Sussex Mohawks win Uni Outdoor Nationals

Sussex Mohawks

Sussex Mohawks followed in the footsteps of their regional rivals Portsmouth Sublime this weekend, winning the Open Outdoor title to go with their Open Indoor title. They completed the second undefeated season by a South Eastern team in two years, defeating Cambridge Strange Blue 12-9 in the final.

UKU BUCS University Open Outdoor Nationals again drew 32 teams to Mount St. Mary's College in Sheffield. As always, the facilities at the venue were fantastic and the pitches were in good condition. Unlike previous years though, the weather was largely excellent, with only some light breeze and a smattering of rain on the Sunday affecting the otherwise perfect conditions.


The top three seeds in Division 1 - Mohawks, Strange Blue, and Edinburgh Ro Sham Bo - came through their groups unscathed to earn quarter-final berths. However, Warwick Bears were upset by Southampton Skunks in their pool, allowing Skunks to take their place in the quarter-finals. Warwick entered the crossover games to reach the quarters, where they defeated regional rivals Oxford OW! handily to set up another Midland region rematch with Strange Blue. Also coming through the crossover games were Manchester Halcyon, Exeter Uriel and Cardiff No Frills, who had managed to lift themselves from 14th seed to the top eight.


The quarters were very exciting games, most decided by less than three points. Uriel dominated regional rival Skunks 13-3 to reach the semi-finals in the only blowout victory. Mohawks managed to overcome No Frills in a tight game 10-7, while Ro Sham Bo weathered a furious comeback from Halcyon, who had been trailing heavily but had pulled level when the hooter sounded, to win 12-10. In the closest quarter, Bears could not continue their run of all-Midland victories, losing in sudden death 10-9 to Strange Blue. 


The semi-finals were very different games. In one, Uriel met favourites and top seeds Mohawks. However, Uriel came out hard, taking a quick 5-2 lead over Mohawks. Mohawks mounted a strong comeback, but could not prevent Uriel taking half 7-6. After half though, Mohawks asserted themselves and pulled away. The final result was 10-7, with Mohawks winning another game after going behind - a common theme for them in this tournament. 


In the other semi final, Strange Blue met Ro Sham Bo. The theme for the game was set when, at 2-0 down, Ro Sham Bo dropped a pull and allowed Strange Blue to pull ahead by three points. Stange Blue kept their lead with some excellent long play, and in truth the final result was never in doubt, with a relatively comfortable 13-8 victory assuring Strange Blue, who lost to eventual champions Sublime heavily in last year’s semi-final, went one better and reached the final.


In the third place game, Ro Sham Bo made up for their disappointing showing against Strange Blue and defeated Uriel, who seemed emotionally and physically drained from their agonising semi final defeat.


The final was more of the same for Mohawks - they fell behind early on, with Strange Blue taking a 4-2 lead. From that position though, Mohawks rallied and took half 7-5 after excellent play by handlers Nick White and Robbie Haines. After half the teams traded points in an often exhilarating game, despite the zone defences employed by both teams. At 11-9 in a game to 12, there was miscommunication between two Strange Blue players, allowing Mohawks to intercept a pass and score an easy last point to win the UKU BUCS National Championship.Strange Blue take down a huckStrange Blue take down a huck


'To have won Nationals this year feels fantastic and was made all the better as we won it not only as a team, but as a really close group of friends,' said Robbie Haines, Mohawks Vice-Captain and MVP of the final. 'It was great to see how much it meant to everyone who was there playing for, and supporting, us over the weekend.'


'Having previously won the Open Indoor Nationals earlier this year, we knew that there were high expectations for us at Outdoors,' he went on. 'The thought of emulating what our local rivals Sublime achieved last year really helped motivate us to go that extra mile - not only for ourselves and the club, but for our closest friends - our teammates.'


As with last years' champions Sublime, Robbie credited the presence of a high level local Open club team with the ability of Mohawks to break down top opponents. 


'Every week we trained with Brighton Ultimate, each practice climaxing in a competitive match between the Mohawks first team and Brighton 1. Even when we didn't win, we would learn what our weaknesses were and discuss them with Brighton.'


He finished by looking ahead to the Mixed Outdoor Championships in St. Andrews. 


'To have achieved this in our 25th year as a club has made the open double that much more special, but we all know that our year is not over yet. We look forward to competing at UMON in St Andrews later this year.'


Outside of Division 1, Loughborough Haze managed to fight their way up from 10th seeds to face local rivals East Anglia Aye-Aye in the Division 2 final after dispatching another Midland team, Nottingham Random Fling, in a low scoring 6-3 semi final. Aye-Aye had originally been seeded 6th and defeated second-seeded Surrey Scorpions in their semi final. The teams traded until the final point, when Haze turned Aye-Aye over on the endzone line with a layout from Brad Collins, and converted a quick point for an 11-9 victory. 


‘We’re delighted with the victory because we lost some key players last year.’ Haze Assistant Junior Coach Iain Hannah explained. ‘We had a really strong showing and it was a great result considering those losses. It’s a testament to our strength in depth that we were able to win. I thought the whole team played really well, though Ally Lead had a particularly strong game in the final.’


Spirit of the Game went to Oxford OW! in Division 1 – though their prize went to second-placed Warwick Bears as OW! had already left before the presentation – and to Dublin Trinity in Division 2. Trinity were also awarded the overall Spirit of the Game prize for the third year in a row.


Sussex Mohawks photo courtesy of Will Parker.

Game photo courtesy of Andrew Davidson.