EUF Elite Invite 2022: Tournament Recap (Open)

A big weekend for Wall City helped Berlin snag wins in two divisions in Bologna.

Berlin's Wall City celebrate a major title in at EUF Elite Invite 2022. Credit: Elite Invite 2022 – EUF, CUS Bologna
Berlin’s Wall City celebrate a major title at EUF Elite Invite 2022. Credit: Elite Invite 2022 – EUF, CUS Bologna

BOLOGNA, ITALY — All of the top eight teams from last season’s xEUCF were in attendance in Bologna for EUF’s Elite Invite 2022, keen to start the season off by revisiting previous matchups and winning rematches. However, just like in the Women’s division, much has changed since October, and some teams found themselves on the receiving end of some harsh realities.

Final Standings

  1. Wall City (Berlin, Germany)
  2. CUSB La Fotta (Bologna, Italy)
  3. Clapham Ultimate (London, Great Britain)
  4. KFK (Copenhagen, Denmark)
  5. Bad Skid (Heilbronn, Germany)
  6. Ranelagh (Dublin, Ireland)
  7. FUJ (Prague, Czech Republic)
  8. Gentle Open (Ghent, Belgium)

Clapham and La Fotta Escape Pool Play on Top

For at least the past decade, Clapham breezing through their pool games is usually a safe assumption at almost any European competition. Not so this season, it appears.

Most of the Londoner’s O-line were away at a World Games training weekend, so while their first game against FUJ was straightforward enough, Irish rivals Ranelagh knocked them for a loop, stifling Clapham’s offense and causing havoc on defense. Of the first 12 points in the game, Clapham only managed to hold three times and scored zero breaks. It was pandemonium at the field, but it didn’t last. From 9-3 up, Ranelagh very much lost the game for themselves, making simple execution errors and dropping easy catches as the game wore on and the chance at an upset slipped through their fingers. Clapham pulled themselves together and went on to score 12 points in a row, taking the game 15-9. KFK gave the Brits another close game but ultimately fell just a few points short. Despite the multiple scares, Clapham managed their typical spot atop their pool, though the warning signs were there.

KFK were able to snag the second spot in Pool A to line up a tough semi against La Fotta. Despite Ranelagh beating the Danes, their loss to FUJ — perhaps a hangover after their rough collapse against Clapham — pushed the Irish to the bottom of a three-way tie, and the pool.

Pool B saw hosts CUSB La Fotta dominate, their closest game 15-12 against Bad Skid; both Gentle and Wall City only managed to score six each against the home team. American readers may be familiar with two of La Fotta’s most recent pickups, Kurt Gibson and Jonathan ‘Goose’ Helton; often called to play together on the same line, the pair were as dominant as one might expect.

Gentle, who won bronze at xEUCF 2021 and came into the weekend riding high after recently winning Belgian Nationals, had a tough time in the windy conditions, failing to win a game all weekend. Wall City surprised their countrymen Bad Skid, winning the dubious prize of a semi-final against Clapham.

A Tale of Two Semis

In one semifinal on Sunday afternoon, La Fotta handily dispatched KFK 15-6, the Danish offense crumbling in the face of the Italian fire and passion.

Meanwhile, Wall City and Clapham were playing a very different game. Though it was close throughout, Wall City took an early lead and then kept it, fighting through their initial nerves to hold their offensive points cleanly and even put enough pressure on Clapham to force and then convert turns. With little fanfare, the Berliners took the win 15-13 and were through to the final to face the hosts, who had already beaten them convincingly earlier on Sunday.

CUSB certainly didn’t appear to be feeling concerned about their chances in the final, so much so that they organized a last-minute scrimmage with Clapham on Monday morning before the final, since the two longtime rivals weren’t going to have a chance to square off otherwise. On a field far away from the main tournament, which Davide Morri described as ‘the worst pitch in Bologna’, La Fotta beat a (possibly low-morale) Clapham 15-6, and then made ways back to the showcase pitch. This was a decision that they now likely regret.

Wall City Knock Down La Fotta

The stage had been set for the Open final. The actors were a little different to what most had expected, but the sideline was packed. Wall City won the toss and put the first point on the board within 20 seconds, Julian Öser slinging a massive flick huck to Jakob Dieckmann. La Fotta’s O-line took to the field, working up with pitch with their characteristic speed and flow. Kurt Gibson, looking to the end zone, saw Simone Gasperini and rocketed a crossfield flick blade to the far front cone. Too far for Gasperini, who even laying out at full stretch could not make the catch. Under intense pressure from La Fotta, Wall City’s D-line struck up line once, twice, and a third time by Sebastian Spiegel put Wall City 2-0 up on La Fotta, who suddenly weren’t looking quite so comfortable.

When, in the next point, the Italians turned over on a second overthrow, it looked as though they might have left all their passion and energy on the worst pitch in the city with Clapham, and left none for Wall City. A drop from Lucas Johnson gave CUSB the disc back very near their end zone, and after a couple of quick dump and swing passes, Alessandro De Lucca found Edoardo Trombetti on the break side, despite the efforts of a fully horizontal Ron Dömpke. After a clean hold for each team, Wall City brushing off La Fotta’s defense to move the disc up the open side and La Fotta looking long after some initially messy cutting downfield, the Italians called a time-out. In their final at xEUCF against Clapham last fall, their cutting discipline had all but broken down, so it was a smart call to try to recollect and nip the nerves in the bud.

Down 3-2, CUSB’s under defense shut down Wall City’s first few options, but a high-stall inside throw followed by Dieckmann once again miles free in the end zone kept the Berliners ahead. Helton, backing Trombetti to make a play in the end zone with two German defenders either side, was disappointed, and Wall City had a chance to go 5-2 up on the second-best team in Europe. The La Fotta defense was stifling, forcing the Germans to lose yards, regain, then lose them again. Eventually, Spiegel struck up the line, and sat the disc out in front of Sönke Matschurek, who dove headfirst towards the crowd at the back of the end zone and emerged roaring with triumph, spiked the disc onto the ground and immediately disappearing into a crowd of his teammates hugging him.

The Wall City D-line was on fire, and even though La Fotta held their next point, the assist should by rights go to Richard Heinrichs. Laying out more than a meter above the ground, he couldn’t quite get enough of a hand to disc to tip it out of the back, and it was safely gathered up by Davide Parodi. Bologna was then handed a gift of an opportunity in the form of a short-field turn, after David Metzger threw right into a poach, but a stone-cold drop by Lorenzo Simonazzi in the end zone gave possession right back. Wall City slowed the momentum down and put on a masterclass of patient offense, eventually capitalizing on a miscommunication from La Fotta that left Christian Gaffney wide open in the end zone on the break side. Morri — who had thrown the chest pass to Simonazzi — was beside himself, shouting hoarsely at his team, who looked dejected.

La Fotta were falling apart offensively, almost immediately throwing a turn to Dömpke, it was unclear who the intended receiver even was. A fluttery high-release to Matschurek put Wall City up 7-3, and now it wasn’t just Morri who was shouting. Another timeout called by CUSB, looking desperately for something to stop the oncoming German tide. Whatever was said had little effect, as the disc was put long off the centring pass to Andrea Mastroianni, who had not one, not two, but four Wall City defenders surrounding him, and was unable to unbox himself. Gibson managed to avoid a break at the first time of asking by skying Conrad Schlör for a block in Wall City’s end zone, but Toby Mine threw away both the disc up the line and, with it, the opportunity to hold. A miscommunication on the force and Öser banged a flick blade to Hartley Greenwald to take half on La Fotta, 8-3, three points in a row against the European silver medalists.

Out of half, both teams held their offenses, but yet again, La Fotta blinked first, trying to force a high-stall throw to Gibson, which hit the ground, and it was Matschurek once again, toeing the line for Schlör, to score Wall City’s last break of the game.

It was all over bar the crying. Or was it? All trades from 10-5 to 12-7, until Morri snagged a block on a heroic upline layout D. Perhaps motivated by their glorious leader’s example, perhaps afraid of the consequences if they didn’t convert Morri’s defensive efforts, La Fotta scored their first break, assisted to Riccardo Venturoli by who else but Morri. Öser had also rolled his ankle in that point, so the Berliners’ energy dipped somewhat. Some untidy cutting, and Luca Tognetti poached off to steal the disc from Metzger, a big gainer, Wall City on the back foot, and suddenly Giovanni ‘Cioppo’ Santucci had found Helton in the endzone, who bounced the disc off his forehead in celebration and danced backwards with delight.

Their joy was short-lived. Wall City took a timeout, slowed the momentum, and held their offense, 13-9. La Fotta held twice, Wall City once. It was 14-11, and the Germans were on offense. An upline from Gaffney, then to Dieckmann streaking deep, almost in, not quite, back to the end zone line and thread the needle to his captain, Vladislav Basov – and they’d done it. In one weekend, Wall City had beaten the longstanding German Champions Bad Skid, the (albeit depleted) European Champions Clapham, and the best team in Italy, on home turf.

And the season has only just begun.

  1. Ali Thomas
    Ali Thomas

    Ali Thomas is a commentator for ulti.tv, based in London.

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