Derek Whitehead Trophy 2018
Anthony Theodossi reports:
09/09/18: On a pleasant Sunday the Derek Whitehead 2018 Tournament took place, now in its 4th year. The tournament was commissioned by the Old Berkhamstedians in honour of Derek Whitehead, an Old Boy of the school, who has been involved in Berkhamsted Fives for almost 60 years, firstly, as a pupil at the school and then as Founder of the Old Berkhamstedian Fives Club.
Old Berkhamstedians (and guests!) are paired up with a current pupil for a social and enjoyable tournament and, more importantly, to help to create strong ties between the school and the OBs, which is so key to the future and success of the game.
The size of the competition had been increasing year on year, but we were pleased keeping the same number as the 2017 tournament with a strong entry of 16 pairs. There was a nice mix of recent leavers extending to veterans of the game from the 60s, who certainly did not look out of place and who gave both the younger OBs and the whippersnapper pupils a good run around and an education on the finer points of the game! There was also a good mix of pupils ranging from Y7 – Y12, both girls and boys.
With one of the courts out due to refurbishment, the 16 pairs were split across the five remaining courts; there were two pools of 5 (Pools A & B) based on the front three courts while the remaining 6 pairs made up one large pool (Pool C) on the remaining two courts. The top two pairs from pools A & B would qualify through to the quarter-finals, while 4 of the 6 pairs in pool C would also make it through. The remaining pairs that didn’t qualify all went into the Plate competition. The games themselves were short quick-fire matches with pools A & B being up to 8 points while pool C was just to 6. There were close matches in all the pools with no clear-cut results until the final rounds; in pool C veteran Richard Dennis & Nathaniel (Y12) topped the group followed by Matt Dight & Bethan (U15 Schools Nationals Champion 2017) in 2nd place , Jeremy Steed & Jonny (Y7) in 3rd and James Skelton & Oli (Y7) in 4th positions. Pool B was also tightly contested with Adam Pemberton & Jack (U14 Schools Nationals Semi-finalist 2017) claiming the top spot, just pushing Charlie Nicholls & Patrick (Y7) into 2nd place. Pool A was quite the battleground; James Doe & Charlie (U14 Schools Nationals Finalist 2017) took pole position and early doors it looked like they would be joined by uberveteran Gordon Whitehead & Miles (Y12). Unfortunately, a shoulder injury to Gordon meant they had to retire allowing young whippersnapper Mark Blundell & Doug (Y7) to steal the 2nd place slot.
With the riff separated from the raff we moved on into the quarter-final matches first, one set games to 12 with no setting; again there were some tough battles and even where the scoreline might not represent it, the matches were close and of a high quality with a couple of the pairs just failing to get points on the scoreboard. The results were as follows:
James Doe & Charlie beat James Skelton & Oli 12 – 9
Adam Pemberton & Jack beat Jeremy Steed & Jonny 12 – 3
Richard Dennis & Nathaniel beat Mark Blundell & Doug 12 – 4
Matt Dight & Bethan beat Charlie Nicholls & Patrick 12 – 9
The players were then straight back on for their semi-final matches. Again these were only single sets to 12 with no setting. Both games were very high quality and I would say in both cases it was the underdog pairs who pushed through against their higher seeded opponents. In the first semi James Doe & Charlie had dominated most of the day, looking sharp throughout; a few quick points from Matt Dight & Bethan however seemed to interrupt their flow and mistake upon mistake piled on, allowing Matt & Bethan to take advantage of the situation running away as worthy winners. In the other semi Adam Pemberton & Jack had also looked on fine form throughout the tournament, but Richard Dennis & Nathaniel dug in their heels and pushed their opponents every point of the way before running away with the game right at the end.
Matt Dight & Bethan beat James Doe & Charlie 12 – 5
Richard Dennis & Nathaniel beat Adam Pemberton & Jack 12 – 8
And so, the stage was set! The final was a best of 3 game with setting as normal. The young dynamic pairing of Dight & Bethan against the wily and experienced Dennis ably assisted by young Nathaniel. It was Dight & Bethan who took first blood, coming firing out of the blocks all guns blazing; a consistent and fine cut-return from both Dight and Bethan allowed them to rack up the points faster than their opposition. They claimed the first set relatively quickly 12 – 7. In between sets Dennis imparted his valuable wisdom to young Nathaniel, allowing them to conjure up a game plan. It certainly paid off with Nathaniel adapting his own set piece play allowing him to consistently cut down his opposition, while also getting a high percentage of his own returns back into play. Dennis kept the play tight from the back of the court keeping the young opposition under pressure throughout, allowing them to claim the 2nd set 12 – 3. The 3rd and final set was a much tighter affair; after winning the tournament last year with Mr Perrie, Bethan was determined to have her name engraved on the trophy once again. She found another gear and both her set piece and open rally play found another level. Matt had also stepped up his game pushing his opposition hard particularly on top-step finding some unreachable volleys. Dennis & Nathaniel kept to their game plan though, with Nathaniel playing a very attacking game when on top-step and Richard keeping it tight from the back of the court either playing winners into the buttress or setting up his partner to finish off the rally. Despite a valiant battle from the junior pair it was Dennis & Nathaniel who came out on top with a deserved win for Whitehead 2018 trophy.
Richard Dennis & Nathaniel beat Matt Dight & Bethan 7 – 12, 12 – 3, 12 – 7
With an entry of 7 pairs, players were split into a pool of 4 and a pool of 3 with the top from each going into the plate final. Games were again quick-fire matches up to 8 no setting. Again, there were lots of close matches with some fine play and the young school pupils fully involved in all the games. In the end it was Head of Football Mr Vila & Ben (U11 Schools Nationals Champion 2017) against former schools Nationals champion Jon Shorrocks & Hugo (Y7). These two had previously met in the group stages where it had gone the way of Vila & Ben 8 – 4. The final was played alongside the main tournament final but was a single set up to 12 no setting. Shorrocks, having had a 30 or so year break from the game, had really found his old form after a whole tournament day of Fives and wily southpaw threw everything he had at Vila & Ben ably supported by young Hugo. Mr Vila, having already achieved greatness this year winning the Scholars & Rogues 2018 ‘Dossi Dish’ also made use of his left-handed ability picking up and mimicking some of Shorrocks’ unusual left-handed shots, particular the cut drilled down to the back left. Both Ben and Hugo at first struggled with the new and unusual cut, but after time, eventually adapted well and managed to begin getting the ball back into play allowing for some long and fluid rallies from both sides. Despite the relentless and aggressive play from both Shorrocks & Hugo the result was the same as the pools with Vila & Ben taking the win in a tight game 12 – 8.
David Vila & Ben beat Jon Shorrocks & Hugo 12 – 9
With play finishing around 4pm, all the players and spectators retired to Old Hall for drinks and nibbles along with the presentation ceremony. After a fine speech by the man himself Derek Whitehead (as well as a not-so fine and unprepared one by me!) and the trophies had been presented, many of the OBs had time to catch up.
As always there are a number of individuals to thank; firstly to the Aramark catering staff for both the fine lunchtime BBQ and drinks after set out in Old Hall; then to the OBs themselves for participating and making the event the success with their continued support of the game; to the spectators for joining us for what was a fine day of Fives and fun and, of course, finally to Nigel Lane and Richard Dennis, who were instrumental in creating this fine event in the first place.
As always we hope that next year will see more OBs join us both on and off the court, but as always we are open for any players to come along and join us for what is becoming a staple and one of the early season highlights of the Fives calendar.