UKU Regionals: the Open division

Open, Previews

With DP away doing Eurostars things and the rest of our editors and contributors being slightly tied up, we didn’t have an opportunity to get a preview for Open ready before the tournaments. However! Today will be the big qualification day in both the North and the South, so let’s take a look at where we stand.

NORTH

There are semi-finals and a power pool going on today in Salford. The semis will pit Chevron against Leeds while EMO take on Manchester. Those games should really be a formality if everyone has brought a full squad, and EMO vs Chevron will very likely be the Regional final. All four teams, though, have qualified for Nationals. There are six spots in the North, so the power pool is the really interesting bit.

Alba and The Brown have each carried through unbeaten records against their pool opponents. The Brown have victories over Vision and BAF, while Alba won a squeaker in sudden death against SMOG. Alba play Vision first thing this morning while The Brown get a break. The key game is likely to be The Brown against local rivals SMOG.

If The Brown beat SMOG, they have the inside line to Nationals and their final game against Alba will simply be for seedings in Birmingham. SMOG need to win in order to finish second, too, so the game is a de-facto knockout game (if SMOG can beat BAF this morning, as expected). It should be a spicy one at 11am.

PREDICTION
Chevron
EMO
Manchester
Leeds
Alba
SMOG
The Brown
Vision
BAF

SOUTH

The South division also features semi-finals today with Clapham playing Devon and an all-London game in Fire vs Kapow. All four are through to Nationals and can finish no lower than sixth.

The South has eight spots for Nationals, so the route there is a little more complicated. Reading 1 play Fire 2, and Flump play Brighton Legends, at 9.20am this morning. The winners of those games are guaranteed a spot at Nationals and will make up the final two in the 3-6 playoff bracket with the losing semi-finallists. The losers of those two games go into the brutal 7-10 bracket, where only two teams will qualify. They’ll be joined by the winners of two more games; Brighton City vs Reading 2 and Bristol vs Camden.

Predicting this group is a tough one after the first few games. Realistically, Reading 1 will beat Fire 2. Brighton City should beat Reading 2 and you’d fancy Bristol over Camden. Brighton Legends against Flump is the really close one, with Legends defeating City (who have beaten Flump twice this season) in sudden death yesterday. I’m going to pick Flump despite the accusations of bias that could be pitched my way.

That would leave both Brighton teams, Bristol (who game Clapham a decent game yesterday) and Fire 2 in a bracket with only two qualifiers. It’s a brutal region this year. Brighton City vs Fire 2 would be a fiery game, but I’d see Brighton coming out on top, while Bristol vs Brighton Legends is almost too close to call. I’ll back the experience and give it to Legends, giving us a rematch of the all-Brighton pool game.

Despite their loss yesterday, I’d back City here. That would mean Legends would have to play the winner of a Fire 2 vs Bristol game where I’d favour Fire 2. A game-to-go between Brighton Legends and Fire 2 is another very closely matched encounter. Legends have quite a tight squad and by this point they’ll have played six games in the weekend and three today. I think that would slow them down sufficiently that Fire 2 would take it, but it would likely be very close.

PREDICTION
Clapham
Fire 1
Kapow
Devon
Reading 1
Flump
Brighton City
Fire 2
Brighton Legends
Bristol
Camden
Reading 2
Kent
Bristol 2

CONCLUSION

This would make for some tasty pools at Nationals. Clapham would face Ranelagh, SMOG and Devon. Chevron would have Reading, Fire 2 and Manchester. Fire 1 would play EMO, Leeds and Brighton City. PELT would face off against Kapow, Flump and Alba. Clapham’s pool looks to be quite tough in these circumstances, but they’d surely be confident of winning through yet again.

We’ll post something more comprehensive once the results are final and not based on my notoriously terrible predictions. Good luck to everyone today!

All-Irelands Regionals: a preview

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UK Ultimate isn’t the only body having regionals this weekend – our Irish friends are also getting ready for their Nationals. Aidan Kelly and Tadhg Brogan walk us through the teams to watch in Ireland.

As we wave goodbye to both the month of July and the Tour season, here in the Emerald Isle the club season is ready to kick it up a gear (or five) as the All-Irelands Regionals events take place in two locations this weekend.

How our All-Ireland Ultimate Championships (Nationals) format works is fairly simple. Each regional event takes place a few weeks as a qualifier for Division One, which is comprised of eight teams. At the moment there are four spots in the East (Leinster/Ulster) and four in the West (Munster/Connaught). This can vary each year depending on finishing spots. Any team that doesn’t qualify is free to play Division Two, which usually takes place alongside its premier counterpart.

This year, we have ten teams squaring off in the East and six in the West. Here’s a round-up of who we’ll be seeing, and our bold* predictions of how they may fare.

*probably wrong

AIUC East – Aidan Kelly

Ranelagh 1&2 (Last year: 1st and N/A)
Top dogs in Dublin, and indeed the region, Ranelagh are back to playing with two teams this year, after having one, larger panel in 2016. Unbeaten at Regionals in the two previous years it’s run, I don’t expect the first team to fall to anyone this time around either.

Expect the second team to feature a mixture of some younger, developing talent combined with a few veterans of the Lagh to help drag them over the line. With both teams well drilled by the coaching team of Sam Mehigan and Matthew Feely, and with the valuable positive performances at Windmill and Tour 3 already under their belts this season, there is no reason why we can’t see both Ranelagh teams finish in the top four spots come Sunday evening.

Uproar (Last year: 2nd)
After finishing runners up at last year’s event up in Belfast, the Kildare side have experienced a massive amount of turnover in their squad. Pulled apart by immigration, travelling, players joining other clubs (sorry lads) and long-term injuries there are as many as seven of last year’s first team no longer on the roster.

However, expect a number of their younger players, mostly blooded from the local Maynooth University, to attempt to step up to the plate this year and embrace the chance at taking on bigger roles within the team. Regionals will be a massive test, especially with possibly their most important game of the weekend first thing Saturday against Masterclass. But, as previous battles throughout the season with their rivals have proved, they won’t be surrendering a spot in Division One without putting up a real fight.

Dublin Gravity 1&2 (Last year 3rd and 5th)
As possibly the biggest club in the region (roster size-wise), Gravity have typically been comfortably blessed with depth that has seen both teams in honest contention for qualification. Last season Gravity 2 (or Anti-Gravity as they oddly like to be called) narrowly missed out on the top bracket thanks to a bitter and contentious loss to Jabba in the game to go.

This year they’ve also been met with a lot of roster turnover, however some of that has been in their favour. With the additions of Ireland regulars Enda Kelleher and Daniel Purdy, expect the well-drilled side to have an extra layer of unpredictability as they now have that all-important Plan B that they lacked last season (i.e. huck it to the stupidly tall lad).

Jabba the Huck (Last year 4th)
Despite “retiring” their Men’s team, the former champions and current Mixed gold medallists have made the rather surprising decision to give Regionals a go this year. Rumour has it that this is just to give some extra playing time to their Mixed players and for a chance to just play some more competitive Ultimate and sure, why not?

After causing huge controversy last year for giving opponents Ranelagh a 15-0 walkover in an attempt to keep the legs fresh for the tighter games later on in the day last year (hey, it worked I suppose), I don’t expect the club to have the same mindset this time around. I do however expect Jabba to make things hard for their opponents by playing with little pressure and nothing to lose.

Belfast Ultimate (Last year 6th)
A fallen giant of Irish Ultimate, Belfast have found things tough over the last few seasons. A victim of a lack of foresight in the past as many of their older, seasoned leaders began to retire years back without enough younger players to take up the mantle, this year it looks like the ship has started to be steadied somewhat.

With a new, fresh leadership combining Ireland Masters’ player Wesley Fraser and former Junior international Richard Sayers, things are starting to look brighter up North as massive attempts to redevelop the Ultimate scene in Belfast have been made this year. However, with the region being so competitive, it may come as a season too soon if they want to be taken seriously as contenders for Division One. However, I expect BU to look to take at least one scalp this weekend, while playing with great spirit as they look to do Belfast proud.

XVI 1&2 (Last year N/A)
After giving regionals a miss and dominating Division Two last season, the young guns, comprised mainly of both former and current Gonzaga students, come with huge pedigree despite the average player age. Containing more Ireland underage caps than I dare try count, XVI will look to use this tournament as the platform to announce themselves as All-Ireland contenders. Whether they can actually do it is another question entirely.

When on-form, it’s near impossible to stop this side, but the problem is that we have really gotten a chance to see that so far. It’s easy to forget that this is a club still in its infancy and it takes a lot more to run a successful side at this level than to train in a park twice a week. However, they have shown signs that they don’t fear the early learning curve with big wins against Masterclass and Uproar already under their belt this term. If they can keep composure and use their heads I see them finishing comfortably in the top four.

As far as their second team (…XVII?) goes, I would wager it’ll contain an even younger, developing group of future first teamers that will use the weekend as great experience for the future.

Masterclass (Last year N/A)
The bloody wildcard. A bunch of old, semi-retired vets who are just here to have fun and fuck with everyone else (and let’s face it, nothing is more fun than that…)

If this was a one day tournament, I’d put a lot of money on Masterclass to qualify, but it’s not. The schedule will play a massive part in how this side ends up. Despite the fact they hold a generation of experience under their belts and know how to conserve their energy (lazy, lazy zones), it’s a massive question as to whether their bodies will last up to seven games over the weekend.

Aidan’s predictions:
1 – Ranelagh 1
2 – XVI
3 – Ranelagh 2
4 – Dublin Gravity
——————–
5 – Uproar
6 – Masterclass
7 – Jabba
8 – Belfast
9 – Gravity 2
10 – XVI 2

AIUC West – Tadhg Brogan

In contrast to the east, out wesht we have just 6 teams venturing up to Galway to fight for a spot in the Top 4. With such few teams, here’s a look ahead for what to expect.

PELT Ultimate 1&2 (Last Year: 1st & 5th)
The powerhouse of the west, PELT claimed their first All-Ireland title last year, and they have continued building since. This season has seen them go unbeaten domestically in the All-Ultimate Ireland League (AIUL) and abroad they have only suffered losses to Clapham, Chevron and Freespeed, resulting in third-place finishes at Windmill and Tour 3. With an almost full squad (despite the noticeable absence of Andrew Meade) it’s hard to imagine them being dethroned at Regionals as they look set to continue to another All-Ireland final, with the WUCC qualifying spot firmly in their sights.

PELT 2, on the other hand, have come up short the past two years in terms of qualifying for Division One. While the team has had success at Division Two All-Irelands, the club’s goal for regionals is to have both teams qualify for Division One. As a result, you’ll find that some of the talent has been spread across the squads to ensure this, so it won’t be too surprising if the club manage to have both teams crack the top four.

Rebel Ultimate (Last Year: 2nd)
Rather surprisingly, the Cork giants are only sending one team to this year’s Regionals, in contrast to the three teams they managed to muster up last year. These short numbers are stretching all the way up to the first-team squad with only 13 players making the trip to Galway. Despite the short numbers and probable absence of one or two of their bigger players, Rebel can never be counted out. Already having competed at Tom’s Tourney (taking ninth), Tour 2 and Tour 3, the team will be ready for battle and with hordes of experience under their belt, odds are they’ll hold onto their Division One spot. Short numbers could see them fall down the seedings when all is said and done, though.

Ballingcollig Ultimate (Last Year: 3rd)
Collig have put in a pretty decent performance so far this year at home, fairly comfortably dispatching Rebel and Tribe in the AIUL, only suffering a loss to PELT, which will most likely see them come second in the league. Further afield, they have taken the time to develop younger side of the squad at Tour 1, where they put in a relatively decent performance at C Tour. This could prove crucial as Collig are likely to be missing some of their bigger players in the form of John “the Boy” Hallisey, Donnacha McAuillfe and Dave Forde. However, what I imagine will be the main worry for the side is how they will fair in close games without Matthew Feely, who they lost to Ranelagh earlier in the year. In a similar situation to their Cork brethren, Collig are only sending one team due to short numbers. As a result, it would be asking a lot for the team to take down PELT 1, but I would still have them tipped to possibly get the better of Rebel.

Tribe Ultimate 1&2 (Last Year: 4th & N/A (Formerly Snatch))
And finally our hosts for the weekend: Tribe. In contrast to the Cork sides, the Tribe lads are managing to send two teams to Regionals. With a large portion of Tribe 2 being more inexperienced players looking to build experience, the focus will be on getting Tribe 1 into the top four. Tribe has been a team that has been constantly improving thanks to the University team in NUIG. So far this year however, the Tribe Men’s team have only been seen during the AIUL where they suffered losses to both Collig and Rebel. Some added talent over the season may provide Tribe with the boost they need to get past these teams come Saturday. However, with the major threat of PELT 2 vying for at least that fourth spot, the pressure is on the Galway boys to climb the seeds or hold their spot.

So with five teams really looking for the top four spots, and a bit of a wildcard in the form of PELT 2 thrown in for good measure, here are my predictions for the weekend:

Tadhg’s Predictions
1 – PELT 1
2 – Ballincollig 1
3 – Rebel
4 – PELT 2
———————-
5 – Tribe 1
6 – Tribe 2

Open Tour 3 preview: the midlands version of B Tour

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Jordan Brown finishes off his Tour previews with B Tour North in Birmingham.

While Tour 2 saw the northern B Tour teams duke it out alone in Salford, this time they’re lumped in with A Tour, C Tour and Women’s Tour in Birmingham. Despite there only being 12 teams in the division again, this time they’ll get the chance to cross over with A and C.

The seedings this time are a tad odd. Birmingham are seeded first despite having a tough season and finishing below BAF who ran out as winners of B Tour in Cardiff. They’re also ahead of Brighton City who will no doubt feel a little stung at missing out on A Tour after finishing 16th two weeks ago.

Further down the seedings, YOpen will be annoyed to be sat behind Fluid who they dispatched in the last game of the weekend.

So while the seedings are a tad messy, it won’t matter too much as the pools are bracketed appropriately, but it could mean some teams will have a bit more fire in their bellies if there’s a point to prove.

Looking at pool E, we have Birmingham 1 joined by JR and Fluid. Birmingham’s campaign has been one of the weakest in years, likely due in no small part to the departure of talismanic handler Marius Hutcheson. Still, Brum are always a force to be reckoned with and as long as they have the rest of their regulars, they should hold onto the top spot once the groups have played out. JR performed admirably having sent a Mixed squad to the last two events, managing to stay in B Tour at Tour 1 and win C Tour in the Welsh capital. Fluid did remarkably well in Salford, coming away with a top eight finish. The Bangor-based team aren’t going to roll over for either Birmingham or JR. This whole pool depends on the strength of JR – they’re Mixed again, so I’d expect Fluid could hop above them.

Pool F features a potentially smarting Brighton. They’ll no doubt be looking to vent some frustration having been bumped by the national squads’ inclusion, meaning that Vision and YOpen will have to batten down the hatches. Vision performed well at Tour 2, finishing fifth overall having come second in their pool. With this season being a bit of a homecoming for the Liverpool squad, they’re looking strong and backing each other up a lot. It may be enough to topple Brighton but they’ve also got YOpen to content with. In Salford YOpen came out of nowhere to beat Gravity and Vision and top the group, only to get knocked back on the Sunday. They’ll maybe begrudge Vision their seeding and, provided they’ve not lost their GB Junior contingent, they could very well do the job again.

Current B Tour (South) champs BAF top pool G which also includes longtime (friendly) rivals Gravity and EMO 2. BAF will undoubtedly be as strong as ever and utilise their blend of young cutters and experienced handlers to do damage. Gravity are well tuned to BAF’s offence and should be able to produce a tight game provided numbers don’t become a factor. EMO 2 sit at the bottom of the group and aren’t to be underestimated. They finished mid-B Tour a fortnight ago and are definitely up to the fight against both BAF and Gravity. With this being a fairly local tournament to them, I’d expect a fairly big squad that will punish fatigue from either of their competitors.

LLLeeds 1 are sitting pretty at the top of group H despite The Brown beating them 12-10 in the last game in Salford. While they’ve been looking strong, LLLeeds can expect a barrage from The Brown who were relentless in Salford when they took third place. Head to Pitch 16 at 12:30 on Saturday and you’ll no doubt see a an absolute humdinger of a match. Red complete this pool. Despite losing all three games two Sundays ago, they only lost narrowly and will come storming out of the blocks this weekend. Still, I’d be very surprised if they beat either Leeds or Newcastle.

Saturday’s quarters are anybody’s guess at this stage, but I think it’ll go to seed in that the top eight will end up in those spots. I can see the potential for upsets if seeds are held after the group stages, but I wouldn’t count on even that being the case. Similarly, for Sunday morning, the only potential for crossing into A Tour is likely to Brighton City if they top their group and beat SMOG or whoever else trails in group A. The only other possibility could be BAF catching a GB U24 team off-guard.

Looking ahead to the semis, I think the seeded top eight are the ones that’ll go through and from there, I’d back BAF, LLLeeds, Brighton and Birmingham.

Open Tour 3 preview: southern teams descend on B-denbridge

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Making his bow for the Show Game, Cloud City captain Andy Sluman previews the first-ever B Tour South tournament.

The town of Edenbridge has the pleasure of hosting the ‘other’ Tour this time around (and will be a test of the venue ahead of Southern Regionals in two weeks’ time). A fortnight ago, B Tour North received mixed reviews as an event. With just twelve teams and a large disparity in quality, many results were one-sided. In an effort to avoid a repeat of that, the scheduling gods have split this 20-team event into a top 12 and bottom eight. The winner of each of the top 12 pools go straight to quarters, while second and third go into a pre-quarter.

    Pool Predictions

Fire 2 had a good weekend in Cardiff, finishing second in B Tour, following on from their disappointing performance in Nottingham. They are the top seeds in Pool A and have been bolstered by four regular first-team players. Camden are without stalwart Tom Bannister-Fletcher after a nasty accident in Cardiff but with Dave Greenberg returning, they are likely to be of a similar strength to last time around. Reading 2 are always difficult to predict given the squad rotation between each Tour. Sources say they’ve rotated out Sam Gunbie but gained Mark Bignal and Dan Tanner, and should therefore be solid round the back with lots of young receivers downfield. Fire 2 should emerge from the pool as victors, but there’s certainly scope for an upset.

Pool B matches up Cloud City 1 with Helix and Plymouth. Cloud City have continued their climb up the rankings this year, and have the same “undeniably strong” squad that finished third in B Tour in Cardiff, along with the addition of Charlie Galloway. Despite high aspirations when merging established open teams ABH and Curve, Helix have underperformed so far, winning just two of their 13 games at Tours 1 and 2. Plymouth improved on their 51st place finish at Tour 1 with a 32nd place finish at Tour 2. Having beaten Helix 15-5 in the Pool stages at Tour 2, Cloud City will be confident of topping the pool.

Devon 2, Bristol 1 and Cambridge 1 make up Pool C. Devon 2 had a reasonably strong Tour 2, finishing 23rd. Their squad has been strengthened by a few of their regular first team dropping down for this Tour, but without their usual third team entering this time around, expect a broad range of skills and experience. Bristol 1 have had an interesting set of results this year. Having beaten Cloud City on Universe in their first game of Tour 1 and respectable showings against GB and Ireland, they then faded, finishing below their second team. They fared much better at Tour 2, finishing 21st, including Universe point wins against Purple Cobras and, interestingly, Devon 2. Cambridge have had a notable change in personnel this year, and were unfortunate to have been so highly seeded at Tour 1. They broadly held seed at Tour 2, finishing 38th. I see Cambridge finishing third in this pool, with a tight game between Devon and Bristol 1 to top the pool.

The final top 12 pool includes Purple Cobras, Brighton Legends and Bristol 2. Purple Cobras shot up the rankings at Tour 1, losing just one game (to Brighton Legends). They then had a solid Tour 2, finishing 22nd. Ryan Harris returns to the team but they will be missing the tallest 5’6” man in British Ultimate, Michele Gansah (ed note – this seems wrong). Brighton Legends are a stalwart of mid-B Tour, using their experience and unconventional tactics to bring consistent results. Bristol 2 have added some “extra height” for Tour 3, but if results in Cardiff are anything to go by, should have a difficult time making headway in this group. Expect this group to go according to seed.

Brixton feel a touch aggrieved to have fallen foul of the new methodology used this year to rank teams by their average performance. Despite finishing ahead of Helix, Bristol 2 and Cambridge at Tour 2, they have been seeded 13th and therefore unable to contest the top eight. I expect them to top Pool E while Kent should top Pool F.

Open Tour 3 preview: expect A Tour drama in Birmingham

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David ‘DP’ Pryce previews the final A Tour of the season.

The final Tour of the season always brings with it some drama. Even the eventual first draft of the schedule kicked up a fuss, but it appears that this has settled down. Clapham have cut down to one team (due to not enough players able to be fielded from their 40-man squad), and Ranelagh, Pelt and Rebel are included in place of their U24 brethren.

The schedule has reverted to a four-pools-of-four structure, as opposed to the top eight and bottom eight pools at Tour 2, where anyone in top 16 can potentially take the title.

In the first pool we have the 16-time National Champions, Clapham, whose combined team would be hard to pick against when choosing a favourite to take yet another Tour title. EMO are their main challengers going by the rest of the season.

It is more interesting to see who will take the seventh seed, and with such a strong showing from Ireland U24 in the last two events Limerick lads Pelt will be looking for this position. They can expect to be challenged strongly by Manchester, who lost to the U24s but took down SMOG (last seed in this pool), in Cardiff.

Having beaten Devon in their pool last time round, EMO will be looking to repeat the feat and get themselves back into a Tour semi-final (or even final) again. But two more Irish additions, Ranelagh and Rebel, will be looking to take down these two UK teams and there’s a good chance that one of them could claim EMO’s place in the top four and avoid a top eight crossover.

Chevron shouldn’t struggle in going through to the top half but again the next three (Ka-Pow!, GB U24 and Flump) could end up in any order. Flump will be looking to demonstrate they deserve their A Tour position after quite the topsy turvy week, finally being rightly left in the top flight. Ka-Pow! have gone from zero to hero (well 17th to eighth to now fifth) but have already lost to both U24 teams, one of which is the last team in the pool. Anything could happen between these three.

The last pool is one where results would suggest another hold for the top seed in the pool (Reading), however recent Scottish and London powerhouses Glasgow and Fire of London 1 will have something to say about that. Fire have had a rather slow start to the season but made up for some lost places by only losing one game (to Ireland U24) at Tour 2. They’ll be looking looking to get back into top eight contention. A short-lined Glasgow will hope to bring a couple more players to be able to truly demonstrate the strength of Scottish Ultimate. GB U24 Canberra will want to give all the teams in this pool a run for their money and will come out strong but I am unsure how they will cope whilst they are all still trialling and still split between two squads (with Mixed players in there too).

It promises to be another interesting weekend, with several of the fial Tour places still very much up for grabs. See everyone in the Midlands!

(Ed note – My probably-very-wrong-as-usual top 10: Clapham, EMO, Reading, Chevron, Pelt, Fire, Manchester, Ranelagh, Glasgow, Devon.)

UKU Open Tour 2: A Tour plus B Tour south

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David “DP” Pryce brings you his outlook on the top two Mens’ divisions in Cardiff this coming weekend.

With Tour “this is why I don’t make predictions” 1, Windmill and a very exciting WCBU out of the way, we move back to the rest of the regular UK season. Next up is what has become a staple of the calendar: Cardiff.

The changes we discussed last time are now in effect and so I will cover the top 16 A Tour plus some mention of the next 16 in B Tour South.

UKU Open Tour 2: B Tour North

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Jordan Brown once again does us proud with a quick preview of the slim line B Tour North.

With UKU mixing up their classic tour structure due to our weird sport becoming too popular to accommodate everyone, this weekend sees the biggest change in proceedings as half of B Tour will descend upon Salford for the Northern Division.
After teams at Tour 1 did their utmost to take a dump over all of my predictions, hopefully this 12 team event should yield a little more accuracy – especially as there are no crossovers between divisions here.