By Andy Marmer
In their fifth international tournament, TeamUK finally left with gold around their necks, emerging as champions of the 2017 IQA European Games, 90*-70 on a snitch catch by Callum Lake. The UK victory avenges their 90*-50 defeat to France in the 2015 tournament and marks the first British team to win a major international tournament since the Radcliffe Chimeras took the title at EQC 2014.
A nation and team used to disappointments on the international stage, Lake with an assist from beaters Lucy Q and Bill Orridge provided much sought after national relief.
TeamUK trailed for much of the final, but France was never able to extend the match out of snitch range, leading by 20 with possession toward the end of the seeker floor, France keeper Albert Bregeault was yellow-carded for an illegal pick, which led to a UK goal, cutting the margin to 10. Bregeault would later pick up a second yellow with the snitch on pitch, with Lake eventually catching during the red-card penalty.
Andrew Hull led the UK in the final, notching four of the team’s seven goals.
France dominated in the beater game for much of the early contest with Cedric Chillan in particular seeming to control the game; however, once British snitch Sean Lee was on pitch, a decision approved by both teams, it was the UK beater tandem of Lucy Q and Bill Orridge that controlled the contest getting Lake and Luke Twist plenty of time on snitch, eventually leading to the catch.
Like the finals, the third place game in 2017 was again the same as 2015, this time with the same result, as Norway knocked off Belgium 140*-80, just 10 points different from their 150*-80 victory two years ago.
The move to a new format whereby each of the top five teams prior to the tournament competed in a single group with the next five in their own group and the bottom five in a third group produced a thrilling, if ultimately fairly inconsequential, first day. Twenty-one of the 30 games played ended in snitch range, and just two teams, Italy in Group B and Sweden, competing in their first tournament ever, with a roster of just seven, either won or lost all of their games, both teams finished 0-4 in their group. Group A in particular featured extreme parity with just the UK’s win over Turkey and France’s win over Norway ending out of snitch range.
The UK, Germany and Poland each topped their groups, each with 3-1 records and each having lost to the team that finished third in their group – Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands respectively. Belgium was the only of those three to finish 2-2 as the other two finished 3-1. France, Spain and Slovakia each took second in the pools.
Bracket play saw few upsets with only No. 10 seeded Italy accomplishing the feat, 110*-100 over No. 7 Spain to give the team their first win over the tournament. Rather, for all the drama of the first day with more than two-thirds of the matches in snitch range, bracket play lacked much in the way of theatrics as only two first-round matches, the Italy-Spain contest and No. 8 seeded Austria’s takedown of No. 9 seeded Catalonia, 100*-40, one semifinal, France’s 80*-50 win over Belgium and the finals ended in snitch range. The bracket resulted in six out of 15 matches being rematches, with that number jumping considerably when consolation brackets are considered.
The hosts Norway took third place over Belgium 140*-80. Norway knocked out the Netherlands and Turkey in bracket play before falling out-of-range to the UK, while Belgium after winning against Ireland and Germany fell 80*-50 to France in a dramatic semifinal.
Germany became the lone Group B team to knock off a Group A team, taking fifth place 130*°-120°° over sixth-placed Turkey. Despite a rocky first day that saw an upset at the hands of Austria, Germany nonetheless topped their Group and earned the sixth-spot in the bracket. A large win over Poland sent them through to the quarterfinals, but a 120*-50 defeat to Belgium ended Germany’s hopes, before rebounding with wins over Italy and Turkey. Turkey finished fifth in the top group and after a comfortable win over Slovakia was knocked out in the quarterfinals 190*-120 by Norway and then defeated Austria.
Austria, competing in their first European Games, took seventh with a 110*-50 win over Italy, who finished eighth despite a 1-7 tournament record, after a group play upset over the talented German squad, the Austrians entered the bracket seeded eighth and knocked off Catalonia before falling to the UK in the quarterfinals and Turkey in the consolations. Italy, after a disappointing first day, knocked off Spain in the first round before falling to France in the quarterfinals, Germany, and Austria.
Spain took ninth at the tournament, defeating 10th-placed Catalonia 90*-50. After losing to Italy in their first bracket game, Spain took down Sweden, Poland and Catalonia, while Catalonia defeated Slovakia after losing to Austria.
Poland placed 11th with a 5-3 tournament record. After topping Group C, a lopsided loss to No. 6 Germany in bracket play was followed by a snitch range win over Ireland, a large loss to Spain and a 120*-50 win over Slovakia, who lost to Turkey, beat the Netherlands and then lost to Catalonia and Poland to finish in 12th place, to end the tournament.
The Netherlands finished in 13th place after a 3-1 day one, which included victories over Poland, Ireland, and Sweden, the Dutch fell to Norway as the No. 12 seed, then Slovakia in the play-in round before ending on a high-note with a 160*-60 win over Ireland, who finished 14th, after losses to Belgium and Poland in the bracket and a win over 15th-placed Sweden who failed to play a snitch-range game in their first international tournament.
The tournament marks the last scheduled international competition until World Cup 2018; where the UK will look to defend their title of top European team – after placing third a year ago and winning European Games, while the rest of Europe will look to return to the podium.