Josh Coxon Kelly previews the A Tour for London Calling.
The Tour final at Nottingham was played between the two halves of the GB Open squad, as many will have hoped given that this squad is representing this and next year as the strongest Britain can offer. Saturday morning saw Manchester run close for the first half with GB 1, and the same GB team had to work hard to get past Glasgow in the upwind / downwind semi-final, but neither of these teams could keep up in the second half, and overall the two GB teams met in the final without too much of a scare. Whilst not heavily spectated due to the majority of the tournament still having games to play, the final was an exciting match-up as the training squad stepped up to competition play for the first time this year. Both teams showed a disregard for the wind starting the game with clean upwind goals. GB 1 soon took control of the first half, winning it 8-6 and starting downwind after half. Although the pivotal point of the game looked to have passed, GB A began the second half with a footblocked huck on the upwind endzone line. This quick break conversion triggered a merciless comeback as the defensive team took control. Tom ‘Mum’ Abrams had a particularly strong game with upwind pulls and hucks that changed the field in favour of the D team. Altogether GB A stole victory with a 5-0 second half, and a final score of 11-8. These teams looked strong, continued this showing with a victory at Windmill last weekend and will want to dominate at Tour 2 as they move on to the US Open as a single squad shortly afterwards.
GBU23 overcame the GB Masters in an early Saturday fixture, and continued to prove their strength until the end of Sunday when they took fifth place over Kapow! with a 9-8 victory. Masters lost by one to eventual semi finalists Glasgow, but beat Chevron ensuring the almost complete inversion of Pool D, where no teams held seed. GBU23 were perhaps unlucky to face Fire of London in a difficult quarter-final where the London team progressed, and this young team will be looking to show more of their considerable promise in London. GB Masters’ final position of 10th will certainly be one that the team will be keen to improve on this weekend, but with Manchester, Danish Masters and Fire 1 they will have to fight hard from the first pull.
Not including the international teams, the top four UK clubs currently read Fire 1, Glasgow 1, Kapow! and Reading. Moving up a combined 30 seeds between them (with Reading accounting for 11 places alone), Tour 1 saw the UK standings turned inside out by non-club entrants and the roster roulette that these teams provoked. With London Calling once again bringing European entrants to the UK domestic scene, this pattern is set to continue as we now welcome no less than eight non-club teams to the A Tour. France, DK Masters and Ireland U23 are the new challengers in the division, which balloons out to 24-strong in this huge 98 team Open tournament. France placed fifth at Windmill, and face GB Open’s full squad in the Saturday night show game. The Danish Masters could be a considerable force given the strength of Ragnarok in previous years that will be on display in, if not running this team. Ireland U23 seed 19th, and will certainly be looking to top their pool and cause trouble in the 13-20 bracket as they prepare for July.
With a highly competitive top 16, this tournament will be a race to the quarter final stages with no second chances after pool play. GB Open 1 and A will both look to top their groups. Who joins them in knock-out stages however is less clear. In pool A, GB U23 and Reading are two teams who showed strength above their seed at the last event and will realistically fight for the spot, even though it would still be a serious upset for Reading to take it. However the fourth seed in this pool is Chevron, who suffered heavily with a close to iron-man squad in Nottingham, but have the quality such that they will not need many more than that in terms of numbers to make the top eight. Pool B is not much easier to predict with Kapow! and Devon equally capable of surges of form when they see an opportunity; Ireland Open will have a tough time fending these teams off.
Pool C will be troubled by EMO’s sheer drop at Tour 1. The Midlands boys could threaten for the top of the pool, and will certainly make life hard for the French visitors as well as Glasgow. Glasgow’s strength at Nottingham shows a formidable force in Scotland, and the first time since the days of Fusion that a Scottish team has competed in the top four. Particularly capable in the wind, they will need to show that their defense can keep up at this level in favourable offensive conditions. Fire’s strong finish suggest they will be in a position to move to the quarter-finals, despite the strength in their pool. Manchester have another shot, but this time will have to pitch their young squad against the two Masters squads to get the quarter-finals berth they want.
Outside of the top 16, there are two peer pools who can finish as high as 13th. Brighton City will be looking to top this after a considerable drop in seeding, but new promotions Brighton Legends will be salivating over the prospect of stopping this. Sneeekys featured legends of their own with ex-GB Open captains Sam Lord and Danny Hoyle making appearances in Nottingham, and will be looking to hold onto and build upon their promotion for Tour 3. Whilst this bracket can’t challenge the top stages of knockout, placement outside of relegation is of huge importance for all of these developing clubs who will relish another opportunity to test themselves against A Tour caliber teams.
Compared to recent years, the additions to the Open division are arguably less intimidating with the notable lack of German, Swiss and Swedish presence. Likely due in part to the proximity to Windmill which has become secure as a serious fixture in the competitive Ultimate calendar, this does mean that much less is known about the competition in the lead up to EUC 2015 in Copenhagen. The previous cycle saw the Saturday show game being a preview of the eventual final, whereas this year cards are closer to the chest all-round. However, with Italy taking a win against GB and Freespeed finishing outside of the top eight in Amsterdam, the teams that can be counted as a top team is perhaps under contention as all of Europe gears up first for Copenhagen, and then the World Championships next year.
The absence of some teams will do nothing to stop a buzzing atmosphere however at what is the first in a trio of progressively important London tournaments. With the grounds being used for World U23 championships this July, and then finally for the World Championships in 2016, London’s call isn’t getting any quieter as it begins its run as the centre of the International Ultimate Scene for the next two years.
[ED: A quick note from UKU – please, absolutely no parking on the driveway and bring your own bottles for taps on site since there is not water at every field. Good luck to all competing!]