Our first team, the Portsmouth Horntail Strikers, played a grueling Southern Cup last weekend. Contending with 8 inch deep mud and icy intermittent rain, Portsmouth battled it out against the might of the Southampton first team, the comparatively inexperienced but highly physical Bathilisks and old friends of the team The Norwich Nifflers.
Portsmouth’s first performance of the group stages was a difficult game against rivals and eventual tournament winners, Southampton firsts. Portsmouth played an uncharacteristically poor game here, eventually conceding a heavy 210*-10 defeat. While a significant loss was always on the cards playing into SQC’s incredibly experienced and talented line up, the huge differential is also indicative of Portsmouth’s slow adaptation to the playing conditions and some players being unaccustomed to such one sided matches and how to play them. It was not all doom and gloom however, Portsmouth conceded the least points against SQC with Bath and Norwich losing by 350 and 260 points respectively.
Following an important team talk, Portsmouth marched into its next match with the Norwich Nifflers, determined to put in a game winning performance better representative of their quality. While Norwich have significantly picked up their game from previous years, this match was still likely to go in Portsmouth’s favour. As it was, Norwich played a smart, ultra-compact defense which, coupled with the quagmire pitch, served to prevent many Portsmouth goal attempts. Simply, as Portsmouth would drive the ball forwards they would have to go through a defender who would in turn slide into and knock over the hoop the player was attempting to score in. The final score was a comfortable 100*-10 win for Portsmouth, a score which would have likely been higher another day as the mud slowed down play. While Norwich showed a strong defense, they lacked direction in their offence and were reluctant to commit to contact. If Norwich can fix these issues they will be stronger contenders in future.
The final game on the Saturday was between Portsmouth and Bath. This highly physical match up saw a larger onus on smaller players than usual producing big hits as larger players struggled to gain traction in the deepening mud. This led to large amounts of scrappy, frantic play on both teams’ hoops which Portsmouth tended to win out on as their beaters put in a dominant, napalm heavy display and the chasers landed tackle after tackle on defense. On a firm pitch Portsmouth’s more mature play style would have likely shone through and secured them a comfortable victory, as it was Bath’s more direct strategies played well to the treacherous conditions and managed to keep them in contention to win from behind until the last minutes of the game. The final score was 90*-30 to Portsmouth, putting the Strikers on the road to BQC.
At the end of day 1 Portsmouth had secured their place at BQC and found themselves in the upper bracket, placing 9th out of 21 teams. Generally you would expect positions 6-10 to be the second seeded teams of the tournament but instead Portsmouth found themselves in strange company. A vastly improved Reading squad managed to pull a win from behind against Swansea to take their upper bracket slot and Bristol Bees defeated Falmouth in an unprecedented win for the plucky second team. Portsmouth may have placed as high as 6th on another day but the poor pitch quality prevented them from racking up as high of a “points difference per minute” as other teams on firmer pitches. In order to achieve their goal of attending BQC as a second seeded team Portsmouth would have take one more win. The game would be against the Reading Knights, a team that had caught to win against Portsmouth from behind only weeks before.
On Sunday morning Portsmouth met Reading on the remnants of one of the previous day’s pitches, a ruined field veiled by a thin film of frost. Both teams knew what was on the line in this game and gave their all throughout. Over the course of the match Portsmouth’s smaller squad suffered heavily from niggling injuries which led to the eventual loss of several players in the latter stages. Both team’s beaters were well matched and chasers hit each other hard. In the male chasing there was little in it either way however Portsmouth’s girls put in a massive effort and were instrumental in propping up a flagging team. The quaffle score was 50-40 to Reading before the catch however should have been 50-50 or even 50-30 to Portsmouth as video footage shows an outrageously embarrassing moment for one of the goal refs as they are seen chatting to a member of the crowd and missing a beautiful long range shot from Dan Morgan through the centre hoop. This oversight led to a Reading counterattack ultimately leading to a further goal for the Knights. Fortunately, Ryan Ellwood made the crucial snitch catch to end the game at 70*-50 for Portsmouth and making the team’s progression at BQC that much easier!
This win threw Portsmouth into their final game of the tournament, a 130-30* loss to SQC in the team’s second meeting. While this was another heavy loss, the score margins were half that of the previous days game and Portsmouth played with ambition and quality throughout. While Portsmouth scored no points in the quaffle game, this was in no part down to their quality of play or effort. The mud coupled with SQC’s well drilled defense ended many excellent scoring attempts and fatigue began to slow the Portsmouth defensive response. Portsmouth can hold their heads up proud though! Not only was their score margin with SQC almost the same as the Bristol Bears (BQC 2017 second place) whose game ended 130*-10, they also managed to catch the snitch deep into the opposition half from under the noses of both Team UK Beaters and Seekers. The catch providing a sweet, if small, victory to end the tournament.
Overall Portsmouth placed 8th at Southern Cup 2017 in an exceptionally fun but taxing tournament. Now the team is resting up before beginning preparations for their upcoming Southwest League Match with the Bristol Bears and getting in shape for BQC 2018 and beyond! The team would like to extend special thanks to all of the referees and snitches who made our games possible and of course the organising committee for the tournament who did a fantastic job across the weekend. Particular thanks go out to Nicole Stone and Lauren Sterry for some exceptional refereeing and snitch running.