EFA Trophy: Oxford Continue Perfect Season
19/02/18: This year's Oxford University story has been one of one success after another, with men's and women's Universities titles, the mixed universities title and men's and women's Under 21 trophies all already in the bag and yesterday at Eton saw the addition of the EFA Trophy, after strong performances to beat North Oxford in the semi-final and Old Salopians in the final.
The morning semi-finals pitted the two group winners from the preliminary rounds back in November against the two runners-up. The line-up was strong: Oxford University, winners in 2016 and runners-up in 2017 were up against local rivals and 2009 champions North Oxford in a repeat of the 2017 semi-final and 2016 final, while in the other half of the draw, eight-times champions the Old Salopians took on 2006 winners the Old Ipswichians.
The Salopians proved too strong for the Suffolk side. Former competition organiser T Walters - eligible for the first time in a long time after many years in the Salopian Barber Cup side - and the evergreen Grant Williams formed a formidable looking first pair and made short work of Will Gibbons and Tom Fletcher at first pair. Old hands Mike Hughes & James Skelton overcame a third game loss to Steve Burnell & Tim Gregory to win in four and Al Taylor & Marc Quinn were able to concede at 1-2 down to Charlotta Cooley & Alex Yusaf in order to keep their powder dry for the afternoon final.
In the other match, the student second pair of Ted Macdonald-Buchanan and Noah Caplin produced a startling performance to blow away the North Oxford second pair of Graham Pulsford & Karen Hird 3-0. The other two pairs were much closer and North Oxford first pair Gareth Hoskins & Adam Aslam-Baskeyfield had a chance to level at 2-2 with their third pair coming back strongly in the final pair. They couldn't take that chance, though, the University's Tom Kirkby & Arthur Wellesley coming through to win in four games and with that the intensity went out of Chris Lloyd & David Cox's attempt to overhaul a 2-0 deficit to Fergus Imrie and Hal Gibson-Leitao.
The final was an interesting match up with the top order firepower of the Salopians taking on the strength in depth of Oxford University. The Shrewsbury side opted to keep Walters & Williams together at first pair, and they began in magnificent style once again, quickly moving 2-0 ahead against Kirkby & Wellesley before winning a much tighter third game to give first blood to the Salopians. The story was very different at second and third pair, however. Caplin & Macdonald-Buchanan continued their morning form to win the first game 12-5 against Hughes & Skelton. The second and third games were much closer, allowing the student pair to show that they could win in different ways, coming back from 10-4 down to win the second and closing out a nailbiting third 15-13. A similar story was unfolding at third pair, with Imrie & Gibson-Leitao winning the first game comfortably against Quinn & Taylor then winning a crucial second game 13-10. As the last pair still going, it fell to the Oxford third string to score the match-winning point to claim the trophy, a couple of rallies after Fergus had softened up his opponents by punching Marc Quinn in the face. Accidentally, apparently. Not even the watching (admiringly) Grant Williams could remember doing that to one of his opponents, at least not on court. All of which meant that Oxford captain Tom Kirkby got his hands on the cup to add to the others that are filling up the trophy cabinet at Iffley Road this season.
My thanks go to Mike Hughes, George Thomason and Eton for hosting the tournament, to Tom Kirkby, Al Taylor and Tim Gregory for organising their teams and to all who played and made it such an enjoyable day's Fives.
Oxford University beat North Oxford 3-0
T.Kirkby & A.Wellesley beat A.Aslam-Baskeyfield & G.Hoskins 3-1 (12-8, 3-12, 12-8, 14-11)
T.Macdonald-Buchanan & N.Caplin beat G.Pulsford & K.Hird 3-0 (12-2, 12-7, 12-4)
F.Imrie & H.Gibson-Leitao beat C.Lloyd & D.Cox 3-1 (12-7, 12-8, 10-12, 12-11)
Old Salopians beat Old Ipswichians 2-1
T.Walters & G.Williams beat W.Gibbons & Tom Fletcher 3-0 (12-0, 12-0, 12-6)
M.Hughes & J.Skelton beat T.Gregory & S.Burnell 3-1 (12-5, 12-5, 10-13, 12-5)
M.Quinn & A.Taylor lost to C.Cooley & A.Yusaf 1-3 (12-9, 3-12, 11-12, 5-5 ret)
Oxford University beat Old Salopians 2-1
T.Kirkby & A.Wellesley lost to T.Walters & G.Williams 0-3 (1-12, 5-12, 9-12)
T.Macdonald-Buchanan & N.Caplin beat M.Hughes & J.Skelton 3-0 (12-5, 13-10, 15-13)
F.Imrie & H.Gibson-Leitao beat M.Quinn & A.Taylor 3-0 (12-7, 13-11, 12-5)
North Oxford beat Old Ipswichians 2½-½ (sort of)
A.Aslam-Baskeyfield & G.Pulsford beat W.Gibbons & Tom Fletcher 3-0 (12-9, 12-5, 12-0)
D.Cox & S.Chapman drew with S.Cass & A.Yusaf 2-2 (13-14, 9-12, 13-11, 13-10)
K.Hird & T.Gregory beat S.Burnell & C.Cooley 3-0 (12-3, 12-7, 12-5)