By Eddie McAteer, Sports Investigations Editor
Ultimate Frisbee is not a sport many of us are familiar with. For most people, a frisbee is something you take on a family picnic and throw around for a few minutes (with varying degrees of success), or maybe even a toy for your dog on a walk. For those in the know, however, there is a flourishing sport based entirely on this flying disk and the team here recently took on Cardiff at the hallowed grounds of Coombe Dingle.
As so often happens in this country, a beautifully bright February morning gave way to a grey and overcast lunchtime just as the game got started. Although, the Ultimate Frisbee team did their best to brighten things up with their performance on the pitch. Within a mere three touches they had scored their first point, as a huge throw from deep put them on the front foot and they scored with relative ease.
Despite conceding early, Cardiff held out for a little longer with some spells in possession but when they lost the ball Bristol were quick to pounce. A difficult chance that was dropped in the end zone served as a warning to the away side, but this warning went unheeded. Cardiff fumbled the disc and put themselves under pressure, a pressure that Bristol made the most of to double their lead.
A couple of missed opportunities followed but Bristol once again capitalised on a Cardiff error and started to cut loose by scoring their third. The visitors finally responded with a score of their own to get off the mark, but it didn’t take long for the home side to work the disc down the wing for their fourth point.
One of the unique characteristics of Ultimate Frisbee is that there are no referees. In sports such as football, fans often end up complaining about the officials or the often-criticised Video Assistant Referee (VAR). In Ultimate Frisbee, there is no such opportunity and the players themselves self-officiate the game.
This special trait of the game did however lead to some confusion, as Cardiff felt they had scored their second despite potentially being out of play. Eventually it was settled that they had scored, and the gap was cut back to two points. It was an unthinkably swift decision given that this is two opposing teams, especially when compared to a sport like football.
Despite conceding, Bristol responded fantastically and scored four more thanks to some tenacious defence and attack. It could even have been more for them, but a couple of chances were wasted as the half drew on.
Going in at half-time six points to the good demonstrated Bristol’s dominance in the game but Cardiff managed to make life difficult for them in the second half. Two points in quick succession brought them back into the game a little but just as they were starting to get going, Bristol took the sting out of their comeback. A fantastic score from a wonderfully worked passing move put them back in the driving seat and they followed it up with another score to make it 10-4.
At this point, as so often happens in this country, the overcast skies bore rainclouds and the rainclouds bore rain. Alas, I had foolishly put my faith in the Great British weather and was unfortunately coatless for the remainder of the game. Though, it wasn’t just on the side-lines that the weather had an impact. With the rain making the disc more and more slippery, the game started to break down slightly and became a game of even finer margins.
Each team alternated scoring points but Bristol’s early lead proved too much for their guests to claw back. By the time the home side reached the 14 points required to win the game, they had doubled their opponent’s score.
The club were clearly pleased with such a comprehensive victory and said, ‘we managed to use what we’ve been coached on and break through easily.’ Defensively they were dominant too and were able to stop Cardiff’s passing game and forced them to make mistakes. They said, ‘Cardiff shut down our upline cuts well, but during our timeout talk we figured we just have to give them as good as they have given us.’
A relatively straightforward victory for Bristol leaves them second in the BUCS league and with an opportunity to qualify for the Division 1 Nationals. They have only lost once all season, and even then, by a solitary point against Bath.
If that doesn’t say ‘strong team’ to you then it is worth noting that three players have also been selected to play for GB U24, Ned Morris, Henry Brooking and Charlie Dighero. The team is evidently in a really healthy position as they go into the business end of the season.
Unfortunately for any newfound frisbee fans reading this, there is only one BUCS game left for the team, against Exeter 1s, but they are hoping to finish in the top eight places for the Nationals.
The club is also looking to develop their second team to match other universities such as Bath and Swansea, where the difference between the 1s and 2s is minimal.
As someone who had never witnessed this sport until now, the skills on show were certainly impressive. I never imagined it possible to control a frisbee to this extent, let alone to make it look this exciting. Aside from my own fresh perspective on the sport, the team were phenomenal and were well worth their win. Next stop, Division 1 Nationals.
Featured image: Bristol SEH