The Cox Self-Invitational Eton Fives Challenge

29th December 2016: match report by various Cooleys

As 2016 drew to a close, an intrepid band of fives players and assorted hangers-on dodged Christmas revellers and celebrity deaths to descend on the fabled fives courts of Grillon, Provence, France, Europe. The players consisted of the Cooleys Charlotta, Christopher, John, Oliver and Sebastian and, narrowly bringing up the alphabetical rear, host Nigel Cox.

All games were played according to the Grillon house rules, including switching between the left and right-handed courts midway through the game, and with handicaps according to age and gender.

Chris and Olly were the rustiest of the sextet. Having never played on the unique left-handed court before, and aware that it has confounded many an experienced fives player, they strategically began play on the normal court by setting the bar entertainingly low. Nevertheless, on the switch to the left-handed court they managed to surpass themselves, regularly playing what they thought were fantastic shots into the buttress only to discover that it had unaccountably moved while no-one was watching.

Since the two were on opposing teams for the first game, this made for a close encounter and eventually it was Olly and partner Seb who made the fewer, and above all less funny errors to take the game against Chris and Charlie.

From that point on, the standard of fives fluctuated between amusingly incompetent and jaw-droppingly average (with occasional flashes of brilliance from Seb, who seemed not to have received the memo). The spectators stayed for the first game, after which they retreated to the warmth and comfort of the house for tea and pizza. The players currently off court also attempted to join them, but were often rudely interrupted by being called back onto court for the next game before they had finished their tea, resulting in a particularly British relay.

The second game looked to be a one-sided affair, Nigel and Charlie racing into a 6-0 lead and holding a comfortable five point buffer when the buzzer sounded. At this point Chris unsportingly began finding his range on the left-handed cut return and the match came to a nailbiting sudden death conclusion, Chris and John narrowly missing out.

A particularly notable moment came at the end of the third game, when Chris and Olly were 9-12 down against Seb and John. The tactic of trying to play good fives shots having largely failed them thus far, they adopted the alternative tactic of distracting Seb by making him giggle. This proved far more effective, and they quickly snuck in four points to take the game.

As a final challenge, veterans Nigel and John took on Charlie and Seb, the score starting at 13-0. The "youngsters" looked solid, wasting but a few chances on their way to 13-7, when rumour has it a comment about the last pizza completely threw them, Charlie being already confused having never played on these courts sober. Panic ensued: a point won was followed by a foot down cut onto the ledge and the veterans pounced to take the match.

Post-match hospitality of beer, wine and pizza proved disconcerting for Nigel, who was flummoxed by designated driver Charlie refusing all offers of alcohol. When it was time to depart, the Cooleys "thanked" their hosts in unique fashion with an a capella song, which did little to calm Nigel's already frayed nerves.

Full results

Cooley O. & Cooley S. bt Cooley Cha. & Cooley Chr. 13-8

Cooley Cha. & Cox N. bt Cooley Chr. & Cooley J. 9-8

Cooley Chr. & Cooley O. bt Cooley J. & Cooley S. 13-12

Cooley J. & Cox N. bt Cooley Cha. & Cooley S. 15-7

Special thanks to the cheerleaders, Cooleys Amelia, Corinne, Elliott, Hanna and Nan and hostess Jeff Green.

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