TOUR 1 – Open A & B, and Women’s

23rd – 24th June 2007 --- Report by Tom Howard --- Full results: Open, Women

Following on from the backdrop of the UK’s first ever Tour Zero seeding event, Tour 1, run under the auspices of the UKUA in Harlington, West London, commenced the new open season. Harlington (used once before in 2003) seems to be a good, large venue and may well be used again in the future. Arguably, its only real demerit may have been a lack of shelter, made more apparent by the at times awful weather. The weather did not however deter the teams from attending. With sixteen women’s teams and forty-four open teams making the effort, the scene was well set for a tough battle in tricky conditions.

In the women’s division, Iceni were triumphant over Bristol in the final, while their second team scalped Leeds Ladies in the 3 vs. 4. Credit goes to Iceni for being such a strong club to be able to get two teams to the top end of the Tour, though it must be noted that perennial rivals Bliss were no longer in the frame. Bliss has disbanded for this year, leaving Iceni as hot favourites to sweep the board in 2007, though not, one would feel, if Leeds Ladies can up their game to finish higher than a usual third or fourth place finish. Bristol are evidently up for a fight this year as well, judging by this result. Whether Bliss will ever return to challenge Iceni’s apparent supremacy is uncertain.

Elsewhere in the division, Sheffield Steal Ladies appeared on the scene, not for the first time, but with new intentions to attend all Tours and become regulars. With some great players in and around the area, under the tutelage of Cath Moore, Steal have big plans this year and a more than prepared to scrap in out for the upper-middle placings. Also very encouraging is the addition of not one but two GB Junior Women’s teams on the tour, in preparation for Europeans in Southampton in the near future. GB 1 came a very respectable 14th, finishing higher than MU2, The Brown and GB2. People bang on about the future of British Ultimate all the time; here it was in action.

The Open division also saw some tough battles and some shake ups. In the A Tour, Clapham ran out comfortable, and possibly predictable, winners, beating Fusion in the final. Fusion had just come through a hotly contested semi against Fire of London, and Clapham took out Chevron. Although the final itself was not the enthrallingly close game that the spectators wanted, and even though the spectators began to drift away in the face of the adverse weather towards the end, the game did have some classically big moments to entertain. One of the biggest was Fusion’s Keith Hodgson getting a spectacular layout Callahan score, the first ever in a UK Tour Final.

Elsewhere in the top sixteen, Leeds were unlucky losers to Fusion in pool play, effectively putting them out of the top four. They finished 5th, as could have been expected, with reasonably comfortable games, but will be back with a vengeance at Tour 2. The top four is going to be a crowded place this year, and should well be changeable, with a variety of teams in contention and all looking for the best seeding they can take into EUCR-West qualifier in September. Relegated to the B Tour for Tour 2 were The Brown, Strange Blue and, after an uncharacteristic performance, EMO. EMO and Strange Blue will be favourite to yo-yo back up again next Tour, though plenty of teams will be hoping to make an impression for one of, or perhaps the last, promotion spot.

The B Tour turned some heads this time around. Encouragingly, this seems to the general trend in UK ultimate across the board, the standard getting higher, and the games closer. Amongst those eager to make a name for themselves were Leeds2, Boogie Knights and Sheffield Steal, though all were eventually beaten to the promotion spots by strong Ltd Release and Flyght Club sides, Ltd running out eventual B tour victors in a one sided final. Leeds and Boogie, both on their last legs after their respective semis due to injuries and exhaustion, were both beaten to the chance of the third promotion spots by surprise package ABH and former A tour contenders Devon Ultimate. They made effective use of an open schedule that allowed two teams to surge up the placings from anywhere in the lower tiers as a way to iron out kinks in seedings, both making it to the play-off game. Devon were eventual winners, joining Ltd and Flyght in the top sixteen next time around.

This, overall, means it’s still all to play for at Tour 2, in Mansfield on the 14th and 15th July. With another full women’s event, it remains to be seen if anyone can dethrone warrior-queens, Iceni, who will be up against some stiff resolve from their challengers. This, the last Tour before a break for most while Europeans plays out, will be also a chance for A Tour top flight laggers to pick up vital points towards EUCF, and those feeling hard-done-by in the B Tour to make their presence felt, while the promoted seek to avoid relegation, and vice versa. Exciting stuff, upping the ante on previous seasons; long may this upbeat approach to UK domestic competition continue.