Clapham has a new opponent in the final
October 1, 2022 by Sean Colfer in Recap with 0 comments
What. A. Day. The quarters and semis were scintillating, and we have two finalists who have had very different paths to the big game. Let’s start with the round of eight and work from there.
Favorites fall on one side of the draw
The quarter-finals looked set to provide a final four that we potentially could have picked months ago. Clapham (London) and CUSB La Fotta (Bologna) were on one side following CUSB’s loss to Ranelagh (Dublin) in the pools, while Mooncatchers (Brussels) and Wall City (Berlin) were on the other. All four teams have had good seasons and have been in finals of various tournaments in the build-up, and all would have been in the top five if anyone had picked the best teams in Europe so far this season ahead of this EUCF in Caorle.
Clapham and CUSB held up their side of that particular bargain. Clapham dealt with KFK (Copenhagen) effectively, taking three early breaks and pushing the score on bit by bit for a 15-9 win. The Italians beat Chevron Action Flash (Nuneaton) with a spectacular offensive effort, giving up just one O line turn in the whole game. Chevron, for its part, played very well and made things difficult for CUSB but couldn’t quite turn the defensive pressure into those all-important breaks and eventually fell 15-12. Clapham vs CUSB is a game we are used to seeing, and the teams booked it for the semi-finals this time around.
The other side of the draw was the one that provided the drama we hoped for. Mooncatchers had caused controversy yesterday with a strange loss to Chevron that put them on this side of the bracket. They faced Irish champions Ranelagh, a strong opponent which made semi-finals and pushed CUSB close last year. The Belgians started out strong and went up 4-5 on the team from Dublin, but Ranelagh roared back with two breaks to go to 6-5. Moon drew level at 9-9 but when the wind picked up, Moon struggled to move the disc effectively under stifling Irish pressure. A massive layout catch block from Ferdia Rogers epitomised the Ranelagh effort and they pulled 13-11 ahead with some key breaks. Key offensive players were playing on the D line regularly to provide some scoring punch, with one of Rogers, Sam Murphy and Tadhg Deevy on the field for pretty much every important point in the middle of the game. Moon put on huge pressure and tried everything to get the breaks back, throwing themselves around with sometimes reckless abandon1 but the men from Dublin held firm and booked a place in the semis.
Ranelagh captain Stephen Jones said: “We knew the success Mooncatchers had on the global scene this season and hadn’t had a chance to play them so that fed into our excitement for this game. The matchups for height can be daunting with both Jonkers and Orlovskis and they’re all accomplished throwers as well. We were lucky in one respect in that the middle of the pitch was torn up so we tried to force them into that, cut and throw into that small space and take away those deep shots.”
In the other quarter on that side of the draw it was an all-German affair. German champions Wall City faced the team they defeated in that final, Heidees (Eppelheim). Wall was favorites given the respective results and took half 6-8 with a strong first-half effort. The younger team grew into the contest, though, coming out of half with renewed focus and eventually pulling it out 14-11, the D line sealing a semi-final spot with an upset revenge win. Heidees has a storied history in Germand and European competition, and this young team is showing signs that it can live up to that name with aplomb in the coming seasons.
Semis with very different stories
We’ll start with the second semi-final, between Ranelagh and Heidees, since that will take up a bit less time. The Germans looked nervous in the first few points and Ranelagh2 took advantage with early breaks. The Irish team went up 2-0, further expanded that lead to 5-2 after some trading and took half 8-4. The young Germans were never able to recover from there and eventually fell 15-7. Ranelagh captain Jones said the team had benefitted from focusing only on themselves ahead of such a big game:
“With Heidees the energy was about us, the focus was on us. We went in really positive and maybe wanted to right some wrongs from last season. Heidees are incredibly talented and very young3, I really hope they go and give CUSB a phenomenal game tomorrow.”
The first semi was an instant classic. Both teams were clearly fired up for this one, each playing the team that it has measured itself against for the last half-decade or more. Both teams came out hot, playing extremely physically and the CUSB sideline and the local fans were loud, energized and intense. A three breaks to one advantage for CUSB in the first half and hold out of half gave the Italians a 6-9 lead. Clapham were looking like they might finally be showing some weakness.
In response, the Londoners ground out a hold and the D line, the strength of the team all season, went to work. Two breaks in a row with O line players like Justin Foord, Ollie Gordon and Yeo4 crossing over dragged them level. Some intense, highly pressured holds followed to 12-12 with Clapham to pull as the time ran down. The D line was again the hero for the Bullfrogs as they snatched another break, and with the cap now on the game to 14, the D line finished off the job with a short throw from Connor McHale to Andrew Hillman, two of the main stalwarts for the defensive unit all season. Clapham celebrated wildly, CUSB players dropped to the ground in agony.
Clapham captain Josh Briggs lauded the standard of ultimate on show in the semi-final: “A great game against CUSB. Right up there with the highest quality and most enjoyable ones we’ve played over the years. Both teams clearly had some new ideas to throw at each other, which is good to see in such a thoroughly explored matchup.”
Final between familiar foes
Ranelagh and Clapham know each other extremely well. At the Elite Invite Ranelagh took a commanding 9-3 lead but the Dubliners saw it slip like sand through their fingers as Clapham scored 12 in a row to take the win. At WUCC Clapham came out 15-10 winners in a more balanced game. Clapham has never lost to Ranelagh, and the game will be streamed, both bad signs for the Laghds. However, one of the main focuses for Ranelagh at this tournament has been managing the emotions of the squad. After making its first European semi-final last year there was a feeling that the emotional let-down meant that the team was unable to bring its best against CUSB in the semi.
Jones knows that the new-found approach can take the team far, and that they haven’t played Clapham with this outlook before.
“We know we are adaptable, we have very accomplished coaches and we know that they are going to be able to recognise what other teams are doing and we can take that on board and adjust accordingly. We have played Clapham a couple of times this season but we are going in with a new mind set. We are excited to see how we are going to perform against them. We showed ourselves at the Elite Invite that we can go up on them so we know what they can do but we know what we’re capable of too. We want to play this game on our own terms.”
Briggs, meanwhile, knows that Clapham cannot take anything for granted.
“We’re very focused on tomorrow. We know Ranelagh well and have had a mixed bag of performances against them this year. They are clearly playing with great confidence at this tournament and we felt that they were underrated at WUCC. So we need to establish ourselves early and press our experience advantage in European finals from minute 1 to 90.”
One particularly poorly timed bid looks to have injured Ranelagh cutter Luke Doyle. ↩
Which was riding a streak of 10 streamed game losses in a row. ↩
The captains, Julius Sontag and Jasper Linde, are 21 and 20 respectively and there are some teenagers on the roster as well. ↩
All Great Britain World Games players. ↩