Sean Colfer gives us his views on Nottingham WindFarm’s B Tour competition
Last time out, Flump won B Tour against Fire 2 with SMOG topping Bristol in the third place game. Both games were incredibly tight, Flump and SMOG winning by one and two points respectively, and the closeness of those games reflected the relative parity across the division. The top ten or so were all at a very similar level – eventual winners Flump defeated eventual 10th placed team Curve in sudden death in pool play after coming from behind.
Bristol were unlucky at Tour 1. They were ahead against Flump before a zone and some nervousness took the semi-final away from them. They then lost narrowly to SMOG, who they had hammered 15-5 on the first day, and lost out on the A Tour spot that seemed inevitable after their successes on Saturday. They remain a very strong team with an offence that is difficult to contain when the long game is working and will be strong contenders to go up this time around. Their experience should mean they deal well with the wind, too.
The big story of B Tour in Nottingham, though, is two of the teams who have dropped into the division, Brighton and Ka-Pow.
This is the first time since their inauguration in 2012 that Ka-Pow will be outside the top division after a tough time at London’s Calling. They gave GB Masters a good game first out and defeated Birmingham in the pools, but after falling in sudden death to a plummeting Fire side in their crossover, they found themselves in the bottom bracket. They beat Brighton 12-9 but lost to Birmingham in the game to avoid relegation, again in sudden death. But for two points, their story could have been very different. However, captain James Burbidge is philosophical about their current situation:
“We’ve identified the areas where we think things went wrong at Tour 1 and training since then has been focused on addressing those issues. The team have responded positively to that. Obviously there is some frustration at where we find ourselves, but we’ve no-one to blame but ourselves and we’re using that to motivate a performance closer to the standard we want to be achieving.”
They will benefit from some players coming back from international teams, and the disappointment they experienced in London is sure to give them a sense of renewed focus. When asked how the squad are feeling ahead of Nottingham, Burbidge has a succinct, but telling, response: “Confident.”
Meanwhile, as far as I can tell this is the first time in over a decade that there will be no Brighton teams representing in A Tour. Usually a powerhouse, it seems as though Brighton have been hit by a number of players having shipped up to London, some playing with GB and others focusing on Mixed. Captain Callum Ayers says that the team has responded well to their setback at London’s Calling, though:
“The reaction has been positive. We didn’t perform well at Tour 1 so B Tour is where we deserve to be. B Tour is arguably stronger than ever and there will be lots of teams that see us as the team to beat. We have to respect that, and we are excited for that. The feeling in the camp is that if we want to be at the top of A Tour, we have to prove that we can be top of B Tour first.”
Callum was one of the players absent from Tour 1 while he prepared for Worlds with GB. Getting him and another GB player, Hayden Slaughter, back promises to be a significant boost for Brighton.
“We have a very small O-line so getting Hayden, me and another good handler back should make a difference,” agreed Callum.
“From my own experience, teams can struggle when their captain isn’t there so having me back on the O-line should also give us more confidence when things get tight.”
“Confidence is high. We have made wholesale changes to our strategies to simplify O and D and it’s working well on the training ground. Expect to see classic Brighton tactics out there this weekend.”
Both Brighton City and Brighton Legends will be seeking to get back into the top division – Legends have a couple of interesting pick-ups (the Thaysens are returning from Masters, while Josh Coxon-Kelly and Harry Slinger-Thompson are also joining up for this event) and seem very likely to be closer to their seeding last time around, when they were seeded first in the division, than this Tour’s seed of 12th.
Elsewhere the seedings there are four teams that were separated by a handful of points in London. JR defeated ABH in sudden death before topping Gravity in the same situation to finish fifth. GB U20 lost handily to Gravity after struggling to cope with a zone, but then defeated ABH comfortably to finish odd themselves. All four teams are full of very talented players and, with a bit more consistency, could all compete with the relegated teams and Bristol at the top. ABH have a long game that’s particularly dangerous, and Gravity manage to play very effectively through their top players – all of whom have experience at the very highest level of Tour. The U20s are full of aggression and enthusiasm, but they have a number of players capable of slowing things down and making the right decisions when needed as well.
Camden did well to escape their seeding of 16th in the last Tour and preserve their B Tour status, but they face a tough prospect in repeating that feat. Glasgow 2 and Cloud City are both solid teams who will pose more established B Tour teams problems, but the presence of Thunder Pressure, a team full of experienced Thundering Herd and Brighton players who have far more experience at the top of the standings than most teams in B Tour, will likely push everyone down a spot. Thunder Pressure are capable of mixing it with the top teams in the division – they beat Flump in a pre-Tour friendly – but may face difficulties with a small squad and a very tough pool, facing Legends, Leeds and JR.
The overall quality of B Tour at the last event was excellent – teams like Curve and BAF are full of quality players and yet they finished in the ninth-place match. This Tour will be another proverbial dogfight to get out of the division and join the top table for the last event of the year, but I think the main factor here will be the ability of some of the more experienced teams to deal with the conditions. I think it might also affect those teams that rely on their long game more severely than teams who work it around a bit more. I expect that the final will be as high quality as any B Tour final in a long time, with both Ka-Pow and Brighton capable of hanging with teams in the top eight in A Tour when on their game. With that in mind, here are some predictions for you all to get upset about:
- Brighton City
- Brighton Legends
- Thunder Pressure
- GB U20s
- Pelt 2
- Cloud City
- Glasgow 2
Feature image by Andrew Moss