Thomas Cliff previews this weekend’s B Tour.
I can’t claim perfection by any means, but what I can claim is that the B tour is an incredibly volatile place to play Ultimate. London Calling once again proved this, making a mockery of any predictions attempted on my part.
Bristol, along with Curve 1 were both surprise factors in the promotion stakes. Bristol used an effective defence which clogged lanes and made resets very difficult, and Patrick Ward and Ben Groombridge (on the offensive and defensive lines respectively) saw a lion’s share of the disc, taking well-judged risks to put their opponents on the back foot. Cambridge were predictably solid, showing their A Tour pedigree in reprising their earlier placement. Finally, Curve much preferred the conditions in London, only losing to Cambridge on their way to an A Tour berth after struggling to adapt to the Nottingham wind.
Dublin’s Gravity will not be crossing over the Irish sea for another shot at Tour meaning that the only relegations are B Tour regulars The Brown, who look similar to previous iterations of the same team, and of course Fantastic Mr Fox. This team of Oxford alumni and friends including former Ka-Pow! player Seb Shapland and Hugo Grimmett bring a bit of spice to proceedings. They did have the air of a team which hadn’t played together before in London but that could very well be set to change a Tour 3; both teams will be tough to topple in C Tour.
It seems that the only thing to be taken for granted in B Tour is Fire of London 2 having a great Saturday and a struggle on Sunday. This year they have recruited with development in mind, and have trained with a focus on structure which seems to be serving well. They lost to eventual B Tour winners Bristol 1 on double-game-point, and finished the weekend with a goal difference of +32 proving that once again they will be a team to watch in Cardiff. Robbie Tink (coming down from the first team) will be an anchor in Cardiff as he is seemingly unshakeable in possession; something that Fire 2 been lacking previously this year.
Gravity carried on their rush up the Tour rankings, riding on the back of remarkably athletic plays from Andy Hopkins to keep them firmly in the running whoever they faced. My personal experience of facing Gravity was dampened by the sky opening on Saturday afternoon, which shut down their deep game consistently. This was helpful as until that point it was nigh on impossible to stop. My advice to anyone facing Gravity is come with a huck stopping game plan, or to pray for rain.
Other contenders to sneak into the Tour 3 crossovers are Blue Arse Flies, who have proved themselves as a solid quarter-finals team. And of course Team JR, who looked a lot more like their usual selves at London Calling. I’m sure they will be keen to completely erase their first performance of the season back in Nottingham with a much stronger showing in Cardiff. Pingu Jam could well be back on the up as well after regaining GB U20 players that were missing at Tour 2. Lastly all three A Tour relegations should, and likely will have a shot at those coveted Sunday morning crossovers back up to the top 16.
Flump should have a much more predictable time at Tour 3 having left the opposition behind in C Tour. A remarkably tough serious of games led them to relegation in Nottingham, and I don’t think that should be a worry for them at all at this event. However the other promotions, Rhubarb and Cloud City, will likely have a tougher time consolidating their promotion.
With one eye looking back at my previous struggles with predictions, I see Brighton Legends having the best shot at winning Pool E, but Pool F is an out-and-out dogfight. All four teams should be evenly matched, and at a pinch I would have to put NEO on top but it really just depends on who shows up on the day. All of them have the talent to win out. On the demotion side of things as mentioned I believe two of the newcomers will struggle. Either Lemmings or the young Irish will join them in the bottom three, and I certainly think Flump will be looking to continue to improve their seed.