Strange Blue Tournament Report

Open Tour 2

14.Jul.2007 - Mansfield

Open Tour Two | Mansfield

And so to the B Tour, but with a sizeable squad capable of beating all-comers: Jon Middleton, Chris Rowlands, Jez Bird, Paul Robustelli, Hammad Parwaiz, Mark Stephens, James Kermode, Matt Shannon, Lee 'MacEnroe', Mike Fletcher, James Nicoll, Pedro Matos, Tido Eger, Bruce Lin, Tom Cope, Steve Schindewolf (Sat only) and myself.

Saturday (peer pools within top 8)

Strange Blue 15 - 5 LeedsLeedsLeeds 2
A hard first few points of the weekend in blustery conditions saw us tied at 4-4 with LLL2. However, by this time we were getting into our stride with some committed zone D and solid offence. The pressure we put on through our D paid dividends, and the O was good enough to score both up and down wind and we pulled this one away 15-5. Not only did this prove that our long-serving handlers were finding their groove, but also that all the new boys were starting to work well as part of the team, with plenty of stuff going through the cup and some good continuation cuts too. Not perfect, but a great start.

Strange Blue 12 - 9 ABH
We knew we could beat ABH, and we started with the right intensity to do just that, following on well from the LLL2 game. Again our defence was in-their-face and some more decent O put us 7-2 up. Unfortunately we got complacent and our level dropped off, letting ABH back into a game that they should never have had a sniff of (by the way, some life advice: never have a sniff of Paul). Thankfully we managed to pick it up again through the second half, and made sure of the win. We still need to make more of continuation cuts on the wings and of busting the cup, but this was largely a solid performance and again great to see everyone involved in the play.

Strange Blue 15 - 10 Sheffield Steal
So the way the group had turned out, this game was meaningless - we would top the pool whatever. With end-of-day weariness setting in, we seemed to take that as an excuse for a lazy game. We really lost our focus in this one and as a result had to grind our way to 7-7. The thought of taking the half finally provided some inspiration though, and we took it with some much more convincing play. Having reminded ourselves of what we could do with some application, the second half was much more as the whole game should have been, and as a result we pulled away to take the game 15-10 - and top the group undefeated to remain second seeds. A cracking first day, then, although we do need to realise that we could have had showers half an hour earlier if we had stepped it up against Steal from the start.

Sunday (top 6 playoff matches)

Strange Blue 7 - 15 The Brown
Sunday morning, and the B Tour semi-final. Win this, and make A Tour. Simple. Except that we didn't really turn up. Despite being pretty fired up, we didn't actually take that energy onto the pitch. More importantly we didn't adapt to the change from a dry but windy first day to a wet but still day for this game. Despite a brief recovery from 3-0 down to just 4-3 behind, getting back to the basics proved beyond us as The Brown kept up a really high level and played about as well as they can. We didn't shut down their homeboy stuff and we didn't have enough energy or the right timing to our own cutting. We need to keep nailing the basics in training so that we can play stack and man D - not something we've done much of for a while given the weather at various tournies. Anyhow, a hugely disappointing start to the day, but one to learn from.

Strange Blue 15 - 3 Boogie Knights
It turns out that Cambridge folk can learn pretty well. Having been all over the place in the previous game, we upped the level massively for the crossover with the other pool (i.e. 3rd against 5th). This time, we were shutting down first passes after the pull, we were closing down all of their options from the stack and we were getting layout blocks. Different game. Our O came to life too, with much better timing of continuation and long cuts, together with much more focussed decisions. Most impressively, the sideline inspired us to keep at that level throughout the game, taking the half 8-2 and the game 15-3. This is what we can do when we really commit to the game, both on and off the field. We really worked as a team in this one and although we can always improve, this was a dramatic and one-sided win. Nice 1 boys.

Strange Blue 15 - 10 LeedsLeedsLeeds 2
After 5 long games, it came down to this. A re-match against LLL2 in the 3rd/4th playoff for the last promotion spot. It was always likely that they'd come back stronger than their first game against us, and so it proved. Leeds really put pressure on us in this one, with a couple of their players really standing out and making a difference. However, we applied ourselves well to the task and although we made some errors, we worked hard to get it back. 8-6 to us at the half reflected how tight it had been, but it was a great effort to grind that half out in the face of Leeds' pressure. Seven more points for A Tour... The second half saw us push harder still and we really started to get our 3-4 offence working. That combined with better focus on D meant that we started to pull away. We finally finished the job 15-10 to ensure 5 wins out of 6 for the weekend, 3rd spot and promotion straight back to the A Tour!! Cracking effort from everyone.

MVP - Jon Middleton
Jon had a big weekend, and I don't just mean from brownie consumption. Solid handling as well as doing loads of work upfield and on D meant that he was consistently the man that the rest of us should be getting up to the level of. Nice 1 Jon.

It's a shame we had that blip against The Brown because we would have had a great shot at beating EMO in the B Tour final. That said, the way we came back from the disappointment of that loss was a great credit to the team - BK were really crushed and it was a solid second win against Leeds to get us back to the top 16. It really showed what we can do with this size of squad when we really get behind each other.

Finally I just want to add thanks to everyone who made it - we really did play some great stuff at times and it was a pleasure throughout the weekend. As always, the handlers did an outstanding job but it was also fantastic to see the newer guys to the team learning fast and really being a massive part of the success. Great stuff fellas - I'm looking forward to posting our best-ever finish at Tour Three in Cardiff (18-19 August). Cancel all your other plans to be there!!