Following on from our meteoric rise at OT2 we went into the Tour finale seeded 7th, in a pool with the GB U23s, Ka-Pow and Cambridge 1. Cambridge were up first and having just being promoted back into A Tour were the lowest seed in our pool. A must win game if we wanted to get into the top half of the division. We came out strong for the first game of the weekend, picking up where we left off at London Calling, giving us a healthy advantage going into the half. Without a couple of their key players and not quite clicking throughout, Cambridge didn’t have enough to pull it back and despite a much more competitive second half we pulled away for our first win of the weekend, 15-7.
Next up was the GB U23 team in their last tournament before Worlds. Attempting to double peak for back-to-back games is a psychological battle and coming off a win helps a lot. The U23s’ game against Ka-Pow had dragged on into the cap compared to our fairly early finish giving us a slight edge but given the pedigree of the players on the opposition they were still hot favourites to take the win. We went a couple of points up and I think it was only then that most of the team began to believe that we could take our biggest scalp of the weekend. For the rest of the game the scoreline seesawed between flat and us being two points up with neither team being able to convert the opposition’s turnovers. Given the scrappiness, the lead from the start proved decisive as we managed to edge it 9-8 in sudden death, a great result leaving us top two in the pool!
Following a game gap watching the 2nds play the GB U17s and with the sun getting ever more intense we had our last pool game, against Ka-Pow, to see who would top the pool. The seedings before the tournament didn’t mean much to this game with our teams not having faced each other yet this season but both teams wanted to take the coveted top seed spot vacated by the U23s. A win would see us at the top of the UK Ultimate scene for an evening at least. From speaking to friends who had played Ka-Pow earlier and from watching them at OT1/2 we had a fair idea of their style of play but despite that they came out by far the stronger team, racking up an 8-2 lead at the half with their quick flair-filled offence and a D line willing to strike. This was an unprecedented position for us bearing in mind that it felt like we had a credible chance of winning. A slight regroup was needed, a couple of minutes rest to cool off and we could set to work on clawing the points back. It had got to the stage of the day where both teams were seeking refuge in the shade at one end of the pitch and perhaps it was the heat that took its toll but things started to turn our way. I thought the game actually felt very similar in the second half but a few completions going our way and the odd unfortunate turn for them meant that we were right back in it. The buzzer went at 10-10 with us on D pulling downwind. A quick break and score later we were pulling upwind for the game. Their deep shot flew out the back allowing us to set up from near the middle of the endzone line and two throws later we had taken the win 12-10! A great way to finish our first Tour starting in the top half of A Tour, top seeds overnight!
Unfortunately that was as far as it went. We played well on the Sunday, but being in the top 8 means you play the top teams and experience goes a long way. I have no doubt that we will take more of the chances given to us next time we get them but we showcased a bit of what Birmingham can do with only 3 years or so under our belts so the future’s bright. Our quarterfinal was against pool runners-up Manchester, the second seed going into the weekend. It was always going to be a tough, hard fought game and their loud style of play worked effectively for periods. We ended up losing 11-9 in a game that felt like it could have gone either way. The game was not without controversy but as was expressed by their captain at the end, the play itself was of a good standard. However, it is a shame it had to be marred by immaturity and that is something I have reflected on since.
With 4th place now fully out of our reach, we settled for aiming for 5th. Chevron were up next on the new luscious 3G pitch and with their depleted side we were up for a competitive match. We must have been about halfway through our warmup when the heavens opened and a lightning fork halted play. 15 minutes of huddling in a dugout and a quick game of spikeball in the rain later, the games were back on with the weather doing a complete U-turn. It was apparently the perfect weather for Chevy frisbee! No wind whatsoever made it seemingly effortless for their team (of about 8 people) to move the disc around the field before a lofted pass would get swallowed up by ‘C-Lo’, their resident Ivo Karlovic. It was all over so quickly I can’t remember to score, possibly 15-7? They may have even scored 16!
Anyway, it left us playing Fire 1 for 7th place, Fire having had the same route as us to get there, topping their pool by beating Manchester only to lose to Ka-Pow in the quarters. Despite both coming off two loses apiece and Sunday drawing to a close the game was still hard fought and they took it at the end winning 11-8. 8th place for us and even with the three loses at the end, a thoroughly enjoyable weekend where we hopefully proved to some that we are getting close to competing at the next level.
Next up is Regionals in just over a weeks’ time. Our team is solely comprised of players that have played for BU 1 over the course of Tour with one exception, our Bangor-based, GB-representing Andrei Mandzuk, so we’re fully prepared heading into the finishing straight of the season. With EMO, Birmingham, Cambridge, BAF and JR all believing they have a decent chance of qualifying it’s an exciting prospect! There are rumours of a Masters team entering in the region which could play havoc with seedings but that’s all part of the fun. I’m yet to find out which teams might be aiming for Mixed Nationals instead of Open, just another aspect that will come to light over the course of next week to add some spice to what is already shaping up to be one of the most competitive Midlands regionals yet.