. Will they be able to bounce back up immediately, or will a resident team pip them to the post? Here’s a summary of our favourites for each league this season.

 

North

Northern 2A

Last year saw both relegated teams enter the Northern 2A league. This meant that it was always was going to be tough to be the only promoted team out of Sheffield, Liverpool, and Bangor.

With Bangor promoted (but no-one relegated into the league) our favourites are Sheffield. Only narrowly missing out on promotion last year, captain Tomas Benavides Clark is confident of their chances this season. They have had a good intake of freshers, alongside Jonny Ellis (LLLeeds) attending on a Masters course, it’s hard to see anyone beating them this season. Which should then lead to Sheffield topping the league.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Sheffield
  2. Liverpool
  3. Keele

Northern 2B

This is the largest of all the leagues, with 10 teams taking part. Both relegated teams from Northern 1A (Durham 2 and York) join the league, alongside highly placed finishers Hull, Northumbria, and Durham 3 from last year.

Seeing how well Durham 3 performed last year, our favourites for this year are Durham 2. According to last year’s club captain Dylan Spiers, Max Clifton and Ollie Baines have been heavy losses for the team, but Dom Stafford and Tom Lamport are expected to pick up this slack well. Having a first team training hard to win the top league will hopefully to trickle down to the second team through joint trainings and experienced coaching.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Durham 2
  2. Hull
  3. Northumbria

 

Midlands

Midlands 2A

Last year’s Division 3 Nationals winner Oxford hailed from this league, which was unlucky for the strong resident teams. Leicester won all of their other matches, and UEA joined Oxford in qualifying for Nationals. However this year the residents are joined by another traditionally strong team, Cambridge, who finished fifth in Division 2 Nationals last year.

Their strong finishing last year makes Cambridge our favourites, with captain James Richardson telling us: “I think we still have enough quality to be in with a chance of promotion. Our term hasn’t started yet so I don’t know if there will be a few promising freshers, but we’re always hopeful. I do know of a couple graduate students starting this year.”

Predicted Top 3

  1. Cambridge
  2. Leicester
  3. UEA (Aye-Aye)

Midlands 2B

With Nottingham Trent promoted, and Warwick 2 relegated, this league has more than half of its members as second teams. However the resident first teams have shown that they are more than a match for them, as Worcester were edged out of second place last year by Nottingham 2 on goal difference.

Due to their strong fourth place finish at Division 2 Nationals last year, our favourites for this league are Warwick 2. First team captain Willem Garnier hopes that they can achieve re-promotion, despite a considerable number of the second team players joining the ranks of the first team this year. He is confident that, given last year’s coaching from Andrew Hillman (Clapham Ultimate), and adding “some of the most talented freshers we’d ever seen”, they can be one of the top teams in the league.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Warwick 2
  2. Nottingham 2
  3. Worcester

 

West

Western 2A

This year marks a new change for the Western region. Due to this region having fewer teams than others, the Western 2A/2B leagues from last year have combined into one nine-strong league. This brings strong teams together who may not have had experience playing each other recently, as well as longer journeys for the away teams. Cardiff, Plymouth and Exeter 2 will all be in primary contention for the top spots, alongside relegated FXU (Falmouth) and Winchester.

Whether there is only one promotion spot or two is uncertain, but our favourites are Cardiff. Cardiff captain Dan Finch is “feeling very optimistic this year”, with “a much larger squad with greater depth than we have had in the last couple of years.” They were disappointed in not being able to challenge for Nationals last year, and this year that will certainly be an ambition.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Cardiff
  2. Plymouth
  3. FXU

 

South East

South East 2A

Last year, the teams that placed 2-5 in the league all achieved cup semi-final positions, with the fourth and fifth placed teams, Brighton and Sussex 2 respectively, advancing to Division 3 Nationals. With this experience under their belts, we predict that there will be many tough games this year. Although they missed out on qualifying for Nationals, Chichester and Reading have consistently placed highly in this league.

However they are joined this year by Surrey. Their bronze medal in Division 2 Nationals last year makes them our favourites for this season. Captains Ashley Long (SMOG) and Nick Barker (Fire) have a tough challenge ahead of themselves, as many of last year’s players have left the club, although they do retain Sam Fowler (Fire), and Mike Nally (GB U20) has returned from injury. They are focusing their efforts on introducing players from their former second team into the firsts, with aims of getting promoted back into the top league.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Surrey
  2. Reading
  3. Chichester

South East 2B

The smallest of the leagues this year, with only five competitors. Last year there were many close games, with league winners LSE only narrowly defeating Brunel in sudden-death, and Brunel themselves defeating Kent in a similar fashion. With St. Mary’s joining this year, it will certainly be an entertaining competition.

Our favourites this year are Brunel. Co-captain Harry Pearce is confident about their chances, but thinks it will be tough. “Last year we had an extremely fresher-heavy team and this year it’s looking pretty similar.” Once they start getting more experience Brunel could be quite the contender later in the season.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Brunel
  2. St. Mary’s
  3. Kent

 

All that leaves now is for us to watch this exciting season unfold! Midway through the season we’ll recap the leagues and update our predictions, in case you happen to prove us wrong.

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