|UKU CEO Si Hill commanding Zimmer from the back at UKU Tour 3. Photo courtesy of Christine Rushworth.|
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.
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)
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.|
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.
Returning to St Albans, Tour 1, this year’s London Calling sees over 70 teams entered into the open division with 10 coming from overseas.
|Photo courtesy of Graham Bailey.|
Bad Skid beat Clapham’s D-line last year at London Calling but lost to the O-line in the final. They met a full Clapham team in the semi-final of Euros and lost again. Since then the team has added a few younger players to the squad, as well as NexGen player Philip Haas, who won’t make it to London. Captain Holger Beuttenmüller admits that the team needs to be at their best on both sides of the disc to be in with a chance of beating Clapham, but places faith in the trust between his teammates who have largely been playing and competing together since they were as young as 14.
North of the north, the battle to be Scotland’s best team has taken an interesting turn with the complete dissolution of Fusion. Glasgow Ultimate top the pile at the moment, and will be looking to solidify the A-tour spot they earned last year. Sneekys have added a large number of Fusion’s Edinburgh contingent to their roster, and yet only beat in sudden death new team NEO, who have recruited heavily from Aberdeen and Dundee universities. DED meanwhile, are refocusing on Open this year, and are one of the few club teams in the UK with a dedicated coach – Jonathan Saunders. The squad, captained by Sam Vile, has seen quite a large turnover and brought in plenty of young players, but promise has already been shown in preparation for the season with a trip to Rising POT, a tournament in Poland where DED finished 4th and won spirit.
There’s a lot of top quality competition coming to London – and Si Hill is to be congratulated for once again attracting overseas teams. Tour’s opening weekend is reliably one of the toughest tournaments in the calendar, and this year is no different. With a large but fairly static domestic scene, mainland-European competitors make for exciting matches, unfamiliar styles and the inevitable occasional shock result. With the battle for A-tour distorted by the influx of single-appearance teams, teams in the 12-24 area are going to scrapping for every single win.
What are your thoughts? Have we missed a sleeper? Will we see an all mainland-Europe final? Let us know in the comments. And remember to use #ukut1 for social media and smack talk. Finally, best of luck to all teams attending from tSG!
As UK Ultimate continues to grow and develop with the standard improving across the board, the stigma previously attached to being a B Tour squad looks less offensive in light of a competitive opening Tour of 2013. Perennial A Tour teams including LLLeeds, Burro and Fusionbattled with new kids on the block Manchester, Glasgow, and JR – not to forget yo-yo teams like The Brown and Cardiff, programmes from Vision (with their strong junior setup) and Bristol (one of the deepest Ultimate communities in the UK) and we had a truly wide field for the first time in years.
|Santiago Zuluaga (Manchester Ultimate) goes big for an offence point in the Saturday pool game against LLLeeds. Photo courtesy of David Sparks.|
Bar Pool J, each pool featured one team who were knocked out of contention having started the weekend seeded in the Top 8 bracket – the unfortunate 3 being The Brown, Cardiff Storm and Fusion – demonstrating the difficult nature of seeding at the start of the season and the topsy-turvy nature of Tour. Rumours had been spreading across the field about the various strengths of some of the contenders – Zimmer had been beaten on Saturday by EMO2 which shocked a few. Ireland U23, who featured a number from the successful Irish university scene of 2012 & 2013 looked to sail into A Tour to get the best preparation for Toronto. JR had a successful 2012 building on a strong programme from the universities, finishing in A Tour in 2012 and fancying themselves another shot at the big time.
|B tour movers. Courtesy of Wayne Retter.|
The Final would see Zimmer take the B Tour crown in a close fought 15-13 win over Glasgow, who had demonstrated over the 2 days that they are an unassuming team who will only look to grow in coming years lead by the experienced Webb brothers and working closely with the local university talent. Similarly, Manchester and LLLeeds had revamped in 2013 with similar aspirations and development plans, but in their 3/4 game-to-go Manchesterdemonstrated their extra experience and quality to close out a 15-10 victory and take the final A Tour berth.
- In previous years, so-called yo-yo teams seemed to come up every Tour and head straight back down a Tour later without really putting up too much of a fight. The depth of the competition is a lot stronger in 2013 – consistent A Tour squads of the past few years are now struggling to come back up, teams are running large rosters reflecting their A Tour contemporaries and using tactics and ideas pioneered by the strongest clubs in the country.
- Whilst the top half of the division featured some close games, the standard really dipped beyond a certain point and resulted in some really falling off the radar. The top 3 teams were spread by three points (11-10 to Glasgowover Manchester, 15-13 to Zimmer over Glasgow) but the level beyond that seemed to dim. Speaking from a personal perspective, Manchester convincingly put LLLeeds away twice by a 5 point margin and took Vision and Burro to the sword (15-5 and 15-8 repectively). Whilst B Tour has come a long way, it still feels as if some games for the more established squads would be more beneficial if Tour 1 allowed for crossovers into A Tour on Sunday.
- The weekend saw some massive seeding swings, with Fusion nearly falling through the trapdoor and Glasgowrocketing to A Tour after being underseeded coming into the weekend. Reading showcased their growing programme with a strong showing resulting in a 6 place rise whilst Cardiff, JR and The Brown all have their work cut out after disappointing showings.
- With Zimmer considering not entering Tour 2 and Rebel not entering due to its proximity to Windmill Windup, the teams promoted to A tour are yet to be revealed, but perhaps this year we will see some new faces upset the established order. With Devon, Cambridgeand Tooting all finishing in the historic relegation spots from previous years, the 9-20 bracket could see some real chopping and changing during the season – and those coveted Top 16 places look to be more fiercely contested than ever before.