Esport: Campus Clutch Global Challenge comes to an exciting end
Under the bright neon lights of New Zealand’s first post-Covid LAN tournament, six teams from New Zealand’s universities converged on the Red Bull Auckland studios to square off in a slogging match for bragging rights, the chance to represent Aotearoa in the global finals of the challenge, and a sweet gaming setup for their university.
For these teams, more was at stake than simple bragging rights. With aspirations of high-flying international esports careers, talent scouts around the world were surely watching for prospective up-and-comers.
This was their chance to shine.
Off-stream, Cypherhead (UoA) edged out RATSPORTS (UC) on Ascent, while UoW Boosted (UoW) fell to Wrath (UoA), in a dominant 13-3 performance by the Auckland squad.
Wrath captain Irene ‘Niya’ Hong said they felt confident from the get-go, and had a bank of strats coming into this matchup.
“B Site was easy to get onto; and we would try to get as much shower control as possible.
With a spot in the upper bracket safely secured, Wrath now faced a much more difficult opponent: UoW Draughts.
UoW Draughts were a team to watch coming into the finals. Despite a competitive start from Wrath, a sterling second half performance from the Waikato squad saw the game end in a nail-biting match point choke.
Despite a strong performance from the Draughts, Mama’s Boys were still the team to beat heading into the LAN finals. A veteran squad composed of semi-pros, retired top-flight players and one current professional player, it seemed nothing could shake their dominance.
After confidently beating Cypherhead 13-3, Lucky ‘Yifang’ Chen said the team were going to have some fun against some of the less-experienced teams.
“One of our set strats was just to go A [site] 12 rounds in a row - the way I was playing was like a throw.
Chen said they didn’t mind playing hard and loose, “as long as someone within the team was taking it seriously.”
Matchups were decisive from this point on - Wrath eliminated RATSPORT on the unorthodox map Icebox, UoW Boosted knocked Cypherhead into the lower bracket in a convincing 13-3 scoreline, before Wrath delivered the fatal blow to the Auckland squad’s tournament run in a nail-biting quarterfinal.
The standout moment in the map went to Wrath player Nathan ‘Noir’ Roberts, who’s nuclear performance on Bind carried Wrath to an eventual semifinal: manoeuvring his way into an ace clutch defuse and dropping 29 kills in regulation with relative ease.
Caster Billy ‘Bluepanda’ Brereton was left in audible disbelief at Roberts’ performance.
“Noir had to put in the extra effort on this one. He definitely had to dig deep for his ace, and we finally had an ace in the tournament!”
Roberts’ ace clutch would go on to win Play of the Tournament.
After falling to Mama’s Boys for the first spot in the grand finals, UoW Draughts would go up against Wrath in what would be the most competitive matchup of the tournament.
In a gripping BO3 matchup, blows were exchanged as the Draughts took an 8-4 lead at half-time.
With the crowd cheering them on, they took map one 13-8, with standout performances by Harsh ‘Azuliate’ Bajwa and Luke ‘snuf’ Horan.
Map two saw Bajwa shine again, dropping 31 kills in regulation and carrying the UoW Draughts to a hard-fought victory. His performance, as well as his consistency throughout the tournament would win him the Exceptionally Valuable Player award.
This was it. The moment.
In the final series of the tournament, a battle-weary Draughts took on a warmed-up Mama’s Boys yet again, in what was set to be the biggest challenge Mama’s Boys would face in the entire tournament.
A strong performance by ‘Azuliate’ wasn’t enough to pull the Draughts over the line on Split, and despite an admirable late-stage comeback, Mama’s Boys would eventually close the map 13-10.
Map two saw Mama’s Boys take another early lead, but this time, there would be no comeback.
Closing the map, series and tournament in a dominant 13-2 fashion, Mama’s Boys locked in their spot in the ANZ finals.
Joining the casters on stage in front of a cheering crowd, Mama’s Boys claimed the Red Bull Campus Clutch trophy, in an epic conclusion to an epic tournament run.
It isn’t over for Lucky ‘Yifang’ Chen and his band of merry men - they’ll have to face off against Australian rivals RMIT Black to claim their spot in Spain in the Campus Clutch finals.
Chen said after their dominant run, he felt confident the Australians would be a cakewalk.
“I met one of the players - I think we can take them!”
Flanked by supporters, he praised Red Bull for offering teams and players a platform to shine, and described the tournament as the perfect opportunity to show universities the future of esports in New Zealand.
“We’re doing more than just representing them [universities]. They can’t just ignore this.
“We’re leading the country, and it should be the universitie’s goal to support students and open up new experiences.”
As for that uncompromising confidence Chen voiced earlier in the tournament? It doesn’t seem misplaced.
“We always had it under control.”
Chen would go on to win the Most Valuable Player award, to the rapture of fans.
Chen and Mama’s Boys will play against RMIT Black (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) next month for a spot in the Red Bull Campus Clutch global challenge world finals.