Club or Country Part 2 – Is GB ready?

Chevron, Club or Country, Discussion, GB, Open
Mark Penny continues Club or Country by asking:
Are GB missing out not sending a club team to represent our country?


A lot of the leading international teams from our sport are winners of the national club championships from their respective countries. The US sent Sockeye to Worlds in 2008 and Revolver in 2012, whereas teams such as Japan and Sweden have consistent representation from Buzz Bullets and Skogshyddan. The same can be seen in the women’s division, with San Francisco’s Fury being a prime example of success within this system. The question being asked is this: are we, in Britain, right or wrong for not sending our national champions overseas?


There are arguments in favour of sending our reigning champions to international tournaments, the most obvious and important of which is the strong chemistry between players within a club team, which comes as a result of regular training. As solid an argument as that is, in my opinion it doesn’t out-power the fact that an accumulation of players from across Britain will hold more talent than say, for example, the Clapham or Chevron Squad alone. Furthermore, the chemistry held by the club teams is not excluded from an All-Star lineup. Great Britain does not have a large player base to pick from when compared with the US or Canada. This means that our club teams, whether they are considered to be top teams in the UK or not, are not packed from first pick to last with international standard players. The top teams in North America are. If we did send what would at the moment be Clapham to Worlds, then the second tier of their players would get dominated by the second tier of players from bigger countries’ rosters. This would result in Britain continuously losing games due to a lack of strength in depth.


Mark Penny playing for GB at WUGC in Japan. Photo courtesy of nzsnaps.com.

Britain’s best players are spread across the country, dotted around in a variety of different clubs and areas. We are very regionalised around the major cities and universities, with small pockets of talent everywhere. For example, Josh Coxon Kelly, Sam Vile, Matt ‘Whippet’ Ford, Kate Rae and Charlie Blair all represented at elite level and came out of the first generation of a single tiny ultimate community in Kent. Should GB not be trying to take advantage of these small pockets of talent that exist in our country to strengthen our National side, without those players having to migrate to the most dominant club? Choosing one club to represent us is confining ourselves to picking our players from one part of the country. We should be thinking that as our country isn’t as big as the USA, or Canada we are at an advantage! Might it not be the case that if it were geographically possible for them to conceivably travel and train together, these nations might also prefer to send an “allstar” team?


To send one club abroad would be a waste of the talent that ultimate players here have to offer. GB went to the world championships in Japan and with the right preparation (and the right amount of fortune), managed to come 2nd in the world. I’m not saying that Britain are the second best team in the world, but this is evidence that the system that we have at the moment, with the right nurturing, shows promise. The most successful squad in our country’s ultimate history had players from Clapham, Chevron, Fire, Emo, Brighton, Fusion and Ka-pow. There seems to be a similar situation in the women’s division too. Yes, we could send Iceni along but how can you ignore the talent residing in the Bristol, SYC, Punt and LLLeeds squads?


Another thing that we need to think about is the future for our national teams. Last summer the GBu23 squads went out to Toronto for the world u23 championships and although some results didn’t quite go in our favour, we saw that from the very first pull of the tournament, in our Open team’s show game against Canada, that we have a lot to offer on the world stage. This being said, only 3 of these players were a part of Clapham’s Nationals winning squad. Our GB u17 team have just won gold out in Lecco, the majority of these players are not going to end up in London or Manchester any time soon. Do we really want to suffocate the development of our rising stars by not having the majority of them in our national side? Sending a club team to represent us at international tournaments will nullify all of the work that is being done at the grassroots level in Britain. We could have the next international superstar training up in Scotland, but he/she wouldn’t be able to help improve our national side because he/she couldn’t get down to London for a weekly training session. These players need exposure to international tournaments if Britain intends on climbing the ranking ladder in the future.


The real questions that we need to be asking revolves around how we can improve on the system that we have. Should we train more regularly and deal with the consequences? Do we require better funding? Should we take longer to prepare? I don’t know the answer to these questions but to me, it feels as though the nomination of a single club to represent our nation is choosing what might seem like a quick fix for more awkward questions surrounding how we approach, and how much we commit as amateur athletes to preparing for and representing our country.

Club or Country? Introduction

Chevron, Clapham, Club or Country, Discussion, EMO, GB
Josh Coxon Kelly introduces the next edition of Discussion titled: Club or Country?


Next week teams will compete for the right to call themselves the greatest Ultimate club in the world. Now only a number of days away, excited qualifiers from 40 different countries and 161 different teams will be adding the finer touches to their preparation for this momentous opportunity at time of publishing – getting their bodies and minds perfectly ready to take on the rest of the world. At the height of elite non-commercial ultimate the WUCC held this year in Lecco, Italy is only challenged in terms of prestige by international competitions that occur between the World Club years. Players and coaches will still talk with a hushed reverence of Maribor, Southampton, Sakai, Vancouver as they share stories of their brushes with international glory or defeat, and our whole community is undeniably galvanised by the prospect of GB being represented and competing at Ultimate on the highest international stage.


The EUC and WUGC not only carry an extra weight with the privilege and national pride bound up in their medals, but also arguably present a more tantalising prospect for underdog ultimate nationals given the single-team restriction placed on entrants. With only a single entrance from USA, Canada, Japan, or any other of the growing list of world class Ultimate nations (Switzerland, Germany, Australia, Colombia…), the elusive quarter and semi final brackets are notably more viable for the underdog. The most recent example of this comes from close to home with our very own GB open squad making a first ever appearance in a world final in the recent summer of 2012, in Sakai. Whilst the defeat to USA may have been a decisive one, the GB Open performance in Japan provides lasting inspiration for up and coming British players whose dreams of international success were shown to be more viable than perhaps we had all thought a few summers ago.


Whilst not all players at in Lecco will have represented their country, there will be very few international competitors who do not have a club team at WUCC 2014, and depending on the nation, the distribution of national players varies greatly. There are clearly some quite disparate approaches across the international community to balancing the push and pull between club and country.


In the UK Clapham Ultimate have been open National champions for 13 years, and Iceni have held the women’s title for 8 out of the last 10 years. Whilst neither team is completely unscathed, they are widely held as the best teams in the country and there has is a sense building suggesting that we are starting to develop our own domestic ‘gap’, between the best London club and the rest of the country. Accompanying this suggestion, is the discussion of whether or not we should as a country be sending our most successful teams, or a combination of all-star players from across the country’s most competitive squads.

Daniel Furnell (EMO) passes to Si Dathan (Chevron) for GB in Japan. Photo courtesy of Stuart Austin.

It is undeniable that London seems to gravitationally attract a huge portion of young people in the UK whether for career, financial or other reasons. This effect is only going to be further exacerbated for our young sportsmen and women by the high percentage of the Ultimate community who learn and/or mature as players at their universities, and subsequently seek out employment in the larger cities. The country is evidently lopsided population wise, and this as well as the bustling London scene is drawing more and more talent to bolster the already dominant London clubs. Yet, despite this weighting towards the capital, top players from clubs across the country consistently prove at tour and GB selection processes that they can bring their own individual dominance over others from further down the London rosters.


There are clearly many variables and opinions in the balance in this debate, and the pieces in this series will provide an analysis of the British approach and comparison to other world powerhouses, as well as speculation on what steps need to be taken to best progress in the future. Sion Scone will be providing an in-depth analysis of the various options open to us. Supplementing this analysis will be two contrasting opinions from the UK Open club scene [Editor’s note: these supplementary posts are knowingly open-division-centric. We would love to expand the scope of this discussion to other divisions – comment below or get in touch!]: Ollie Benjamin (Clapham ~ 10 years) and Mark Penny (Chevron ~ 7 years). 

The last catch in Lecco will be followed by joy, desolation, celebrations and relaxation for many who move past the pinnacle of their seasons. For some however, it won’t be long after this that the focus turns to EUC’15, WUGC 2016, and the trialling, training and competitive journey of international ultimate that swiftly rises to the height of priority. Should we reassess our current system, and would doing so lead to short term, long term improvement, neither or both? Should we be focusing on top level or grass roots? Should such questions even be imposed on those who make up these teams, and should these people have the responsibility to do both? Let’s start the discussion…

UKU Tour 3 Review

#ukut3, Cardiff, Chevron, Clapham, EMO, Fire of London, news, Nice Bristols, Open, PUNT, ROBOT, SYC, Tournament Reports, womens
David Pryce, Fiona Kwan, Thomas Cliff and Christopher Bell review Tour 3 with some insight into the rest of the season…

Full standings can be found here for Women’s and here for OpenBut what happened in Cardiff?

Women’s Tour – Fiona Kwan

UKU Women’s Tour Top 8 


1. Punt
2. SYC
3. ROBOT
4. LLLeeds
5. Phoenix London
6. Iceni
7. Relentless
8. Brighton Pretty
After 3 rounds of fierce contest featuring local favourites and some great input from international competition, the 2014 Tour season has come to an end. We’ve seen highs and lows, wins and losses, and our fair share of universe points. But sadly, the bakery is now closed. No more bagels.

This review will itself be a review of the finals for the top 6. There have been some great match-ups this season, as more and more team find themselves in contention to win – 4 different teams featured in the 3 Tour finals, Iceni and Punt being the only teams to appear more than once. 

Iceni’s absence at Tour 3 was to the advantage of other top level teams who came out hard  vying for the Tour 3 trophy, and the UKU title. Here’s how it all went down…


The Final: Bristol vs. Punt
Half time score: Bristol  4 Punt
Full time result: Bristol 16 – 17 Punt

Punt have been the movers and shakers of Tour this year and have had a remarkable season. A strong performance in 2013 raised expectations for the Cambridge/Oxford side, and they didn’t let us down. Consistent finishes in all three Tour events brought them a well deserved victory in the overall tour standings, beating out SYC by 41 points. They’ll also be ranked 2nd at Nationals, a remarkable feat for such a young team.

Coming into Tour 3, there was a still a certain amount of mystery surrounding the Bristol side this year. The result of them splitting their squad at Tour 1, and their notable absence at Tour 2 meant that they weren’t seen together until last weekend. In fact, Punt hadn’t had a chance to play Bristol all season, so this was a new encounter for all players involved. With the Bristol women representing in Lecco in a couple weeks time (and many of the Punt players playing for Cambridge mixed) both teams were well drilled and ready to play. This naturally lead to a high quality contest, and a hard fought victory.

Benefitting from low player turnover from last year in addition to a full season playing together, Bristol came out strong in the first half, and despite strong defensive pressure from Punt, the Worlds-bound side took half decisively at 9-4. 

Moving into the second half, Punt stepped up their defence, resulting in a number of turnovers near Bristol’s endzone which they were able to capitalise on. In a comeback worthy of the final, Punt brought it back to 11-11. From here, both teams fought hard, but Punt made it evident that they came to win. With the combination of Punt’s defensive strength and the wind playing a role in generating turnovers for both sides, Bristol’s offence began to lose steam. Ultimately, Punt was able to overcome their opposition and beat favourites Bristol in sudden death taking the Tour 3 and overall Tour title. 

Despite the upset, Bristol still finished the season in 10th place, with an average of 230 points per event. They go into Nationals ranked 3rd. 

A new addition to the squad this year, Punt’s Hannah Boddy was awarded MVP, and took the lovely glass UKU trophy home with her. Congratulations!


A clip of the winning point from the final, thanks to Matthew Hodgson.

3 vs. 4: SYC vs. ROBOT
Half time score: SYC 7 – ROBOT
Full time result: SYC 15  10 ROBOT

SYC and ROBOT seem to have played each other a lot this season, with Tour 3 being no exception. After losing to Punt and Bristol respectively in the semis, both were looking to give a strong showing in the 3 vs. 4. Both teams played some excellent D in this game, forcing the offense to put up some shaky throws. 

From the beginning SYC came out strong, piling the defensive pressure and generating turns from the seasoned ROBOT side. While ROBOT’s O was solid with all the right decisions being made with no unforced throwaways, SYC’s defense eventually overwhelmed them. Going into the second half, the London women already had a clear advantage. ROBOT however also brought their strong defensive game, using clever poaches to mark out the younger SYC squad. This strategy worked well for them, stopping the quick and athletic style of SYC, slowing the pace to a more manageable speed, and forcing them to use their break throws.

In spite of ROBOT’s best efforts however, SYC had a convincing victory coming second in final standings; ROBOT finishing right behind them in third.

5 vs. 6: Phoenix London vs. Rebel
It’s great to see that Tour is still attracting international teams this far into the season. Rebel proved a real force to be reckoned with in Cardiff, meeting the high standard of Irish ultimate set by Little Miss Sunshine at Tour 2. They proved to be an extremely athletic team, and their short squad of 10 showed no signs of fatigue in their final against Phoenix.

After a sudden death cross-down and overall disappointing finish at Tour 1, Phoenix have been working hard to climb back up the rankings from 13th. As the season has progressed, this new London team has gelled more, and worked hard to get themselves seeded in the top 8 for the next two tours.

In this match-up, Rebel came out strong, going up 4-1. They used their poaches and zone D to throw off their London competitors, forcing turns even when Phoenix was able to break through the cup. They also proved very effective on offense, with great handler play and quick up the line movement which proved devastating to Phoenix’s D. After a well used timeout call, Phoenix were able to adjust their strategy, and come back stronger against the Irish side. They began to shut down the handler movement by putting a poach in the open lane, and reigning in their offense to be more clinical. But despite their best efforts, the damage was already done and Rebel had a comfortable victory in the end. 

A well spirited game which saw both teams finish above seed; Rebel from 8th to 5th, and 
Phoenix from 7th to 6th.

Great job to all who participated – there were some fantastic games over the weekend. Thanks for coming, and see you at Nationals!


UKU Open Tour Top 8 

1. Clapham O
2. EMO
3. Chevron Action Flash
4. Fire of London
5. Zimmer 
6. Brighton Gritty
7. Ranelagh 1
8. Manchester

A Tour – David Pryce

With Clapham consolidating back into one team after a flurry of injuries and the repercussions of the US Open, the full squad were out to prove they still could dominate at home. Overall this was what we were shown, with no real trouble in their pool and a lacklustre performance from Fire of London 1 in the semi final setting Clapham against Chevron in the final. Chevron clearly wanted this game and started off the game with a lead and some were hopeful that they could hold onto this. However, Clapham changed gear and got back into it in the second half, taking the game and the Tour title once again. Not to take anything from Chevron, Rob Schumacher (Clapham #99) tweeted:

A sign of mutual respect as the top two British teams turn on from familiar opponents to face and hopefully overcome bigger challenges; the rest of the world better watch out for Chevron as well as Clapham.

In a windy 3v4 game EMO took the win over Fire of London who end the season back in the top 4. The only team of this 4 not attending worlds, Fire now look straight to Nationals where they will want to take advantage of Clapham, Chevron and EMO having to double peak this season. 

Zimmer finished the season with a very strong performance holding off Rebel and keeping their 5th seed. This all bodes well for their upcoming campaign in Lecco. Rounding off the top 8 at Tour 3 we see the now regulars Manchester and new guard NEO. This meteoric rise through the ranks has surprised some but they have made a statement at Tour that cannot be ignored by competition going into Regionals and Nationals. 

Just outside of the top 8 we see Brighton who have experienced a slight fall, but I fully expect them to come out hard to recoup this at Nationals. The lower brackets of the a tour have seen many teams across the season, with old and new faces in CUlt, Reading, Birmingham and LLLeeds making those last few coveted A tour spots a true battleground.

Chevron Action Flash huddle up for the UKU Tour 3 final. Photo courtesy of Serena de Nahlik.

B Tour – Thomas Cliff

Welcome to crossover country.
In my humble opinion, Sunday morning in B tour is one of the most intriguing spectacles in the tour season, simply because of the sheer amount of movement that is not only possible, but probable, due to 3 sets of crossovers with chances to be promoted or relegated mid tournament.  The top 8 of B tour was unrecognisable from the start to the end of the tournament, with only 2 teams retaining a spot therein.
As always, Saturday is just a scrap for the best possible seed going into the vital Sunday morning games. The only team to rock the boat at the top of the pile were Fire 2, upsetting JR at the third time of asking this season to top their pool.
The crossovers for A tour threw up two upsets, firstly Reading taking a game from Devon and Flump being rudely shunted back down to the B tour by Leeds. As a side note Flump somehow managed to score 8 points in every single game this weekend. One for the statisticians. In the other big games the flair heavy JR pushed DED all the way but they couldn’t quite seal the deal, and Fire 2 had their hot streak ended comfortably by Birmingham’s quick-movement based play. Highlight heavy Devon went on to top B tour with a 17th place finish.
Lower down the bracket, worlds-bound BAF looked imperious, taking out all comers on their way to a crossover against an athletic Sneekys squad. BAF went on to win this, and finished their weekend as high as was possible at 21st; no mean feat from a lowly 31st position start. BAF weren’t the only lower seed to win their crossover in the middle bracket. In fact, everyone did, which ruins the fun a bit.
At the bottom of the bracket all of the newcomers, The Brown, ABH, and Camden struggled to adjust on Saturday. However all 3 managed to hold on to their B tour spots (leaving my foot securely in my mouth). St Albans however weren’t so lucky, falling to a Guildford squad who seem to have left it quite late in the season to let their presence be known.
The season is far from over with regionals an important proving ground for B tour teams looking to make the top flight for nationals. Birmingham showed this and were able to use Nationals qualification to take a step up with their team last year. With regional results just in, it will be interesting to see if any of this year’s B tour teams can make a dent in the top 16 at Southampton.
  
Stu Greer bids for Fire of London 2. Photo courtesy of Serena de Nahlik.


C Tour – Christopher Bell

Guildford went unbeaten in Cardiff as they proved to all that they belonged in B Tour all season long. Passing through their group relatively untroubled, they came up against St Albans in their crossover, before beating ABH  comfortably. In fact, they didn’t concede more than 5 points in a game until they gave up 9 against Tour 2’s C Tour champions; The Brown.

Guilford were the only team to manage the jump from C Tour to B. Rhubarb and Pingu Jam held seed on Saturday to face B Tour teams, while Black Sheep jumped seven seeds by beating Devon 2 and CUlt 2 to top their group. Black Sheep squared up against Camden 1 on Sunday morning, but after a strong first 30 seconds, lost the half 8-1 and were only able to trade in the second half. Rhubarb beat Black Sheep and Pingu Jam beat St Albans, setting up Rhubarb to win the C Tour and St Albans to finish third.

The rest of the division saw a lot of movement – a special mention must go to Curve 2, who started 20th (bottom seed) and went on to win the bottom set of 8 – finishing 13th.  Hampshire managed to improve on their initial seed of 11th to finish 5th, enjoying an unbeaten Sunday along with Curve 2 and Guildford. Many teams finished roughly where they started, with Hammertime, Lemmings, Pier Pressure, Reading 2 and Camden 2 all finishing within one seed of their starting position.

Just as impressive as that of Curve 2 was the performance of Devon 3 – they managed to climb from second-bottom to third in their group, finishing the tournament in an impressive 12th, also an 8 place increase. In fact, they only finished 4 places lower than their second team. This result points to a great foundation for the club, and a real platform for growth in the off season, as we look ahead to next year.


UltiClips review UKU Tour 3 with some great clips from the weekend!

The Tour season comes to a close but there is plenty more to play for! Stay tuned for WUCC 2014 previews and more!

WUCC 2014 Open Division Preview: Chevron Action Flash

Chevron, news, Previews, WUCC Previews, WUCC2014
Sean Colfer gives us his second Open division WUCC team preview with Chevron Action Flash.

Harry Slinger-Thompson making a high bid over Zimmer at Tour 3. Photo courtesy of Christine Rushworth.

Squad

Mark Penny (C)
Iain Thackrah
Josh Kyme
Steve Dixon
James Jackson
William Cornelius
Jake Aspin
Sam Bowen
Rhys Evans
Richard Coward
Ben Powlay
Ben Parsons
Harry Slinger-Thompson
Mark Davin
Mark Simpson
Ben Weddell
James Mead
Matt Beavan
James Stanley
Seb Allen
Matt McLoughlin
Thomas Cartwright
Dec Cartwright


About the Team

Chevron have long been established as the UK’s second best team, finishing second every year between their 2008 Tour win and this season, with fellow WUCC team EMO edging them into third. Their philosophy hasn’t changed for an even longer time; take in the best young players that fit into their existing ethos and develop them into top level competitors. The team was established in Manchester, took in players from other areas in the North West, added a second player base around Bristol and nowadays also train in the Midlands. They have become a team that attracts players from all over the country and have a strong, deep roster with quality all over both lines.

The offence runs a short line, featuring players with varied but complementary skill sets. GB under-23 players Josh Kyme and James Mead are important pieces as handlers, as are fellow under-23 Ben Parsons and GB Mixed player Richard Coward as cutters. Their strength is versatility; all of the players are as comfortable and capable on the disc as they are cutting, and their athletic and viable deep options also open the field for their shorter swinging game.

Defensive options are equally as varied. Matt Beavan, coach and veteran of GB Open and World Games teams, and Mark Penny, D line captain and GB Open player, bring the experience to an otherwise young line, though many of the players have experienced week long tournaments in the Junior and under-23 ranks – Sam Bowen, Jake Aspin and Tom Cartwright, as well as new studs Seb Allen and Dec Cartwright for example. They have a healthy rotation of highly athletic, physical defenders and are usually good for three or four highlight blocks a game, whether from layout bids or big aerial plays.

Coaching and Playing Style
Beavan has brought his extensive playing and coaching experience to the squad as coach this season. The team has split trainings between Manchester, Bristol and Leicester this season to ease the travelling load on players, and there are also weekly sessions in both Bristol and Manchester to accommodate as many of the squad as possible. The leaders of the team – Beavan, Penny and O line captain Iain Thackrah – all have experience as part of international teams and will be vital in their WUCC campaign.

Their offensive system is difficult to define in specific terms, as they switch offensive sets from point to point and sometimes even during points – they use two and three handlers, as well as vert, horizontal and split stack sets. Instead, the offence is predicated on seemingly constant movement. Often all six players not in possession are moving at the same time, making the play incredibly hard to predict and therefore to defend.

Defensively, Chevron mix things up a lot. Their base is man, which fits well with their athleticism and will generate a healthy amount of blocks. However they are also capable of putting on tight zone and are well drilled with their transitions, which they will use depending on what the opposition is showing them. Their well-rounded game on both sides of the disc makes them a tough team to game plan for, which should be a strength in a longer tournament with unfamiliar competition such as WUCC.

Expected Finishing Place
With the usual qualifier that these predictions are very tough, Chevron should be able to solidify themselves as a top European team at WUCC. They have good experience of playing against European teams which will be an important factor at a tournament that demands more from a physical and especially from a mental perspective than any Tour event – playing only twice a day over a week is far different to packing in several games in a weekend. While it seems unlikely they can have the same semi-final aspirations as Clapham, they will certainly be a tough match up in power pools and, given a good draw, could be a threat to the top 10. After missing out on the top 8 in sudden death in 2010, they will surely be hungry to climb into this elite bracket. With some seriously strong competition heading to Lecco, the most likely finishing position is somewhere around their seed, which is 12th, with somewhere in the top 20 a safe bet. 

Predicted finish: 13th.

Stay tuned! More to come…

UKU Open and Women’s Tour 3 Preview

#ukut3, Cardiff, Chevron, Clapham, EMO, Fire of London, Iceni, Nice Bristols, PUNT, Ranelagh, ROBOT, SYC, UK Ultimate, Zimmer
David Pryce and Christopher Bell take us through this weekends UKU Tour 3.


Welcome home to Clapham Ultimate and Iceni Ultimate, well played out there! This weekends schedule is here: http://bit.ly/TWR1As


A Tour
The final instalment of this years domestic UK club season is tomorrow! With two events already completed it is still mathematically possible for anyone near the top to take the Tour title. Clapham will be combining both lines into the Clapham D team seeding and EMO will be hoping for the London team to lose their almost inevitable semi final. With only a handful of points between them a big enough gap between these two teams on Sunday evening could be the chance for EMO to take the top spot from Clapham D. However, I don’t think Clapham will be lying down too easily. After learning some tough lessons at the US Open they will only be hungry to return to the UK and stamp their authority on their home turf. 

Hayden Slaughter makes a huge grab over Clapham D at Tour 2. Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss.


In the pool stages Brighton get a chance to take that champion scalp early once again, with an opening pool play fixture against Clapham. Can they reverse the result after losing in universe point at Tour 2? EMO and Fire of London face off for the first time in this year’s regular season, can the London team take down the Worlds bound Midlands boys? Londoners Flump however have a tough introduction to this years A tour taking on the young and athletic Devon, flamboyant KaPow! and cohesive Rebel. In the D pool I would expect Manchester to come out on top, but new comers NEO took B tour with relative ease and DED have been strong throughout this season so far so it’s far from a foregone conclusion. Chevron will meet old friends and foes alike in the pool as they face Zimmer, Brighton and Clapham in their pool and will be looking to better a final game loss to EMO at Tour 2.

Can anyone take down a combined Clapham close to their season’s peak? Tour 3 sees both the tournament and overall tour title up for grabs so expect fierce competition as the best teams in Britain prepare for Lecco. 


Women’s
Iceni have chosen to pass on this weekends event to train together and get some rest after the US Open, leaving the Women’s tour title open for a number of teams to possibly take. Punt are only 60 points behind Iceni, SYC trail the current champions by 73 and even if Nice Bristols win this even they will not have enough to take first (or possibly second). This year presents a rare chance for a new team to claim the tour title after recent Iceni dominance, but it won’t come easily…

Punt made their first final last tour and showed that whilst they couldn’t take down Iceni they definitely deserved that second place. Now it leaves them to prove that they can take on Nice Bristols who return from the Boston Invite to continue their Worlds preparation. 

Iceni Captain Sonia Komenda makes a bid on Punt player Hannah Body. Photo courtesy of Graham Bailey.


SYC and ROBOT will not let any of this happen lightly. Both teams have had a very strong season and have also had some great battles against each other. Do not be surprised to see some great performances from these women as they push to for their first domestic finals of the year. 

Further down the pack, newcomers Phoenix London and second year team Relentless will be hoping they can firm up their positions in the top 8 with the likes of Leeds, Blink and Swift.

Saturday games to watch: 
Nice Bristols vs SYC (Pitch 3 at 10:40)
Punt vs ROBOT (Pitch 1 at 17:20) 

B Tour

Having finished 2nd last time out, LeedsLeedsLeeds will be hoping to finish in the top 16 this Sunday. In their group are Reading 1 (who they beat comfortably in St Albans), Brighton Echo and Vision. They have yet to face Brighton Echo this season, but they will be expecting to win every game in this group – including regional rivals Vision, who they beat at Northern Winter League on a surprisingly sunny Sunday in Manchester back in February. The Yorkshire lads may very well fancy their chances to get back into A Tour, if looking at the group they would cross with, which isn’t the strongest.

The other group in the top half of B Tour sees JR1, Sneeekys, Fire 2 and Cardiff Storm fight it out for a chance to get back into A Tour – a tough group that’s even tougher to call. JR have been there or there about for a long time now, as far as the A/B Tour line goes. Sneeekys have had an extremely impressive season, having played an entire Tour lower last year, and I’m sure would love to cap a successful season with a spot in the top 16. Fire 2 spent last year in A Tour, though there are some out there that don’t feel Fire 2 have the desire or the pedigree to get back to that level just right now. Finally, there’s Storm, who finished 13th at Tour 2 will have the home advantage of sleeping in their own beds at Tour 3 – which along with only having to do a fraction of the travelling, cannot be underestimated.

The lower half of B Tour is an eclectic mix of teams, some of which have been hovering around those seeds all season, but the majority have played in C Tour at some point this year. Each team will either want to prove that they are definitely a B Tour team (The Brown) or be looking to stake a claim in the middle tier of Open Tour by proving themselves this year (Camden). Expect plenty of close, scrappy games in these pools as each team tries to clamber up the ranks, whilst avoiding the drop back into C Tour.  Rest assured that any team that does find itself facing a crossover at the bottom of the Tour will fight extremely hard to ensure that they stay within the top 32.

Tom Pierce with a layout score for Guildford at Tour 2. Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss.


C Tour

A more open schedule means that the next instalment of C Tour should see some more movement in the rankings, as teams battle it out in this last chance to improve their seedings this season. 

Further incentive to top the pool is provided by the chance of a crossover into B Tour on Sunday morning. Will any teams be able to make the final push to finish in the top 32? The story that unfolds over the weekend will be fascinating – that much is for sure.

Number 1 seeds, Guildford, may feel this is their time, after sudden-death losses to current B Tour teams in the knock-out stages of the previous two tours stalling their attempts at promotion. They will expect to dominate in their group and continue that form into the Sunday. Rhubarb (3rd seed) will similarly be aiming high after an impressive showing throughout the season so far. Perhaps Pingu Jam can find some extra motivation to convert their obvious talent on the pitch to a rise in the seedings akin to that which they enjoyed at Mixed Tour.

Below the teams topping the pools, there is much room for upset with another six or seven teams definitely capable of going toe-to-toe with the big guns. CUlt 2 will be hoping to go one better after a great performance in Nottingham. Likewise, teams such as Lemmings and Black Sheep have bolstered their ranks as they push to challenge those currently at the top.

It will be very much a case of which teams show up this weekend as to who will be able to provide those shock results – but don’t expect everything to go to seed! There is an incredible amount of potential for some huge changes in the C Tour landscape this weekend, with pride and a place in B Tour as the prize.

UKU Tour 2 Review

Brighton, Chevron, Clapham, Fire of London, Iceni, LMS, news, nottingham, Previews, PUNT, ROBOT, UKUT2, US Open

David Pryce, Edward Parker, Christopher Bell and Fiona Kwan bring the UKU Tour 2 review from all four divisions.

Full results and spirit here.

A Tour: Clapham O take the title after some tight pool games for both lines.

Clapham D vs Chevron Action Flash but unable to play a whole game against the champions. Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss.


As mentioned above, although Clapham came in as obvious favourites to take another Tour title, Fire of London and Brighton City did not get the memo. Both teams took Clapham’s O and D lines, respectively, to sudden death but after that shock CU did not look back. It was again an O vs D final with O making it one all for this season. Sadly, on the way to victory the O line lost a player to a broken arm; we wish JJ all the best, get well soon! Clapham are currently making their way to Minnesota for this weekend’s US Open (watch their pool game on NGN) where they are hoping to take a few scalps after a promising Chesapeake tournament last year.

The other two WUCC teams from the open division came to head in the last game of the weekend, the 3v4. Chevron had been strong all weekend and, until this point, had only struggled against Clapham. However, they stumbled here with EMO taking the 17-15 win, leaving Chevron with 4th place.

Outside of the top four, Fire of London started off well but couldn’t make a mark on Chevron in their pool and the started the following day very slowly against Manchester. Eventually they fought back into the game and took the win by two, and from there took fifth with relative ease. Cambridge have been the rising stars of this season so far, managing to rise all the way into the top eight, while Zimmer topped the next eight ahead of some stalwart A tour teams.

Next Tour we will replace Birmingham, Glasgow and Leeds with promoted teams NEO and Flump, while the spot of the incredible of GB U20 will have to be filled, as sadly they will not be able to attend Tour 3 – good luck in Lecco boys!

What was your story from Nottingham? Did you forget to pack sun cream? What are you looking forward to in Cardiff? Comments welcome below!


B tour: NEO come out on top in Nottingham

If you are in the mood for intense sporting action in tropical conditions, it turns out that you needn’t travel as far as Brazil. In fact, tucked away between Derby and Newark-on-Trent there is a veritable haven of green fields, sunny skies and fragrant scents (provided you don’t stand too near the portaloos).

Last weekend, 16 teams showed up in Nottingham to play in B tour. Some players packed sun cream, some players didn’t. By the end of the weekend you could tell them apart. Here’s some other stuff that happened…

The run-away winners of the weekend were North East Open (aka NEO). With their blend of tiki-taka handler movements and an explosive long game, they were a team that didn’t give up the disc easily. After sweeping away their opponents throughout the tournament, including a 15–8 win against Flump in the final, NEO will be looking to continue their march up the rankings in A Tour next month.

Despite tripping up in the final, Flump certainly had plenty of positives to take from the weekend. Donning their eye-catching new kit that was variously described as “special” and “f***ing awful” (I actually quite like it, but then again, I was wearing it), Flump had certainly upped the tempo of their game following a weekend at Windmill Windup. After coming out on top of a feisty group decider against JR (fouls, violations, hat throwing… you name it, this game had it), Flump continued their run of good form on Sunday to secure the second promotion spot.

But arguably the biggest success story of the weekend belonged to GB U20s. Apparently the U20s hadn’t received the memo that it might considered impertinent to outcompete players many years their senior. GB showed great composure to top their group (including two games that went to universe point), and having lost narrowly to Flump in the semis, went on to secure their top three spot in style with a 15–10 win over JR. Let’s hope that they can keep up the momentum heading into the upcoming World Championships.
Elsewhere in proceedings, it was a good weekend for teams that had secured promotion from C Tour at London Calling: Sneeekys, Vision and Curve all consolidated their B Tour credentials, finishing in 6th, 11th and 12th, respectively. Meanwhile, JR and Fire 2 will be disappointed to have let their spots in A Tour slip. This is certainly something they will look to rectify in Cardiff. There were undoubtedly other highlights. Tell us about them in the comments!
Bristol Open vs Flump eventual A tour promotional team! Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss.


C Tour: Brown dominate in sunny Nottingham.


The Brown proved they belong in B Tour with comfortable victories against all they encountered this weekend. With the inclusion in the squad of some Durham University players finally freed from the shackles of the library, their extra squad depth carried them through the tournament with consummate ease. They will be joined there by ABH who finished second, and Camden whose squad bolstered by some big names from the Thundering Herd squad of Open Tour 1. Along with Camden, St Albans managed to break into the top eight from an original seed of 17th to finish fourth – an impressive feat!
Questions were raised once again at the decision to include two peer pools at the top of C tour. With the crossovers into the top eight being won by just two points (except in the St Albans game, who won comfortably as they knocked The Saints from the top eight), why should those teams just outside the top eight be denied the opportunity to match up against the best of their division?

Take into account that one team that started in the top eight brought just one sub to Nottingham, and as a result, lost all but one game; and another team forfeited their final two games as they only had nine players and couldn’t face two more matches with such limited numbers, and you would be forgiven for thinking that perhaps teams that brought full squads to the tournament should be allowed to compete for those positions. Those teams winning all but one match and still dropping several seeds must feel frustrated that they are being punished by the schedule, with such limited chance for progression in what should be a Tour division aimed at development of Ultimate in the UK.

Special mentions should go to CUlt 2, whose smooth, flowing offence and tight D allowed them to top their group and beat Lemmings in their final game to finish 11th; Sharkbear did well to enter two teams – they ended up finishing only four seeds apart; and the GB u17s, who got some great tournament experience and a chance to try their offence against a variety of defensive regimes. They showed that athleticism and a well drilled offence can often be enough to beat more experienced teams. Best of luck on the international stage, boys!


Women’s: Expectations and surprises!

Punt make the final against Iceni for first time! Photo courtesy of Graham Bailey.


What we didn’t expect:
Beautiful weather, and the promise of indoor toilets!
I know it’s been said, and it’s getting a bit cliché, but Nottingham is famed for having turbulent weather – wind, rain, hail and everything in between. Anyone who was present at last year’s event knows what Nottingham is capable of. However, in spite of their misgivings, most players will begrudgingly acknowledge that rough weather can present extremely useful conditions to practice playing zone O and D, throwing and serve as an exercise in self-control when it comes to those more heart-pounding and cold sweat inducing throws (a special shout-out to Caitlin from LLLeeds here).

The hot, still weather meant match ups where athleticism played a huge factor in team success. More experienced teams were able to take advantage of the opportunity to throw some sharp breaks, accurate hucks and show off some slick handler movement. Punt and SYC have been particularly good at utilising their break throws and exploiting the around game, taking advantage of the opportunity to be creative.

These two teams played a close semi-final, a rematch from T1, but this time, Punt finished ahead, securing them a place in the final.  I only managed to catch the last couple of points of this game, but based on the final, I can say that they are a very strong team, who draw from all their players’ strengths. They play fast Ultimate, with strong O and D, using all of their players. Looking at their seeding and finishing place, compared to last year, this team has come a long way.

Kinga (The King) from SYC said, “T2 was important for us to find that team chemistry and allowed us to gel a lot more. We’ll keep working on our offense to match the quality of our D so we can be strong on both sides of the disc. The loss against Punt possibly made us even more determined I’d say.” We can hope for another great match up at T3, so place your bets now on who will win next.

Movement in and out of the top eight
Blink had a great weekend, coming from outside the top eight to finish sixth.  Strong handlers and experienced players helped this team climb up from 10th seed, and knock LLL and Phoenix down the rungs. Hopefully, this result is a sign of more good things to come from them, and another strong performance at T3.

Looking ahead to T3, LLL is looking to make it back into the top four. As pointed out by captain Caitlin, the pool of talent in the women’s division has really expanded to about six teams who always give consistently strong performances (Iceni, Bristol, SYC, Punt, ROBOT and LLL). A top four finish would be a huge confidence booster for this young squad in the run up to Nationals.
What we expected:
The UK and Irish teams headed to Lecco all look in good shape
LMS: This weekend Irish team Little Miss Sunshine sent a strong message to UK teams, winning their games handilyon Saturday 15-5, 15-1 and 15-4.  Despite winning all their games on Sunday as well, this Worlds bound team were only able to finish 5th.  It’s a shame they didn’t get a chance to play the likes of Iceni, or Robot in preparation for Lecco, or even teams like SYC and Punt. It would be great to see them at T3, starting with a higher seeding, and see what they can do. I’d bet they’d see a top four finish and be serious contenders for an appearance in the final. A fast and athletic team, they dominated their match ups against teams outside the top eight, and undoubtedly would have given top teams hard fought games, and closer scorelines.

Robot: This team of veterans definitely used their experience to their advantage, pulling out some great throws, and using poaches to effectively shut down pull plays, and stop those dangerous fast breaks and first passes. It will be great to see them again at T3 and Nationals, with experience playing together at T2 showing the young folk how it’s done.

Iceni: Iceni finished in Nottingham on top, with their best challenges coming from Punt and ROBOT on Sunday. With 14 members of the team headed to Twin Cities, Minneapolis for the US Open next week, T2 has given Iceni preparation for the opposition they will face there, as well as good mental practice for playing a tournament. Now for the shameless plug – NGN and ESPN will be broadcasting the Iceni vs. Riot game from the US Open. So, if you have time on the 4th of July, and fancy a break from celebrating US independence, be sure to tune in and watch at17:15 GMT.

It’s great to have more and more women competing at a higher level, and Tour 2 showed how successful women’s ultimate in the UK is becoming. Best of luck to those playing in Cardiff!

Make sure to follow Iceni and Clapham as they take on the US, Canadian and Colombian club teams at the US Open! Go get them! 



Open and Women’s Tour 2 Preview

Black Sheep, Chevron, Clapham, Fire of London, Iceni, news, nottingham, Open Tour, Previews, PUNT, Women's Tour

Introducing the second major club tournament of the season…

As the summer presses on we come to the second UK Tour of 2014, this time moving up to the notorious Nottingham venue at Grove Farm. Well known in the UK Ultimate community for mostly meteorological reasons, Si Hill provided a defence:

“I’m really pleased we are heading back to Grove Farm. The geographical spread of venues we use for UKU Tour events is quite good at the moment, and Nottingham’s location is key to that.  It is undeniably prone to being windy due to the local geography.  But I prefer to look at the positives: it can help us to improve our disc skills, pushes teams to expand their zone-based systems, and adds some extra uncertainty into the results as upwind/downwind games in particular can turn on smaller margins.  Certainly the GB teams playing Worlds 2012 in Japan benefitted from the extra practice when some crucial games were played in extremely strong winds just like we had enjoyed 3 weeks earlier in Nottingham.”


With much talk of closing the gap centring on the need for stronger skills as a nation of players, it is hard to argue against this positive aspect of playing at a ‘harder’ venue, even if (as Si also pointed out) the forecast is set for uncharacteristically calm scenes this weekend (…fingers crossed eh?!).


Open


With the filtering out of international competition, this weekend will act as the season’s first true comparison between domestic teams, many of whom did not meet in London. The Clapham machine sees benefit in continuing its split team entrance, and will be looking to repeat their lossless weekend up until the final. EMO find themselves in their highest ever seeding after a strong start to the year as predicted. Whether or not this team can justify their placement above Chevron who comfortably bettered them at major tour events last year is yet to be seen. In a straight to semis format, old friends Chevron and Fire 1 will both be battling for an upset victory against Clapham O, or failing this a place in the knockout stages which could well be decided by their 15:40 meeting on Saturday.

Can anyone stall Clapham on their road to Lecco? Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss.

The one slight change in the schedule is that both semi-finals and the final will take place in the format of WUCC games. Speaking on this Si Hill explains:

The semis will be full WFDF length (like WUCC) this weekend because we have enough pitch space/time to do this for those teams. Some of those teams and players will be playing at WUCC and it seems reasonable to take that opportunity in the circumstances.  In particular a 10-minute half-time can feel quite different to our usual 2-minute turn-around.”


Acclimatisation for this year’s major tournament is clearly a focus, but it would be wrong to suggest that the top brackets are the only ones to provide a source of excitement. The second eight of the A tour has arguably flattened out somewhat, with almost all teams having recently enjoyed top 8 seedings in their recent history. The battle from teams such as Ka-Pow! and Devon to rejoin the top pools (and the all-too-valuable elite competition such seedings provide) will be hard pushed by newer outfits such as Glasgow, who at ninth will be poised to restore the recent lack of a Scottish presence in the top flight of UK ultimate.


The 16-32 B tour bracket continues to heat up as it is increasingly compressed between the top 16 and the ever-growing C tour (now at 28 teams). After emphatically topping the C tour in St. Albans, Curve (with a boost from ex GB open players Niall Wilkinson and Rob Anderson) have been awarded a high seed and will be hungry to make a mark in their first game match-up against Fire 2, who consistently competed in the A tour last year (famously leap-frogging their first team at last year’s event). Perennial club teams will also have to overcome the GB and Irish Under 20 Open squads, who are attending tour in preparation of their world championships, also to be played in Lecco this summer. These young teams will make up for any lack of experience with buckets of athleticism, and will gladly welcome still conditions to show off their runners. With the lure of international silverware these teams will be playing with nothing to lose at this stage, and could cause upsets for any team in the bracket.


Our C Tour report comes from Christopher Bell (Black Sheep Co-Captain/coach).


With the seedings having hopefully sorted themselves out somewhat, and the inclusion of some strong teams replacing those promoted, C tour is lining up to be an exciting affair this weekend.

With two power pools at the top, it’s going to be difficult for any team 9th and below to break into the top 8, and even harder to make any further headway. There are, however, some teams that will be trying to do just that. Black Sheep may see this tournament as an opportunity to atone for last year’s failure to beat seed at Nottingham, where they started 9th but were unable to top their group due to the inclusion of the under-seeded Irish u20s. Expect Lemmings and a strengthened Camden side to mount serious challenges too. 

Keep an eye too on the GB u17s, they will come into this tournament with nothing to lose and a lot to prove. Always an athletic team, well drilled and with a great mentality – expect them to fight for every point as they aim to climb their way up the seedings.

The game to watch on Saturday is most definitely the battle of the North East: The Brown (1) v The Saints (3). The Brown have a point to prove after being relegated from B Tour last time round, and The Saints, victors in Nottingham this time last year but absent from London’s Calling, will want to prove that they can do it again. Expect a high intensity game, with both teams working very hard to shut down their opposition, whom they know well.

Each of Sunday’s games in the top 8 are going to be gruelling affairs, with close match-ups across the board. It’s tough to call how it’s going to pan out, but here’s my prediction for the semi-final teams: The Saints, Pingu Jam, ABH and Guildford.


Women’s

Iceni are demonstrating a vice-like grip on the number one spot, and show no signs of faltering with another tournament win at the recent Windmill. Fiona Kwan gives an insight into the humble approach that is surely helping to sustain the team’s dominance:

“Even though Iceni finished London Calling as top dogs, we took away a couple of key things we needed to improve and adjust to come back stronger for the rest of the season. After T1, we knew we had to find discipline in our endzone, set a harder mark, and ramp up our sideline. Basics. After focusing on these elements of our game, we took our adjustments to a very sunny Windmill Windup in Amsterdam last weekend (Happy 10th birthday Herbie!). 

Playing such tough oppositions as U de Cologne, Woodchicas and ZUF at Windmill has been great preparation for what we can expect from European teams competing at Worlds. These teams brought out the best, and worst in us, and although we won the tournament, we have come back with things to improve. Set up quickly on O, no open unders, and an even bigger sideline. Basics again.”

Having yet to face Swift, Phoenix or SYC, Iceni may find some more challenges in some fresh competition this weekend, but will still expect to win. With Nice Bristols notably absent from this weekend as they travel to test their mettle against some of the World’s best at the Boston Invite, the final route is opened up more than ever. Roslyn Cameron of SYC gives a summary of her team’s approach:

“This year there is serious competition in the top half of women’s tour and I’d say below the top spot no one can really feel that their spot is safe. We face Iceni in pool play on Saturday – they are a formidable team, fresh off the back of a convincing win in Amsterdam and with WUCC firmly in their sights. Any chance to play such an accomplished team is an amazing opportunity and not one that we will shy away from. For us tour isn’t simply about winning games but about competing and using every opportunity to play the best ultimate we can. What better way is there than against the best in Europe?”

Punt have a chance at making the final, who else could make it in Nottingham? Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss.

Punt are being touted as another team pushing hard for a final spot, with consistent strong showings built up over the course of the last few seasons. However, SYC will be competing hard to beat them to it:


“Should the results allow, a rematch against Punt will definitely be a game to watch. Over the last few seasons we have had some great match-ups and Tour 1 this year was no exception, with SYC edging a sudden death victory first thing on Saturday morning. They play a unique offence and have a lot of depth in their team, which brings a real challenge when playing them.”

Further down the table teams are eager to push up. Hayley Nicklin from Relentless discusses the draw of those top two groups:


“This season, Relentless aimed to grow and develop into a team that can compete in the top eight after an up and down debut season last year. London’s Calling was the first test of all of the work the squad put in as a whole over the off-season.

There is every chance we could climb into the top 10 at Tour 2; the 5-12 bracket looks like it could contain some upsets.  I can’t see anyone taking the top spot from Iceni, especially with Bristol not in Nottingham, and then it’s a tough call between Punt and SYC for second place. I think it’s time for Punt make to their first appearance in a Tour final given their improvement over the past few years so my money is on them to finally get there.”


It seems many can’t see anything other than a clean sweep at the top for the London powerhouses in both divisions, but there will be plenty of players travelling this weekend with their eyes on the prize of a giant killing across the team list. The high winds and rain generally favour upsets, but with the dry and calm forecast it is looking as though anyone matching up against a favourite this weekend is going to have no choice but to beat them one-on-one, at full speed. 

Good luck to all teams competing this weekend from tSG!