Closing the gap

Canadian Ultimate, Clapham, GB, highlight reel, Japan, Kapow, Rhino., USA Ultimate

David Pichler questions how large the gap between the Big Three and the rest of the world actually is.

In the last 2 weeks, USA Ultimate teams went 36-0.  4 golds.  Dang.

GB teams were competing in all these divisions which Team USA won.  Our medal count wasn’t quite as prolific as our American counterparts, every returning player’s suitcase was a little lighter than hoped.  Most, although not all, medals went to the countries in ‘The Big Three’.


By The Big Three I am refering to USA, Canada and Japan.  These three nations seem to dominate when it comes to medals at the major international events.  In recent years GB have had the focus and talent to push these nations close but never seem able to make the leap from challengers to champions.  Why are these countries ever elusive to us?  That question can be best answered if we look first at what’s getting us in with a shout to begin with.

UKU Regionals Preview – Greater London

Clapham, Fire of London, Flump, Kapow, London, Open, Outdoors, Previews, UKU Nationals, UKU Regionals
James Burbidge tells us the London regionals story. Greater London has 5 bids for Nationals and will be held this Saturday.

With 5 qualifying spots, London is typically the richest Region in the country and for the past 3 years 4 teams from London have finished in the top 10 at Nationals.

With the uncontested top seed in the country ruling the roost in London, it’s unlikely that Clapham will lose a game at Regionals. Things get more interesting from then on. Fire are keen once again to get both squads to Nationals, and – going on results thus far this season – shouldn’t have much problem doing so. In fact the regional tournament structure should give Fire 1 the chance to prove to the heckling doubters their dominance over their second team – but you can bet that Fire 2 will be more fired up (excuse me) for that game than any other. Ka-Pow!, having come into a run of form (with the mooted return of Captain David Pichler), will also be out in force as all three teams battle for the higher positions that should give them better seeds and easier matches at Nationals.

Giacoma Maltman lays out for the D against his putative teammate Andy Mitchell (actually playing GBu23 here).
Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss via Blockstack.
Things get interesting when you look at the teams vying for the fifth spot – and depending on your taste, this could provide the most interesting story over the weekend. Teams in the hunt for that final spot will be perennial contenders (well, the last 3 years anyway) Tooting Tigers and Burro Electrico,* alongside a revived Flump team.

All three teams have had a topsy-turvy season so far, Flump rising unexpectedly quickly out of C-tour to the top section of B-tour, whilst (following Newtonian physics) Tooting have matched them with a fall from the middle of A-tour to the middle of B-tour. Burro have plodded along with solid results and unfavourable schedules that saw them finish ‘in A-tour’ at Tour 3. Burro has beaten Flump and Tooting this season, and Flump has beaten Tooting twice. To further complicate matters, both Tooting and Burro will be losing players to the mixed division and there are always late season injuries to be accounted for too. (One team who might be expected to make an experience in this area is ABH but they are focusing on mixed too.)

Chung Leung from Burro Electrico misses the goal at Tour 3. Photo courtesy of Louise Smith.
Further down the seeding will be some teams looking for a bit more pitch time together, the chance to play a big seed and perhaps even cause an upset for the 5th spot. Whilst the teams entered haven’t yet been released, likely teams in this bracket include St Albans, Curve, and perhaps PAF. Iceni is not believed to have entered a team this year.


So there you have it – a Region that should provide some top-quality games between some of the best teams in the country, as well as a classic qualifying battle. Stay tuned for a schedule.

*Full disclosure! I captain this team. 

Five regions down, one to go. DP @ tSG. 

Tour 2 Review – A Tour (ft. Alex Cragg)

A Tour, Chevron, Clapham, Devon, EMO, Fire of London, Kapow, Manchester, nottingham, Open Tour, Ranelagh, Tournament Reports, u23, UKUT2
Josh Coxon Kelly tells us the tale of A tour at Nottingham including the inside story from one of the Fire 1 captains Alex Cragg.

Players and teams came to Nottingham expecting stormy weather and were not disappointed. A stiff wind all weekend and rushes of rain ensured that Tour 2 was a test of throwing skill and team strategy where patience and discipline would pay dividends. Such conditions are also ripe for upset – particularly on pitches with clear up/down wind orientation – and in this category the A tour didn’t disappoint.


Pool A saw Clapham and GB u23 looking to hold onto the top two seeds in a straight to semis schedule. The meeting of these two teams was closer than at Tour 1, but despite an early lead due to an excellent start by GB, clapham showed their consistency and improved steadily throughout the game to come out victorious once again. Neither Ranelagh or KaPow managed to break into the top 2 of the pool, and a 10-9 loss in their match-up to Ranelagh saw the bottom two in the pool switch seeds.

Michael Speer (GB U23) bids on Matt Dathan (KaPow) in the pool stages. Photo courtesy of Graham Bailey.

In Pool B a reduced Chevron squad make light work of opposition including an opening grudge match against Fire (in recent seasons a frequent matchup, this was the first time the squads had met since Fire’s victory in the 2012 Nationals semi-final). Chevron came out strong and didn’t let up, winning 15-6 in a game that was to be ominous of Fire’s weekend to come. EMO held seed in a dramatic win against a stuttering Fire squad, confirming their place in the top 4 for a second tour running, a win that could turn out to have serious implications in terms of tour rankings for WUCC 2014…

Chevron stayed clinical despite the wind and repeated their tour 1 quarter final victory over the u23s on Sunday, this time for a place in the final to play Clapham. However Chevron’s high retention performances would not continue into the last game of the weekend. Clapham brought a smart game that capitalised early and played through the Chevron zone in both directions. Down early, Chevron were unable to recover and didn’t manage to adapt their more conservative playing style to the worsening conditions as well as their London rivals, who emerged comfortable winners.


Fire veteran Lewis Glover does just enough to beat David Ray (Leeds).
Photo Courtesy of Graham Bailey.

Movement from the second 8 was to create arguably the most dramatic storylines of this tour however, as a Devon squad bolstered by returning players (including Chevron D-line star Ben Hall) completed a dramatic victory over Fire 1 on Sunday morning in the crossover for top 8. Players arriving early at the food and physio tents were treated to a sudden death comeback victory for Devon featuring a completed world’s greatest and the most emphatic of celebrations as Fire’s weekend took a further turn for the worse.


Manchester converted their qualification, avoiding the relegation fate shared by BAF, Cambridge and Glasgow. The highest climber from the second 8 was Fire 2, who after beating KaPow found themselves in the top 8, eventually finishing one place above their first team. 
Fire 1 have long been a firm top 4 team, and have been no stranger to finals at Tour, Nationals and even European championships in the last 5 years. Dropping out of the top 8 is the first significant movement of one the top 3 teams of recent A-tour history – tSG spoke to captain Alex Cragg to gain some insight into the weekend’s events…


Quite a few of the results at tour 2 were obviously disappointing for you and your team. What do you think happened to cause the upsets?
We’d had a slightly lower finish than we’d hoped for at Tour 1, even given the international teams, but we knew we had the ability to play at the top; taking a strong Bad Skid to sudden death proved that.
Unfortunately, that confidence backfired and we presumed our games were foregone conclusions. We failed to take the Chevron game as enough of a sign that wasn’t going to be the case. People wanted to beat us more than we wanted to beat them; our heads weren’t in the right place and we lacked focus causing too many individual errors, which crippled any tactical adjustments.
Another problem was that we tried to play Ultimate… Some people might scoff at that, but we undervalued territory in those conditions. We know how to play through a zone, but it was only half way through the Devon game, 6 points down, that we started to play to our real strengths.
What actions did you take to turn around the team’s mentality after these losses?
We made sure that our pre-game preparation consisted of much more throwing, getting people’s self belief back. We needed to salvage something from the weekend, and putting the prospect of losing all our games into context helped bring back some desire to win.
We’d probably placed too much focus on the bigger picture of World’s qualification, so we brought things back to focus on one game at a time.


Unexpected losses are undeniably difficult to take, but they can give an opportunity to learn about your team – what lessons did you take from tour 2?
The main thing I think we learnt is that we probably haven’t been exploiting our individual strengths enough, instead focussing on a team ethos that has seen some people’s roles mutate.
Every single player was hugely disappointed with the weeked, and I think everyone’s taking a bit more personal responsibility since then. We all know we can do better. We’ll be a very different team at Tour 3 and Nationals.
The second team’s squad has been strong at all showings this year and performed very well to qualify for the top 8 in Nottingham – will this see much change in players between the teams for Tour 3?
Fire 2 have been brilliant this year. A lot of people wrote them off after last year, but they’ve proven that to have been a blip in a very strong history for a second team. They’re definitely on track for their season goal of taking one of the 6 Euro’s spots.
One of our ideas for the year was to allow each team to have its own identity, which has included playing and drilling in those teams at training sessions. This builds up the relationships players need to do well.
However, there has been a small amount of movement, with 2 players coming up from Fire 2. We’ve also moved a couple of Fire 1 players into the seconds to give them more experience playing against top 4 competition (with Fire 1 being locked out).
Outside of players will there be any significant shift in Fire’s approach to Tour 3 and the rest of the season?
Absolutely. After quite a few roster changes from last year, it’s taken some time for everyone to find their role and for us to play in the best way to exploit our strengths. I think our experience at Tour 2 has brought us together more, and our passion and desire to win has only grown. We’ve also restructured how we call lines, which has lead to much better performances in training.
What are your team goals for Nationals and Europeans?
Barring a huge upset at Tour 3, we’ve now missed out on our first shot at World’s qualification. There’s enough time before Nationals to put everything we’ve learnt about ourselves into practice, and, like last year, our target is to make the final of Nationals and win. After that we’ll have to see about Europeans. We’ve learnt to not look too far in the future!

Fire of London.

There is all to play for in the final tour of the season. Fire 1 will be looking to turn their season around in the lead up to Nationals. Clapham will be missing stars with the absence of World Games squad players, and Chevron, U23 and EMO will be looking to capitalise on this to hand them their first loss of the season. Ranelagh found the form they were looking for in Nottingham rising to 5th, but with the recent events at Tour 2 all A tour teams will be fighting hard for that giant killing that will send them up the rankings.

A Tour movers. Courtesy of Wayne Retter.


All ready for a heatwave in Cardiff? Don’t forget your suncream and hats! Like, share, contribute and tweet! DP @ tSG.

Open and Women’s Tour – T2 Preview

Chevron, Clapham, Fire of London, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Iceni, Kapow, Nice Bristols, nottingham, Open Tour, Previews, Ranelagh, Women's Tour

Josh Coxon Kelly brings us the OWT2 preview for the upcoming tour event in Nottingham.

The Grove Farm fields in Nottingham are all set to host the second major tournament of the UK open and women’s season, with players flocking from across the country to take part in the huge 80-team tournament that is OWT2.

With the European visitors returned to the mainland the schedule returns to its more familiar domestic team list, although perhaps in a slightly shuffled lineup to past seasons…

Iceni have kept their stronghold at the top of the women’s game in the UK – early looks at Bristol and SYC show teams that have come back stronger than last year with experienced veterans complemented well by young talent benefitting from their involvement in the U23 process. R.O.B.O.T impressed in London but theirs and Yaka’s absences leave a space in the top 4 for Punt, who will be looking to defend their position against a rebranded Brighton – Seven Sisters and a rebuilding Leeds.

Last year’s Open top 4 of Clapham, Chevron Fire and Brighton has been invaded by the GBU23 force and excitingly also by EMO – arguably justifying Joe Wynder’s heated and public defence of his team following The Secret Frizzer’s Tour 1 preview (which prompted this interview). With the EMO captain returning to club duties for this Tour, EMO are looking to hold onto their place amongst the UK elite, but will face stiff competition from Fire, Brighton and Kapow and Ranelagh – all teams who will not wrongly be fighting for a top 2 pool placing and in the straight-to semi’s format. Victory from Clapham will also win them the Tour – needless to say there are enough targets on their back. Could a pool play rematch against GBU23 (10:40 Pitch 15) see an early upset?

Ireland U23 showed in the Tour 1 show game that they have the fight and the skills to run with A tour teams, matching the GB squad for the majority of the first half. They will need to use this lesson in consistency to grow at Tour 2 if they want to come out on top of the dogfight that is this year’s B tour – but this will be no mean feat with teams such as Tooting, Reading and Jest Ridisculous in hot pursuit, as well as strong C tour promotions in Flump and Birmingham, who have leapt to 8th and 10th seed respectively.

The fight for B tour qualification will be equally tense as Curve, Saints, St. Albans and Trigger Happy look to recover from gutting quarter final losses in London (Trigger Happy falling short by a single point in a sudden-death thriller). The 28 strong C-Tour looks as competitive as it’s ever been, and such depth running right through the tournament can be nothing but good news as the increased competition for qualification only continues to make it tighter at the top.

Excited? So are we!! Use the #ukut2 hashtag for results and news over the weekend. Come talk to us if you have any feedback and see you in Nottingham! DP @ tSG.

Fog Lane Cup Review – setting the stage for a truly open season…

A Tour, Chevron, club, Fire of London, Great Britain, Kapow, LLL, Open Tour, Tournament Reports

Josh Coxon Kelly reviews the primary domestic warmup for the club open season.

Last weekend saw the second ever Fog Lane Cup take place at Stanley Lane Sports Ground in Chippenham. A stiff but unpredictable breeze and occasional rain made for testing conditions, and an opportunity for teams to break in rusty winter skill sets and new tactics alike.

Pool stages on Saturday saw two upsets from Fire 2, who showed grit and tenacity to come out with sudden death victories over both Kapow and Devon, earning themselves second in the group and a hard fought semi-finals berth. Chevron won-out, although not without fight from their opposition, which included a Kapow team hungry to improve on a tense 15-13 quarter final loss at 2012 Nationals. The London outfit were unable to improve upon last year’s effort however, and Chevron proceeded to top the group.

The other side of the draw saw Fire 1 and GBU23 in a battle to top the group on Sunday morning. After dispatching EMO and Devon 2 decisively (both games got to score cap at 15-2) the Under 23s had made their statement and were ready to take their first scalp as a new team. However they found themselves up against an experienced Fire squad who, unflustered by the GB unit took an early lead, and held out for the win.

GB didn’t stay dejected for long however, and made their way past Chevron in their semi-final for a chance of victory at their first ever tournament. In a game that was not lacking in familiarity between players (no less than 9 of the full U23 team are part of this year’s Chevron squad), the game nevertheless saw an exciting and fiercely competitive matchup, as both teams tested the opposing offences with an array of defensive looks. Both teams showed an ability to work the disc upwind from the first pull, with GB earning an upwind break to start. Chevron replied with a break of their own, but eventually the GB D-line brought a strong that proved too strong for the Chevron rainbow. Trading stopped after the first half as GB became increasingly efficient at converting their turns as they took the momentum for the second half against a stuttering Chevron, and eventually the game.

Fire fought Fire in the other semi-final, in a training ground match-up for a final spot. Fire 1 commanded an expected lead early on, and despite a late surge from Fire 2 (characteristic of their performance throughout this tournament), they were unable to repeat the comebacks of the previous day against their first team. With Fire 1 now down to 9 men due to injury, permission was given by the TD for the two London squads to join forces to take on the GBU23 once again.

With the earlier result still fresh in both teams’ minds, both sides were fighting for something in the final – Fire for consolidation of their earlier victory, and GB for vengeance. Despite a strong start from both, it wasn’t long before the game was slipping from the Fire squad. With the largest squad of the tournament at 21, GB didn’t waste a body as they brought a combination of athletic defence on the pitch and full-squad noise from the sideline, mounting an all-out assault on the Fire Offense. This time it proved enough, and the GB D-line showed the dominance of earlier games to take the game away convincingly 13-6.

GB U23 win Fog Lane Cup 2013. Photo courtesy of Harry Slinger-Thompson


The GB team succeeded in winning their first tournament together, and they will look to continue this winning form as they compete in the coming Open Tours 1 and 2, and finally in Toronto this July. In terms of club it was a tournament of statements. Fire 1 and Chevron topped the pack after GB, but did not yet find themselves in a rematch of last year’s National semi-final. The two teams will almost certainly meet this season, but at what point? With such a short preview of the coming tour season it’s difficult to make predictions, but this weekend also suggests that Manchester Ultimate are looking to overtake northern rivals Leeds in their pursuit for a top 8 A-tour position. Kapow are clearly out to prove right many people’s suspicions that they can run with the top teams in the country. A tour regulars Devon, EMO and Leeds have shown that they are all preparing hard for the coming season, but will they be able to hold off the ever increasing competition from new teams? With the inclusion of GBU23 as well as European teams at London Calling, it looks like we’re set up for an exciting start to the open season regardless.

Final Results (Spirit scores)

1. GB u23 (9.8)
2. Fire 1 (11.5)
3. Chevron (11)
4. Man-up (10.8)
5. Fire 2 (10.3)
6. Ka-pow (11.1)
7. Leeds (11)
8. EMO (11.1)
9. Devon (11.6)
10. Devon 2 (11.6)


Note – some of the final games were rearranged to avoid replays, hence final positions.

Open Tour will start in two weekends time with London’s Calling and expect battles all over. Look out for our previews for both Open and Women’s divisions. REMEMBER; like, share, comment and contribute! tSG