Saturday was a successful day for the UOB Lions squads as both the Women’s 1sts and Fresher’s 1sts won their respective University Championships in Cannock.
The women’s 1sts cruised into the knockout stages with comfortable 10-0 wins against Notts Trent, Manchester University and UCL, losing their first frame of the day in an 8-2 win over Winchester Bullettes. Winning their group meant that they would progress straight through to the Quarter Finals, where they would face Birmingham 2nds in a closely matched encounter. Lions 3rds also reached the Quarters, having lost to eventual runners up, Nottingham, in a close 6-2 match.
The first frame went to the 1sts 5-0 after some very good and consistent throwing. The next frame was more closely contested, with the seconds coming out winners to make the scare 2-2 after two frames in a best of 5 match. However in the next two frames the 1sts come out comfortably on top with 6-0 and 5-0 wins. This saw the 1sts into the Semi-Final 6-2, with the seconds coming in the top 8 in the country. In the Semi-Final the 1sts came up against fierce rivals Warwick Warriors and managed to edge them out 9-3 in in a best of 7 match, rather convincingly in the end.
The Final saw the Lions come up against Nottingham Balls of Steel A, who had already unconvincingly beaten both other Lions teams. However, Birmingham weren’t going to get it all their own way, as Nottingham managed to put up a strong fight. In the end, the Lions managed to overcome the intense pressure of a final and their opponents to win the match 9-3. Congratulations go out to the girls, Rhiannon Hickinbottom, Karen Pickering, Nikki Clarkson, Avni Jain, Chloe Spalding and Katie Warwick, on their amazing victory and to the 2nds and 3rds on both coming in the Top 8, an amazing achievement for all at the club.
The Freshers 1sts started very nervously, with a couple of schoolboy errors leaving them needing some luck in the first frame against Manchester, a game in which they eventually won 10-0. The next game would prove to be their toughest, against Warwick Warriors. The Lions scraped through the first two frames winning them 3-2 and 3-0. However, Warwick won the next frame 3-0, putting some doubt and fear in the minds of the Freshers. This was soon quelled by the Lions as the won the fourth and most important from, confirming their victory. Sadly the Warriors won the last frame making it 6-4. The next game came against Nottingham Trent University, in which there were no real scares for the Lions, winning comfortably 8-2.
Into Round 2 they went, against the University of Leicester they won convincingly 6-0 to set up a Quarter Final match against the Southampton Pirates. Despite winning this game 6-0, it wasn’t plain sailing for the Lions. The first two frames of the match were won 4-0 in which the lions showed good catching and throwing and showed a very professional attitude. The key frame came next, with the Lions being 4-1 down, the pressure was on. George Fountain was the last man in and, in crucial circumstances, caught his most important catch. However, he later gets out, leaving Robbie Duggleby as the last man, who makes a good catch after a fumble leaving it 2-on-2, with some good throwing at the end of the frame, Birmingham won it 2-0, and the match 6-0, putting them through to the Semi-Final, the first ever Birmingham Freshers team to do so.
In the Last 4, Birmingham faced a rematch against Warwick, which proved to be as close as the first encounter. The first frame was a very even contest, with Lions winning it 3-2 after a catch by Will Blanchard on the buzzer. Warwick came back strong in the next frame, coming out on top 5-0. The third frame was the most important in the match. One minute in and the Lions were 6-3 down but after four catches from Daniel Tidey they scraped through 3-2. The next frame was another evenly contested one and ended in a draw with three players left apiece. This left the score as 5-3 with one more win for Birmingham seeing them into the Final, and they duly delivered in the fifth frame as they came out with a relatively convincing 4-0 victory, 7-3 overall.
The opponent for the Final was Winchester Bullets, who had already beaten the Freshers 2nds 10-0. This match would be a little more one-sided than first thought, with the Lions winning the first three frames at a canter, perhaps handling the pressure better than their opponents. However, there was still a scare to come as the Bullets fought hard in the fourth frame and managed to get one back to put doubt in the minds of the Lions. Surely a comeback wasn’t on the cards? However, Birmingham stayed strong in the fifth frame and saw it out 5-0 with time to spare, wrapping up an 8-2 victory to the delirious celebrations of the Lions’ support. A great effort by the guys, James Williams, Jamie Starling, Robbie Duggleby, Sam Wheeler, Daniel Tidey, George Fountain and Will Blanchard, who became the first Birmingham Freshers to get to the Semi-Finals, let alone win it.
A very successful day out for the Lions sadly couldn’t be matched on Sunday, with no Birmingham teams exceeding the Second Round. Two out of three wins is still an amazing achievement, congratulations all-round.