Brummie recaps the open semifinals and final from the recent 2014 European Ultimate Championship Finals.
October 31, 2014 by Sion "Brummie" Scone in News, Recap with 1 comments
LONDON — The 2014 European Ultimate Championship Finals wrapped up earlier this month in Frankfurt, Germany, with the UK’s Clapham bringing home a third straight gold from Europe’s most prestigious tournament. Here is an in-depth look at the semifinals and final of the Open Division, breaking down the games tactically and spotlighting some of Europe’s biggest stars.
All footage available via Push Pass.
SEMIFINAL: Bad Skid (Germany) vs Freespeed (Switzerland)
Poor deep throwing and decision-making defined a sloppy semifinal between German powerhouse Bad Skid and Swiss outfit Freespeed. Neither team had a successful WUCC campaign by their own high standards so both had something to prove at EUCF; Freespeed had already defeated Chevron Action Flash (UK) while Bad Skid lost narrowly to Clapham (UK) in the first round power pools.
Both teams were sticking to zone transitions for most of the first half, and neither team’s handlers struggled to move the disc against the various looks; Freespeed, in particular, enjoyed the overheads while Bad Skid relied on zippy forehands. Both teams were extremely happy to throw deep, including into traffic or double coverage when their preferred receivers were going away, and Pieterjan De Meulenaere for Freespeed and Holger Beuttenmueller for Bad Skid both brought down a lot of floaty passes.
In a theme that would continue throughout the game, Bad Skid struggled to convert from the red zone in the first point and floated one up for Beuttenmueller; their next offesnive point saw both teams trade huck turnovers until Bad Skid hucked again — it’s misread but snapped up by a second receiver. The first break came courtesy of a misthrown dump from Luca Miglioretto, Bad Skid taking an early 4-2 lead, but it wouldn’t last long as Fabian Schmich makes a great grab after three consecutive turns on huck attempts to put the game back on serve 4-4.
Beuttenmueller takes control during one sloppy point; after four turns he receives ever other pass to lead 6-5. Freespeed stack their lines for the last point of the half and it worked as a high stall huck is well defended by David Moser. Gysin hucks to De Meulenaere who makes a good grab under strong pressure to give Freespeed the half time lead, 8-7.
The second half saw both teams going to the well with deep throws; Radicke punts to Robin Brüderlin who makes the crowd pleasing textbook layout grab for the 10-8 lead, and it’s no surprise to see De Meulenaere on the receiving end of another huck on Freespeed’s next O point. He used his significant size advantage to reach over the better positioned defender to maintain a two point lead. Bad Skid holds on offense despite turning, then its Brüderlin deep to De Meulenaere again. Bad Skid just keep sticking to their deep game and a huck into traffic gives Freespeed a break and the first three point lead of the game, 13-10.
The following point sees four incomplete deep throws before high pressure from Bad Skid forces a blade into the endzone which is caught high by Moser for another break and a 14-10 lead for Freespeed. A perfect huck to Marcel Hartmann put Bad Skid’s D line back out, but Freespeed chipped away and floated it up for another high grab, this time from Gysin for the 15-11 win and a return to the EUCF final.
SEMIFINAL: Clapham Ultimate (UK) vs Chevron Action Flash (UK)
The second semifinal saw a rematch of the Open UK National final, and yet again Clapham’s superior throwing abilities made the difference. Clapham started the half on offense, showing a side stack which allowed their fast cutters to work a lot of space. They timed their cuts well to keep the disc moving, and never looked under pressure. Chevron also used an isolation offense, but their cuts didn’t flow as quickly nor as well-timed as Clapham’s, instead relying on one cutter moving at a time.
Clapham got the first break of the game when a dump floated too high, and they broke again in the next point as Tom Abrams pulled down a questionable hammer from Chris Baker and threw crossfield to Phil Johnson to put Clapham up 5-2.
Clapham tried a poach set, but Chevron were quite content to go the length of the field using only 5 meters of width. James Mead went deep from a handler position and Richard Coward didn’t hesitate to jack it. Clapham’s handlers seemed to want to replicate this move as David Stobbs goes deep from a handler position and Jaimie Cross has eyes for no-one else. The resulting throw gives Chevron’s young D line their first chance of the game but they turf it, so Dom Clark and Schumacher run three consecutive give & go moves for the 7-4 lead. Clapham take half 8-4 after Phil Garner gets up early with a nice sky over Mead and Clapham’s D line offense has little trouble moving the disc.
Chevron come out on offence, again working the narrow sideline channel and Mark Davin expertly boxes out his defender for the goal; Clapham responds with Foord throwing deep to Clark who makes a clumsy half-layout grab to hold 9-5. The next point sees Chevron drop in the endzone and Clapham’s D line swing the disc, using the full width of the field to march methodically downfield, scoring on a break mark throw. It comes back for a pick, and they have no hesitation breaking the mark again to extend their lead to 5.
It’s a few more points before we get to see Clapham’s O again; they run their side stack – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – and Andy Mitchell throws deep to Foord. Bowen comes up with an athletic block but doesn’t contest the foul and Foord dishes for the goal. The next point sees Chevron drop a tough hammer in the endzone, but Ben Parsons comes up with a huge handblock on an attempted Abrams huck and Chevron hold.
Schumacher dominates at 13-8, using his incredible acceleration to run a number of give and go moves, and Clapham quickly take advantage of attempts to poach off to help. Coward and Davin team up for an easy goal despite Clapham running a switch on Davin going deep; he runs straight past Abrams to make it 14-9. Clapham make no mistakes to take the comfortable 15-9 win as their O line goes unbroken.
FINAL: Clapham vs Freespeed
A rematch of the 2013 final, this was a nervy game where Freespeed slowed down Clapham’s O line but never really put them under pressure.
It looked like De Meulenaere might have met his match when Abrams got a high block in the first point for Freespeed’s offence, but that would be the last time anyone stopped the big Swiss receiver today. After a Clapham throw away, Freespeed hucked again and Brüderlin pulled the disc down over two defenders. Clapham didn’t struggle against the zone, then a Freespeed huck to a laying out Brüderlin squared the game at 2-2.
Foord dropped a clanger, then Freespeed moved the disc incredibly quickly, breaking the mark with ease and taking the 2-3 lead. Clapham had the chance to tie the game, but De Meulenaere comes up with a monstrous, shoulder-high layout block to get the disc back for the Swiss. Nice high pressure defence from Clapham led to a high stall throw to Brüderlin who posterized his defender to maintain Freespeed’s lead, 3-4.
Freespeed continued making plays on offence; after Clapham easily converted another offensive point, their D line forced another high stall punt from De Meulenaere. There are two Clapham defenders with good position and they seem to think they’ve got this one in the bag as they do everything except actually touch the disc, which sails past both into the hands of a slightly surprised Brüderlin for his third goal and the 4-5 advantage.
So far, Freespeed has been playing a zone designed to prevent deep throws yet it has given Clapham easy underneath throws on the open side which they work for the goal. Meanwhile, Clapham is bringing pressure defense and forcing Freespeed to answer with big plays.
On their next break attempt, Clapham flowed easily until the endzone, where Ben Funk broke around and Harris made a spectacular catch where he is ground stripped and dislocates his shoulder. Freespeed scored very quickly, with L. Miglioretto easily beating Guilbert deep to hold the one goal advantage. Clapham again strolled in their offense with no pressure and again manage to force a high pressure turn; McCartney found Gordon wide open and Clapham put it back on serve, up at half 8-7.
More of the same in the second half as Freespeed hucked to De Meulenaere who easily handles the defensive pressure for the goal. Freespeed continued with their poach set — despite the fact that the only turnover it generated in the first half was due to a simple drop — and Clapham walk in another goal up the open sideline. A perfect deep shot from Helder Esteves hits a streaking Gysin in stride, then finally Freespeed brought a different defensive set, a 4 man cup. Cross attempts route 1, and his full field backhand huck sails way over Foord and out the sideline, but after trading huck turns, Cross gets it back with a layout block then hits Foord for the 10-9 lead.
Tempers flared in the following point after an aggressive bid by Gordon on Brüderlin, and it seemed to rattle Freespeed who overthrew Brüderlin deep two passes later. Freespeed again used a 4 man cup and Gysin got a layout block on a cheeky blade that was way too low, but L. Miglioretto missed an open Gysin for the goal.
There are lots of stoppages now, lots of calls and the pace of the game slows considerably.
The cup kept Clapham pinned in their own endzone but Clapham swung consistently, tiring the defenders until Abrams hit Richard Raz with a flat hammer for the break and 11-9 lead, the largest of the game so far. A cheap hack on the mark by Clapham got the crowd booing in the next point, and a few passes later De Meulenaere dropped an easy under pass. Clapham’s D line showed their poise once more as Guilbert threw a nice falling-over-forehand around the mark for Clapham’s third in a row and a 3 point lead, 12-9.
Freespeed ramped up their defensive intensity as N. Miglioretto got an athletic reach around layout block on Mitchell but it went back on a contested foul and Clapham scored. Freespeed are shortening their lines now, with the more experienced players playing both ways as they can sense their best shot yet at a European title slipping away from them. Three huck turns follow before Garner throws a flick low and wide which is spectacularly saved by a full extension layout from Guilbert, and Clapham made it game point, 14-10.
A low huck from Esteves is missed by Johnson and athletically caught by a twisting Olivier Gaugler, then Freespeed break courtesy of a L. Miglioretto layout block. When De Meulenaere got a layout block in the following point, it gave Freespeed a chance to keep the end of the game interesting, but Schumacher snatched a crucial poach block, threw a blade to Foord who assessed the field, spoted Ashley Yeo open deep, and calmly threw the championship winning assist.
Clapham’s 15-12 victory gave the club its third consecutive European gold, but this wasn’t the one-sided final of last year. Clapham’s O line was rarely tested, and while they seemed reliant on working the open side, if an opponent gives easy passes then any smart offense will take them.
I was extremely impressed with Clapham’s D line offense; they consistently used the width of the field and quickly moved the disc the length of the field without needing to rely on playmakers, although they were a little wasteful when throwing long. I was also surprised that Freespeed stuck with their poaching set which didn’t result in many turns; perhaps they knew that Clapham’s overconfidence could be their undoing in some of the more bizarre options taken by Clapham’s offensive line. It felt that Freespeed were too scared of Clapham’s deep game and gave up far too many uncontested points, yet overall it was definitely a successful campaign by the Swiss who brought a confident game, no doubt bolstered by the huge playmaking ability of their stars and critical wins over Bad Skid and Chevron Action Flash. Next year may be their time, but only if they can reduce the number of turnovers throwing deep to anyone other than their big playmakers.