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.

4 comments:

  1. 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.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Sion, am I ok to add this into the article? I'm very sorry for not contacting for a quote beforehand - we produce these on a very tight timeframe and it was only during the chat that I realised what an interesting weekend Manchester had had!

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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What Went Down at: UXIN Div 1 2018

Chair/Editor: Alun P Contributors: Rush (Scotland), hazard (Oxford), Slender (Sheffield), Axel (UCL, ex-Glasgow), geegee (Birmingham) ...