Portsmouth Sublime win Uni Outdoor Nationals

BUCS UKU University Open Outdoor Nationals 2010
By Tim Sanders

Portsmouth Sublime: Portsmouth Sublime collecting their gold  medals at the BUCS Championships A year ago Warwick Bears took university nationals by storm. This year Bears were looking to retain their title but the competition was far more fierce. Portsmouth Sublime, who Bears had overwhelmed in last year’s final, had retained much of their squad and were unbeaten coming into the tournament, having won University Open Indoor Nationals and qualified top from their region.

Thirty-two teams once again converged upon Mount St Mary’s College (Sheffield), as, following the success of 2009, University Nationals were held as part of the BUCS Championships for the second time. There were great facilities on site and the ground was neither too hard nor too boggy and was largely not uneven. The weather was kind for most of the weekend. For the most part it was sunny and there was no rain. However, the exposed nature of the venue and the wind, especially when at its strongest on Sunday, made conditions testing for Ultimate.

The top four seeds in Division 1 — Bears, Sublime, Cambridge Strange Blue and Edinburgh Ro Sham Bo — all excelled in the windy conditions to win their pools on Saturday and guarantee themselves a position in the top eight of the tournament. After some tight crossovers Manchester Halcyon, Sussex Mohawks, LSE Beavers and Cork Skulltimate completed the top eight ready for the quarter finals. It was a different story in a competitive Division 2 where none of the pools went with the seeding. If the higher seeded teams slipped up even slightly the competition was good enough to take advantage and punish them for it. Bath BLT, originally seeded ninth, performed consistently well to go unbeaten throughout the weekend and win Division 2. Congratulations are also due to Loughborough Haze — who won all their matches on Sunday to come from sixteenth seed to take ninth — and Trinity who deservedly won the Spirit of the Game prizes in Divisions 1 and 2 respectively.

On Sunday morning the quarter finals in Division 1 saw no upsets. The four top seeds advanced into the semi-finals, where Sublime faced Strange Blue and Bears faced up to Ro Sham Bo. Sublime enjoyed a comfortable route to the final, not conceding a point against Strange Blue in an 8-0 victory. The match was characterised by hucks from Strange Blue, very few of which were taken down, while Sublime made some near perfect upfield puts and were making playing in the difficult conditions — which were at their worst for the semi finals — look easy. Meanwhile Bears against Ro Sham Bo was a much closer semi-final full of great plays from both teams. The result eventually came down to a sudden death point. Ro Sham Bo started the point on offence with the advantage of the wind behind them. After some patient play from Ro Sham Bo a huck went up into the endzone which was clung onto for the win, despite a huge layout bid from Bears, sparking celebrations from the Scottish team. Bears recovered from the disappointment of not being able to retain their title to beat Strange Blue to take the bronze medal.

A large crowd gathered in an atmosphere of great anticipation before the final. Many people were excited to see if Ro Sham Bo, who had attracted a large fan base from other Scottish teams, could overturn the odds again against Sublime to win the tournament. The wind had dropped since the semi-finals allowing for more expansive play which Sublime capitalised on early on converting both upwind and downwind points with the same impressive play seen in their semi final and took the half at 7-2. Soon after the half, however, Ro Sham Bo began a spirited comeback. They combined pinpoint hammers into the wind to break through Sublime’s zone with some great long play when the wind was behind them to bring them back within touching distance. The crowd, inspired by Ro Sham Bo’s play, began to get really involved in the match to the point where Benji was constantly patrolling the sidelines to check that spectators were 3m away from the pitch! In closing stages Sublime rallied and kept their heads to trade the final few points to take an 11-8 victory and the title of University Open Outdoor National Champions. Ian Popplestone (Pops), the Sublime captain, was delighted with his team’s achievements saying “Having the gold's an incredible feeling. The undefeated season that we trained for was a very rewarding way to finish most of our university Ultimate careers.”

Asked to what extent Sublime’s relationship with the Fully Charged open team had helped in their success Pops replied “The older members of Fully Charged have shared their experience and knowledge of the game to make the Sublime trainings more structured and relevant, helping no end with development of existing team players alongside training up freshers. On top of that, a lot of the Sublime players are in the Fully Charged squad, giving us the opportunity to consistently play against tough opposition in the core of A Tour. As a cycle, the University season is a great way for us to get in shape physically and mentally for the Tour season, and vice versa in preparation towards the next university season. I'd urge all universities to encourage their players to join teams on the Tour circuit, it's comfortably the best way for any new or existing university players to develop.”