Newcastle Pies went into Nationals seeded highest in Division 3, and we went the whole distance over a competitive and action-packed couple of days down in Nottingham.
The weekend started with a large amount of hype and excitement; we were given an impressive tournament review and had some big mentions to live up to. We were seeded first in the BUCS conference cup, and due to an unlucky result last year and the strange BUCS system for ultimate, we were locked down in Division 3 with a couple of other big name teams.
To start the weekend, St Andrews came at us with a fairly inexperienced side but had a couple of strong throwers, clearly trained well by their skilled first team players. They struggled against our signature ‘Arrowhead’ zone and were limited to small throws or very risky long shots. After gaining many points from unforced errors, we comfortably ended the game 13-0, hitting the points cap before full time.
Next were UEA and despite having more experience on paper than St. Andrews, they struggled against our suffocating defence just as much. We exposed their lack of chemistry and caused them to make silly mistakes, bringing the game to a close at 13-2.
“Pies legend Andrew Macgill owned the sky”
Brighton were our final pool game and we expected them to be our first strong competition. They scared us by taking the lead early and leaving us trailing by one for a few points. Though eventually, Pies captain Ivan Mladjenovic shut playmaker Ricardo Fungairino down, ending Saturday on an 11-7 high.
Spirits were high as we relaxed into a late start on Sunday, and in the first match of the day we faced Sussex 2s. They had impressive athleticism and had clearly been trained well by their first team and eventual National Men’s champions, Sussex 1s.
Despite their high experience level for a second team, we comfortably ground out an 11-1 win. We now had to put behind us any memory of our easy games and prepare for our semi-final against one of the other two unfairly placed Division 3 teams, Sheffield.
“UEA struggled against our suffocating defence just as much as St Andrews”
The game began at an instantly intense level and only accelerated throughout. Despite a game mainly dictated by wind direction, we managed to burst out of the starting blocks and score a much needed upwind break.
This determination combined with Pies legend Andrew Macgill owning the sky scared Sheffield and both teams played what could have arguably been one of the most intense games of their Uni career. Huge layout blocks were made, chants were roared and discs were slammed on the ground in sheer elation.
A very close and hard fought game ended 6-5 and saw us through to the final. Now only Oxford stood between us and the gold medal we fought so hard for last year.
We surprised ourselves by taking a fairly uncontested 3-0 lead and despite that giving us confidence, it may have been our undoing as there is nothing more debilitating than the comfortable feeling of an early lead.
Oxford quickly changed gear and equalised, making use of their experienced receiver Harry Mason, relying on his skill to create points from their questionable long throws. Eventually after leading for the entirety of the game, tiredness from our semi-final got the better of us, allowing them an upwind break to seal our fate as silver medallists.