Here we look back at the key points of OT2, the last major British event before the three qualifying teams of the division head across the pond to compete at WUCC.
1. Clapham domination
Clapham did split their squad into Offensive and Defensive lines at the Windfarm a few weeks back, meaning this was our first look at 21 of the 28-man squad representing CU in Ohio next month. Despite an unfamiliar makeup to the top 16, the West Londoners returned with the intensity and professionalism that they are renowned for. In pool play they found opponents in Devon, Brighton City and Manchester, coming out 15-6, 15-6 & 15-7 winners respectively in these match ups. One of these fixtures, the Devon game, is of course the most noteworthy as they to have also been invited to the USA in mid July. From their last encounter the Devonians had made a marked improvement against the country's elite. Despite this renewed effort Devon were still only able to muster the same scoreline they achieved twice in Nottingham when playing the split O & D lines. All in all, it’s fair to say the weekend provided a pre-windmill run around for Clapham and I'm sure they enjoyed stretching their legs. However if we are to assess in terms of competition, it was almost non-existent.
2. No Chevvy? No Irish? More Ka-Pow!
The absence of Chevron Action Flash, as well as the Irish contingent of the top tier, seemed to create a power vacuum effect on pool play. One team in particular, seemed to seize this opportunity and present themselves as a surprise package. I'm not sure what else you'd expect from a parcel labelled Ka-Pow!. Come 1pm on Saturday, the vigilante London squad had secured themselves a place in the semi-finals with wins over EMO and Reading. However, it wasn't to be plain sailing all day, Ka-Pow showed the Fanseat live stream how easily the wheels can come off if you're complacent in the later stages of pool play, losing comprehensively to SMOG in their last game of day 1. Despite making the semi-final difficult for themselves by dropping a pull late in the game, they ground a win out against Devon and booked themselves a place in their first tour final since their victory over Manchester in 2015 (also at Cardiff). The final itself didn't last long, just 45 minutes in fact, but we've covered CU and I think Ka-Pow! were just happy for an all London final.
3. Devon devowed mental strength?
We are 27 days away from first pull in the states and this is not a time I'd like to bring into question the mental toughness of any team representing the red, white & blue. Be that as it may, needs must, when you're receiving in galaxy point (7-7), turn and concede half there is concern. To then regain advantage and be receiving in universe at 14 apiece and do exactly the same thing alarm bells have to be ringing you have to question the mindset of a team. Now I'm hopeful that this was an isolated learning experience for the boys from the South West , but there are certainly things to work on before their international outing.
4. Where there is no Fire there comes EMOs?
In the not so distant past we had two Fire of London teams competing in the top bracket of play. While it was always going to be difficult to maintain, the complete removal of FoL from A-tour in Nottingham thanks to an impressive Reading 2 side came as a surprise to most, even after the departure of Alex Cragg and Will Routledge to CU. During the Cardiff event a massive 26 man Fire squad did break back into the top division ending the weekend with a top 8 finish. What will be interesting is if they can hold this status when the clubs absent return.
With FoL's slight demise from the high standard of years previous, the door for other established squads to promote second teams into the top bracket was left wide open, an opportunity which EMO took with both hands. Having split their squad for this competition it was impressive that the first team actually climbed two seeds finishing 6th. While many staple names of the East Midlands core played on this team the likes of Ben Poole, Tom Tongue & Phil Brunson to name a few took a trip down to B-tour to strengthen the seconds chances of promotion. An eventual 13th place finish for EMO 2 (including a convincing win against Brighton Gritty Legends) really highlighted the strength in depth this team has to offer. I'm expecting to see big things from the boys in blue as we get ever closer to Nationals later in the year.
5. Reading between the lines... (It's a homophone)
Another team that decided to mix up their rosters a little was RU, which continued it's Tour 1 approach by having Mark Bignal featuring on the third team and Sam Gunbie on the seconds. Despite this, a weakened Reading 1 outfit managed an impressive 2nd place finish in the pool stage before coming unstuck against the aforementioned rampant CU in the semi-final and a hurting Devon in the 3v4 final, which proved too much for them to claim a top 3 spot on this occasion. Reading's result this weekend is, I believe, yet another display of the unparallelled depth possessed by this squad.
6. Get off me son! SMOG resurgence
Having lost their opening two pool games against EMO and Reading, the team from the North East turned up in front of the cameras and blew away Ka-Pow! in their last game on Saturday. Unfortunately this performance came too little too late after having locked themselves out of a top 4 finish, finishing bottom of the pool due to their head to head result against the East Midlands side. What happened from here proves that for one reason or another they had performed well within themselves on Saturday as they went unbeaten on day 2 (for the second tour in a row) and ended up clinching 5th place, even getting their own back over EMO at the end.
7. Purple Pick-up?
Purple Cobras, having fought their way into A-tour, came into the weekend missing several key players that had played a big part in their rise to these heights last tour. I don't think this will be the last we see of this team but consistency is certainly critical if they want to regain and maintain top tier status. With more teams dropping out for Tour 3 (due to Worlds), they'll likely get another shot at proving themselves next time.
It might also be the first time that EMO 2 and Cloud City have been in A Tour - that latter being particularly impressive as a club that has been building for years which is finally reaping their reward. With Open Tour 3 expected to see no Clapham, no Devon, and weakened sides from Reading and SMOG, you have to wonder who else in B tour may be eyeing this rare opportunity.