Northern Tournament 2019: Cooley & Dunbar In Overdrive
04/02/19: Over 70 pairs took part in a vintage Northern Tournament in association with Advanta Wealth at Shrewsbury over the weekend. In glorious winter sunshine Seb Cooley & Tom Dunbar won yet another title, dominating the field from start to finish and playing better than ever.
The rest of the country may have been under a layer of snow, but the Fives community had the good sense to head for sunny Shropshire for the annual Shrewsbury pilgrimage.
Such is the popularity of this competition that even Shrewsbury's 14 courts sometimes don't seem quite enough to cope with the size of the field. Organisers Andrew Mitchell and Gareth Hoskins worked their usual magic of squeezing everyone in and ensuring that everyone was on the right court (just about), playing the right opposition (most of the time) and keeping things moving apace. The main field contained 26 pairs who battled hard during the course of Saturday morning and early afternoon to make it into the quarter-final line-up. The top seven seeds all made it through into the last eight, although not without the odd jolt to the seedings, Salopians Chris Hughes & T Walters turning over fourth seeds Laurie Brock & Andrew Joyce in a tight group match. The eighth place in the knock out stages was up for grabs and it was another pair of Salopians - youngsters Sam Mcloughlin & Adam Aslam-Baskeyfield - who claimed it with an impressive win over veterans Grant Williams & Mike Hughes in the decisive match.
Adam & Sam's reward for making the last eight was a Saturday evening lesson from top seeds Seb Cooley & Tom Dunbar, who as usual were seemingly more involved in their internal battle to concede fewer points than each other than in any meaningful contest with their opponents. Second seeds Jonny Ho & Riki Houlden negotiated the potentially tricky match with Brock & Joyce, who refound the form that had temporarily deserted them in the morning to push last year's finalists hard in the first game before falling away a little as the match went on. Hughes & Walters found themselves in an all-Salopian battle against fifth seeds Rex Worth & Tom Cox and recovered well from a heavy first game defeat to level at 1-1 before Rex & Tom reasserted their authority in the third and fourth games to make their second successive Northern tournament semi-final, a reflection of their steady improvement and consistency in the last couple of seasons. The last quarter-final saw the day's other ranking order upset, with yet another Salopian pair - the evergreen Ed Taylor & new partner Sam Welti - putting in an impressive and sustained attacking performance to defeat third seeds Howard Wiseman & Anthony Theodossi in straight games.
The semi-finals on Sunday morning followed a familiar pattern, with Cox & Worth powerless to stop the Cooley & Dunbar onslaught and Seb & Tom finished and watching the other semi-final while it was still in the first game. Houlden & Ho found themselves having to withstand another Taylor/Welti barrage as the Salopians got themselves into a strong position; they couldn't close it out, however, with Riki & Jonny holding their nerve and coming back impressively. The loss of the first game from a promising position seemed to knock the stuffing out of Taylor & Welti and despite a brief revival in the third game, the match then went the way of Riki & Jonny.
This set up a repeat of last year's final and a fourth successive major final between these two pairs. Sadly for Riki & Jonny, however, the final virtually resembled an exhibition match as Seb & Tom put on a performance to rank alongside any they have ever produced. The challengers were never able to apply pressure and nearly all the firepower belonged to Seb & Tom as they dominated the set piece, took control of the rallies and ruthlessly killed the ball at nearly every opportunity in a magnificent display, leaving the admiring crowd to wonder just when - if ever - they will start showing signs of declining powers or decreasing motivation. There is certainly no sign of either at the moment.
The rest of the main field took part in the plate competition on Sunday, which produced some fine matches and a surprise result in the final as Olavians Isaac Jochim & Prajeeth Sathiyamoorthy won 13-11 in a slightly bad-tempered match against Mcloughlin & Aslam-Baskeyfield, who had beaten them 12-3 earlier in the day.
While the giants of the game were entertaining the spectators, the large Festival were entertaining themselves royally on the remaining courts. The competition started on Saturday morning with 40 pairs divided into eight groups of five pairs, with old and young, male and female, fit and not so fit all together in a large Fives melting-pot. By the end of Saturday, things were a little clearer - eight pairs had made it into the quarter-finals (including one who hadn't been on the draw at the start of the competition - a positively Caudelian piece of organisation from Andrew Mitchell), eight pairs had lost in the last sixteen and gone into plate B, eight pairs had taken the tactical decision not to win any matches and therefore qualify for the bowl and the rest were ready to do battle for plate A. A sprinkling of new blood on Sunday morning freshened up the competition and there followed a day of close matches, drama, fun and excitement - the recipe for any good Fives tournament.
The Festival quarter-finals had a nice balanced look to them with four school pairs and four pairs with a frankly scary number of years on a Fives court between them (with the honourable exception of Shrewsbury teacher David Wray, a relative newcomer to the game). There were two youth v experience battles and experience came out on top both times, Wray & Monday clubber Bill Christie and Ian Mitchell & Jeff Lawrence both putting an end to Shrewsbury School interest in the competition. The Alleyn's v St.Olave's youngsters match was won by Olavians Isaiah Akpovwa & Ish Ujoodia and the final quarter-final was won by young whippersnappers Andrew Mitchell & Tony Stubbs against Nick Bunyan & uberveteran Nigel Cox.
Both semi-finals went to three, Mitchell I & Lawrence running out of steam after winning the first game against Akpovwa & Ujoodia and Mitchell A & Stubbs overcoming Wray & Christie with some strong cutting in the decisive third game. Seasoned Stubbs observers were getting worried about whether Tony could cope out of his normal plate competition comfort zone but all seemed well as he and Andrew took the first game of the final 12-8. Their young Olavian opponents were not disheartened, however, and having been through the same process in the semi-final were able to set their sights on another come from behind three game victory. The second and third were both incredibly tight games and Andrew & Tony certainly had their chances. In the end, though, Isaiah and Ish were just that little bit more clinical when they had the chance to finish the rally and they clinched the title with wins to 9 and 10 in the second and third games.
The B plate - after a morning of Windsor & Eton internal bloodshed and a lengthy and completely unnecessary game between Bunyan & Cox and Gwydion Wiseman & Stuart Scott (they were in different groups) - ended with a 15-14 win for Wiseman & Scott over Haldia & Sachi of St.Olave's. The A plate produced one magnificent group of four pairs with every single match ending either 15-14 or 15-13, won eventually by Sophia Breese & Emma Graham of Shrewsbury, and a final that reflected the main tournament plate as a result from earlier in the competition was overturned, Berkhamstedians Jon & Peter Shorrocks (Peter back on court for the first time in 38 years!) gaining revenge over Elana Osen & Marjolaine Briscoe.
The first ever Bowl competition was a huge success, with a strong showing from the two pairs of Shrewsbury U14 beginners, both of whom lost in the semi-finals. Veterans Steve Robertson & Alex Aldous made it into the final but were unable to cope with the speed and aggression of the impressive U15 Shrewsbury girls pair of Issy Morris & Harriet Shuker, who marked themselves out as a pair to watch for the future.
Thanks go to Andrew Mitchell for his magnificent organisation, to Seb Cooley, Andy Barnard, Alex Aldous and everyone else at Shrewsbury for their help in making it all happen and for hosting the tournament, to Chris Davies for presenting the trophies, to Advanta Wealth for their sponsorship and to all those who made the effort to head up to Shrewsbury and make the weekend such a success.
S.Cooley & T.Dunbar beat S.Macloughlin & A.Aslam-Baskeyfield 3-0 (12-1, 12-1, 12-1)
R.Worth & T.Cox beat C.Hughes & T.Walters 3-1 (12-1, 10-12, 12-10, 12-8)
E.Taylor & S.Welti beat H.Wiseman & A.Theodossi 3-0 (12-8, 12-7, 12-10)
J.Ho & R.Houlden beat L.Brock & A.Joyce 3-0 (12-10, 12-6, 12-3)
S.Cooley & T.Dunbar beat R.Worth & T.Cox 3-0 (12-0, 12-5, 12-1)
J.Ho & R.Houlden beat E.Taylor & S.Welti 3-0 (12-10, 12-2, 12-6)
S.Cooley & T.Dunbar beat J.Ho & R.Houlden 3-0 (12-1, 12-5, 12-0)
Main Tournament Plate
S.Macloughlin & A.Aslam-Baskeyfield beat K.Hird & C.Cooley 12-6
I.Jochim & P.Sathiyamoorthy beat S.Burnell & T.Gregory 12-4
I.Jochim & P.Sathiyamoorthy beat S.Macloughlin & A.Aslam-Baskeyfield 13-11
G.Wiseman & S.Scott beat Malaravan & F.Anderson 15-3
I.Akpovwa & I.Ujoodia beat Zaza & Argyle 15-2
Sansom & Gower beat T.Sachi & P.Haldia 15-12
J.Lawrence & I.Mitchell beat Salman & Whitworth 15-6
T.Stubbs & A.Mitchell beat Schofield & Fraser-Andrews 15-8
N.Bunyan & N.Cox beat J.Hepburn & T.Goodman 15-4
Taylor-West & Cooke beat M.Chinery & R.Wood 15-5
D.Wray & B.Christie beat W.Seath & O.Avery 15-9
I.Akpovwa & I.Ujoodia beat G.Wiseman & S.Scott 12-8, 12-8
J.Lawrence & I.Mitchell beat Sansom & Gower 13-12, 12-8
T.Stubbs & A.Mitchell beat N.Bunyan & N.Cox 12-8, 12-6
D.Wray & B.Christie beat Taylor-West & Cooke 14-13, 12-9
I.Akpovwa & I.Ujoodia beat J.Lawrence & I.Mitchell 8-12, 12-6, 12-7
T.Stubbs & A.Mitchell beat D.Wray & B.Christie 12-8, 4-12, 12-4
I.Akpovwa & I.Ujoodia beat T.Stubbs & A.Mitchell 8-12, 12-9, 12-10
Festival Plate A
M.Briscoe & E.Osen beat I.Adebekun & E.Cameron
J.Shorrocks & P.Shorrocks beat S.Breese & E.Graham
J.Shorrocks & P.Shorrocks beat M.Briscoe & E.Osen 15-9
Festival Plate B
G.Wiseman & S.Scott beat T.Sachi & P.Haldia 15-14
S.Robertson & A.Aldous beat Archer & Chan 15-8
H.Shuker & I.Morris beat Crews & Clark 15-6
H.Shuker & I.Morris beat S.Robertson & A.Aldous 15-11