Sean Colfer previews the final leg of the UK Club Mixed Tour in Cheltenham this weekend
This Mixed season has been defined by the Worlds teams. Reading, SMOG and Black Eagles have played multiple teams at Tour events this year, splitting their stars across the rosters. That is going to change in Cheltenham as it seems all three have consolidated their strength and will be taking on the field with Worlds squads fully intact. It makes the top of the field strangely intriguing this late on in the season.
Mighty Hucks have been the best Mixed team in the UK so far this year. They won in Durham and lost to Reading in the final in Cardiff. They stand atop the current Mixed Tour standings and have a chance to secure the overall title in Cheltenham – their 45-point lead over Black Eagles means that they’d need to finish fifth in the event of a Black Eagles win to tie with the reigning champions. That means that if they win two games on Saturday they win the Tour title (making them the third team in three years to do so). If Black Eagles do win the tournament and Hucks miss out on the semis and don’t win out on Sunday, though, the Scots take the title north for the third time in four years.
The rest of the top eight features some familiar names. Pool A sees Hucks placed with SMOG and Reading as well as Thundering Herd, who have fought their way back into the top eight after slipping down the standings last year. Pool B will see the two Scottish teams take on Flat Perth, the (mostly) Great Britain under-24 all-star team who finished fourth in Cardiff, and Cambridge 1, who have leapt eight places from their original Tour 1 seeding – one of the biggest of any team.
In terms of squads, most of these teams will be at something approaching full strength. Hucks will, as always, be a bit low on women but their zone D and ability to cover for each other will undoubtedly mean that scarcity won’t hinder them too much. Several teams will benefit from having Clapham players back after their trip to Bologna over the Mixed Tour 2 weekend – particularly Flat Perth.
Outside of the top eight are some teams who’ll be preparing for a crossover should their Saturdays go well. Birmingham, Deep Space, JR and Rebel seem to be the favourites in their pools but Glasgow 2 will be looking to follow up a wonderful MT2 performance and show they aren’t a flash in the pan – they’ll be a tough game for Deep Space, who have slipped from sixth seed at MT1 to 13th here but who still feature a wealth of talent and could certainly work themselves up close to their original seeding if all goes well for them this weekend.
Glasgow 2 are one of three second teams in the 9-20 bracket, alongside Reading 2 and SMOG 2. It’s hugely impressive for all of these clubs to have such strength in depth, particularly SMOG as a pretty recent addition to the UK Ultimate scene. Purple Cobras are fresh off a win at MT2 South in Glastonbury and will be looking to make some noise back in the south west too.
Lower down the seedings there are some interesting stories, too. Sneeeky’s and Blue Arsed Flies have both leapt nine places since MT1, the joint-second biggest jump (with Purple Cobras, behind SMOG 2 with 10) this season. Both should win their pools and get a chance to jump even further with a crossover into the 17-20 bracket. Look out, though, for LED in BAF’s pool. It might be BAF’s home tournament but LED, a group of former and current Loughborough university students featuring some outstanding athletes, have enough to knock them off top spot in the pool and earn the cross for themselves. Pool K features a rematch between Brighton Breezy and Thundering Herd 2 which is likely to be very close – their tilt at MT2 was a sudden-death Brighton win – to determine who gets a shot at crossing up.
South Wales Storm and Brixton have both had good seasons, with the Londoners jumping up seven spots since Cardiff and the Welsh club bringing two teams again, showing that they’re continuing to build a real player base. Pin N Mix have also performed well this season, but could find it tough to dislodge Leamington Lemmings who have maintained their seed so far this year. OW! are likely to be a team with chemistry and cohesion but they have drawn a tough match in Geometrically Frustrated Magnets, a London-based side who have had some ups and downs in their first outdoor season but who possess enough individual talent to make life difficult for whoever finishes bottom of pool K – a likely shoot-out between Red and Merseyside.
So; predictions time. I think one of the Worlds teams will win this tournament, and I’m going to back SMOG. I think they’ll play Black Eagles in the final and it’ll be a bit of a stormer but SMOG will come out on top by two or three points. My predictions also mean that Mighty Hucks will win the title, and as we all know I never get anything wrong so a pre-emptive congrats to them. Below is a projected top 12.
There’s streaming available this weekend on Fanseat.com by the way, so take a look at that if you can’t make it and want to see some top-quality Mixed Ultimate. Check it out!
- Black Eagles
- Reading A
- Flat Perth
- Mighty Hucks
- Glasgow 1
- Thundering Herd 1
- Cambridge 1
- Deep Space