Scholars And Rogues 2017

Anthony Theodossi reports: The 11th annual Berkhamsted Scholars & Rogues competition - which pairs up staff and pupils - took place on Friday 16th June.

The tournament once again proved its popularity with a strong entry of 30 pairs with representation from the 6th, Senior Boys & Girls and Prep schools. What was most pleasing to see about this year’s event was the huge number of girls entry from both staff and pupils as they took up a third of the total entry as well as 7 total all ladies pairings.

The draw was set with 6 pools of 5 across the 6 courts in 6 minute timed matches with the top two pairs from each progressing through to the quarter-final stages. With only a couple of players missing for the designated start time (as usual all the pupils were there on time, it was the staff to blame) the competitors threw themselves into a frenzy of Fives (some more frenzied than others!) all wanting to claim one of those two top position slots.

This year's competition was set to be one of the closest yet and this could be seen where there were upsets in half of the pools with seeded pairs being knocked out early. In pool A 2016 finalists Theo Gayton & Charlie Doe (8Be) came out in the expected 1st position, but the 2nd place position was claimed by Prep teacher Ellie Pugh & Tom Ross (12Re); this has probably been Tom’s 5th time playing in this competition but only his first time ever making it out of the group stage! Pool B also caused quite a bit of controversy with MiC Martin Pett (only player to win the competition more than once) & National U12 Finalist Roman Pirani (7Sw) losing their first match to father and son duo Ben Noithip & Tom Noithip (9Be). They then went on to lose to another father and son duo in the form of Headmaster of Boys’ Richard Thompson & Joe Thompson (8Gr). It was then down to these two pairs to battle it out for the 1st and 2nd positions which were claimed by the Thompsons and the Noithips respectively.

Pool C was possibly one of the closest groups we’ve ever had! Favourites of the group Director of Boys’ Sport David Gibson & last years’ winner Bethan Miles (8Wo) had a shock second game loss to Brett Hopcroft & Adam Kapadia (7Be), Hopcroft having being ‘let go’ by his son this year to find a better partner, Mr Hopcroft had to prove his worth and he did so with this epic win alongside young Kapadia. This then opened the gates for U13A team football coach extraordinaire Richard Falder & Tom Alexander (8Ti) to steal the 1st place spot. In their game with Gibson and Miles it was tight all the way and with the game ending on 3 – 3 the win went the way of Gibson & Miles having reached that score first. There was also another contender hiding amongst this group in the form of another another father and son duo; Deputy Head of Prep Paul Whitby & Jacob Whitby (9Be), who had so far won all their games in the first five rounds of the group, thought they too were in with a chance to steal the top spot position. Their first match up was against Gibson & Miles; Whitby & Whitby came firing out of the blocks throwing everything they had at their opponents. The game was tight all the way and ended in a 4 – 4 draw, but with Gibson & Miles again reaching the score first managed to steal the game for a second time! It then came down to the final round game of Falder & Alexander vs Whitby & Whitby; Falder & Alexander were certainly favourites, but Whitby & Whitby were still on a high from the previous battle against Gibson & Miles, in the end Whitby & Whitby managed to steal the game 4 – 2. This left three pairs all of whom had won 3 and lost 1; Gibson & Miles went through 1st having beat the other two in head-to-head which then meant Whitby & Whitby crept through on points difference by a single point pushing Falder & Alexander into 3rd place and out of the competition.

Oddly enough Pools D, E & F on the back three courts all went the way of the seeding, meaning that Perrie had an easy ride sorting out his draw while Theodossi had to scratch his head working out the front three pools. After about 60 minutes of play we had the below quarter-finalist and results. These were timed 8 minute matches. Again half the games went as expected but in the remaining three the lower pairs really pushed their opposition. Gayton & Doe had a scare when they found themselves at 4 – 4 vs the aggressive power play pairing of Head of Tilman Richard Mackay & Billy Mackay (8Co), but as the whistle went Gayton and Doe stole the win having reached 4 first. Larry Eaton & Ellie Mathews (8Wo) battled hard against Thompson & Thompson and although they stemmed their flow of points couldn’t quite get on the score board with their cut returning meaning they lost 0 – 3. Gibson & Miles had a tough battle being 1 – 5 down against a solid pairing of Head of English Tim Grant & Miles Doe (10Be); this didn’t seem to faze last years’ Scholars & Rogues champion as Bethan Miles battled on (ably supported by her partner Gibson) with a flow of points allowing them to nick the game at the last second 6 – 5.

Quarter-Finals

Mr T. Gayton & C. Doe BEAT Mr R. Mackay & B. Mackay 4 – 4

Mr R. Thompson & J. Thompson BEAT Mr L. Eaton & E. Mathews 3 – 0

Mr D. Gibson & B. Miles BEAT Mr T. Grant & M. Doe 6 – 5

Mr D. Vila & J. Hubbard BEAT Miss E. Pugh & T. Ross 8 – 3

Mr R. Pritchard & M. Foster BEAT Mr B. Noithip & T. Noithip 8 – 2

Mr T. Hockedy & M. James BEAT Mr P. Whitby & J. Whitby 6 – 2

And so on to the semi-finals! Again with 6 pairs through this meant they were divided up into two mini pools of three in quick-fire 5 minute timed matches where the top one from each would go into the final to play each other. In Mini-Pool A we had Gayton & Doe, Thompson & Thompson and Gibson & Miles battling it out, while Mini-Pool B consisted of Vila & Hubbard, Pritchard & Foster and Hockedy & James. Gayton & Doe upped their game after their earlier scare against Mackay & Mackay by giving a 6 – 0 thrashing to Thompson & Thompson by constantly applying pressure and not once allowing them into the game. They then took on Gibson & Miles and with Gayton looking a little worse for wear it was down to Doe to get them over the finish line winning 4 – 1. Although the final game of the pool was a bit of a formality, it was again a high level of Fives and Bethan showed her class while Gibson backed up his partner extremely well digging out all sorts of tough balls from the back of the court allowing them to win 3 – 0.

Mini-Pool B was again one of the toughest we have ever seen in the competition. The first clash of the titans came in the form of Vila & Hubbard squaring off against Pritchard & Foster; there was certainly a slight edge of tension in the air with Pritchard having being paired up with Hubbard last year and now being ‘stolen’ by Vila, not to mention Hubbard & Foster having played together as a school pairing for the last two years. Despite the game only being 5 minutes there was lots of high class Fives with all four pairs playing some superb top-step rallies with numerous blocks and volleys that seemed to go on for ages. A few stray cuts that went flying out, one from Vila and one from Hubbard, gave Pritchard and Foster a couple of important points. Pritchard & Foster also played a slightly tighter game allowing them to stack on a few more points why denying many to their opposition. In the end they took the spoils 6 – 2. Tom Hockedy & Matthew James (7Co) (U12 Nationals Finalist) now sensing an upset, stepped up to take on Vila & Hubbard; they had certainly been the dark horses of the competition thanks to some solid support from Hockedy allowing his partner to pile on the points across the day. Again it was a very tight match but Vila’s experience in this competition paid off this time and allowed them to take the win 3 – 2. It all came down to the final game and all Pritchard & Foster had to do was take down fellow department member Hockedy and his U12 prodigy James. We often talk about matches being tight, but this one was certainly the case; Hockedy & James managed to claim the first point early in the game while keeping the opposition from any. However, they sat on this point throughout the match unable to push ahead thanks to some strong cutting from both Foster and Pritchard. As time began to ebb away, Pritchard & Foster managed to claim a point making it 1 – 1. Hockedy & James kept the pressure on and as the timer ended so the score stayed same, but with Hockedy & James getting their first they took the win. With every pair now having lost 1 and won 1 it came down to points difference, and thanks to Pritchard & Fosters strong 6 – 2 win vs Vila & Hubbard they secured their well-earned place in the final.

And so the stage was set; Gayton & Doe vs Pritchard & Foster. Both pairs had to overcome some difficult matches to get here and so were well primed for the battle ahead. The game was down to be a set 10 minute final, but there were some protests from young Doe and Foster wanting a full game, whereas Pritchard and Gayton seemed quite happy with the time limit though I think by this point they’d have been happy to play 5 minutes! With 7pm approaching the 10 minute time limit was kept and all four players threw themselves into the game. Having missed out on a winning the final last year young Doe was out for blood, though young Foster also sensed his name already inscribed on the precious Dossi Dish. Pritchard, having under-performed last year not even making it out of the group stage, was now a new man and seemed to find a second wind coming into this grand match. This then left Gayton, who not so much oozed energy, but fatigue! In this humble coaches mind the game had already been lost by his body language. Within the first minute or so, it was clear this was going to be quite the battle. Again there was some superb top-step play from the Year 8s both of whom blocked and volleyed extremely well, Doe in particular defending the buttress from some exceptional back court shots many of which you’d expect to have been winners. Foster also kept the rallies going well up there but opted for chasing and retrieving the ball more often than blocking and defending, it was here where he struggled as he was then always on the back-foot from attacking shots back in. Pritchard had decided to go all out with a full on attack, and again played some devastating volleys from top and back-step; he was let down slightly by his defence however often edging a block off the side of his left hand instead of catching it cleanly centre palm, no easy thing to do with some of young Doe’s attacking shots. One thing he did manage to do was keep both Gayton & Doe very quiet with his cutting where both players probably managed only about a 30% cut-return rate off him. The name not yet mentioned is that of the big man Gayton; he played the game exactly how he needed to, by simply holding his position deep back court and patting back simple shots tight into the buttress allowing his team mate Doe to do what he needed to, attack and win points! Although he was simply patting the ball back into play, every shot was hit quite clinically with precision length and angle meaning they were tough blocks to get back and if left unblocked they became winning shots dying in the buttress. After 10 minutes it was Gayton & Doe who came out on top with an 8 – 3 win, though the score-line really doesn’t reflect the high class game that had taken place.

Final

Theo Gayton & Charlie Doe BEAT Robin Pritchard & Matt Foster 8 – 3

As always there are a number of people to thank, firstly to the Aramark and the catering staff for putting on the fine BBQ for all to enjoy. To Alex Martindale (10Sw) for coming along to film the event (look out for the video September 2017). To Ryan Perrie for helping run the pool stages and allowing them to flow so smoothly and efficiently and to Doug Foster without whom the tournament would not even exist and be in the fine state that it is today. And finally of course to all the staff and pupils who came to participate or support to make it such a well-loved and thrilling event.

Despite the 2017 tournament just finishing many staff and pupils have already ‘poached’ their team mates for the 2018 event, with the Doe family reportedly paying for Gayton’s flight back over from Hong Kong to participate!

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