Pulsford & Scoones Prove Age And Gender Are No Barrier To Fives Success
Graham Pulsford reports:
11/06/18: Emily Scoones/Graham Pulsford edged past Andrew Rennie/Jack Travers in a highly watchable final to win the 2018 Heath Tournament at Aldenham on Sunday.
The courts were full, the sun was shining, the spectators were gathering, and the BBQ was already in place. The general bonhomie was palpable and everyone was ready for an afternoon of exercise and friendly competition.
The traditional format was retained - each pair played three matches of 25 minutes using normal game scoring and the pair with the most points in total over the 25 minutes was the winner. The two unbeaten pairs then contested a 25 minute final as the BBQ warmed up. This format allowed little time to relax as all pairs played simultaneous back to back matches until the final.
In an open draw the ‘top four’ players were kept apart, and this produced some intriguing pairings. Initial bookies favorites were Rubel Malik/Michael MacGeogh and a close second would be the winner of the first-round tussle between Nirav Patel/Paul Kendall and Chris Austin/Neil Margerison. And then there were Charlotta Cooley/Darshan Patel, Gareth Hoskins/Tim Pemberton and Karren Hird/Carl Rennie all with a realistic chance of winning.
But the Heath Tournament is not easy to win. The draw is random, and players are unlikely to be paired with players that they have regularly partnered. The need to ‘adapt to and fit in’ with the strengths and weaknesses of a new partner is vital. And all in 25 competitive minutes.
By the second round the early favorites had fallen away at a surprising rate - Nirav Patel/Paul Kendall, Rubel Malik/Michael MacGeogh, Chris Austin/Neil Margerison, Charlotta Cooley/Darshan Patel, Gareth Hoskins/Tim Pemberton and the OBE twins Richard Dennis/Joseph Seelig all losing. And moving through into firm contention were Emily Scoones/Graham Pulsford, Andrew Rennie/Jack Travers and Karen Hird/Carl Rennie.
The best of the semi-finals saw the annual ‘battle of the brothers’ with Karen Hird/Carl Rennie against the hard-hitting Andrew Rennie/Jack Travers. The latter pair took an early lead and the sheer power of their play was enough to secure a 4-point win over their tiring opponents and a well-earned victory.
The final between Andrew Rennie/Jack Travers and Emily Scoones/Graham Pulsford was watched by a large crowd swelled by OAs attending OA Day who warmly applauded some high-quality play by both pairs. It was clear from the start that Andrew Rennie/Jack Travers were not going to change tactics after their excellent semi-final win and they continued their hard-hitting attacking game. In the initial exchanges both Emily and Graham were ‘peppered’ first by Andrew and then by Jack to give the all-male pairing a healthy lead. The match could have run away from Emily & Graham at this point and it could have been a disappointingly one-sided final. But they ‘dug in’ and managed to slowly claw their way back into contention with a combination of consistently good cutting and then return of cut to reach 8-8. The next point proved vital and after Jack hit a pacy back court shot just long, Emily & Graham moved into the lead for the first time. From this moment their concentration never wavered, and they kept the rallies going and kept the pressure on their hard-hitting opponents. Emily’s all court game continued to be impressively consistent with few if any unforced errors and the Highgate/Aldenham pair opened a 5-point winning margin at the final whistle.
The James Fredenham Trophy was aptly presented by James Fredenham to the winners who were both delighted and obviously exhausted! This year’s winners’ shirt was mid blue; more soothing on the eye than the luminous orange 2017 edition!
The presentation was followed by a relaxing BBQ in the hot sunshine. Chis Cernuschi proved an excellent chef and Rubel managed to consume a three-steak feast on his own. Karen’s cakes were as tasty as ever and she was able to return home with a full set of empty tupperware.
Our thanks to Andrew Fraser for preparing the courts, for arranging the BBQ equipment and for his work as tournament ‘scribe’. Thanks also to Sam as the best-looking whistle blower we have ever had, and to all the players for their general good humour.
Note: The early favorites both showed their true form in the last games - Rubel Malik/Michael MacGeogh scoring a record 32 points in one game, and Chris Cernuschi/Elana Osen also notched up an impressive 24 points.