UKU Open Tour 2 Preview – A Tour

Open, Previews, UK Ultimate

Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Road to Perth: If in doubt, try out

GB, U24, UK Ultimate

The 2018 World Under-24 Ultimate Championships will be held in Perth, Australia. While January 2018 seems like a long time away, planning started behind the scenes months ago and the preparation will begin in earnest on October 22, when the first trials to make the GB squad take place near Liverpool. Sean Colfer spoke to three of the coaches involved – Sion Scone, the Open coach, and Jenna Thomson and Ben Weddell, the Women’s coaches – about what they’re looking for at the trials as part of the first in a series investigating what this cycle means in the short and long term for Ultimate in the UK.

UKU Nationals Recap: Day 1

UK Ultimate, UKU Nationals

Sean Colfer reports on the first day of action at UKU Nationals

The first day of UKU Nationals 2015 brought a number of surprises, as well as some beautiful sunshine. Here’s a quick round-up what you need to know from day one, ahead of the finals tomorrow afternoon.

UKU Nationals 2015 – Open Division Preview

news, Open, Previews, UK Ultimate, UKU Nationals

Josh Coxon Kelly previews the 2015 Open Division of UK Nationals

International duties are over for now, and the UK Ultimate Open division finds with Nationals the first tournament of the year in which domestic teams will be competing with anything close to full rosters. Rather than a re-hash of the years’ early Tour events then, Nationals holds an extra degree of excitement as souped-up squads look to smoothly incorporate big name returners, and compete to be named the best club in the nation.

The only newcomers this year are the Fantastic Mr. Fox who feature Oxford alumni players including GB Mixed captain Sam Vile. This team starts in 16th after qualifying third in the South-Eastern region, but will be hoping to surprise teams later into the tournament in placement games. Noticeably absent are Cambridge’s CUlt, who were pipped to the final Midlands spot by Blue Arse Flies.

UKU Nationals 2015 – Women’s Division Preview

news, Previews, UK Ultimate, UKU Nationals, Womens

Claire Taylor and Felicity Perry give us the UKU Women’s Nationals outlook

Surprisingly UK Nationals is the only tournament in the women’s calendar that hasn’t seen a marked increase in the number of teams each year. Perhaps the heated competition in the middle ranks of Tour will see interest and entries into UK Nationals growing in future years, but for now we have a tournament that seems to provide less of a draw. This year, eight teams are entered, less than anticipated and rumoured, but more teams than in some recent years.

It is something of a shame that there aren’t more and with the increasing depth of competition at Tour, it seems irregular that there is such a drop in interest to attend Nationals*. Is it possible that club teams prioritise Tour, and Nationals is not an event that piques their interest? Or is it the prospect of another long journey down south that some teams cannot manage – perhaps the division is further impacted by the concurrent mixed division at Nationals.

UKU Nationals 2015 – Mixed Division Preview

Mixed, Nationals, news, Previews, UK Ultimate, UKU Nationals

Thomas Cliff looks back at Mixed Tour and ahead to UKU Mixed Nationals this weekend.

Having just experienced the most unstable Open and Women’s Tour seasons that I can remember, it could be easy to forget about the mixed season that preceded it.

However, Mixed Tour wasn’t without its share of uncertainty. 2014’s top squad and the combination of former European champions Bear Cavalry having disbanded, and Cambridge mixed, sixth place finisher at WUCC 2014 having had a severe drop off in top talent, really set the stage for the pack of wolves nipping at their heels  to have a shot at the top. Further to this, GB Mixed seniors, GB U23, and Ireland Mixed took many fantastic players away from the rankings, leaving things absolutely wide open.

Mixed Nationals this year is likely going to be a tale of teams who stepped into the void left at the top from 2014, as there is a strong correlation between the Tour rankings and the Nationals line up: seven of the eight teams entered at Nationals finished in the top 12 over the course of the season, with the eighth competitors being 2014’s second-place finisher Pingu Jam. Notable absences are Glasgow, who have a real shot at making Euros in the Open division, and Bristol, who are likewise placed in the Women’s draw.

Mixed Tour 3

Mixed Ultimate, UK Ultimate

Here is our continuing Mixed Tour 2015 coverage from Martyn Brown and new writer for the ShowGame Jordan Brown!

Salford provided some high quality ultimate in near perfect conditions. It offered us the first real look at the mixed teams this season and threw up some interesting results, including another new Mixed Tour winner – Glasgow. It was also our first chance to try out a new venue for a few years and I think on the whole, it was a positive experience. The shuttle bus was regular, the pitches were of a good quality and the lack of water by the fields wasn’t a problem if you planned ahead. However, should the weather have taken a turn for the worst, the lack of shelter might have been a problem. If the TDs can get some marquees or tents at the pitches, I think this would be a good option for future events.