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.
With the groups split into brackets of 8, all of the games were expected to be close and hard-fought, and that proved to be the case within the top 8. All of Glasgow’s game went to sudden-death, notably featuring a great comeback in their opening game to beat Reading 1. Thundering Herd 1 also managed to turnover a deficit in their opening game from 5-1 to beat GB U23 Andale in sudden death. Whilst GB U23 came out strong with the likes of Katie Lear, Emma Klima and Harry Mason making life especially tough, a change up in defence with the use of zone brought the errors that allowed Thundering Herd 1 to snatch victory.
Shiny Happy Meeple had a much smaller squad than that which saw them climb the rankings in Cardiff. Returning players such as Harry Bricknell were enlisted to help maintain their strong start to the season. They largely played a zone that was tight around the disc and required a lot of patience to break through. Black Eagles and Thundering Herd 1 all managed to grind out victories against this leaving Meeples bottom of Group B.
By the time the final group games were under way, the semi-finalists had already been decided. Interestingly, the teams seeded 5-8 took all four semi-final spots showing how tight it is at the top. All four teams came out hard in an attempt to stay undefeated and take a psychological edge going into Sunday’s semi-finals. Both games were close with GB U23 Arriba edging out Glasgow and Thundering Herd 1 holding off Black Eagles.
Elsewhere, Mighty Hucks continued their strong season by topping group C, whilst JR comfortably held onto top seed in their pool. Thundering Herd 2 continued to rise up the rankings and guaranteed themselves a top 12 finish despite Ciaran Costello breaking his wrist in the first game. Birmingham lost in sudden death to Manchester 2 so were unable to top their group and climb into the top 20.
By Sunday the weather wasn’t quite as nice as it had been the day before, however that didn’t deter any of the teams. Thundering Herd 1 took on Glasgow 1, the third time these two teams have met at Tour this season. With Thundering Herd 1 taking the previous two games, an early break indicated this game could go the same way. However, Glasgow 1 turned up their defence and went on a run of 4 points in the middle of the game to take a commanding lead. The Thundering Herd 1 offence began to misfire with their long shots shut down whilst Glasgow through Rory Curren looked slick on offence and punished any mistakes. Glasgow 1 held out and deservedly took the game 14-10 to earn their first Tour final spot. Black Eagles took on GB U23 Arriba in the other semi-final. This was a close affair that went all the way, with Black Eagles eventually winning the game in sudden death, and this result set up an all Scottish Tour final. Something that I imagine has never happened before. It was also a chance to see the first match-up between these two sides, something I have been looking forward to all season, although I must admit I hadn’t expected it to be the Tour final especially after both teams lost their final group game. In keeping with the theme of the weekend the final was another tight game, with Glasgow emerging victorious and claiming their first ever Tour title. Congratulations to them and the whole of Scottish ultimate for producing the top 2 teams in Salford. Meanwhile, Thundering Herd 1 held off GB U23 Arriba to claim 3rd.
In the 5-12 bracket, Mighty Hucks and JR continued their strong run and secured top 8 spots at the expense of Reading and Meeple respectively. The latter two teams had started as the top 2 seeds this weekend, however the respecitve defeats left them outside of the top 8. Bristol 1 and Brighton Breezy may also feel disappointed not to have finished higher, but with strong squads I would expect them to look to make more of an impact at the final Tour event.
Whilst winners Glasgow were unable to remain undefeated all weekend, there were a number of teams who did manage this and secure a rise up the rankings. Another Scottish team, Heriot-Watt won all their games to move from 21st to 13th and Guildford 1 moving from 37th to 29th. Congratulations to these teams and I’m sure they’ll be eyeing up a further climb in Cheltenham.
On a slightly different note, Salford saw the first use of game advisors. This was part of the the build up to U23 Worlds to give the advisors some valuable experience prior to the event taking being held in London later in the year. If I’m honest, once I got used to seeing them there they had little impact on the game, which in my opinion is a good thing. During calls, they didn’t offer an opinion until called upon, with a vast majority of calls not requiring their input at all. However, whilst the game advisor’s opinion is not binding, I felt that you were obliged to accept their verdict once it was given. Overall, I think the main impact the advisors provided was to speed up the game between points and ensure that teams remained onside, something I am sure we have all been guilty of when the pull goes up.
With only one Mixed Tour event remaining, it is still all to play for. The race to be crowned 2015 Tour champions is very much wide open and there will be a number of teams that will be eyeing up the trophy. Cheltenham promises to be an exciting event and I for one, can’t wait.
On to Cheltenham…
Winning Mixed Tour 2 and bagging their place at the top of the rankings going into the event, Glasgow are going to have their work cut out for them as they find themselves grouped into pool A with their fellow Scots, and MT2 runners-up, Black Eagles. With both clubs showing some methodical, efficient play in the recent final, you’d be hard pressed not to see one of these two in the final once again this weekend. However, with GB Mixed’s seniors entered, the smart money has to be on the National squad taking down whoever they meet in the semi-finals. So with another all-Scottish final less likely, Eagles will be looking to get revenge on Glasgow on the show pitch at 12.30 – which should see the Bishop’s Cleeve’s stands nice and full.
In Pool B, the milder conditions of Cheltenham should see GB Mixed really show what they can do. Having suffered at the hands of Reading and the elements in Llanrumney, they’ll surely now show why they’re representing the country and top the group. However, with the likes of a strong Herd squad looking to trample over the opposition and the GB U23 team always looking to upstage the seniors in the show game, we could yet see some movement within the pool.
Mixed Tour 1 champions Reading are seeded 9th and top Pool C. Having churned out impressive performances over the past few seasons, their win at Tour 1 was no fluke as they dealt with the wind better than any other team there. Despite a drop in rankings after Tour 2, you can expect Mark Bignal and Sam Gunbie’s team to be a well-oiled machine going into the last Tour event. However, with Meeple nipping at their heels, Reading are going to have to be on their toes and put in one of their strongest showings yet when the sides face each other at 2pm. Either of these teams are more than capable of getting back into the top eight so expect a great match if you fancy the walk over to pitch 12.
Pool D looks to be interesting and should allow for some close matches. While Brighton are seeded at the top and are understandable favourites to still be 10th come Sunday morning, its tough to say who’ll come second in the group. While Herd 2 and Shakedown should provide a close battle (having faced each other a fair few times in recent years) it’s Devon that will be the team to watch. Having only lost one match so far this season (to an undefeated Heriot-Watt at Tour 2), they’ll be looking to keep their momentum going as Eddie Roberts pushes his young squad. They will aim to finish in the top 8 after starting Tour 1 in 45th place.
Looking further down the schedule into the next 16, Birmingham, Manchester and Curve will expect to breeze through their groups. With Pier Pressure being dropped back into the mix lower than they probably should be, Flyght Club are going to have a job on their hands trying to take them down to stay at the top of the pool.
Guildford and ABH A are more than capable of delivering some surprise results. GU annihilated their pool in Tour 2 and went undefeated for the rest of the event. As for ABH, they were unlucky to be pooled with Birmingham and a Chevron-heavy Manchester 2 at Tour 2 and finished lower than they should have.
In the bottom two pools, the two Sheep teams will be looking strong in their respective groups with Black Sheep possibly able to take down BRB. Chesham Kites are likely to be a problem for anyone in pool J. As a relatively unknown quantity, they did a great job in proving themselves at Club Mixed Indoor Nationals. It will take some work to translate that cohesion to outdoors, but I doubt they’d finish as low as 40th.
While White Sheep look to be the strongest in Group K, the three South West teams (Devon 2, Bristol 2 and Picnic) should all recognise each other and share some close, hard-fought matches accordingly. All in all, it looks like it’s going to be competitive throughout the 41 teams this year.
As Martyn predicted last time, I can’t see the final standings deviating too far from the seedings. As it stands, my prediction for the top eight only features one team not seeded there to begin with; I back Shiny Happy Meeple to win their pool and crossover.
1. GB Mixed
2. Black Eagles
4. Herd 1
5. GB Mixed U23
6. Bristol 1
7. Shiny Happy Meeple
8. Mighty Hucks
By Sunday afternoon I’d expect Black Eagles to be walking away as our new Mixed Tour champions – even if they don’t actually win an individual event. Of course – they’ll have to get through Glasgow first.
Good luck to everyone playing this weekends final Mixed event. #UKUMT3