EFA Trophy 2017: Bad Weather Fails to Rain on the EFA Trophy Parade
16/01/17: For the second year in succession, wet weather and tricky conditions affected the qualifying rounds for the EFA trophy, but Fives players are hardy souls and the nine teams and over sixty players taking part in this year's competition carried on regardless to produce a fantastic day of Fives.
There were close matches galore, one unpredictable result after another and a nailbiting finish as seven teams remained in contention for the four qualifying spots right up until the last couple of rounds, with the qualifiers only being decided by the final shot of the final pair of the final match left on court.
Most of the usual suspects were there again this year and despite the disappointing non-appearance of the Old Salopians for the first time in a long time there were welcome returns for 2015 winners Aldenham and a school team from St.Olave's, winners in 2007. In fact, the egalitarian nature of this tournament is well illustrated by the fact that of the eight clubs entered this year, seven of them were previous winners of the competition with the Monday Knights the only team not to have their name on the trophy, despite an appearance in the final in 2013 and several semi-finals in recent years.
Cancelled trains and an accident on the M25 meant a slightly delayed start before proceedings got underway with the nine teams all playing each other in a round robin competition, each match being played over three pairs with each pair playing one game up to 12 points. It quickly became obvious that this wasn't going to be one of those competitions where you could confidently predict the result of each match in advance, with 12-10 and 12-11 scorelines abounding, the supposed stronger teams dropping pairs to some of the lower ranked sides and no-one able to move away from the pack. Going in to the final round of matches, Aldenham and Oxford University looked as though they had done just enough and both won their final matches to take the top two spots. Crucially for them, North Oxford A won the third pair of that last round match against Aldenham, which took them one point ahead of the Old Wulfrunians, who were sitting out the final round, and into a qualifying position.
This left the Wulfrunians sweating on the result between the Monday Knights and the Old Ipswichians. A 3-0 win for the Knights would take them ahead of the Wulfrunians and into the top four; a 3-0 win for the Ipswichians would take them to 14, ahead of the Knights and level with the Wulfrunians but with the advantage of a 3-0 win in their head to head with the Wolverhampton side. A 2-1 win for either team and it would be the Wulfrunians through into the semi-finals. Things started well for the Monday Knights with their first pair winning convincingly 12-3; second pair - recovering well after a shock defeat at the hands of North Oxford B in the previous round - also came through to win 12-8, leaving the third pair to decide matters. Inevitably it went to 11-11, before the Ipswichian pair of Charlotta Cooley and Simon Cass won the final rally to take the game.
Initially there was some confusion over the result and what it meant, but Wulfrunian skipper Sid Simmons was immediately on top of the situation realising that although the Monday Knights had joined the Wulfrunians on 14 points, the 2-1 win for the Wulfrunians in their earlier head to head fixture meant that it was the Midlands outfit joining Aldenham and the Oxford teams in the last four.
The EFA Trophy is a great tournament, producing close competitive matches while retaining a sociable, "friendly Fives" ethos and atmosphere. Long may it continue to flourish!
The semi-finals will be at Eton on Sunday March 12th at 10:30am with the final and the 3rd/4th place play off in the afternoon. They should all be well worth watching.
My thanks go to Mike Hughes and Eton for hosting the tournament and to all those who organised and led teams - Phil Lyndon, Will Ponsonby and Tom Kirkby, Andy Bishop, Spencer Chapman, Sid Simmons, Bill Emlyn Jones, Dom Redmond, Howard Wiseman, Joey Prior, Tim Gregory and Sudhir Balaji.
1. Aldenham 18 points*
2. Oxford University 18 points
3. North Oxford A 15 points
4. Old Wulfrunians 14 points**
5. Monday Knights 14 points
6. Old Ipswichians 12 points
7. St.Olave's School 10 points
8. Cambridge University 5 points
9. North Oxford B 2 points
*Aldenham won their match against Oxford University 2-1
** Old Wulfrunians won their match against the Monday Knights 2-1
Semi-Finals: March 12th at Eton
Aldenham v Old Wulfrunians
Oxford University v North Oxford