Kinnaird Cup Semi-Finals: New Faces To Take On Defending Champions

26/03/18: Yesterday's Kinnaird Cup semi-finals at Eton produced two tremendous matches, entertaining a good-sized crowd, with the end product a repeat of this year's Northern Tournament final in a couple of weeks time.

Watch the semi-finals here:

Tom Dunbar & Seb Cooley v Peter Dunbar & George Campbell: Game 1, Game 2, Game 3, Game 4

James Toop & Howard Wiseman v Jonny Ho & Riki Houlden: Game 1, Game 2, Game 3, Game 4

There have been occasions in recent years where the semi-finals have felt like something of a damp squib with some one-sided contests. This year was most definitely not one of them! The Dunbar brothers had not faced each other in this competition since way back in the final of 2013. This year's last four contest - between the same two pairs - produced an absolutely stunning match as champions for the last seven years Tom Dunbar and Seb Cooley faced one of the toughest challenges in their long unbeaten run. The first game saw Peter Dunbar playing like a man possessed, producing some stunning Fives alongside George Campbell, who was cutting ferociously as well as playing beautifully himself in open play. Peter and George raced out of the blocks to establish a convincing lead, and although Seb and Tom began to get back into the game towards the latter stages, the damage had been done and the first game went to the challengers 12-7, only the fifth competitive game conceded by Tom & Seb in their seven years of playing together. The response from the champions was exactly what you would expect: they didn't panic and started to build on the momentum they had begun to establish towards the end of the first game. Peter and George continued to play exceptionally well, but maintaining the astonishing pace and intensity with which they had started the match was a tough ask and Seb & Tom began to get on top, winning the next three games to 5,4 and 7 but pushed hard all the way in an outstanding match that was an absolute treat to watch.

The other semi-final was a repeat of the epic last four match up at Shrewsbury back in February between former champions James Toop & Howard Wiseman and Jonny Ho & Riki Houlden. On that occasion, Jonny & Riki came from two games down to win in five; this time - perhaps buoyed by the confidence gained from that victory - they started faster, establishing an early lead and holding on to take the first game to 9. The second game was crucial, with little to choose between the pairs all the way to 14-14 before some tense final points ended with the vital winning point going to Jonny & Riki. As Jonny & Riki found out in the fifth game at Shrewsbury, James & Howard don't go down without a fight, however, and the Olavian pair redoubled their efforts to wrest back control in the third game, winning it to 6 and getting themselves right back in the match. With a first Kinnaird final only a game away and the opposition coming back strongly, Jonny & Riki could have been forgiven for going into the fourth game concerned about their opportunity slipping away, so it is to their great credit that they were able to refocus and re-establish control of the match themselves, repeating the pattern of the first game by flying out to a large lead, which allowed them the leeway to avoid any finishing line nerves and win through 12-5 to reach their first Kinnaird final. Riki & Jonny thus become the first new faces to reach the final since 2013, with Jonny the first Old Cholmeleian in the final since Ed Wass & Jamie Halstead in 2002 and Riki the first Old Westminster since TG Lund back in 1936.

T.Dunbar & S.Cooley beat P.Dunbar & G.Campbell 3-1 (7-12, 12-5, 12-4, 12-7)

J.Ho & R.Houlden beat J.Toop & H.Wiseman 3-1 (12-9, 15-14, 6-12, 12-5)

The final will be played at Eton at 2:30pm on Sunday 8th April.

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