March 25, 2015 marked a historical moment for the University of Nottingham’s (UoN) Ultimate Frisbee club with its inaugural match against Nottingham Trent University. The long-awaited showdown took place on University Park’s 3G pitch and was witnessed by a substantial crowd, testimony to the sports growing popularity.
UoN took an early lead with Dan Bean securing a rapid point within the first minute, thanks to a well-placed assist by skipper Brodie Whittington. But this was soon matched by a deep shot to the end zone to Trent’s top scorer Michael Paul. However, UoN were able to easily break through Trent’s zone defence, allowing for a rapid succession of scores from Dan Bean, Doug Luo and club president Fergus Claridge. Some confident handling of the disc in centre-field, coupled with some impressive deep shots to the end zone, allowed Trent to claw back through Michael Paul and Sam Pitt. Despite this, a firm grab from Ian Roper secured a closing point for UoN in the final minute before the break, which meant that the green and gold went into half-time up 6-4.
The second half saw a successful change in defensive tactics from Trent, who switched from zone defence to man marking, which managed to slow the pace of the game substantially and limit quick-fire points. While Trent altered their defensive approach, they stuck with their original offensive strategy, using a well-handled horizontal stack play. This was equally matched by UoN’s confident vertical stack.
A rapid opening point for UoN, scored by Gregory Caleb Quah from Claridge’s assist, continued UoN’s onslaught and domination of the scoreboard in the second half. A head-on collision, as the result of a bid, left Trent slightly shaken when they were forced to substitute star scorer Michael Paul. They were able to reclaim composure and displayed some impressive disc-handling and skilled inside-out passes in centre-field, though UoN pulled away with a succession of high grabs in the end zone from Olly Grubb, Liam Reddy and Josh Heaps. Play was temporarily stopped by a pick call against UoN, but the call was uncontested and play was continued. As the call suggests, the game was well-spirited overall, despite passionate play from both teams. It displayed the success of the self-refereed nature of the sport, which many are sceptical of.
UoN’s resounding victory was finally cemented thanks to a score from Josh Heaps in the final three seconds, which was met with elation from the UoN supporters
With ten minutes left of the second half, Pitt was able to secure his second point of the game and Trent’s only point of the second half. This was swiftly followed up by a massive deep shot from Reddy that was confidently picked up by UoN captain Ben Poole, which brought the score to 10-5. The ensuing attack from Trent was matched by a brave layout defence from Whittington. And a strong retaliation from UoN saw women’s captain Alice Brookes bring the score to 11-5 with three minutes to go. UoN’s resounding victory was finally cemented thanks to a score from Josh Heaps in the final three seconds, which was met with elation from the UoN supporters.
UoN Ultimate president Fergus Claridge: “Although it was nice to get the win, the main thing was to put on a successful event with a big crowd that would mean we’d get an official Varsity berth soon”
After the match, Poole had this to say: “Overall it went really well both on pitch and off pitch. The amount of people that came down was really good to see, there was a great atmosphere with some high level frisbee played by both sides. Fortunately we managed to get up by a few breaks and then hold out for the win. Hopefully it’s the start to many years of Varsity”.
Ben’s sentiment was mirrored by club president Claridge, who suggested: “Although it was nice to get the win, the main thing was to put on a successful event with a big crowd that would mean we’d get an official Varsity berth soon”.
It seems that the first Ultimate Frisbee varsity fixture, although unofficial, was a resounding success. It seems that many hope it will become a permanent fixture in the official Varsity Series soon.
Images: Bryn Davies, UoN Ultimate