2017 Ipswich Tournament: Lyle and Lumbard Leave Graves Challengers Dead and Buried
09/01/17: With 2016 finally consigned to the scrap heap of history, January 2017 saw the Graves Cup sailing towards the Fives players of Ipswich like a lifeboat of hope amongst the shipwrecked carnage caused by Brexit, a Trump Presidency and Ipswich Town finding themselves 2-1 down to Lincoln with 5 minutes to go in the Cup.
Now in its thirty-eighth year, the Ipswich Tournament formula doesn't vary much (if it ain't broke...) and if there were a couple of familiar faces absent this year - OI President Mike Fenn and giant of the game Seb Cooley to name but two - there was more than enough about the weekend that was reassuringly familiar to long-term habitués of the top corner of the school field and hopefully plenty to convince the next generation to carry on the tradition for years to come.
There were 15 pairs in the draw on the Saturday, with a splendid mix of school pupils from Year 7 up, OIs of all vintages, staff and assorted guests including first-timers Ashley Lumbard and Chris Ballingall plus a welcome return for the Scholey beer, not to mention Mr Scholey himself. With plenty of tasty-looking pairings and the added complication of wet courts and slippery floors, the Saturday results - in two of the groups at least - were unpredictable to say the least with everyone beating everyone else and only one pair out of 15 (Cameron Lyle and Ashley Lumbard) making it through the first day undefeated.
Fiddling Producing a quarter-final draw for the Graves Cup is never a straightforward process, but organiser Peter Boughton was made to work extra hard this year, finally coming up with a set of names about an hour so after the opening of the first bottle of port at the end of the evening dinner in the cricket pavilion, although any suggestion that these two events were in any way connected is of course entirely speculative. By that stage of the evening it was generally agreed that Lyle & Lumbard would take a bit of stopping, that the challenge of Charlotta Cooley & Simon Cass was looking on slightly shakier ground than it had been three hours earlier and that despite his wet court tactic of hitting himself with his own cuts at every available opportunity, Stubbsy was nailed on to win the plate. Again.
Differing approaches to the recovery/preparation process were adopted on Sunday morning; Tim Gregory was in on his bike and warming up vigorously by 10am; his partner Oli Watts was going for the alternative option of a full English breakfast in the Greyhound at about the same time, along with a significant proportion of the field. The effort of forcing down a fry-up was too much for Charlotta Cooley, who needed some further recovery time face down on the floor of the pavilion before the start of her quarter-final. Luckily for her and partner Cass, who just about dragged himself in by midday, having only three courts gave them that crucial extra time to pull themselves together, dig deep and win their match against Mark Graves and Eloise Carter to make it through to the last four where they were joined by Lyle and Lumbard, impressive 12-0 third game winners after a second game wobble against John Caudle and an inspired James Gray, Scholey and Isaac Weaver, who also needed three games to see off the creaking Steve Burnell and Simon Woolfries, and Tom Fletcher and Toryn Whitehead, who cruised past Gregory and Watts.
The excitement continued to ramp up as both semi-finals went to deciding games; Cass & Cooley finally ran out of steam after levelling at 1-1 against Fletcher & Whitehead and Lyle & Lumbard got given their toughest examination so far before eventually managing to shake off the tenacious Scholey & Weaver 12-9 in the third. With the courts finally drying out slightly and a crowd well into double figures staying to watch, the final lived up to expectations. The first game was particularly close with Cameron and Ashley edging it 13-11; thereafter the match began to tilt in their favour - the quality of the rallies remained high, but Lyle & Lumbard won the cut and return battle to win the next two games to 9 and 5 and run out deserving 3-0 winners.
It was especially encouraging to see a generation of young OIs - many of whom had a lot of success at school level - beginning to come through in the senior ranks, with Isaac Wagland, Cameron Lyle, James Gray and Toryn Whitehead all impressing over the course of the weekend. While geography and school and university commitments make it difficult at the moment for this group of players to play on a regular basis, we very much hope that they all keep playing as much as possible so they can become key members of the OI club in the years to come.
While all this was going on, the remaining pairs were battling it out in the plate competition which turned out to be an absolute nailbiter with four pairs in particular all gunning for the title. The group ended in a three way tie, which was decided by the smallest of points difference margins. When all the calculations were in, though, the result was simply the one that everyone had predicted in the first place as plate specialist Tony Stubbs won the competition yet again, this time alongside Karen Hird.
As always our thanks go to Peter Boughton for organising a fantastic tournament. Roll on 2018!
Tom Fletcher & T.Whitehead beat T.Gregory & O.Watts 2-0 (12-7, 12-4)
C.Cooley & S.Cass beat M.Graves & E.Carter 2-1 (9-12, 12-8, 12-6)
I.Weaver & P.Scholey beat S.Burnell & S.Woolfries 2-1 (12-10, 9-12, 12-4)
C.Lyle & A.Lumbard beat J.Gray & J.Caudle 2-1 (12-4, 10-12, 12-0)
Tom Fletcher & T.Whitehead beat C.Cooley & S.Cass 2-1 (12-7, 8-12, 12-4)
C.Lyle & A.Lumbard beat I.Weaver & P.Scholey 2-1 (12-5, 11-13, 12-9)
C.Lyle & A.Lumbard beat Tom Fletcher & T.Whitehead 3-0 (13-11, 12-9, 12-5)
Plate (Round Robin)
1. T.Stubbs & K.Hird
=2. C.Ballingall & S.Clark
=2. A.Yusaf & D.Seymour-Howell
4. G.Hoskins & F.Wagland
5. P.Boughton/E.Carter & A.Pearson
6. A.Dunning & B.Steer