19th-20th May 2007 - Report by Tom Howard

Slightly later in the season than planned, Mixed Tour Two (final placings) finally got underway at the UCE pitches in Perry Barr, Birmingham. With the original venue for MT2 having fallen through last minute and no alternative being able to be found at such short notice, the planned dates for the event only two weeks after MT1 in Cardiff had to be scratched from the calendar.

This means that all subsequent mixed events have been realigned to still be able to fit in three tours, with the potential sacrifice of Mixed Nationals unless another free weekend can be found later in the year on which to hold the knock-out competition. This is a move that may disadvantage some teams, possibly jeopardising IF’s chances of retaining their Tour Champions title in particular, and resulting in a potentially disjointed approach to the split-season introduced only last year. An unfortunate set of circumstances, but one which was largely unavoidable and that the UKUA did everything in their power to combat.

With the tour now reduced to only three events compared to past years, perhaps some added incentive for IF at MT2 was the fact that they could take a large step towards the Tour title again by winning the Birmingham event. IF were gunning for another victory that would take them further clear at the top of the overall standings, perhaps giving them enough of a cushion to not have to worry about a rescheduled MT3 so much. Looking to thwart them, the rest of the regular top four would of course be striving for a spot in the final as well as or at the expense of the current leaders. Chevron - this time with several male juniors on the books - and BOOM had special cause to stake their own claims on the top spot, after single-point losses at the previous event.

As events transpired, the bulk of the entertaining action was to be seen among the battles for the lower places, as the top four progressed to semis fairly easily, and then BOOM and IF progressing on to the final with comfortable victories over Chevron and Ping, who seemed to have lost some of the momentum they had gained after their outings at MT1.

The rest of the rankings for places four and lower saw some dramatic reshaping. High Altitude, having made top eight last time round, crashed out to 11th after meeting a reinvigorated Locomotive Leeds in their cross-over in a rematch of their MT1 match. Leeds won every game at MT2, with victories over Bacon, Strange Blue, Discuits, BAF and finally Brighton 1, taking fifth place for their efforts. Comprising the rest of the top eight at close of play on Sunday, BAF had slipped a couple of places while Brighton 1 were joined by Brighton 2, even playing each other in the 6 v 7 cross in their penultimate games! For Brighton to get two teams into the top eight is a big achievement, and all credit to them: their selection tactics of splitting their squad into two roughly equal teams has paid off; I for one would love to see how a true Brighton first team would fare against the established teams, and perhaps Mixed Nationals, if it happens, will be the place to see.

Further down, Thundering Herd were unable to progress further up the table but did retain their starting seed, losing to Strange Blue in the 9 v 10. Blue have raced up the rankings this year, proving a tough challenge for some of the bigger teams already, so they will be looking to push on into the bracket above at MT3 and have every chance of making this happen. BPF, having falling from the top bracket after being deposed by Brighton 2, had to settle for 12th, but did pick up the Spirit prize along the way.

Another team on the wane was Discuits, dropping five places to 16th. But perhaps most prominent was Sheffield Steal, in apparent free-fall after WUCC, slipping down to 27th overall. They passed eventual plate winners Flaming Galahs 1 on the way, who were hugely buoyed by the presence of some star pick-ups including, amongst others, Clapham’s Si Weeks and former Leeds lady Anita Beck.

And so the mixed season has thrown some more spanners in the works of some of the bigger teams, as others seek to and succeed in imposing themselves as forces to be reckoned with. A fairly mundane final saw BOOM take a comfortable victory over IF, who never recaptured the form that took them to sudden death victory at MT1, and so points are well and truly tied for top place overall.

Mixed Tour Three, to be held in Nottingham on the 2nd and 3rd of June, will therefore decide the tour title. This may end up being largely academic, dependent on whether IF can field a strong team, if at all, despite the fact that a choke by BOOM could always let Chevron or Ping into the frame. This remains to be seen. Either way, for pure drama and entertainment, it appears that Mixed Tour Three may be at its best from seeds four downward, as these lower-order places seem volatile and extremely changeable. One slip up could easily let someone new through the door, and thoroughly reshape the overall standings yet again, meaning it’s all to play for in Nottingham…

Click here to see final positions.