Tour 2 Review – Women’s

Charlie Blair brings us the Women’s tour review from Tour 2, held at Grove Farm in Nottingham.

The temperate conditions of London Calling became something of a distant memory at Tour 2 in Nottingham. Each division braved merciless winds and on occasion downpours that were no less than tropical! The fact that nearly all the games for the top half of the women’s tour took place on upwind/downwind pitches may have produced some score lines that otherwise wouldn’t have been. But whilst the ultimate wasn’t the prettiest, the weather provided a true test of depth and adaptability, producing some very exciting performances and results along the way.

However, even before the controversy of the wind, the women’s seedings had already been disrupted. With YAKA returning to home soil and ROBOT unfortunately unable to attract enough players to attend, all those outside the top three were bumped up two places. As a result, three of the teams who finished the weekend in the top 4, Iceni, Nice Bristols and LeedsLeedsLeeds, all ended up in the same pool. With Iceni winning all their games and retaining their seed at the top of their group, it was all to play for in the final game of the day between LLL and Nice Bristols for second place. But after having taken the first upwind score, Nice Bristols were unable to hold onto the advantage for long. Despite an effective use of poaches by the Bristol defence, Emilia Cruz’s penetrating deep cuts racked up the points for the northerners. This led to the two teams trading out the game until LLL were able to edge it in sudden death.

Alia Ayub hungry for the score in the endzone. Photo courtesy of Louise Smith

In the other pool, which included those that made the greatest advances at Tour (SYC and Punt), there was no certainty who would finish top until the very last results of the day. SYC were on course to hold seed until a somewhat unexpected loss to Punt. Punt’s confident handling and ‘give and go’ movement won them that first crucial upwind point. Their continued patience earned them a significant lead which SYC didn’t have enough time to comeback from, eventually winning the game 5-3.

This threatened to engineer a three-way tie, which would have seen Iceni Savage scrape the top spot (and a guaranteed semi final) on points difference assuming Punt won their final game against Seven Sisters (or Sistaz). However, the Brighton outfit had finally found their form after a solid defeat to Savage, with captain Kate Ford crediting a team agreement to play more inventively in spite of the challenging weather, as the turning point. They went on to win a highly competitive but markedly spirited game with players making calls against themselves even in high stakes situations. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise to find Seven Sisters walking away with the spirit award for the second time. Nevertheless, their victory meant that SYC had escaped dropping seed after all.

As a result of their loss to LLL, Bristol met Iceni in the semis yet again. However, this time round it was a much closer affair. It was a tense first half with Bristol patiently exploiting the width of the pitch and getting under any swirling Iceni discs. But, after having taken the game to 6-6, Bristol unfortunately lost their momentum and Iceni closed out the game 10-6. As a result, Bristol are still chasing their first final of the season and would surely have relished the opportunity to replay SYC after losing to a phenomenal comeback from the Londoners at Tour 1. Will they manage it at Tour 3? Equally, will Leeds continue to climb the rankings? Despite an 11-6 scoreline that suggests SYC somewhat comfortably advanced to the last two, LLL actually won the second half. However, not being able to cope with SYC’s efficient transition from D to O cost them dearly at the beginning of the game, creating a considerable margin that LLL were unable to close.

Iceni Savage had the potential to cause an upset, yet both a clinical Bristol and resilient Seven Sisters performance left them unable to capitalise on the top 4 position they had earned by the end of Saturday. However, with no Savage team attending Tour 3, it’s hoped that teams such as Swift, Crown Jewels and Relentless will be able to push up the table and cause some upsets.

Punt showing off their ‘ups’ during their game against SYC. Photo courtesy of Louise Smith

In contrast to London’s Calling, Tour 2 suggests that the women’s tour is hot on the heels
of Iceni who were particularly tested on the Sunday to ensure they retained the top spot. The final was an extremely hard fought contest which I believe was crucially determined by Iceni managing to not only turn over the disc after having started on D, but then managing to slot in their first upwind score. From this point the two teams traded to half. SYC were unfortunate to not translate ridiculous possession saving grabs up high and horizontal, particularly from key handler, Emma Woodwark, into the breaks they were chasing. Nevertheless, a further source of spectacle was a fantastic match up between World Games hot shots, Jenna Thomson and Bex Forth. Even though Jenna got both a point block and a big lay out D in the end zone on the Iceni captain, Bex still managed to bring home the majority of her team’s points. Moreover, after the half Iceni then had the advantage of starting on offence downwind. This was subsequently topped off with a second upwind point. Thus, despite a highly contested game, Iceni were yet again victorious, with the final ending 12-7.

Movements in the Womens Tour. Courtesy of Wayne Retter.

Even though the wind proved to be both frustrating and tedious, every team upped their game and these improvements are certain to bear fruit in Cardiff. Here’s hoping that the final instalment before Nationals will produce even tighter score lines (and more of them!) that demonstrates an increasingly competitive and high quality level of women’s Ultimate in the UK.  

Apologies for late review; ECBU and real life caught up somewhat! DP @ tSG.