Richard Barber Cup 2017/18: Seven Up For St.Olave's
15/01/18: St.Olave's retained their Richard Barber Cup title at Eton yesterday, but were pushed incredibly hard by both Shrewsbury and Westminster before claiming the cup for the seventh successive year.
Ten teams entered this year's competition - for teams of three pairs with each pair containing a current and former pupil from a given school - with several others close to making it to the start line before falling away due to late drop outs. Nevertheless this was a record entry for the competition in its new post-Christmas slot and the ten sides who made it produced an excellent day's Fives, with the younger players gaining valuable experience and even some of the older lags learning a new trick or two, inspired by the energy and enthusiasm of their partners.
The teams were divided into two groups in the morning to sort out the four qualifiers for the semi-finals plus the pecking order for the plate. Group A was dominated by Shrewsbury 1, who cruised through without dropping a game. Highgate - featuring both Bhattacharya brothers - saw off the challenge of St.Olave's 2 and Ipswich to claim second place and the group was completed by a young team from St.Bart's. who only had two pairs, but who showed lots of promise.
Meanwhile in Group B St.Olave's 1 and Westminster were both winning comfortably against Shrewsbury 2, Charterhouse and Westway (great to see a Westway team in this competition!) before meeting in a shoot out to decide top spot. St.Olave's have dominated this competition in recent years but were missing some senior pupils and came up against a Westminster team in inspired form, the Westminster first and third pairs winning their one game matches to put them through in first place and send St.Olave's onto a collision course with old rivals Shrewsbury in the last four.
Westminster continued their good form in the semi-finals, seeing off Highgate comfortably at first and second pairs, although the Highgate third pair did score a notable victory having lost the first game 15-10. On the other side of the archway, a heavyweight contest was underway as Shrewsbury looked to dethrone the defending champions at the semi-final stage. The Salopian side got off to a fine start, winning the first game pretty easily at first and third pair and almost making it a hat-trick, the Olavians taking the first game 15-14 at second pair. Perhaps inspired by the resilience of their second pair, the first and third Olavian pairs began to turn things round, both hitting back strongly to level at 1-1. Having started the revival, the Olavian second pair then found themselves on the end of a 12-2 defeat in their second game, leaving all three pairs at 1-1 and poised to go to a decider. The Salopian third pair won a nailbiting 15-13 victory in their match, but in the end the experience of Howard Wiseman at second pair and James Toop at first pair did the job for the Olavian team, carrying them to victory in both pairs and into the final and a chance to avenge the morning defeat at the hands of the Westminster team.
First out of the blocks in the final were the Olavian third pair, perhaps stung by their narrow defeat in the semi-final and certainly keen to make up for their group stage defeat. This they did with a convincing 12-3, 12-3 victory, putting the top two Westminster pairs under pressure to deliver the win. The first games in both matches were tight and ultimately crucial. As in the semi-final win, the experience of Wiseman and Toop just gave St.Olave's the edge as they won 13-11 at first pair and 14-11 at second pair. Howard Wiseman and Louis Maclean at second pair then ran out comfortable second game winners to ensure the trophy would be staying in Orpington for another year with James Toop and Prajeeth Sathiamoorthy closing things out with a 12-11 win in the second game at first pair.
The Plate threw up a couple of minor shocks at the semi-final stage as the St.Olave's and Shrewsbury second teams found themselves on the wrong end of close matches against Charterhouse and Ipswich respectively, Charterhouse making it through despite having to concede third pair due to injury and Ipswich winning after their first pair came from 11-9 down to win 12-11 in the deciding match. Charterhouse continued their excellent run by defeating Ipswich to claim 5th place overall.
Plate B featured St.Bart's and Westway, both teams finishing strongly and winning one pair apiece and Westway claiming 9th spot ahead of St.Bart's due to the conceded third pair. Both teams - easily the youngest and most inexperienced in the field - can be very pleased with their performances over the course of the day and we hope to see them back stronger and better next year.
My thanks got to Richard Barber for presenting the trophy, to Mike Hughes and Eton for hosting the tournament and to all those who helped raise sides and played. This is a very valuable tournament and now an established part of the calendar; it is definitely worth the effort putting a team together next year if you didn't manage it this time around.
St.Olave's 1 beat Shrewsbury 1 2-1
1st: W 2-1 (4-12, 12-8, 12-7)
2nd: W 2-1 (15-14, 2-12, 12-9)
3rd L 1-2 (8-12, 12-9, 13-15)
Westminster beat Highgate 2-1
1st: W 2-0 (12-6, 12-7)
2nd: W 2-0 (12-7, 12-5)
3rd: L 1-2 (15-10, 6-12, 8-12)
St.Olave's 1 beat Westminster 3-0
J.Toop & P.Sathiamoorthy beat R.Houlden & A.Benson 2-0 (13-11, 12-11)
H.Wiseman & L.Maclean beat S.Shah & C.Koksal 2-0 (14-11, 12-3)
M.Bassot & M.Li beat E.Osen & H.Young 2-0 (12-3, 12-3)
Charterhouse beat St.Olave's 2 2-1
1st: W 12-10
2nd: W 12-4
3rd: L scratched
Ipswich beat Shrewsbury 2 2-1
1st: W 12-11
2nd: W 12-4
3rd: L 0-12
Charterhouse beat Ipswich 2-1
1st: W 12-10
2nd: W 12-7
3rd: L scratched
Westway beat St.Bart's 2-1
1st: L 9-12
2nd: W 12-8
3rd W scratched