Oxford Retain The Mixed
11/02/19: Oxford's recent dominance of University competitions continued with a hard fought win at Eton on Saturday in the Mixed pairs competition, Marjolaine Briscoe & Sam Oppenheimer overcoming the Welsh Cardiff/Swansea pairing of Francesca Turnbull & Morgan Pugh in the final.
This year's entry of eight pairs was slightly down on last year, mainly due to the disappointing lack of any Cambridge pairs, with the honourable exception of Nick Choustikov, who single-handedly kept the Light Blue end up. There were a handful of other pairs who almost made it - Imperial and Birmingham spring to mind - and the ongoing frustration at being unable to get Durham (potential winners of this competition) down to play. The competing attraction of the Field Game also took precedence in certain quarters - there's no accounting for taste!
The eight pairs who did make it were there representing a good range of Universities - Oxford, Cambridge, Royal Holloway, UCL, King's, RADA, Surrey, Swansea, Cardiff - and also a good range of Fives-playing schools - Highgate, Eton, City of London, St.Olave's, Lancing, St.Bart's, Shrewsbury and Westminster plus a good number who didn't go to Fives-playing schools, always an encouraging sign at this competition. A special mention should go to the Oxford women, led by Georgia Allen, who provided players for five of the eight pairs.
Having taken several years to get their hands on the trophy after its inception in 2011, Oxford have dominated the competition - as with the other University tournaments - in recent years. 2018 champion Marjolaine Briscoe was back to defend her title, this year alongside Sam Oppenheimer, but there were challengers aplenty - notably the Oxford second string of Georgia Allen & Jacob Greenhouse, UCL's Emily O'Malley & Joe Marks and the Cardiff/Swansea pair of Francesca Turnbull & Morgan Pugh. The morning group stages produced few surprises, with the key game being the 15-12 win for Turnbull & Pugh over Allen & Greenhouse.
That scoreline meant that the two Oxford pairs would have to face each other in the semi-finals, and the result was never really in doubt, although Georgia & Jacob did put up a much stronger fight in the second game, giving Marj & Sam a good run for their money. The other semi-final was a tighter affair, with the extra attacking power of Morgan & Francesca, along with Francesca's strong set piece, giving the Wales pair the edge and taking them into the final.
The first game of the final was a fantastic exhibition of Fives and showed just how good Mixed Fives can be when it is played between four strong and well-matched players. The Welsh pair cut well, stopping Marjolaine putting together a run of cut returns that might have proved fatal to their chances. Morgan was showing his attacking class, despite having barely played for 18 months, with exemplary and intelligent cutting and hugely effective drives and volleys on the angle to the back right of the court. Sam managed to get some effective attacking blows of his own in as well and with Francesca and Marjolaine more than holding their own and producing very few unforced errors, the two pairs produced a magnificent game of Fives which kept those watching royally entertained. It really was one of those games that could have gone either way, but in the end it was the Oxford pair who took it 12-10 to take the lead.
The second game started in a similar vein and at 4-4 looked to be on course for another close finish. Finally, though, after a game and a half of trying, Marjolaine made the decisive move, producing a succession of cut returns which she and Sam were able to turn into points to establish a convincing and ultimately winning lead to complete a well-deserved victory.
Georgia & Jacob gained some consolation for their earlier close defeats with a narrow victory this time in the 3rd/4th place play-off over Emily & Joe. London's Erin Leatherbarrow & Can Koksal won the plate and could consider themselves unlucky to have missed out on a semi-final spot. Colette Rocheteau & Will Seath won one of the matches of the day in the plate semis against Lauren Rowley & Alex Abrahams before losing to Erin & Can in the final and Izzy Moriarty Whyte & Nick Choustikov improved greatly and increased their points tally impressively during the course of the day.
Thanks go to the Jesters for providing the crucial travel subsidy that keeps this important competition alive, to Eton for hosting the tournament and to all those who came and played and made it such a fun and enjoyable day.
Oxford 1 (M.Briscoe & S.Oppenheimer) beat Oxford 2 (G.Allen & J.Greenhouse) 2-0 (12-2, 12-8)
Wales (F.Turnbull & M.Pugh) beat UCL (E.O'Malley & J.Marks) 2-0 (12-8, 12-8)
Oxford 1 (M.Briscoe & S.Oppenheimer) beat Wales (F.Turnbull & M.Pugh) 2-0 (12-10, 12-5)
Oxford 2 (G.Allen & J.Greenhouse) beat UCL (E.O'Malley & J.Marks) 2-0 (12-10, 12-10)
Oxford/Royal Holloway (C.Rocheteau & W.Seath) beat Oxford/Surrey (L.Rowley & A.Abrahams) 2-0 (12-9, 12-10)
London (E.Leatherbarrow & C.Koksal) beat Oxford/Cambridge (I.Moriarty Whyte & N.Choustikov) 2-0 (12-1, 12-4)
London (E.Leatherbarrow & C.Koksal) beat Oxford/Royal Holloway (C.Rocheteau & W.Seath) 2-0 (12-5, 12-6)
Oxford/Surrey (L.Rowley & A.Abrahams) beat Oxford/Cambridge (I.Moriarty Whyte & N.Choustikov) 2-0 (12-4, 12-6)