UKU Open Tour 2 Preview – B and C Tour (Cardiff)

Open, Previews

With B Tour North taking some teams away, the middle section in Cardiff is severely diminished. C Tour is also only four pools, much smaller than usual, so this preview shouldn’t be too long at all.

Cloud City suffered two close losses to the villainous Gravity and the contemptible Leeds before heroically triumphing in the rest of their games at Tour 1. (No comment on who I’ll be playing with.) They top B Tour here, and their reward is a pool against Devon 2, who struggled in B Tour in Nottingham and fellow Devonians ExeTour, who won C Tour last time out, and Brighton Gritty Legends. Gritty faced Cloud twice at T1 and lost both times by a few, but the addition of the word ‘Legends’ gives me pause. Brighton Legends were an A Tour-level team for some time over the past few years and have the kind of throwing know-how and experience to trouble anyone. The pool at first blush looks straightforward at the top with some interesting battles lower down, but Brighton could delight in throwing a spanner in those works.

The other B Tour pool will see EMO 2 fight to maintain their position against Vision, Leamington Lemmings and Red. Red will be pleased to have a shot against their local rivals EMO but will need a lot to go their way to have a shot in that game. They could, however, have a very interesting game against Leamington since the teams finished next to each other at T1, Lemmings in 36th and Red in 37th. Vision had a tough time in Nottingham, finishing second to last in B Tour, but they should feel confident in finishing at least second in this pool.

These pools will all cross, the top two up and the bottom two down. Cloud and the second placed team in that pool will likely play Camden and Bristol respectively, while EMO 2 and Vision should probably play Reading 2 and Birmingham (according to my A Tour predictions, anyway, so make of that what you will). I feel good about Cloud’s chances there, and EMO 2 v Reading 2 would be fascinating in that situation.

Photo courtesy of Rachel Lee

B Tour is more of a seedings stage in this Tour, with the crossing meaning the Tour structure of years past has disappeared. The quality looks lower than it has in the past here too, but hopefully we see some interesting results and games regardless.

  1. Cloud City
  2. EMO 2
  3. Brighton
  4. Vision
  5. Devon 2
  6. ExeTour
  7. Red
  8. Leamington Lemmings

That leaves us with C Tour. Bristol 2 are the top seeds here but are coming off a winless Tour 1, so are not in the best of form. Cambridge, on the other hand, lost in sudden death to Flyght Club (who ended up in B Tour) but won every other game. Their final win was over Plymouth, who top another pool in C Tour, and both finished just ahead of Kent who are the top seed in the final pool. Brixton were a tip I made before the last Tour but they lost a crossover to YOpen and are now seeded below Plymouth despite topping them in the pool. The GB Juniors are in with Bristol 2 and will be intriguing to watch as they usually contain excellent talent but combined with relatively little experience so can find it tough against teams with veteran players who know how to grind out result. The Cambridge v Brixton and Bristol 2 v GB U20s are probably the games that matter here to see who gets to cross up against the B Tour teams, but I wouldn’t be confident that any of these teams would win those crossovers – the best chance probably comes in the 24v25 game, but I’d fancy Lemmings to beat GB U20s.

  1. Cambridge
  2. GB U20s
  3. Plymouth
  4. Kent
  5. Brixton
  6. Bristol 2
  7. Cloud 2
  8. Horsham
  9. South Wales Storm
  10. Reading 3
  11. Sharbear! 1
  12. St. Albans
  13. Sharkbear! 2
  14. Dorset
  15. South Wales Storm 2

UKU Open Tour 2 Preview – A Tour

Open, Previews, UK Ultimate

Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss

Cardiff will be the centre of the UK Ultimate universe for the second time this season over the weekend, with Open and Women’s teams from across the country making the trip to Wales. There are several missing teams though, and this time it’s not just because I forgot to mention them.

Let’s start, then, with the absentees. The Team Who Shall Not Be Named-ron are training this weekend ahead of Windmill in a week’s time, something they’re targeting as a key part of Worlds build up given the plethora of high-quality European teams they can pit themselves against. They played really well in Nottingham, suffering only one loss to Clapham’s D line in the 1v3 crossover on Saturday evening – and even that was in sudden death. They’ve integrated a couple of young players into vital roles over the last couple of years and now seem to be in a really good spot – Seb Allen made some crucial plays in the final, as did Dec Cartwright and others. They’ve moved a few people around too, with Rollo Sax Dixon moving over to add an additional deep threat on the O line and Cartwright offering some calm to the D line, and the addition of former EMO captain Joe Wynder to their O line handling group has given the team a new dimension – they attacked the deep space aggressively and made some big plays at crucial moments. Wynder and Ben Burak both played a D point in an important situation in the final, too, so there’s some versatility there if needed. They still have room to grow for sure but given that they’re starting from a pretty high point that’s a good place to be in.

The Irish teams are both staying away from Cardiff, with Ranelagh also going to Windmill. Both teams played well in Nottingham but the Dubliners were clearly a step ahead of their rivals, the Laghds winning 14-9 in the head-to-head quarter-final. Both teams are quality though – PELT lost only once, to Ranelagh, all weekend and Ranelagh only lost to the two Clapham teams and Chevron. Their absence weakens the field for sure.

Clapham have shrunk down to one team for this Tour so will not encounter their most difficult foe from Windfarm: relentless fatigue. Both teams suffered some niggling injuries and were reduced to 10 or 11 players for the business end of Tour 1, which severely restricted how much they could put in. With one team, and in this field, they should run riot.

So, then, about that field; it’s weak. Six of the teams that finished in A Tour last time out are missing (the four mentioned above, Glasgow for whom it’s a bit far, and Leeds who are in B Tour North) and more in B Tour are also absent. It leaves a field of only 39 teams, the lowest I can recall in some time, and a B Tour of only eight.

The 1-8 pools, at least, feature the kind of teams we’re accustomed to seeing in A Tour. Clapham will beat Devon, Manchester and Brighton on Saturday, and Devon should have enough to top the others but both Brighton and Manchester will be optimistic about their game against each other. Brighton were dealt a tremendously difficult hand at T1 and played pretty well considering that, whereas Manchester notched an unexpected (for me, anyway) win over Fire to send the Londoners tumbling. Manchester look very different this year to previous seasons but proved their battling qualities with a win over an EMO team that had looked good going against Clapham earlier in the weekend.

Chevron taking a long-sought win over Clapham – Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss

Reading top the other pool after finishing as the best non-Worlds Open team in Nottingham (admittedly, a lot of these men are going with the Mixed team but still). Their reward is a Ka-Pow! team who finished eighth after coming in second in the pool with Manchester and Fire but losing out on Sunday. They’ll be keen to show that they earned the place by being better than the teams below them rather than getting slightly lucky with the draw of Fire as a high seed in the pool. They have a really large squad and a lot of very good players so it’s a great chance for them as fourth seed. They’ll have to fend off SMOG and EMO, two teams with a lot of talent who will have been slightly disappointed with their finish at T1.

Camden are seeded 16th and start in A Tour but are coming in off the back of mixed success in Nottingham – they won against Devon 2 in sudden death and topped Bristol 2 comfortably in the pool but didn’t taste victory on Sunday. They’ll face Bristol, who had a decent Tour 1 but lost out in the A Tour crossover against another team in the pool, BAF, and Fire 1. Fire were probably the story of Tour 1 but certainly not in the way that they wanted. I was nine places out on my prediction for them, but I don’t think anyone could have foreseen them losing in the B Tour final to local rivals Flump. They were missing some important players and had a number of key injuries as well, but it was certainly an eye-opening result nonetheless. They’ll be incredibly hungry to show that this was a blip and will doubtless be fired up to play a number of teams they’ll fancy themselves against. BAF are the wildcard – their unpredictable roster makes it difficult to slot them, but I’m guessing they’ll have something similar to what they had at Windfarm so will do pretty well.

In the other 9-16 pool, Flump will be back in A Tour after earning another piece of silverware for the cabinet – their third in four years – and will face a tough group. Purple Cobras have been working their way up in both Open and Women’s and will be a difficult game for anyone, and Reading 2 showed in Nottingham that they’re no slouches. Birmingham had some issues with who was handling the disc in Nottingham but they’re a very athletic team with great chemistry, so they’re going to be tough to beat as well. It’s quite an even pool in my estimation and probably the hardest to pick. Flump have the most experience at this level and are used to grinding out results, while Reading 2 will probably have the greatest variance from top to bottom in terms of ability. Cobras against Birmingham will be intriguing though!

Overall, this is probably the weakest A Tour we’ve seen for some time. That means there are loads of opportunities for ‘upsets’ lower down the standings, and some of the B Tour teams will fancy their chances of breaking into the elite on Sunday. Predictions last time weren’t too bad, with only four teams three places or more away from their final spot (and two bang on – Ranelagh and Brighton) but definitely room to improve. By way of monitoring, I’ve decided that an exact prediction earns three points and a team within two spots of the prediction earns one point. This meant 15 points in Nottingham and I’m shooting for a score in the 20s this time around. It’s going to rain all weekend, allegedly, so see you in the mire.

1. Clapham (by a fair way)
2. Devon
3. Reading
4. SMOG
5. EMO
6. Ka-Pow!
7. Brighton
8. Fire
9. Manchester
10. Flump
11. BAF
12. Purple Cobras
13. Birmingham
14. Bristol
15. Reading 2
16. Camden

UKU Women’s Tour 2 Preview

Previews, Womens

Hannah Pendlebury sets the stage for Women’s Tour 2 in Cardiff

When I cast my eyes over the list of teams confirmed for Cardiff this year, I was dismayed. After an excellent showing during what turned out to be a rather hot and sunny weekend in Nottingham, I saw just 18 teams entered. Confused, I thought to myself “what on earth has happened to 10 teams worth of players?”

As my mind furiously whirred away to craft progressively outlandish conspiracy theories involving motorway accidents on the M1 and/or dinosaurs, my eyes read on. Whilst I noted a few teams consolidating to a single squad for the journey across the Severn bridge (notably SYC, Red and Discie Chicks), four clubs had been excluded by virtue of missing the payment deadline. Gutting.

Photo courtesy of Claire Baker

Imagine then, my delight upon seeing a schedule of 21 teams! Clearly our benevolent overlords had granted a payment extension to those delinquent treasurers. Seriously though, thank you to UK Ultimate and the Cardiff TDs for being accommodating, you rock. 

But of course, I celebrated too soon. With a last minute drop out from The Brown women my hopes for a lay-in evaporated and we are now down to a 20 team schedule… Still though, 20 teams is better than 18! And whilst it is surprising not to see Exe Ladies at the closest event to home, Cardiff is a bit of a trek for other notable northern absentees Swift and LLLeeds. Although rumour has it that some women of the North will be making guest appearances this weekend- so keep your eyes peeled…

I think that’s quite enough about the teams that aren’t attending Tour 2. Instead let’s see who will be hoping to achieve glory on the fields of Llanrumney!

Pool L – Iceni (1), Nice Bristols (3), Brighton Women (6), Purple Cobras (8)

With Iceni and Nice Bristols starting to crank up the gears on the final stretch before WUCC I expect they will take no prisoners in pool play, just like in Nottingham. These two will both advance into the top four bracket on Sunday, unless something drastic happens.

However, looking to fight it out for 6th seed (on the live stream no less) will be Brighton and Purple Cobras. Cobras sailed through Nottingham undefeated to win the plate, so it will be most exciting to see them flex their muscles against the upper echelons of Women’s Tour. Brighton have a larger squad of fresher, slightly less experienced faces this time out and are missing talismanic handler Megan Hurst. But with players like Fran Scarampi and Marah Neal alongside their capable regular set, they may yet hold onto their seed.

Pool M – Reading 1 (2), SYC (4), SMOG (5), HYDRA 1 (7)

Reading women were the talk of the tournament in Nottingham. Snagging the 3rd seed during pool play with a 13-8 win over SYC 1, they went on to surmount SMOGlobetrotters and Nice Bristols on their way to a formidable final performance against Iceni. However, with SYC coming back together for Tour 2 it is going to be one heck of a fight for the top spot in this pool. SYC Coach James Burbidge was characteristically tight-lipped about his expectations for the weekend- though he did tip his hat to the sheer quality of the field this season. He also informed me that some of SYC’s star players are sitting this one out to rest ahead of Cincinnati… I’m gutted it’s not on the livestream schedule but if you find yourself at a loose end in Cardiff at midday, hustle over to pitch 11 and watch this game!

Photo courtesy of Sam Mouat

On the other end of this pool we have SMOG and HYDRA 1. Like SYC, SMOG have some absentees resting up ahead of Windmill next weekend and have consolidated to a single team. However, whereas SYC are all top-flight picks, SMOG’s roster will be aiming to nurture some future stars and this could leave them vulnerable to the big name teams. After a frustrating Tour 1 experience plagued by unforced errors, HYDRA 1 will certainly be looking to exploit any weaknesses and advance a little higher up bracket play this time around. With the ruthlessly speedy Amina Malik as well as Lucy Cinnamond and Amy Van-Zyl on board this time out, I for one rate their chances.

Pool N – Red (9), Reading Red (15), HYDRA 2 (17)

Red women had a truly sensational Saturday in Nottingham, conceding just 2 points in pool play and then advancing to the plate final on Sunday afternoon. Another outfit condensing to a single team for the journey to Wales, they will look to build on this performance. Although Reading will be hungry to score more than one this time around, I expect Red will again sail through this pool and come out with buckets of energy for the 8v9 on Sunday morning to see if they can’t snag themselves a top eight finish.

Unlike the numerous teams who have dropped down to a single squad, both Hydra and Reading have maintained multiple squads for Tour 2. Most impressive is of course Reading who again are fielding three teams by casting their net towards the south coast, though this time they are going for a more loaded approach with a second and third team split. This should therefore make the battle between Reading Red and HYDRA 2 a corker for sure! 

Pool P – Reading Black (10), Merseyside Women (16), Brixton (18)

Much like Reading 1, Reading Black also had an excellent time in Nottingham – climbing from 23rd to 12th seed. However, although Reading will have a slightly stronger squad in Cardiff as a true second team, Merseyside will be snapping at their heels after a wet and slippery defeat first game in Nottingham. Whilst sixth seeds may separate these teams, if fortune favours Merseyside anything could happen. Brixton will also be looking to throw their hat into the ring and build on the momentum they built at Tour 1 where they put up some solid scorelines against strong teams and an especially dominant performance against Red 2 in pool play. 

Pool Q – Chaos (11), Vurve (13), Discie Chicks (19)

Chaos had a challenging Saturday in Nottingham. Although they had the valuable experience of testing themselves against top teams from the very start of tour, they struggled to put points on the board. They also had a gutting loss to Purple Cobras on Sunday morning which relegated them to the 13-16 bracket. This Tour the schedule is a little more familiar to their starts last year, which may work out a little better and allow them to gain some momentum before they head into placement games. This will likely be reliant on how effectively they can focus against what might prove to be less challenging defences, though Vurve will certainly look to obstruct this after their successes back in Nottingham. Discie are also back together after plenty of lessons during their first outing of the season and it will be exciting to see what Lindsay Bradley and Fowzia Mahmood can bring out of their squad as a dynamic duo out in force on the same squad.

Pool R – Uprising (12), GBU20s (14), South Wales Storm (20)

Uprising were really unfortunate to have been in a pool with the underseeded Reading Black at Tour 1. Their inability to finish at the top meant they were locked out of the top 16 for the rest of the weekend. They took 17th with style, but will no doubt be hungry to climb up the rankings in Cardiff. They will face off against some familiar opponents having bested GBU20s on Sunday in Nottingham, as well as hoping to replicate their previous result in what is looking likely to be their 12v13 match up of Vurve. What I don’t see is them surmounting the 5v12, but you never know… We do love an upset here at The ShowGame! 

As for the other two teams in this pool, GBU20s feel like they could rise a few spots after some strong results in Nottingham – but the real excitement is South Wales Storm. By no means a new team to the Women’s Tour circuit they always end up being a bit of a wildcard and with the home advantage they could bring some real spice to the lower bracket! As always, we’ll have to wait and see.

UKU Tour 1 Preview – Open A Tour

news, Open, Previews

Sean Colfer prepares himself for prediction backlash with his UKU Tour 1 top division preview.

Here we are again. The Mixed season has come and gone like a spring shower, whetting the appetite for a new Open and Women’s season. It’s an important one too – later this summer six of these teams will test themselves against the best in the world at WUCC in Cincinnati, while another will be going to the prestigious US Open in Blaine, Minnesota. Let’s take a look at A Tour here, before moving on to B and C in a separate article.

UKU Tour 1 Preview – Women’s Division

news, Previews, Womens

Hannah Pendlebury returns to give us her view on the Women’s division at this weekend’s Windfarm.

The women’s tour is alive and well. I for one am stoked to see a whopping 28 teams descending upon the Wind Farm this weekend! This figure is up five teams from last year and features two new arrivals in the shape of Purple Cobras and Exe Ladies, plus three club expansions showing great developmental work. Top stuff!

UKU Mixed Tour 3 Preview

Mixed, Previews

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.

Birmingham take on Herd. Photo by Andrew Moss

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.

Glasgow arrive on the mixed scene. Photo by Andrew Moss

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!

  1. SMOG
  2. Black Eagles
  3. Reading A
  4. Flat Perth
  5. Mighty Hucks
  6. Glasgow 1
  7. Thundering Herd 1
  8. Cambridge 1
  9. Deep Space
  10. Rebel
  11. Birmingham
  12. JR

 

 

 

UKU Mixed Tour 2 South Preview

Mixed, news, Previews

Jordan ‘JB’ Brown and Josh Coxon Kelly set the scene ahead of the Glastonbury leg of Mixed Tour 2

Purple Cobras are working on development this season as it’s their first outing in Mixed Tour. They’ve spent the past few years entering every other event in the country to gel into a pretty formidable unit. As a result, it’s not that much of a surprise looking at them climbing above their seeding at MT1 where they hopped ten seeds from 29th to 19th. In Cardiff, they won their pool outright against stiff competition from Herd 2, then continued that flow into Sunday, beating Cosmic Manatees before coming unstuck against LLLeeds. They regrouped in their final game to take down GreyBH, who will represent in the mixed masters division at WUCC. Relying less on big players and more on developing as a team, Cobras will be looking to win MT2-South, if they can get past the second seeds who are also looking to take home glassware from Glastonbury. Sam Persaud, Guilia Newbery, Rich Fenn and others will cause grief to anyone they go up against.