Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Snidgets Snare Scottish Cup

By Alex Harrison

On Feb. 1, the small seaside town of St Andrews played host to the first ever Scottish Quidditch Cup. Quidditch in the region is still limited and isolated from the rest of Quidditch UK: the St Andrews Snidgets and Edinburgh's Holyrood Hippogriffs have been the only functioning teams in Scotland for years, resulting in a very friendly rivalry largely dominated by St Andrews. New competitors have been rumoured for a while in Glasgow, Aberdeen, and at the University of the West of Scotland, but so far nothing has come of it, until now.

Photo by St Andrews Snidgets; Cake by Emily Starbuck

Enter the Dragons. The Stirling Dragons are now the third official quidditch team in Scotland and the first outside the Snidgets/Hippogriffs Old Firm. Going into the Scottish Cup, they were a completely unknown quantity. Stirling is traditionally a strong sporting university, but incipient quidditch teams tend to be more geeky than sporty. Most predicted the Stirling Dragons would place third or fourth this time around, but nobody had ever seen them play. Could the Dragons spring a surprise or two on the established teams?

The fourth team rounding out the numbers were the St Andrews Skrewts, also known as the Blast-Ended B-Team. The Snidgets have come a long way since a lack of players forced them to combine with the Hippogriffs to form Team Scotland at the first Highlander Cup in 2013, and can now field two full teams with plenty of subs. The Skrewts weren't expected to compete with the Snidgets, but their matchup with the Dragons was tipped as the least predictable game in the whole tournament. Some even thought they could give the Hippogriffs a run for their money. The Skrewts were captained by Oliver Gerlach, St Andrews' top seeker, and it was anyone's guess how it would end if it came down to the snitch.

Recent history hasn't favoured the Hippogriffs. St Andrews and Edinburgh have clashed four times this season, three times in an early series intended to blood new players, and once at Highlander II in October. St Andrews took the first series 2-1 and won a crushing 130*-10 victory at Highlander, leaving Edinburgh as solid favourites to claim second place at the Scottish Cup. Still, it wasn't too long ago that the St Andrews-Edinburgh rivalry was much closer, and a lot can change very quickly in quidditch.

The Snidgets were firm favourites going in, despite having beaten only one other team apart from Edinburgh this season, a ferociously tight game against the new team Warwick Whomping Willows which ended 40*-30. The Snidgets tend to sink rather than SWIM, having tied on quaffle points with the Oxford Quidlings and London Unspeakables (twice) only to lose all three games on the snitch catch. If anyone was going to upset the Snidgets at the Scottish Cup, it was likely going to be by never letting them get out of snitch range.

The tournament was a simple four-team group where each team played each other once. No finals were planned due to Scottish winter stealing all the daylight, though game six between the Snidgets and Hippogriffs was widely predicted to be a de facto final, with most observers assuming both teams would win their other two matches. Remarkably, the tournament ran more or less on schedule throughout thanks to head ref Cory Faniel, who kept things moving at a miraculously quick pace.

On a bright, cold day in February, battle was joined. Four teams fought to be crowned as the kings of Scottish quidditch, but only one prevailed.

(Apologies if any of the scorers were recorded incorrectly; please don't hesitate to correct me if I failed to credit you with a goal.)

GAME ONE: St Andrews Skrewts 60*-100 Holyrood Hippogriffs
For a while, it looked like the Skrewts might cause an upset. Spurred on by a rapid chaser game led by Barend de Rooij and Roland Crompton, the Skrewts took the lead before the large Hippogriff squad began to settle and fight its way back into the game. The standout performers for Edinburgh were Gus Longo and Ollie Riley, respectively wearing 6 and 666 and scoring eight goals between them. Though the Skrewts battled back to only 50-30 down at one stage, Edinburgh bagged five hoops without reply, to force Caitlin Hamilton, the Skrewts' seeker, to cold catch. Edinburgh's beaters struggled at the start of the match, but asserted themselves in the second half, maintaining bludger control for long periods and shutting down the Snidgets' attack. A fair result in the end, and not an unexpected one.

Hippogriffs: Riley (4), Longo (4), Bennet (2)
Skrewts: De Rooij (2), Crompton
Snitch Catch: Hamilton (Skrewts)

GAME TWO: Stirling Dragons 0-230* St Andrews Snidgets
Stirling rocked up to St Andrews in a people carrier with only 10 players, and to make matters worse their only two male players had to play every minute of every match. This was their first ever competitive game, and it showed; a few unknowing illegal tackles and points of confusion over the rules were evident, and the team didn't have time to gel in a competitive setting before being thrust into action. The Snidgets' potent attack, led by the speedy 12-goal pair of Sergey Drobysh and Alex Harrison, put 20 unanswered hoops past the Dragons, with almost all the game played in the Dragons' half and with constant Snidget bludger control. Thrashings like this are par for the course for new teams, a painful but necessary step toward competitiveness, but the Dragons never stopped giving their all and never shied away from physical contact, good signs for the future.

Snidgets: Harrison (6), Drobysh (6), Heald (2), O'Connor (2), Gupta, Cook, Ramsey, own goal
Snitch Catch: Ben Middlemiss (Snidgets)

Alex Harrison of the Snidgets takes on Liam Stewart, Rob Senior, and Katherine Miller of the Dragons. | Photo by St Andrews Snidgets.

GAME THREE: St Andrews Skrewts 40*-120 St Andrews Snidgets
The Snidgets and Skrewts are intimately familiar with each other, and their matchup looked a lot like a regular training game. The score was kept down by a strong defensive beating game anchored by Emily Thomas and David Auld on the Skrewts' side, though the Snidgets quickly escaped snitch range and never looked like being caught. Both teams knew each other's strengths and weaknesses, and the Snidgets simply had more strengths and fewer weaknesses – though the Snidgets' seeking weakness showed up again as Hamilton took her second snitch of the afternoon.

Snidgets: Harrison (7), Drobysh (2), Ramsey, Gupta, O'Connor
Skrewts: Guite
Snitch Catch: Hamilton (Skrewts)

Sergey Drobysh (with quaffle) and Hannah Jacobs of the Snidgets versus David Auld of the Skrewts. | Photo by Charlotte Gordon.

GAME FOUR: Holyrood Hippogriffs 160*-10 Stirling Dragons
The Dragons bounced back from their heavy opening defeat and put up a much better fight against the Hippogriffs. Longo and Riley once again took the lions' share of the points – No. 666 scored six consecutive hoops at one point – but Rob Senior scored Stirling’s first ever competitive goal to recover to 40-10. The Hippogriffs were ultimately untroubled, but the Dragons' play clearly improved. Their defensive unit became tighter-knit and harder to go through, and Stirling's small squad was starting to develop an understanding. Their tackling was much more assured (and legal), especially from keeper Liam Stewart, and their attack looked much more threatening than against the Snidgets. Another widely expected result, but an encouraging sign for the future.

Hippogriffs: Riley (7), Longo (3), Zinger, Pryce, Baker
Dragons: Senior
Snitch Catch: Hannah el-Shobaki (Hippogriffs)

Rob Senior of the Dragons takes on Ollie Riley of the Hippogriffs | Photo by Charlotte Gordon.

GAME FIVE: St Andrews Skrewts 100*-10 Stirling Dragons
I thought this was going to be the closest game of the tournament, and in terms of quaffle point differential it was. Again, the result was never really in doubt, but the Dragons improved again despite playing their third match of the afternoon with barely any subs. Fatigue crept into both teams' games, slowing the play down and causing more mistakes from both sides; the Dragons should take pride in their consistent improvement over the day. The Skrewts should also be proud of their game play, and I'd expect to see St Andrews field two full teams again in the future based on this showing.

Skrewts: Crompton (3), De Rooij (2), Bunce, Mackenzie
Dragons: Stewart
Snitch Catch: Gerlach (Skrewts)

Caitlin Hamilton claims the snitch for the Skrewts. | Photo by Charlotte Gordon.

GAME SIX: St Andrews Snidgets 90-30* Holyrood Hippogriffs
This was the marquee event, with both teams on two wins from two and ready to resume their rivalry in what was effectively the final. The game began in a brutal midfield stalemate, staying at 0-0 for several minutes as the Hippogriffs played a high-intensity game designed to stymie the Snidgets' attack. Though bludger control remained with Elliott Fogg and Sasha Burgoyne of the Snidgets, for a while it looked like the Hippogriffs might pull off a shock and keep the Snidgets within snitch range long enough to pull out a SWIM victory. The Snidgets however, pulled away before long with a number of quickfire hoops after Aakash Gupta’s impressive shot broke the deadlock. The game remained tight and physical throughout, with broken brooms and full-blooded tackles flying in, particularly from Snidgets captain Matt O'Connor, but the Snidgets' quality in depth soon told when the Hippogriffs' most effective players were forced to sub from fatigue. Johnney Rhodes, seeking for the Hippogriffs, initially tried to defend the snitch so his team could get back in range, but soon it became clear that the Snidgets weren't going to be caught and Rhodes ended the tournament on Edinburgh's terms with a fine catch.

Snidgets: Harrison (4), Drobysh (2), Gupta (2), O'Connor
Snitch Catch: Rhodes (Hippogriffs)

Katie Cook, Elliott Fogg, and Sasha Burgoyne of the Snidgets lie in wait for Nye Baker of the Hippogriffs. | Photo by Charlotte Gordon.

In the end, the predictions were proven right: the Snidgets won all three matches and conceded only one goal (against their own second team), while the Hippogriffs dispatched the Dragons and Skrewts, but drew a blank against their old rivals despite improving noticeably from the match at Highlander II. The Skrewts put in a solid showing, beating the Dragons and giving the Hippogriffs a tough challenge, but the Dragons will rightly draw the most attention as one of the newest teams in the UK. They're small and inexperienced, true, but all teams start out that way. The Dragons will drop off the radar for a while due to not appearing at BQC and the general isolation of Scottish quidditch, but give them a year to grow and develop and Scotland's quidditch scene might have three genuine contenders before long.

The Snidgets are the kings of Scottish quidditch, at least for this season, and with Scottish quidditch finally starting to branch out from the Old Firm, the future looks bright (but cold) north of the border. The Snidgets will be looking to build from this victory to an impressive showing at the British Quidditch Cup in March, but can't be complacent: Scottish quidditch is still limited compared to the English game, and there are plenty of tough sides lying in wait. For now, though, raise your Irn-Bru in salute to the champions of Scotland, the St Andrews Snidgets.


Two goals were in contention for goal of the tournament, both of which were long-range thunderbolts. Longo of the Hippogriffs lived up to his name with a huge looping shot that soared straight through the Skrewts' middle hoop from just past the halfway line. The only challenger was Senior's goal for the Dragons against the Hippogriffs, a hopeful shot from more or less the same position which arrowed into the left-hand hoop to give the Dragons their first ever competitive goal. Choosing between them seems unfair, but Senior sneaks ahead because a) it was a hell of a way to score your first ever goal and b) I suspect Longo's wasn't entirely intentional. Special mention for best save goes to Middlemiss of the Snidgets, who – as a beater – accidentally wandered in front of the hoop just in time to be hit in the head by the goalbound quaffle.



Harrison (Snidgets): 17
Riley (Hippogriffs): 11
Drobysh (Snidgets): 10

Video by Sasha Burgoyne

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