Captain Ben Groombridge isn’t the biggest fan of mornings, but awoke enthusiastically on the morning of Tour 2: London’s Calling announcing to the club that he was ready to get his ‘Londond call on’. This typo went on to inspire a generation of ‘Swift line’ players to end words with an unnecessary letter d, as they aspired to be more like Ben.
Having narrowly avoided relegation in Nottingham, we were heading to London to prove that we were so much better than what we’d shown everyone so far. The Show Game would be made to regret ignoring us in their B Tour Preview. Everyone was excited to see the return of Jack Goddard and Freddie Neville-Jones, as well as the addition of (American) Andrew Russell, along with the transition to upwind/downwind lines which had started to show some momentum toward the end of Tour 1. The inevitable introduction of Taylor Swift to the club’s line-up, was sure to have a positive impact on the team’s mindset, reminding us to shake off any negativity. Upon arrival in London, we were introduced to ‘The Buddy System’. Each player partnered themselves with a player on the opposite line and was to be their buddy for the whole weekend. Sideline them when they’re on the pitch. Check they’re drinking, wearing suncream, need a backrub, help tying shoelaces, etc. Tom Summerbee was my buddy and we were the best at it (though I think my spirit has become considerably worse as a side-effect, but nowhere near as bad as Tom’s).
With Bristol 2 starting at 9:30, most of the team had an early start to drive over and a bit of a wait before our first game at 12:30 against Vision, the top seeds in our group. The match opened with both teams trading back and forth fairly evenly, until the Taylor line found its rhythm and started to put a few breaks in, going on to take the game 14-10. There was no time at all to relax after this match, with us being straight back on for the next game.
We were up against Dublin Gravity, a team that we had played against at The Siege (apparently, I wasn’t there). Uncertain of what we were up against, not recognising many of their players we concluded the best approach was to come out hard and with lots of intensity (so basically, do what we normally try and do). It became apparent quite quickly that they had a tall guy with yellow boots who most of the play would move through and so we attempted to shut him out of the game as much as possible. Both lines really began to click on offense during this match and it quickly got out of control to our advantage. Our greater level of fitness was also apparent after playing two games back-to-back and we finished up nice and early with a score of 15-4. The Gravity guys showed great spirit in the huddle afterwards, thanking us approximately 2 million times before we even did high fives.
Levels of confidence were high at this stage, with the team having a lot of momentum from back-to-back wins. The Captains generously allowed us a whole 10 minutes to savour our victory before we had to ‘forget about it and focus on the next game’. I made sure Tom was drinking his water, then we headed over to the show-pitch to watch Chevron v GB while we waited for our next game. What happened next can only be described as a supernatural event (no, I’m not talking about Ben scoring a point). In their anger at being defeated by us, Dublin Gravity summoned the rain from Ireland, and it came, down and down and down it fell. We were lucky that we were inside (we were, you can check the highlight reel: https://youtu.be/EwSPvwe5bPs?t=1m17s ) or we probably would have drowned. Sadly the second team weren’t so lucky. We chilled out in the tent. Romaric Pascal bought some clothes. I got some nice red shorts. We postponed the warm-up by 10 minutes. We postponed it by another 10 minutes. With 15 minutes till game time, we finally headed to the pitch/lake to ‘warm-up’ in the dug-out by watching Tilley and Fish throw before finding out the final matches of the day were cancelled due to the unfortunate weather conditions. With the incredibly wet conditions we opted to abandon our camping plans for warm beds and headed home to Bristol to prepare ourselves for a big day. The final game being cancelled resulted in them reverting to initial seedings to decide the next matchups. Due to a lacklustre performance in Nottingham, we therefore finished 2nd in our Pool for the day behind Curve (despite our superior results).
Sunday started with a big quarter final against Fire 2, with only a win being able to keep our promotion chances alive. With Tom and Bend both being Fire veterans, we huddled up to hear what advice they had to share. We were told “don’t be afraid of the jersey” and not allow their club’s reputation to get into our heads. An incredibly fierce game ensued. I felt it was the toughest match we had in the tournament, though that may be because it was the first game on a Sunday and everything was on the line (with no more promotion opportunities if we lost). The game was neck and neck, both teams more or less trading evenly throughout (I think both teams broke the other once). Taylor line found their flow nice and quickly, scoring most of their possessions and while the Swift line were getting plenty of turnovers we struggled to convert them into points. It came down to the most nail-biting sudden death point I have ever witnessed. Both teams put the disc up repeatedly, with Mike Richardson in particular having a spectacular fully horizontal, shoulder height layout that he almost caught in the endzone. In the end though, Captain Graham Reed decided enough was enough and caught the disc in the endzone, scoring his first point of the tournament to seal the win.
The next match was for promotion to A Tour! Things were getting serious. We were going up against Team JR who we had previously beaten at Fog Lane, but they were almost a completely different squad this time around. A whole bunch of faces we didn’t recognise were there, along with others like Bristol University star Adam Morgan, they looked much stronger than our previous meeting. We knew this was going to be a big game, with lots of big shots and unpredictable play, but we were ready. The game was closely fought, both sides trading fairly consistently. The Swift line finally started to get the ball rolling on offense and it became an incredibly hotly contested match, but unfortunately for JR they just couldn’t shake off a couple of our points at the end and we came out with a 12-10 victory, securing our spot in A-Tour. The team was ecstatic. I think I saw Mike crying. Tom was so happy he forgot to drink his water. With JR out of the way we were both in A-Tour and in the final, our first final as a team!
In the past, I’ve been in teams that have cracked under this type of pressure or have got a bit overexcited. We did our best to stay relaxed and get settled before the final. We were up against Cult, a team we’d played in our first match at Fog Lane earlier in the season and been fairly well beaten, but not so much that we thought they were beyond our grasp. They were an A-Tour staple and are around the level that we’ve been aiming to be at. Though they’d beaten us before, we knew we were a different team this time around, in players, mentality and ability. It was also obvious from the outset that we were much much more up for this game than they were and it showed with us going out and taking the first point. The Swift line finally gelled in this final match, beginning to shine and showing off their speed and athleticism. I know that I personally only then realised that I should just run deep to the endzone and let Patrick Ward throw it to me for easy points. Despite the hype of it being the final, I felt this game was probably the least tight of the games we played on Sunday, with the scoreline reflecting that as we took the win 15-10! Needless to say we were pretty pleased with our victory, they even gave us a nice little trophy to commemorate (which has now seen all the sites there are to see in Bristol), but there was more! We got free shorts! Amazing right?! Free! They’re grey and look especially cool because they say ‘London Calling Champions’ on the side! Wow! I’m fairly sure Rom is going to incorporate them into our new kit designs for next year.
With all said and done, we were incredibly pleased with the performance of the weekend (and season!). We had achieved our goal of the season of getting into A-Tour and were going to be able to go on and play some seriously competitive ultimate at Tour 3 and hopefully in the 2016 season. The team gelled incredibly well, with the sideline really getting into the games. Our spirit was pretty good (other than Tom). The tactics and playstyle finally found their flow as the lines got more comfortable with each other, with some excellent chemistry and relationships forming and we’ve got a glimpse of the potential we have as a team to put together some really nice ultimate! However we also know that there’s plenty of work to be done; it took us
the whole tournament to really get into the swing of things and we definitely will be punished dramatically in A-Tour if it takes us that long. The little execution errors were probably more of a problem than our playstyle and we had to iron those out to be at our best! Ultimately though (get it?), let’s go smash A-Tour! Bristol has arrived. Dreams have been realised and all it took was Taylor Swift, being buddies and a little a bit of American magic.