What Went Down At: EUCR-W Mixed (UKU Nationals)

Main Chair/Editor: hazard (Reading Open)
Additional Editing: ali
Main Contributors: nads (Reading Mixed), amazzon (SMOG), sean.colfer (the ShowGame), aido19 (Dublin Gravity), geegee (Mighty Hucks), catpope (Deep Space), hogi
Additional Contributions*: Shaun Webb (Glasgow Ultimate), Charlotte Kennedy (JR co-captain), Bex Palmer (Reading Co-Captain), Black Eagles
*These contributors were very kind to give us quotes, but didn't have access to the chat. Their words have been put in italics for clarity.

Tournament Schedule
Spirit

The ShowGame Predictions
Black Eagles beat everyone, conclusively claim EUCF/Worlds spot
Favourites Reading lose first game to Glasgow, throwing schedule into chaos. They then lose game-to-go against Black Eagles, win final game against Glasgow to claim 3rd
SMOG beat Glasgow in sudden death thriller in game-to-go to EUCF, push Bleagles hard
JR take 5th with sudden death win vs Deep Space. How should both view their seasons?

Lingo
EUCR - European Ultimate Club Regionals
EUCF - European Ultimate Club Finals
WUCC - World Ultimate Club Championships
Bleagles - Black Eagles

Mixed Finishing Positions
1. Black Eagles (EUCF Q) (S)*
2. SMOG (EUCF Q) (S)*
-----------------------
3. Reading Ultimate
4. Glasgow Ultimate
5. JR
6. Deep Space
7. Dublin Gravity (S)*
8. Mighty Hucks (S)*
*Four teams tied for spirit, Black Eagles were awarded the trophy at the tournament


hazard
Welcome to the post-Mixed Nationals chat! We were treated to a really intense weekend of Ultimate, in what was arguably the toughest division at EUCR-W. Alright, it pains me to do this, but one of the most interesting games (as a journalist) was one of the first. Glasgow vs tournament favourites Reading.

nads
Wow, what an intense game to start the weekend. Reading started quite sluggish, our warm-up definitely wasn't as intense as Glasgow’s and they came out firing. They have a unique style that suits their tall athletic guys and unfortunately we played their game rather than ours.

hazard
Other than Glasgow vs Reading, everything else went about as expected (by moderate margins) in that pool. According to Shaun Webb (quote: Don’t have much to say about the first Reading game it was fairly routine), the first game was expected too. In the other pool, however, we were treated to some close games and some exciting on-stream comebacks.
Let’s start with the first game slot again, this time Black Eagles vs SMOG. I have to say SMOG started the weekend strong.

amazzon
We knew we didn't have anything to lose in the first game so focused on trying out some elements to prepare for our other pool games. And yes, it seemed to go ok.

hazard
Any elements you’d care to disclose? Had to be good ones to get you the lead against Bleagles.

amazzon
Making space for each other and communicating effectively. Often people overthink how to win big games tactically and forget the basics. We knew how good we were so that game was all about exploring how to facilitate our skills. Trusting in each other and helping everyone play to their potential is more useful than any specific tactical adjustment.

hazard
So then what happened against Deep Space? Look like they almost had you second game.

sean.colfer
I watched this game, and I don't know if it was anything that SMOG did or didn't do. Deep Space played very well, and the momentum shifted several times between the two teams - a lot of two point runs, a lot of huge pressure from both teams. In the end it was a good block and a good huck that won it for SMOG - they were ahead the whole way - but it was a pretty balanced game.

amazzon
I agree with Sean. It was nothing special, it's always hard to come off a cracking game against a higher seed into a game that you are expecting to win, but it was just high quality all the way through. I think we maybe got dragged into a bit of a scrappy game in the middle but managed to turn it on when it really mattered. They were also higher seeds than us so although we expected a win it wasn't exactly a foregone conclusion.

sean.colfer
A couple of players had a blinder for SMOG and in the end I think that was the difference. Tess Hunt, in particular, had a run where she was basically unmarkable.
SMOG had a reasonably good weekend.
Photo by Sam Mouat for the ShowGame.
hazard
The final story of this pool was the introduction of the Irish. @aido19, how did Dublin Gravity find the first day?

aido19
For Gravity, a lot of the weekend was garnering experience and working hard. The EUCR bid was awkward this year as our mixed season doesn’t align with the UK’s, and takes place around April. To make it even more odd, the bid was won last season (2016) so the Gravity team has changed a lot from the one that won Nationals. That’s being adjusted for next year I believe. With that, our domestic mixed season is a quick burning flame. A lot of us were focusing on Women’s and Open so our only preparation was a few training weekends alongside Dublin’s Golden Cup.

In terms of the weekend, I think the ordering of our games didn’t favour us, playing Deep Space before the two eventual finalists (who were far and away better than us) wasn’t ideal as I think we were still trying to gel on the Saturday morning.

hazard
This finished off a very tough Saturday for all, and set up our games-to-go on Sunday as Reading vs Bleagles, and Glasgow vs SMOG. I’m going to go to Glasgow vs SMOG because well. What. A. Game.

amazzon
Not a bad one for the spectators was it?
There was very little to separate the strong Glasgow and SMOG sides.
Photo by Tristan Millington.
Shaun Webb
It was great to be part of a semi final, SMOG game was extremely exciting and enjoyable for both teams but a heartbreaking result for us in the end. Looking forward to playing them again, it’s always a good fight.

nads
It was a fantastic game to watch! A lot of drama in the last few points.

hazard
I only managed to catch the end myself too. And an unfortunate injury to star player Tess Hunt during the game meant you couldn’t rely on her at crunch time. Do you want to take us through the final few points @amazzon?

amazzon
Well long story short, 11-9 to Glasgow game to 12. We put our offense in relatively calmly and then let the D line do their work. We had forced turns out of them pretty much every point so we we quite confident of getting the disc in our hands (unless Fraser Macdonald was planning on flying over another poor soul for yet more filthy grabs). Once we got the turn and the break it was all about getting a big pull in and chasing it down. Receiving on universe is a nightmare if you can do that and I would rather have been on D than O. We generated a turn but unfortunately Callum Spiers decided he didn't fancy scoring the winning point so dropped the disc in the endzone and we gave them another chance. Thankfully our ladies were doing their thing (as they did all game) to give us another shot with more relentless pressure. That ended with a shot to the endzone that had three of us and one Glasgow player under it which thankfully I came down with.

hazard
That grab by Fraser was obscene. Made the top 5 plays of Nationals. And so, SMOG are going to Euros, and (most likely) going to Worlds. Well done, a hard fought route to a well earned seed.
Meanwhile, Reading had to try to sort themselves out for a game they hadn’t expected until the final. I know it started close, but Bleagles seemed to pull away more as the game passed half. @nads, was it just a mental slip?

nads
In the first half we were playing our best ultimate, we even turned Black Eagles a handful of times, but we couldn't convert. They went into half a break up, came out of half on O and scored an easy point or two. I'm not sure if it was a mental slip or the fact they are just an incredible team who had another gear to go (that or Calum Easton turned up). A few mistakes from us allowed them to run away with it.

hazard
Bleagles then took that momentum into the final, and straight through for the win. The team gave us this statement.


Lucy Barnes helps her Black Eagles side deny SMOG the title.
Photo by Sam Mouat for the ShowGame.
Black Eagles
We are proud of our performance in what could be considered as a banner year for the division. The quality and the depth in the Mixed tournament was fantastic, with 5 or 6 teams in legitimate contention for the finals, and close games all the way through the weekend. I think this is a credit to all our competitors and to the development of Mixed in the past few years. The quality of the competition makes our results all the more enjoyable. We achieved our goal that we set ourselves last year and we look forward to the upcoming year and new challenges we face.

hazard
They then faced SMOG in a final which was fun, but not as close as their first game. Personal highlight: Lucy Hyde wagging her finger at a Bleagles player who stripped her in the endzone (after she boxed him out).

sean.colfer
The backup layout score at the end of the first half was pretty epic. It was a cracking catch so well done Chris Habgood.

amazzon
We ran out of energy emotionally and physically by the final. (Black Eagles having) ten extra players and us losing our star receiver didn't help either.

hazard
@amazzon you know EUCF is longer than two days right? Any idea how you’re going to cope with that?

amazzon
A couple more players hopefully. Other than that we're quite happy that our current training schedule can see us through.

hazard
You guys did have the smallest team of the division (8 men, 8 women). Even smaller than the Irish who had to fly theirs over (+1 more on the sideline with baby Glasspool).

sean.colfer
How's Tess's leg? Or is this closely guarded information now?

amazzon
She'll be skying fools by Euros if that's what you mean.

hazard
I’m fairly confident she could do that on one leg anyway.

Alright, let's move down the division then. The 5-8 bracket (to get into 3-6) was really the one to avoid finishing at the bottom, and meant everything for how you viewed the weekend. Gravity took a sudden death loss to JR, and Mighty Hucks had a chance for redemption against Deep Space. @geegee, not the match-up Hucks wanted?

geegee
Hucks have played against Deep Space before throughout the Tour season so they're a team we are fairly familiar with. The game we had against them on Sunday morning (at least from the sideline) was great, they pushed us a lot and gave us just as many athletic plays as we gave them. Being short on guys did not help us at all so we relied on our strong female contingent to get us as far as we could. It wasn't the result we had hoped for, but they were deserved winners in the end.

hazard
What do you mean lack of guys, if you mind me asking? Roster wise, it looks like Deep Space had one more guy, and Bleagles had 4 more. Everyone else had the same number or fewer initially. However, judging by a photo at the end you only had 7. Fair. Did you have a lot of dropouts?

geegee
We had 2 fewer guys on Saturday, and they got quite tired out so the extra legs were needed! There were a few dropouts unfortunately due to injury.

aido19
And they had to match up against me.

hazard
Hucks have been fairly impressive all season (finishing 5th every Mixed Tour). I know Lorcan predicted them to finish in the top four. Any final thoughts about Hucks, looking forward to next season?

geegee
I think we will look to progress further upon this season, the result hasn't dampened our mood because it gives credit to how insanely good the Mixed Division is this year. We are just excited to get going again throughout the off season for indoors and beach!

hazard
Any final thoughts from an Irish perspective?

aido19
The last game against Hucks was a fun way to finish out the weekend. We went 0-4 down to start, as we were fairly deflated and had a number of injuries. Our captain called a time-out to stop the rot and we came back to break them on universe to win! Was obviously good to finish out with a victory and end with a positive note. In terms of experience. It’s nice to play more competitive Mixed as, like I said, our season is so short and it’s not always that highly prioritised by players. Mixed to me is a different game in some regards to Open/Women’s so it’s really exciting to try and adjust to it and battle it out with the Brits.

hazard
Moving up to the all important 3-6 bracket, we saw what could be some decisive games. In the event the the UK gets 3 WUCC spots (or 3 EUCF spots), this bracket would mean everything. Glasgow squeaked past JR, a team which apparently doesn’t believe in close results. Reading took down Deep Space to seal the fate of what looked like a very strong squad.

The 5-6 actually ended up being a bit of a thriller, with JR squeezing out a sudden death victory. Considering these were two teams that were favourites at the start of the season, it was interesting to see them at this ranking. I asked JR co-captain Charlotte "Bubbles" Kennedy how she felt the weekend went.

Charlotte Kennedy
From me personally, I was very happy with 5th. With the standard so high this year, we really didn’t know how we’d get on and knew that every game would be tough. Overall we’re very happy with how we played - it was definitely the best we’ve played all season so we peaked at the right time. We had a lot of very close games and whilst we could have potentially finished one or two spots higher, for a team that really is just made up of a group of friends and that never train, we’re happy!

hazard
@catpope, how did Deep Space view the tournament (and the season overall?)

catpope
Deep Space would definitely liked to have finished higher. Our match against SMOG was so close and on a different day we could've won it, we're capable of playing at that level. Reading played really well against us in the 3v5, definitely deserved the win. We could've (and probably should've) won the last game against JR for 5th, but they also played well. Maybe some of our intensity wasn't where it should've been after missing out on top 4. With the season overall, 6th place is a good achievement for our first season. The club wasn't set up purely to make it to Worlds, it was to be a long standing London-based mixed club. Deep Space has big plans for the future and will keep building season on season. Watch this Space ;)

hazard
I hear a lot of Deep Space players mentioning it as their “first season”. It is actually really impressive to start a club from nothing, especially considering how established every other mixed team was.

catpope
Yep, and the Mixed Division was such a high standard, it's a tough one to go and compete with those top teams as a new club.

hazard
Anything you think Deep Space will do differently next year? Or will simply having a year’s experience as a team put them in a better initial position?

catpope
I'm not sure what will be different next year. I think a lot of this year's players will stay in the club so just an extra year's experience playing together will make a difference. In the long run, the club has potential to be incredible.

hazard
Speaking briefly of established London-based mixed teams, it was sad not to see Thundering Herd here. They’ve been at every Mixed Nationals since it’s been an annual event, and even before that until at least 2006 (the UKU website let me down before that). I think it was a sign of how tough the Mixed Division was that even a club as practiced as Herd couldn’t make it.

hogi
Herd unfortunately have a lot of roster turnover from the last few years and when it came to regionals some of their top players were playing Open and Women's. it didn't help that Chung Leung tore his ACL on the Sunday morning. Could see some changes to how Herd works next year though so don't count them out for 2018... #nospoilers

hazard
Alright, onto the final game. The 3-4 potentially game-to-go, and it was a Glasgow vs Reading rematch. Reading were in no mood to mess around and, having lost against Glasgow in their first game, were certainly not going to lose their last.

Shaun Webb
We invested a lot physically and emotionally in the semi-final and JR put up a valiant fight, so we had a few key injuries and a bit of fatigue going into a back to back game on Sunday. From the score lines I think Reading probably had a much easier time so were able to stick with us. They stepped it up in the last few points to take it away from us though so credit to them. A few strange things were said in the spirit circle.

nads
Reading looked/felt like two different teams across the weekend.

The atmosphere, mentality and our play were very different on the Saturday compared to the Sunday. We struggled through the pool games, and then something clicked when it came to playing Black Eagles. Despite losing we started to play our best ultimate, it was a delight to play and hopefully watch. I think that carried us through our Deep Space game and helped us edge past Glasgow to take 3rd.

hazard
From a Reading perspective, I know that discussions were had about the first game. They felt Glasgow’s strength was in their guys, so worked hard to neutralise that. Reading co-captain Bex Palmer gave us this perspective on the whole weekend.

Bex Palmer
Obviously (overall, the whole weekend was) not the result we wanted. Our first game against Glasgow we came out really flat and they wanted it more than us, add in a very still day and it was incredibly difficult to shut down their long game and they took the win. We went up against Black Eagles in the semi which was always going to be a hard mountain to climb. But as I said to them, they have been an incredibly dominant force this whole season and they deserved the win. I'm sad we didn't give ourselves a chance to match up against SMOG as I think it would have been an interesting and complex game factoring in the frisbee smarts of some of the players on both teams. And whilst I'm sad we weren't in the final I'm also immensely proud the team took third and showed that we have been working all season for the best place we could take which this year was third place. Watch this space though because Reading Ultimate isn't done yet. So Black Eagles, Clapham, and Iceni, you'd better all watch out.

hazard
And that ends the Mixed chat! Well done to SMOG and Black Eagles, and well played all the rest in a very tough division. Does anyone have any final thoughts they’d like to add?

Shuan Webb
The tournament was incredibly fun for us, it was the focal point of our season and we finally got to put all our plans into action. Weather was great and our team spirit and performances were the best of the season. Player gifts would be nice at Nationals, even if it was just another mug.

hazard
Also, any predictions for how Black Eagles and SMOG will do at EUCF?

amazzon
No clue, the Mixed division is always unpredictable in Europe. But it wouldn't be beyond the realms of possibility for a British champion.

hogi
Bleagles are going the right way about having a podium finish.

hazard
I can definitely see Bleagles on the podium, I’d agree with that. SMOG in top half wouldn’t be unreasonable either.

hogi
Yeah, if SMOG send their top team they're definitely looking likely to cause upsets and to wreck people's seasons.

amazzon
It's dead fun.

hogi
SMOG beating Grut would be fun.

amazzon
SMOG playing Grut would be fun.

hogi
Same thing, amirite?

amazzon
🔥

What Went Down At: EUCR-W Open (UKU Nationals)

Main Chair/Editor: hazard (Reading)
Additional Editing: ali
Main Contributors: hogi (Clapham*), hodge (Chevron), dp (Fire), aido19 (Ranelagh*), catpope (Devon*), connormch (EMO), h.christou (Alba)
Additional Contributions**: Ben Norris (Ka-Pow! co-captain), Richard Roberts (Brighton City co-captain), Josh George (Brighton City co-captain), Sion Regan (Manchester)
* This player plays for/is closely associated with this team, but didn't play for them at this tournament
** These players kindly contributed a quote, but couldn't see the rest of the chat. Their words will be put in italics for clarity

Article updated with quote from Sion Regan of Manchester

Tournament Schedule 
Spirit

The ShowGame Predictions
Clapham seal 17th straight National title, claim World’s spot for next year
Chevron see off all other opposition conclusively, throw away lead in the final to take second
The Irish are here! PELT and Ranelagh claim 3rd/5th, set themselves up for All Ireland Ultimate Championships (Irish WUCC qualification) in two weeks
Devon are the wildcard of the tournament, beating Ranelagh to claim a spot at EUCF
EMO experience early upset loss vs Brighton City, can’t recover, they finish 10th
Fire only lose to Irish teams and Clapham, ruling them out of Euros (and probably Worlds), finishing 6th
Ka-Pow! have another good Nationals, but can’t capitalise on a lead against Fire.

Lingo Guide
EUCR - European Ultimate Club Regionals (this tournament)
EUCF - European Ultimate Club Finals
WUCC - World Ultimate Club Championships


Open Finishing Positions
1. Clapham (EUCF Q)
2. Chevron Action Flash (EUCF Q)
3. PELT (EUCF Q)
4. Devon (EUCF Q)
------------------
5. Ranelagh
6. Fire of London
7. Ka-Pow!
8. Brighton City
9. Manchester
10. EMO
11. Reading (S)*
12. Alba (S)*
13. SMOG
14. LLLeeds
15. Brighton Legends
16. Flump
*Reading and Alba tied for Spirit




hazard
Alright. Let’s start at the top. And that means starting with Clapham. 17 years in a row, they’ve been National champions. @hogi, did this tournament go as expected for the Clapham clan? Are they feeling confident, looking forward to EUCF and WUCC?

hogi
I'd say yes - the plan was always to aim for the 17th title so job done, no losses, despite one or two tough challenging patches in some games. Seemed to go to script to have a Clapham-Chevy final too. In terms of going forward, I believe a strategy chat or two have already happened so planning for EUCF and WUCC is underway.


Clapham get the job done this weekend.
Photo by Sam Mouat for the ShowGame

hazard
Let’s go straight to that final then, as that was really Clapham’s only close game. @hodge, would you say that Chevron-Clapham gap is closing?

hodge
In some areas, yes, but probably not overall. We started really well, and had a good conversion rate on break opportunities, two areas where we've struggled in the past. But overall, the scorelines have been pretty similar...

hazard
What do you think is currently the difference between the two teams?

hogi
Hard to say at times. We played each other a few times at Tour, they were close games to start and then CU would pull away. Could come down to D-line offence consistency, as both teams are well capable of turning each other over but we seem to generate more breaks when we get it.

hazard
I will say I thought the Chevron side actually looked a little more impressive here than in finals in the past. As said, they did manage to convert some D-line points, and went a couple breaks up. I think they could well find themselves holding that lead in future, as they grow as a team (the team overall is quite young right now).

hodge
Clapham isolate space better for their cutters, and on defence put more pressure on our resets than any other team.

dp
Well training is the core of the gap I would say. Chevy to me have the clear potential to be able to beat CU but compare once, twice or even thrice training a week together vs monthly sessions. Doesn't appear to be getting the results against CU. But I understand that isn't the Chevy style either. But I am sure the quality of training is very similar! You can see that with how Chevy play.

hogi
I think DP makes a good point too. Might sound weird but since I've started coming over to Tour in 2011, it's always been really tough against CU but I think the training matches this season have almost been harder than playing against them with Ranelagh or whoever. So getting regular tough matches weekly could be a factor.

dp
That is so hard for other teams to replicate. When all the best players go to one team in an area what chance have the rest got in training? Except arranging regular scrimmages against that team in question.
Jake Aspin getting big for Chevron Action Flash
Photo by Paul Turner
hazard
The final perspective I would like, strictly from the Clapham and Chevron point of view, is how they found the introduction of the Irish teams. Other than a very respectable 14-10 loss for Manchester against Chevron, the Irish were by far and away the closest sides to the top two. Did you find it useful having them there, to give you a bit more practice against European opposition?

hodge
We were really pleased to be able to play PELT and Ranelagh. Along with Clapham they were our toughest and most enjoyable games. It's not so much a factor about experience with European opposition though, this was the 3rd or 4th time we'd played PELT this season, it's more just about having tough games.

hogi
A word from an Irish perspective - I know some find it "unfair" that the Irish teams can alter the Worlds qualification process but I think their inclusion in EUCR-W is a hugely positive step for Irish teams, as otherwise they'd struggle to get to some EUCR-S events and some years would go by without Irish teams even having an opportunity to qualify due to costs. So it's a plus for them for sure. From a UK perspective, it obviously makes Nationals tougher and messes with the formats for qualifications a bit, but surely it's only positive to have more competitive teams and more conflicting styles at Nats? I'm sure teams that don't often qualify for Euros disagree with me!As the Irish feature regularly at Tour anyway, I can't imagine this is too much of a shock to the system...

hazard
Let’s have a look at those Irish teams then. Going in, they were looking very strong (I know Lorcan predicted both of them in the top 4 on the Eurozone podcast). Once they arrived in Birmingham, they certainly delivered. Does anyone have any perspective on why the Irish are so strong?

aido19
For me I think it's largely due to the fact we have a small but competitive player pool. All our domestic tournaments feature the same faces and have for years now. We're always hungry to beat one another and that drives both PELT and Ranelagh to get better (along with Rebel in the past). It also stems from our Universities being very competitive as well. It's kind of bred into players from as soon as they pick up a disc in Ireland.

hogi
Yeah, to add in - these two clubs have really committed to high intensity, well-attended trainings so they get a ton of reps together each week. That's been their mantra since conception in 2012.

hazard
The two clubs seem very close. Ranelagh won the All-Ireland League title last week, PELT came out top this weekend. Looking forward, we have the Irish WUCC qualification (All-Ireland Ultimate Championships) in two weeks. Who do we think will come out top then, and why?

hogi
If Matthew Feely, Stephen Jones and Tadhg Deevy all remain injured... then PELT. If those three are back then it's closer... unsure if I'm willing to go out on a limb to say.

aido19
Ha, Ranelagh obviously! But no. EUCR-W was heartbreaking. We (Ranelagh) had put months of work into qualification and to come home without securing it is something that is going to be hard to brush off. We are going to have to dig deep to be able to recover mentally in time for our Nationals and I believe we will. Strong mental toughness is part of the club's ethos so I think any frustrations will be taken out on the competition down in Limerick next month.
As for who will actually win? It's too hard to predict. I can see it being the closest game we've had all season. Like Hogi said there are some key injuries, and PELT were missing 1/2 important faces at the league final. It's going to be tough.

hodge
Based purely on this weekend, I'd go with PELT. Ranelagh probably play a more attractive style of offence, but PELT are very efficient and can ramp up the defence in big moments. It could likely come down to how both teams manage a few key players on each team.

dp
I agree with @hodge. But it's close. Although I still can't understand why the EUC didn't give our region another bid (in EUCF) for the Irish moving over (fair enough losing one due to last year’s bad performances). Even with (the bid calculation) the sheer strength of the teams in our region seems like 5 would be more appropriate but no idea where that would come from.

hazard
I’m fairly sure we lost two, due to Ka-Pow and Fire. The Irish could only do so much. Obviously there are more than just two teams in Ireland though. Do we think Ireland deserve more spots to EUCR-W next year? And, because the answer is almost certainly yes, how many?


hogi
Last year at Nats, Ranelagh got to the final (4 games) conceding only 12 goals in total. PELT had a tougher time as they had to battle with Rebel, but breezed through the rest of their games. While Rebel and XVI could come over and have some good games, I don't think they'd challenge for the top spots yet so unsure if we should have more than 3 spots for now?

dp
Two Irish spots seems to make sense. Depends how close Rebel is to PELT.

aido19
I'd agree with Hogi, after the big two there's a bit of a drop in consistency. Could see XVI and Rebel finishing in and around the top 8, and after that I think the rest of our clubs would struggle to beat the teams in the 12-16 bracket.

hogi
Rebel losing John Doherty to PELT is a decent sized loss, so it'll be interesting to see what they're like without him at Nats (unless he goes back to Rebel again...)

hazard
Alright. I think this chat has gone long enough now without mentioning the dark horse of this tournament, Devon. Up until the game-to-go, they were looking decent (13-10 win vs EMO, 12-10 win vs Brighton) but I wouldn’t say strong. Until they played Ranelagh. From 9-7 down, they showed some fantastic grit to take the win (and an EUCF spot) 13-11. @catpope, were Devon expecting this?

catpope
I think Devon went into Nationals with high hopes and expectations. Their goal at the beginning of the season was Euros/Worlds, so it's great that they managed it. They had comebacks in all of their knockout games, which shows their determination. They're a bunch of a really good mates so in the end I think it came down to playing hard for your friends. Apparently their sideline was huge, and put lots of pressure on the other teams.

hazard
They certainly had a lot more than the 12 they took to Regionals.

catpope
Yep, they also had a stacked squad.

hogi
I was surprised and not surprised at how strong Devon were. They're athletic and have really good fundamentals, and sometimes that counts for a lot more than people give it credit for. When CU played them at Tour 1, we were 12-5 up and then the next time we scored was to make it 13-10, so they have always had it in them this year to put it up to the top teams. Huge props as Cat said to their grit and how they dug out wins coming from behind in the knockout stages too.

hazard
I’m going to be completely honest and say I was a bit surprised. We (Reading) played them in our first game. They did beat us, but I don’t really think there was anyone on that team I would say I was hugely scared of. They’re a bit more emotional than some teams - but than means when they click as a team, there are no weak points, and they make a fearsome squad.

h.christou
I too am surprised. We (Alba) played them in our pool too and pushed them very hard. We managed a flawless offence up until half (8-7 down), we had them on the ropes and were very quiet. As much as they generated a lot of energy to put us to bed, it was more from our turns than theirs. Surprised, yes. But I backed them to do well in my initial prediction anyway...

aido19
Yeah they were much, much better than when we played them last time. At Tour 3 we had a team of about 10 and beat them twice. I think they were pumped after winning their Monday morning game, held us close in the first half then got some extremely important breaks at just the right time. You could see a sense of belief on the sideline that they we're going to beat us and it carried them to the end. For me it's a massive upset. As I would have put both ourselves and Fire ahead of them. But fair play, they earned it and I hope they do well at EUCF/Worlds.

hazard
Any final thoughts on Devon? Do we reckon they’ll do well at EUCF?

dp
If they play like they did in Birmingham wouldn't be surprised with a top 12 finish.

catpope
I think Devon just have a knack for pulling it out the bag when it really matters. In my initial predictions I put them 4th at Nats, and I'd back that team to do pretty well at Euros.

hazard
On to Fire of London. And, finally, onto the discussion about how the Irish teams affected Worlds bids. Fire finished 6th overall, only losing to Irish teams and Clapham. They’ve had a bit of a rough season (especially with regards to the Irish) overall, but this was really the cherry on the cake. @dp, what is the mood in the Fire camp? Given we don’t know how many WUCC spots we got, should we have insisted on a final 3rd best UK team vs 4th best UK team game?

dp
Cherry? Not quite, more like 💩
Well to be honest pretty gutted, this isn't just one seasons worth of work. This has been a 3 year process. Bringing in new talent, getting everyone on the same page, more directed training, pushing each other all the time. I don't think we can insist on anything, yes we did not get a chance to play Devon, but the argument now would be, well we lost to Ranelagh twice (albeit after already losing a 9-6 lead to PELT for a Euros spot which is a hard place to play another game from) who Devon beat. This is the first year Fire have not made Euros in the clubs history and yet another lost chance at WUCC. Back to the drawing board I guess.


Fire of London getting pumped for a comeback vs Ka-Pow!
Photo by Tristan Millington
hazard
I am very impressed with the Fire program. There are other clubs which have built a lot of depth (Reading between Mixed, Open and Women’s; Brighton which have a lot of teams under one club), but the sheer number of personnel in UK Ultimate that have played, developed, and represented Fire is something very admirable, all in one division.

dp
To be clear I think the Irish should definitely be in our region for Euros. I think the timing with WUCC qualification wasn't well timed maybe.

hodge
I think what DP said is fair, and in his position I would be gutted, but nothing from the results (primarily Fire and Devons results against the same teams) suggests that Fire were robbed of a place. But at the same time, there's something special about a game to go for worlds between two UK teams, particularly Fire and Devon.

hazard
Just for context, how long is the Fire club history?

dp
Fire were started in 2003/4.

hazard
So, that’s 13 straight years of EUCF qualification. Impressive.

dp
Well I don't think it was always the same format and potentially not always annual but yes.

hazard
I think one thing is clear is that Tour is really not predictive of Nationals anymore. In terms of we-prefer-Nationals-to-Tour, Ka-Pow! and Brighton had this to say:

Ben Norris (Ka-Pow! co-captain)
While we struggled in our pool, we played Ranelagh in a very tight game that we felt could’ve gone either way in the end, and we were prepared for the eventuality that we would have to take the back way into the top 4. On Sunday we felt like we really put it all together with strong, statement wins over Emo and Manchester. Monday saw us against Fire, again a very tight game to 11-11, where in the end their larger squad really carried them home. Though we feel like we should’ve finished higher, this was a great result for us, and puts us in a very strong position to continue building for next season.

Richard Roberts (Brighton co-captain)
As a team we are delighted to have made the top 8. We’ve had a fairly tough seasons and results haven’t gone our way so finishing the game off against EMO and subsequently defending our Top 8 position against Reading showed that the team have come on a long way this year. We were a little disappointed to lose out in close games against Devon and Ka-Pow! but actually to get so close to them, given that we haven’t had the chance of playing the top teams earlier in the season, makes us really proud.

Joshua “Geezer” George (Brighton co-captain)
We are happy to continue the trend of consistently over-achieving at Nationals.

hazard
On the flipside, we have EMO and Reading. @connormch, any thoughts from your side?

connormch
I think to say we (EMO) are disappointed is an understatement. We came out slow against Brighton and they punished us. We proved we could fight with some of the best with our narrow sudden death loss to Fire (with a win putting us in good position for possible semis) and Devon came back from behind to beat us in our cross up to the top 8. It seems the university calendar took a significant impact on our training, with a peak performance at T1 to back that up.
I said at the start of the year that the sort of team we had was fairly young and inexperienced but with enough talent to take anyone on our day. Unfortunately at the weekend we got the wrong end of that bargain.

hazard
You mentioned the university calendar. Do you think the issue was students not training as much once university ends, or everyone else stepping up their fitness to match them?

connormch
Once university finished our students couldn't commit as much as they'd like or train as much as they had been (less EMO and less uni training). I won't pretend this is our only downfall but it definitely had an impact.

hazard
That’s a shame.

For Reading, we were actually really pleased. We had a few really good players (a very talented handler in Irish U24 Jack Lynch, and the amazing receiver tall Jamie Rabbetts), but, in the end, captain Mark Ainsworth was doing what he could with 12 guys missing after being picked for Mixed. The fact we still finished 11th was amazing, given how strong all the teams were, and how new some of our players were to the top level. Very proud of them, even if I do think we could have claimed an upset or two.

I would actually like to give a shout-out to Manchester too, who never seem to like Nationals as a tournament. They had good results against some very good teams (the aforementioned result vs Chevron, and a sudden death loss against PELT). They just weren’t able to close out against Ka-Pow!, but some positive results for them. I’m sure they would love a Swiss draw, they’d actually come out really well through that.

Sion Regan
Just to add in a Manchester perspective. We feel like at this nationals we played some of the best ultimate we have played as a club. We had some fantastic performances (from our perspective) against Pelt and Chevy and perhaps should have beaten Pelt (taking half 8-4 and being a couple of breaks up towards the end). However, our short squad - we had 15 players to start with and ended up with 11 fit by the end of the tournament - meant we struggled to keep raising our game for all of the matches, especially with back to back games and we couldn't get the results we wanted in the games that mattered.

Monday could have been an non-event as well, but I'm really proud of the squad who managed to keep pushing and won both games, including sudden death over EMO in the 9-10 game.


hazard @h.christou, could you close with a perspective from the final top 12 team (and Nationals newbies), Alba.

h.christou
Our weekend was quite decent all considered. We had 3 good games vs. Devon, Fire and Manchester but did 75% of the job, and gave up too many breaks (maybe due to inexperience or lack of depth). For a team basically made up of uni students in our first year of club, we're happy with the performance in those games. Also without managing to come close to beating Reading twice, so 12th is fair. No idea what the future holds for Alba, but with so many guys in the Mixed division for both Glasgow and Black Eagles, we all showcased the depth of talent in Scotland.

hazard
Alright, thanks everyone! This marks the end of the open chat. Well done to all teams who attended, and thank you very much to everyone who contributed to any of my chats throughout the year. Also, I’d like to give a special shoutout to Kate Ford of Brighton Legends, for helping to stop the Open Division from being called Men’s (and also for her and Matt “Whippet” Ford for playing while managing a child on the sideline).

If you’re keen for more, I’d recommend going to check out some highlight videos, or the full games on fanseat.com. Or, just wait to support Clapham, Chevron, PELT and Devon at EUCF. Go smash it guys.

Discussion: Mind the Gap

hazard Welcome to the chat! Today we'll be discussing anything to do with women in university Ultimate. The chat will feature myself ...