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.