Antwerp came to Battle Royale II as last year’s champions, eager to defend their title and kick off another dream season like last year. Although forced to come with a small squad of 13 playersdue to several injuries (includingEmile Aerts, Elisabeth Reyniers, and Jan Dubois), the Dodos had quite a convincing start,conceding just one hoop in a solid win against Three River Dragons Passau.
The Dodos’first game against the Werewolves of London was very tight, and while the Dodos caught to win, the game was anything but comforting since they suffered in the beater game, their chasers failed to keep up their efficiency, and most of all Antwerp lost their best female chaser, Florence Anslot, through injury. Antwerp showed they could be defeated and the home team got ready for a tough fight going into the next game.
Southampton Quidditch Club (SQC)gave it their all and managed to stay in range just until the 18th minute, mostly thanks to their beater game being surprisingly dominant over Antwerp’s. During snitch-on-pitch, Southampton showed a refined and clinical play both in beating and chasing. They caught for overtime and caught again to reward their fighting spirit with a victory over the European champions, ending their winning streak of over 30 games. Although Antwerp managed to win their fourth game of the day quite comfortably against the OSI Vikings, the team had much to worry about going into the first game of Day Two against theVelociraptors Quidditch Club.
On Day Two, the determined Dodos showed their mental strength against the Raptors. After another bad start from the Antwerp chasers, Louis Lermytte and Seppe De Wit carried the team to create an outstanding and very close game. Although the Raptors won the game on a snitch catch, Antwerp might find some confidence in this result knowing they had only six of last year’s A squad players on pitch. The Antwerp train got back on track and what followed was a destruction of the Brizzlebears in their last group stage game. Antwerp looked ready for a rematch against the Raptors in the final, but because of their head–to–head loss to Southampton,the Dodos just missed out on a place in the final. This was a hard blow for them, as it was the first time they did not proceed to the final of a tournament since European Quidditch Cup (EQC) 2015. However, they showed their mental resilience once again when they defeated Bristol to go home with the bronze medal. With sloppy, non-efficient chaser play and below-average beating, the Dodos lost their heads in some games, which translated into even worse plays. This is surely something they should take home with them and work on going into their season defending the European title. The outcome of the tournament sounds upsetting with the EQC winners taking bronze. However, it should be noted that Antwerp was not at full power because of many injuries. While the Dodos can only be satisfied with the gold medal, there should be no doubt that this still very young team will go home with confidence for the rest of theEuropean season. 2. German quidditch continues their steady progress
Passau went to Battle Royale to measure with the best clubs in Europe. At EQC 2017, they missed out on the upper bracket, losing in-range to eventual bronze-medallists Werewolves of London in the Round of 16. In their first game at Battle Royale, they immediately met the European champions. This was not Passau’s best game,as they kept losing a significant amount of beater battles and getting outplayed both in defence and offence in the chasing game. This seemed to be a good wake–up call because they managed to keep their next two games against Bristol and OSI very close. Both games were lost on a snitch catch, and this exposed Passau’s main weakness – snitch on pitch. This should not be seen as a bad experience, as Battle Royale is a friendly preparation tournament, as well as a learning opportunity. On Day Two, Passau showed their potential. Starting against the Raptors, they managed to surprise most spectators by dominating the Raptors’ beating game for quite a while. Special mention for this should go to Heiner Elser and Peter Bogner, who exceeded their own level to play one of the best games of their careers. Although they still lost against the Raptors, Passau got stronger, and in their next game against London they managed to keep the quaffle score equal if not in their advantage, mainly thanks to better communication between chasers and beaters in their offence game. Sadly, they lost on snitch catch once more and ended the tournament with six losses.
The number of German players has been growing rapidly in the last couple of years, and their national structure seems to be very effective to develop the sport and support new teams. Whilst these are very good foundations to build further development, Germany is still missing something: the last step to make the international impact they are waiting for. They have a very wide arsenal of decent teams that can make top 16 in Europe, but they need one top team to compete with the best Europeans so the whole German community can pull themselves up to that level. This may be a matter of lacking some individual top talents, but these people can unveil themselves at any moment,and as we know, the structure is fully operational for this talent to come into play. There is no doubt that the German teams will become more and more impressive in the coming European seasons.
3. Southampton’s revival For the last two years, Southampton was kind of lost, almost forgotten. However, last weekend revealed that their chances to get to EQC are more realistic than ever. Back in 2014-15, the UK quidditch scene was mostly dominated by university teams. That season,SQC won the British Quidditch Cup and made the semifinals of EQC. After that, Southampton lost several players due to retirements and transfers, which led to two years devoid of prestigious results when they underperformed at or missed EQC altogether. However, this year Southampton made a remarkable return to the scene. With some returning players such as Aaron Veale and Fraser Posford, new additions such as Bex Lowe and Ben Guthrie, and veterans such as Imy Gregg, Alex Carpenter, and Anjit Aulakh,they managed to build a full–force squad. Mostly thanks to their aggressive beating, they managed to win against Antwerp in overtime, got a 20-0 lead against the Raptors in the final, and were leading against London when they lost. Additionally, they managed to win against Bristol, OSI, and Passau. This team looks ready to fight again at the top of the UK and will be a serious contender for an EQC spot this season.
Southampton will head into regionals with plenty of confidence, though it needs to be said that their silver medal can easily become a fourth place at Southern Cup. On the downside, when the beating game could not hold their dominant play, the chasers looked lost in many situations, showing poor passing and running, which resulted in lots of missed goals. The same goes for defence, which became painfully exposed when the Raptors got seven unanswered goals in the second part of the final. It will be a hard fight for SQC in the UK anyhow, but it is very nice to see them back in the running!
4. Southern battle within Battle Royal
The key matchups going into Battle Royale II were arguably those between the three powerhouses of the UK Southern Region, and they certainly did not disappoint. Bristol Brizzlebears, Werewolves of London, and a resurgent Southampton Quidditch Club Firsts all finished with a three way tie against one another withall of these matches finishing in snitch range. With this parity and the inclusion of reigning champions Warwick Quidditch Club for Southern Cup, the race for the two available EQC spots from the region will be immensely tight should these four all make the semifinals as expected. Bristol, Werewolves, and SQC all showed signs of disjointedness that mark the start of a new season, but if any of them can improve on their weaknesses in the few weeks that remain before Southern, that may just be enough to steal a victory. Get ready for the most exciting and competitive UK regional championships ever. 5. Raptors dominant without anything extra The well–earned gold medal winners of this second edition of Battle Royale are the Raptors. Their victories at home were not matched by equal international success in their first season (silver at Battle Royale and a quarterfinal loss at EQC). This team will be extremely happy to start their second season with their first international tournament win. The Raptors went into the tournament disadvantaged with key players like Bill Orridge and Andrew Hull missing, but after the bad start from Antwerp it became clear that the Raptors were offered a chance to win. Seeing the younger Orridge replacing the older with ease, having Seb Waters as a mercenary player replacement for keeper Andrew Hull, and Michael Lewis’ gorgeous debut for the Raptors, made this team look intimidating. It was not all sunshine for the Raptors on Day One, though. They managed to win all of their games, but conceding 14 goals in three games does not make you unconquerable. With Tom Heynes not playing at the level we are used to, and Jay Holmes being a great leader on and off the field but lacking precision in the execution as ball carrier, James Thanangadan may have felt himself isolated in the chasing game at some points. Luckily for the Raptors, Waters played an impressive tournament at keeper and stepped his game up every time an opponent got too close.
The first game of Day Two was set to be the game to watch as the Raptors faced European champions Antwerp in the group stage. The Raptors had a strong start, taking an early lead with Waters and Lewis finding each other for goal after goal.The game looked over, but when De Witpowered through in the second part of the game with four consecutive goals, theRaptors were suddenly only leading by 10 points. It came down to a snitch catch where Raptors pulled out a deserved win, ensuring themselves a place in the final. The last group stage game and the final did not present any problems for the Raptors. The Raptors could not imagine a better start for their season, and with regionals coming soon they can start working on their preparation for what can become their EQC. There is still a lot of work to do for Raptors since their MVP of this tournament, Waters, will return to Warwick and make space for Hull. There is no doubt that Hull is a great keeper, but it remains to be seen to what height their chasing game will develop, especially with the Raptor beaters struggling more and more this tournament. 6. Norway: beating > chasing One of the three non-UK teams attending the tournament weretheOSI Vikings, a team competing at the top of Norwegian quidditch. OSI came with big hopes and dreams to this tournament, and while they did not do badly, they might have come out feeling a little disappointed. Their 1-6 record does not tell the whole story, but if one thing became clear,it is that their chasing was not quite ready for the level needed at this tournament. At first, it was sometimes painful to watch the OSI beaters dominate the game but still concede goal after goal because Vikings’ passing game was nonexistent. It must be said, though, that OSI brought a lot of new quaffle players to Southampton. OSI did play some great games, including a tight game against London, where they lost90*-50,and a very much needed win over Passau. This is due mainly to the dominant beating of the OSI female beaters with Mette Sundalplaying an outstanding tournament. They struggled more against teams with a better organised chaser defence; they were played out of range in almost every game because they could not capitalise on their opportunities.
If there is one thing OSI should learn from this tournament, it is that scoring only in no-bludger situations with hero runs will not suffice at the international level. There is potential in their new recruits who improved throughout the tournament, but when playing with such high–level beaters on the team it can be very tempting to rely on them in offence. This prevents chasers from developing their skills. If OSI works on this and creates some more tactics in their chasing game, they might be able to do more than just winning the Oslo Open, they might even get into the upper bracket at EQC 2018. This seems unlikely however, since they may lack experience on this matter in the team, but it is their job to prove everyone wrong in the upcoming season. 7. Battle Royale II – A Successful Tournament The second edition of Battle Royale can be considered a huge success. Last year, the tournament format went down well with the players and showed it can be a platform for promising high-level teams (such as Antwerp themselves). It was therefore no surprise that there was more international interest in this second edition. Going from one non-UK team to threewhile knowing Titans Paris and Liège Leviathans sadly dropped out at the last minute is a huge step. This, together with most of the UK teams that attended last year, promised to be a very interesting tournament. Those who attended were not disappointed, as upsets happened everywhere. Southampton beat Antwerp, Passau was even on quaffle points against London and Bristol, Bristol beat London, and the Raptors defeated Antwerp in a spectacular game ㅡ and this is only a glimpse of everything that happened. Every single team, whether it came first or seventh, returned home with new motivation and information on what things to work on coming season.
The tournament ran smoothly thanks to the great leadership of Southampton’s coordinator Kerry Aziz and pitch manager Betsy Lewin-Leigh; thank you to all of the volunteers of the playing teams, as most games had four assistant referees.
This tournament seems like the ideal start of the season for international quidditch, and we can not wait for the third edition. The only struggle Southampton may find next year is having enough teams willing to attend. Due to this and to the logistics of the current venue, they might be wise to restrict the number of attending teams to around eight.