By Dan Trick
Editor’s Note: Dan Trick plays for the Leicester Thestrals
On Saturday, 27 Feb., the Leicester Thestrals, Liverpuddly Cannons, London Unspeakables, and Loughborough Longshots were due to compete at the L Tournament, hosted by Loughborough. Sadly, the Liverpuddly Cannons had to officially forfeit their games due to insufficient players on their roster. As disappointing as this was, the Cannons continued their scheduled games unofficially with their six original players and additional players borrowed from other teams This was the only hitch in a tournament that otherwise ran incredibly smoothly, as Loughborough continues their reputation for successful tournaments after hosting East Midlands Cup in October 2015.
Leicester Thestrals, Champions of L Tournament| Photo credit: Emma Bramwell
4) Liverpuddly Cannons
Whilst a last-place finish was always the most likely for the Liverpuddly Cannons, their forfeit caused this to become a certainty. Technically, the Cannons did secure a victory with the assistance of five mercenary players in a 90*-50 win over the London Unspeakables. Despite its inconsequence regarding rankings, a win is sure to give the fledgling players a boost of confidence and hopefully encourage them to continue attending tournaments.
Liverpuddly Cannons, Tournament Newcomers| Photo credit: SnappyGibbs Photography
Whilst they often relied heavily on their mercenary players, the Cannons themselves showed promising aptitude for a new team. Captain Ahmad Iyas’ previous experience playing with the Damansara Dementors shone through as he found pockets of space and looked to play intelligent passes throughout. He has previously garnered attention at Eggnog 2: A New Yolk for his speedy beating, but looked equally adept in a white headband. The Cannons’ beater play showed all the hallmarks of a rookie lineup, often making tactical errors, but overall they played well and were confident in using bludgers. The newcomers often managed to gain bludger dominance, though they frequently lost it soon after.
Whilst the forfeit may at first be demoralising, the Cannons can take heart from their promising gameplay and unofficial victory to spur them on to greater heights within the UK community.
3) The London Unspeakables
The London Unspeakables suffered a crashing return back to earth after the highs of their victory at Roxdon the Second, as they finished this tournament without a win. Individually, many of the Unspeakables played comparatively well: Fabian Sailer demonstrated a very nimble and aggressive beating style and secured the Unspeakables their cold-catch against the Leicester Thestrals. Captain Matt Bateman also led them well, whilst keeper Pedro González-Tarrío has continued to develop into a promising talent. The issue for the Unspeakables was overall cohesion. The beater and chaser games appeared detached from each other at times, whilst passes amongst the chasers went amiss at an alarming rate for such an experienced team.
The high spirits from their Roxdon victory evaporated early on after a second loss this season to the Leicester Thestrals, although this time the Unspeakables got themselves on the scoreboard and secured a cold-catch to end the game. Their next defeat to the Liverpuddly Cannons saw the Unspeakables endure a long team huddle. The loss to such a new team, albeit one strengthened by Bangor Broken Broomsticks’ Johnny Lyden, Leicester’s Levi Theophilus, Loughborough’s Chaz Howkins and Warwick Quidditch Club’s Anthony Tatman and James Hewitt, appeared to shake them. This was indicative of a team short on confidence and shocked at the fall in stature they have suffered this season.
Fortunately for the Unspeakables, they appeared to turn this soul-searching into resolve. They went on to hold Loughborough to a respectable 70-20 before the Longshots’ catch ended the game 100*-20. The Unspeakables are a team that undoubtedly has talent, but are suffering from a series of blows to their confidence coupled with an oddly alienated on-pitch game, conspiring to rob them of the results expected of them. If the Unspeakables are able to improve their team cohesion in the weeks leading up to the British Quidditch Cup (BQC), they could find themselves in the upper bracket, or third in their group facing a decent run in the lower-bracket. A lot rests on them regaining their Roxdon form – quickly.
2) Loughborough Longshots
The Loughborough Longshots came into L Tournament aiming to retain the title they won in such dominant fashion in 2014. The Longshots played with their now trademark style of aggressive beating anchored by the typically conservative Holly Kerslake. This tournament, however, she was prone to making forays into the opposition half, punching holes in the opposition’s defences for her chasers to make strong barrelling runs or accomplished passing around the hoops.
The Longshots were in part hampered in the execution of this plan due to the absence of lynchpin players Bill Orridge and Jonathon Cookes; however, this allowed players such as Hassan Azad and Dan Mitchell to step up and fill the gaps left by these players, respectively. Azad was particularly effective on offence with his powerful beats on opposition beaters causing disruptions to defences, whilst the likes of Mitchell and Simon Thornton aimed to drive through. On-pitch leader Dan Bridges also spearheaded confident passing around the opposition’s hoops, resulting in powerful shots or timely catch-and-release from excellent positional players such as Chaz Howkins or Franky Kempster.
This play style saw the Longshots ease past the Liverpuddly Cannons and expose weaknesses in the defence of the Leicester Thestrals, as their runs and passes often entirely bypassed the Thestrals’ man-marking. The Longshots can take solace in the fact that their beater line will enjoy increased depth for their rematch against the Thestrals in the group stages at BQC, as the difference in standard was noticeable during periods where Azad was absent from play. It is also notable that the Longshots’ attack was partially stymied by a previously leaky Unspeakables defence. Whilst 70 quaffle points is no small amount, it appeared diminished in comparison to the ruthless displays for which Loughborough are known. This could be attributed in part to the game time allowed to their less-established players, giving their newer talents a chance to play in the final game.
Their loss to Leicester will have increased the speculation around the positionings of BQC Group F and which team will come out triumphant in the group stage. Loughborough will likely take comfort in the SWIM range nature of their match whilst missing vital players, though an over-reliance on these players may affect overall team spirit. With their famed athletic play and a famously competitive mentality, the Longshots have the capability to make a deep run into the tournament, their earlier third place finish at Northern Cup showing they remain a force to be reckoned with in the UK Quidditch scene.
1 ) Leicester Thestrals
The Leicester Thestrals went one better than their performance at the first L tournament, this time replacing Loughborough in the first place spot. The Thestrals largely relied on a play style reminiscent of Loughborough’s: aggressive beating designed to create no-bludger situations for quaffle players to exploit with drives. Despite a slow start, this tactic saw the Thestrals rack up a 140-point lead before the Unspeakables cold-caught the snitch to end the game 150-40*. Against Loughborough, Leicester relied on the burgeoning beater partnership of Dan Trick and Gabri Hall-Rappanotti in an attempt to contain Loughborough’s beating whilst creating openings of their own. This mostly worked, as they held bludger control for a decent percentage of the game and disrupted Loughborough’s plays, although their drives occasionally fell short at the Longshots’ hoops. At times the Thestrals showcased assured passing around the hoops, whilst at others passes were erratic, an unwelcome hint of Leicester’s inconsistent past. They overcame this to secure the 80*-40 SWIM-range victory with seeker Joseph Wilson once again this season providing his team with the vital catch. Throughout the tournament, Luke Willcocks provided much-needed physicality to their defensive line, whilst Klara Daily and Rhianna Watson’s calm beating counteracted the more aggressive play of their teammates.
Their game against the Liverpuddly Cannons – who were again strengthened by mercenary players including Loughborough’s Kempster, Kerslake, and Mitchell, along with Keele University Quidditch Club’s Ollie Hymers – had potential to give the Thestrals cause for concern. They fell 30 points behind and it was only with the re-introduction of Hall-Rapa, alongside a spectacular solo effort from Callum Humphreys – who racked up 10 goals in a row – that allowed them to pull away from an otherwise fraught situation to secure the 190*-70 win.
Heading into BQC, Leicester will be buoyed by this victory at L, which comes on the heels of their Londingster the First win. Now they will be looking to upset the No. 1 seed, Loughborough, for the top spot of Group F. With the addition of eight players for BQC that were missing from L Tournament, they should be excited to see what they can achieve. There may be some slight apprehension at their reliance on key figures and driving, but if they can sufficiently improve their depth and passing game they may be able to make a surprising run in the tournament. Whatever happens, the rematch against Loughborough is sure to be an interesting and well-spectated game.
Leicester vs. London 150-40*
Loughborough vs. Liverpool 110-40* (unofficial)
Leicester vs. Loughborough 80*-40
Liverpool vs. London 90*-50 (unofficial)
Leicester vs. Liverpool 190* - 70 (unofficial)
Loughborough vs. London 100* - 20