The “Should Have Caught It Tour”.
At the end of April the Manchester Titans Adult Flag team flew into Amsterdam’s Schipol airport to take part in the King Bowl Flag Football Tournament in Utrecht. It was the team’s first international tournament (not including Flagging New Year in Glasgow, which also draws some of the best teams in Europe) and they took a 13 player squad to compete.
King Day (which the tournament is named after) is a National Holiday in the Netherlands and took place one day before the tournament, which was when the majority of the team arrived. The Dutch take their celebrations pretty seriously and the Titans were fascinated to see what was virtually the whole country out drinking, wearing orange and having fun, without any of the trouble or violence that might occur if such an event had taken place in the UK.
After meeting up for lunch in Amsterdam and sampling some of the local bars, the players made their way to their accomodations in Utrecht.
Some more team-bonding ensured as the players visited Beers and Barrels bar & grill for a fantastic BBQ meal with some local Dutch liquid refreshment.
The Titans were drawn in a particularly tough group with teams such as the Mainz Legionnaires (Ranked #3 in Germany) and the Kaiserlautern Eagles made up of US Air Force personnel who usually compete in international flag tournaments as the USA Mayhem. Both teams were favourites to win the tournament outright.
The first game of Saturday morning saw the Titans take on Den Haag Hyenas – a team who had recently beaten the Purmerend Barbarians who are the 4th ranked team in the Netherlands. But the Titans were coming in from a 3 & 0 start to their season and they romped to a 40-19 victory with WR David Briscall scoring 2 TDs while the Titans Big Blue defense scored on 2 pick sixes.
Next up was the one of the tournament favourites, the Kaiserslautern Eagles and whilst they only had 5 players, they were all fast athletic experience American players who took advantage of any mistakes made by the Titans to win 32-14, with the Titans TDs coming from Ben Nuttall and Jay Pitchford.
The Titans offense got back on track in the next game with 5TDs plus a safety from Will Gleed gave Manchester a 36-20 victory.
Next up was the Cologne Pandas, who the Titans had developed a great friendship with when we accidentally borrowed their gazebo when it started raining. However on the field it was a different matter with the defense suffocating the Pandas offense, holding them to just 8 points, while the Offense again racked up 5 scores and a 33-8 win.
Throughout the day, the Titans enjoyed the hospitality of the tournament hosts, the Utrecht Dominators who provided free bottled water and had great food options for sale, including hot dogs and ribs. Not to mention beer on tap and chocolate milk in cans.
The last game of the day saw the Titans take on another of favourites, Germany’s 3rd ranked Mainz Legionnaires. The Titans Offense struggled in the 1st half, failing to convert any of their opportunities and went into half-time 14-0 down. However QB Alan Mead led the Titans to 2 TDs to tie the game before Mainz added another score and ran out the clock to take a 21-14 victory.
However the Titans weren’t finished, inventing a new game of beer football where all of the players had to hold a cup of beer whilst playing and tackles being made by “ass-slaps”. They also treated the Pandas to a round of beers as a thank you for them allowing us to share their gazebo throughout the day.
That evening the Titans again went out to sample some of the finest food Utrecht had to offer, and after a couple of restaurants were unable to accommodate the 13 strong squad, they settled on the Italian Restaurant, San Siro and had a great meal on the terrace. An early night was required though, as the first game of Sunday was at 9.30am.
Manchester arrived ready to go at 9am, but there was no sign of their opponents, the Oviedo Madbulls. Eventually they arrived after the start time but struggled to get into the game as touchdowns from Ian Allonby and Rick McEwen plus a shut-out from the defense gave the Titans a 14-0 victory. This meant that the Titans finished 3rd in the group with a record of won 3, lost 2.
This meant the Titans would be in a playoff game against Uni Vechta which they won 12-7 with TDs from Rick McEwen and Ryan Farrell to advance to the 9th place game in the 28 team International Flag Tournament King Bowl.
However Titans Flag would lose their last game of the day, 19-7 to the Wild hogs with Ben Nuttall scoring the only TD. That said, all the Titans players thought it was a great tournament with Manchester finishing 10th out of 28 European teams.
London Smoke were the eventually winners, defeating the Mainz Legionnaires in the final.
Titans Tournament MVPs – Offence Rick McEwen, Defense Tom Brook.
Funniest moment of the tournament was when Ian Allonby dropped an interception, and yelled at the sideline – “I would have caught it, if you hadn’t been yelling my name”. All in all, an amazing weekend and the Titans Flag players are already thinking about next year’s tournament.