2011/12 Turnbull Trophy: Westminster and Berkhamsted into the final
The early rounds of the 2011 Turnbull Trophy took place at Eton last Sunday, with over 30 pairs taking part from a wide range of schools: Westminster, Berkhamsted, St.Olave's, Ipswich, Emanuel, Highgate, RGS High Wycombe, Wrekin, Wolverhampton and Mill Hill.
The tournament was split into two halves with one group starting in the morning and the other - featuring players who had been involved in the Barber Cup quarter-finals in the morning - starting after lunch. With the REFCA Under 12 tournament taking place simultaneously, the result was 16 courts at Eton in constant use all day featuring players from 11 to 60.
The Turnbull Trophy features pairs consisting of a schoolboy/girl playing with an former pupil (or occasionally coach) from their school. As well as being a competitive tournament in its own right, the Turnbull provides terrific experience of adult Fives for school players and helps fulfil a crucial role in bridging the often difficult gap between school and adult Fives. Those clubs and schools not represented this year should make a real effort to enter some pairs into this tournament next time round - it is a great day's Fives and can make a real impact on the long term strength of old boys clubs as well improving the standard of the school players in the short term.
On court, the early starters were whittled down to a final four representing four different schools - Westminster, Wrekin, St.Olave's and Wolverhampton. What a delight it was to see Wrekin not only entering this tournament but getting to this stage. After years of little or no activity on their Fives courts, some tentative steps in the last couple of seasons are now being followed up by some real momentum at the school, with more of their courts being repaired and opened up for use. The successful Wrekin pair on Sunday were coach Mark Yates, who has been instrumental in getting things happening at the Shropshire school, and sixth former Will Miller, one half of last year's U16 National Schools' winning pair when he was at near neighbours Shrewsbury. They beat the St.Olave's pair to set up a semi-final against the Westminster duo of Laurie Brock and James Alster. Wrekin got off to a flyer, winning the first game 12-3, but Brock has proved himself to be a fighter on more than one occasion this season already, and Alster is one half of the school first pair who have been receiving good notices for their Division 3 performances for the Abbey this year. The Westminster pair stormed back to win the second 12-2 and eventually got the better of the Wrekin pair 14-11 in a tense third game to go through to the final.
The second half of the draw was dominated by pairs from Ipswich and Berkhamsted. Ipswich got four of their pairs into the last eight in this half, but none could go any further; the last four were the top two Berkhamsted pairs plus representatives from St.Olave's and Highgate. George Campbell and Ali Leighton got the better of Jeremy O'Neill and Nick Woof in the all Berkhamsted clash. The other quarter-final saw Olavians Seb Cooley and Jon Leech take on London Tournament Festival winners Abhishek and Aroop Bhattacharya from Highgate. A rare defeat for Cooley looked on the cards at 11-14 down, but some Cholmeleian nerves and a typically inspirational Cooley finish - plus some nerveless Fives from his young partner - saw them edge through 15-14. The last match of the day saw Cooley and Leech's luck run out, however, as Campbell and Leighton went through 15-8.
The Westminster vs Berkhamsted final will be played at a later date.