Our first game of the weekend will be against Clapham! It's hard to know whether being thrown in at the deep end will be good for us. The last time we played Clapham was in a friendly game the week before Nationals last year and we won. However, the first time we played Clapham last year we came out super slow and really intimidated at the Fog Lane Cup in 2012 and ended up losing with relatively no challenge to them. We also played them at Regionals in the Semis and traded out to 11-11 (I think) before they pulled away. If we can get a fast start against Clapham I think we can hang with them, but their performance at Tour 1 was absolutely dominating with their O-Line taking first and their D-Line taking 3rd. They will come together to form one team for this tour and will be a force to be reckoned with. They are heading to a tournament in the US over the summer in prep for Euros this year where they will attempt to defend their title and Worlds next year.
The other teams in our group are GB Under 23 Open and Ranelagh. We didn't get to play Ranelagh at all last year and we didn't get to play the Under 23s at Fog Lane this year or Tour 1, but both will be tough opponents.
Our goal for this year is to make worlds. Getting to Semis would be such a great step on the way to that goal, and to achieve that we need to come in the top 2 of our group. There will be no quarters so if we don't finish top 2 of the group, and the highest we would be able to finish would be 5th.
Our group certainly looks tough but this is what we've trained for. If it goes to seed we would be playing for 5th so our aim should be to unseat GB U23 and not give away the upset against Ranelagh and play Clapham as close as possible with it not being beyond the realms of possibility that we cause a big upset in game 1.
Preparation will be key and if we can prepare properly, and go into Game 1 with our heads set straight and with no nerves that could be huge for our weekend.
- The teams coming up this tour (Glasgow, Manchester and LeedsLeedsLeeds) look set to keep moving up and I can see a couple of upsets in their pools being caused.
- The top 8 looks stronger than it has for a good while, with: EMO1 looking to take games based on a combination of youth with experience and noise with patience; GB Under 23s looking strong in their buildup to Toronto; long time challenger and last year's nationals silver medallists Fire 1 starting 5th (the lowest they have for a while) out for revenge; Ka-Pow! trying to build momentum like we did through last season and challenge for a top spot; Ranelagh coming from a strong 2012 season and to consolidate winning Ireland's only bid to their EUC Region and Brighton bringing new talent through their HUGE club scene. Topped off by perennial powerhouses Clapham and Chevron looking to build towards their (what most would see as inevitable) runs towards the European Gold Medals and Worlds next year.
Whatever anyone says, I think this Tour will be really exciting. One thing that is threatening to dampen spirits is the weather which is scheduled to be windy and rainy. It will provide a very different challenge to Tour 1 and could shake up some teams who maybe don't have the optimal strategies or aren't able to adjust as well.
Saturday's Games to Watch:
Game 1 (09:00): It's tough to pick out any game other than Clapham vs Ka-Pow!
Game 2 (10:40): Again Clapham feature, this time against the GB Under 23 Open team trying to cause the upset
Game 3 (12:20): The first games on the other side of the top 8 will be starting and of the two Chevron vs Fire should be more entertaining.
Game 4 (14:00): In what could the battle for Semis Ka-Pow! take on GB Under 23 Open.
Game 5 (15:40): In what could be the battle for Semis in Group B EMO vs Fire looks like the best matchup, though the rematch of the B-Tour semi final from Tour 1 between Manchester and Glasgow, which last time around went to Sudden Death could be worth a watch too
Game 6 (17:00): If EMO don't beat Fire, they could be trying to give everything they've got against Chevron to force a three way tie or, if Fire beat Chevron, knock them out of semis altogether.