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Michael’s Travel Diary

Monday, 07 Apr 2008

Location: Southampton, England

MapHey guys, the weekend before last was the inaugural Titanic Cup, hosted by the Southampton Titans. This is a piece I have written for the club website (if it ever gets running again properly), World Footy News and a couple other football websites. Anyway, I figure it is as good as any way to explain what the day was all about...


Reading Roos win Inaugural Titanic Cup

Clear blue skies. Not a breath of wind. A soft, but dry, field. All the makings for a perfect day of Aussie Rules Football, to showcase the game to the South Coast of England.

Unfortunately, the inaugural Walkabout Southampton Titanic Cup held on the last Saturday in March was one of the coldest, windiest and wettest March days in recent history. Winds gusting up to 35 miles an hour, grey skies, and a continual sheath of rain for the most part of the day were what welcomed the competitors when they arrived at the Southampton University Jubilee Sports Ground.

Hosted by the Southampton Titans Australian Rules Football Club, and sponsored by the Southampton Walkabout, the Titanic Cup was fought out between the Bournemouth Demons, Chippenham Red Backs, Reading Roos, Sussex Swans along with the hosting Titans. Brain child of Titans’ Vice President, Peter Stroud, the pre-season tournament was organized to showcase the Aussie game to the locals, as well as providing an opportunity for the competing teams to blood new players and gauge how their pre-season training has tracking. With the state of the weather, it was clear that the tournament would be about the teams playing, rather than the spectators.

The tournament was played with the 9 a-side format that the Aussie Rules UK league uses for its competition. Played on a rugby pitch using slightly modified rules, the day was arranged so that each team would play four matches, one again each of the other opposition clubs. The games were played as two 10-minute halves, with just enough time to change ends in between.

The first game, between BARFL club Reading and last years ARUK Southern Division runners-up Sussex, kicked off just after 10 am and Sussex, strengthened by the most participants on the day, moved to an early lead and maintained it throughout the battle. From the outset though, it was clear that the wind would play a huge part, with the majority of the score being kicked at the non-pavilion end of the ground.

The second game saw Bournemouth take on the hosts in what was bound to be a passionate battle between the two teams that finished the ARUK 2007 season 1 and 2 on the table. Southampton was keen to make a mark on its own tournament, and kicked with the wind in the first half, however, inaccurate kicking resulted in only a marginal lead at the break. Southampton knuckled down in the wet conditions, and despite the middle of the pitch being torn up in just the second of the 11 matches, the mid-field kept control of the match and won the game.

The third game saw the Chippenham Red Backs, a brand new team to the ARUK Southern Division, outgunned by the much bigger, and more experienced Reading Roos, who notched their first victory for the day. It was at about this time that the heavens opened up and made the going even tougher.

As the day progressed, Sussex continued to rack up the wins and Reading improved on their early blemish in the first game. With three games left, Sussex sat atop the ladder, 3-0 with one game left to play, followed by Southampton on 2-0 with 2 games left. Next on the list was Reading, with a record of 2-1 with one game left, followed by Bournemouth and Chippenham, both without a win, and only one game left to play – against each other.

Perhaps the most defining battle of the day, Southampton versus Reading, was the next game in the fixture. With a win ensuring Southampton a spot in the final, and Reading needing the victory to give itself a chance of playing the big game, both teams stepped onto the field with a desire and urgency not yet seen in the tournament. The battle was close all of the way, and was anyone’s game until the final siren when Reading triumphed 23-21, inaccurate kicking costing the Titans a straight shot into the Final.

The next game saw the battle of the wooden spoon, in what was by far the lowest scoring game of the day, Chippenham leading 2-0 at half time. At this stage, with over than half the pitch being little more than a mud heap, the football’s handling like soap bars the weight of house bricks, and the players skills starting to wan, the wind was having less and less effect on the game. The all English Chippenham team securing the win, keeping themselves out of the wooden spoon position.

The final game of the preliminary rounds saw Southampton play Sussex, in what is arguably the biggest rivalry in the ARUK Southern Division. Southampton needed to win to play in the final, a second game immediately afterwards against Sussex again, and Sussex wanted to stamp its authority on the day and planned on going through to the final undefeated. It was a close battle, with Southampton having the edge at the break after kicking with the wind. It wasn’t long though before Sussex took advantage of the game in the second half. Again Southampton had problems kicking straight, and it appeared as though Sussex had run away with the battle. In the end though, perhaps the score line was closer than the battle, but Sussex prevailed 27-23 with an undefeated run into the Grand Final.

At 4:30 pm, Reading and Sussex took part in the Grand Final, a replay of the days opening match. All of the money was for Sussex, who had run through the competition undefeated, and was keyed up having just come off a rousing victory against Southampton. Reading on the other hand had spent the last 90 minutes sitting on the sidelines in the cold waiting to find out weather or not they would be given a shot at the cup.

That didn’t affect the way they played though. They used the wind beautifully in the first half and amassed an amazing 28-0 lead at half time. Easily the highest single half score of the day, and also the biggest lead seen in the day. It was clear that Sussex would have to play a greatly improved second half if they were to even challenge for the Titanic Cup, and only ten minutes stood between winning and losing it.

The second half saw Sussex narrow the margin with the first two goals, and there was every chance that the crowd might be witnessing by far the biggest comeback of the day. A steadying goal to Readings GB full-forward, Jules ensured that Reading would be holding the Titanic Cup when the final siren sounded.

Along with the Walkabout Southampton Titanic Cup, Reading’s Jules went home with the leading goal kicking medal, slotting 8 goals for the day. The days leading vote getter was a surprise to all, with Bournemouth’s captain, Lachlan ‘Kenny’ Kerr, taking out the award for the Best & Fairest with 9 votes out of a possible 12 from the Demons 4 games, despite the team not registering a victory for the day.

Despite the atrocious weather conditions, the day ran like clock-work, and was referred to as a success by all of those who were involved. With the positive feedback, the Southampton Titans will look to build on the success of the inaugural Titanic Cup in 2009, and establish the premier tournament in the South Coast of England. If only Mother Nature is willing to come on board next year.