The ESEA Season 26 Open Grand Final for South Africa was contested last Thursday night between serial finalists Bravado Gaming and debut finalists Big 5 Esports. Let’s take a closer look at what transpired going into the final and in the match itself.

The lead up for Big 5 Esports

Big 5 beat Energy eSports 2-1 in a closely contested Semi Final series that went into overtime on both maps. It was a result that may have surprised many as Energy had been dominant throughout the season and were the winners of the last two LAN finals as well. Big 5 did well to dispatch an Energy side, who in spite of playing with a stand in, put up a determined performance.

As a relatively new organization formed this year, Big 5 were the first player-owned team to find success in SA CS:GO. They’ve effectively vanquished the legendary Damage Control side from the top three in the rankings after bullying them in both ESL Africa seasons and the past few 2017 ESEA seasons as well. Big 5 have firmly established themselves as a top contender and a fan favourite.

Big 5 went into the organization’s first Grand Final with the biggest scalp in South African Counter-Strike to their name. Their win was forged in the fires of adversity, having been pushed to their limits, and emerged the victor. They would have been quietly confident about their prospects.

Bravado’s road to the Final

Meanwhile, Bravado had a much easier time of it in the other Semi Final, overcoming Goliath Gaming in a clean 2 – 0 series victory. They had complete control of the match from the outset and were not under threat of losing at any point. This was for the most part the story of their ESEA season so far. They dominated all the opponents they faced and only stumbled against arch rivals Energy. Bravado’s run to the final was largely smooth sailing.

How would they fair in the Grand Final considering the previous times they had faced a strong and determined enemy in a playoff situation on LAN, they were the ones that had crumbled? This was true of the ESWC Qualifier LAN Final at Rush Expo in July as well as the ESL Africa Season Two Finals at rAge Expo in October versus Energy.

This final would be online however. They were the defending champions, having secured the title in Season 25 against Energy in September between the two aforementioned LAN results that went against them. Bravado were highly motivated. This would be a chance to again stamp Bravado dominance on the SA scene, although it would not be against Energy this time around.

The Grand Final

As mentioned in last week’s preview piece, the two teams’ map pools are relatively similar. This meant that unless Big 5 were able to pull out a big surprise in the veto stage, the maps would likely favour the firepower advantage of Bravado. Big 5 chose Cobblestone, Bravado got Train as their pick with the deciding third map being Cache, should it be required.

Big 5’s new apparel looks rather sweet. 🙂 Photo courtesy of borrowing it from their Facebook page.

Map 1: Cobblestone

After winning the pistol round, Bravado Gaming stormed to a 13 – 2 lead on Cobblestone. Big 5 were never allowed a foothold in the game on their Terrorist side, with Bravado turning in an almost immovable defensive half. On the switchover at half time, Bravado continued their unstoppable run, cleaning up the first three rounds of their T side to take the map 16 – 2.

Aran SonicGroesbeek did his best imitation of Turkish player Xantares, the serial rating king. Sonic had an incredible first map even though he mistakenly killed two of his teammates. He still ended with an HLTV rating of 2.39. He racked up 26 frags and only died six times. His ADR (Average Damage per Round) figures were equally otherworldly at 148.3. This again, despite having two kills removed from his tally due to the team kills. Ludicrous numbers in a match that only lasted 18 of the total 30 rounds.

Map 2: Train

Going into Train, Bravado would have been supremely confident. Not only had they routed Big 5 on their map choice, but they were going into a map that they have turned in recent months from a potential vulnerability to a strength. Bravado were on the losing side several times to Energy, which forced them to change up their CT side significantly. After swapping Sonic to the B bombsite to play the site anchor role and moving Rhys FadeyArmstrong to A site, they’ve begun to look strong on the map again. Having Fadey outside in the yard area perfectly suits his strengths as a player. Fadey is a naturally aggressive player and being allowed to take fights around the popdog, electric box and A main areas has seen him in his element again. Sonic playing the site anchor role on B, emphasizes his ability to delay opponents, stay alive as long as possible and allow connector player and AWPer Dimitri “DetronyHadjipaschali to support him and get the kills. The changeup of CT spots has benefitted the team immensely.

If Big 5 were facing an uphill battle at the start of the match, they were now faced with an expedition to summit the Himalayas. To their credit, they showed real grit and determination on the map. Yet again, we saw a 12 – 3 CT half from Bravado Gaming. Yet again it looked over for Big 5. This time around, they were able to take their first pistol round of the match and set about the comeback trail. While they lost the first buy and the following round, they stole the next with a last-gasp force buy. Hadlee Konv1ctSmith managed to get himself an AK47 and effect the long flank from B halls through A main. He perfectly timed his peeks and managed to win a two versus one, collecting the second frag while being fully flashed.

This was the lifeline Big 5 needed and they took the score all the way to 9 – 14. At this point Bravado tightened their grip on the map and managed a clean entry onto the B bombsite despite having minimal utility to take it to series point. This put Big 5 into a tough money situation. The ensuing double AWP plus scout buy was overwhelmed by a fast A execute from Bravado. They managed to hold off the dual AWPs on the retake and were crowned ESEA Champions yet again. In game leader Detrony was imperious on Train with the sniper rifle and Fadey was a menace to Big 5 throughout with his 28 frags signifying his supremacy of yard. 

Bravado Gaming took the championship title in Season 26. Photo courtesy of Bravado.

The players

Johnny JTTheodosiou had a wonderful series, with a series-leading 113.9 ADR combined across both maps. Detrony and Fadey both fragged well across the best of three. Ruan Elusivevan Wyk had less impact than his teammates with gun in hand, but got 10 flash assists. This meant his teammates were enabled to get 10 kills on players blinded by flashbangs Elusive threw. The next highest FA was 2, showing how noteworthy his supportive contribution was. Series MVP for his massive performance on Cobblestone and good play throughout is again Sonic, ending on an overall HLTV rating of 1.66 – amazingly equalled by JT and his consistency in the series.

For Big 5, Konv1ct was the best player. Both Jean kustoMHerbst and Mark SpazzJebens had some good rounds as well. Unfortunately for them, Alexander SpartanLazarides, their star player of the last few months, had little impact on the game and was effectively shut out by Bravado. In game leader Thulani LighteRTZSishi had a disastrous Cobblestone, only getting one kill on the board. He redeemed himself well on Train, but wasn’t able to affect the outcome of the match enough in the end.

In Conclusion

You can watch the VOD here, courtesy of Mettlestate.

Bravado Gaming have now won all five seasons of ESEA South Africa consecutively, which is an incredible achievement. They finish off the season on a high and will be going into the player break feeling confident of their prospects in the new year. The competitive Counter-Strike season starts again in January 2018 with a tournament that will be announced soon. 😉 See you all then!