Aberconway Cup: Déjà Vu All Over Again
15/04/19: Mike & Chris Hughes won the Aberconway Cup in association with Advanta Wealth at Eton yesterday for the ninth time, defeating perennial rivals Grant & Guy Williams in the final.
Chris Hughes reports: We gathered at Eton on 14th April for the Aberconway Cup. We had 12 pairs for the day, with some notable heavyweights unavailable – McCahons, Walters, Husselbees and Wisemans all unable to make it this year.
The group stages went largely to form.
In Group 1, the Hughes got through unscathed with some good matches against fives players of the future – Natasha Gregory, Robin Marwood and Theo Chapman all showing some talent, with Natasha having improved significantly since the tournament last year which was great to see.
In Group 2, the Williams topped it. Team Scholey had a great campaign losing only to the Williams and finishing in second place (with one eye on the Mike Fenn Plate). Team Osen continue to improve each year and are becoming part of the Aberconway furniture! It was also great to see the Gwynnes playing this year and while they didn’t get through I am sure that was all a ploy to have a stab at the Plate.
In Group 3, some of the wannabe semi-finalists gathered to fight it out for the dubious privelege of playing the top two seeds in the last four. This was a cracking group with the Cooleys, Christies, Caplins and Hoskins producing a series of scorelines that read 15-14, 15-13, 15-11, 15-11, 15-11 and 15-10, although Cooley (S) may have had a hand or two - definitely only one hand in the case of Cooley (J), though - in engineering some of those scorelines. The group was not without its casualties, however - for some unfathomable reason Seb decided that playing in the Kinnaird final was a better use of his time in the afternoon and left his father high and dry despite topping the group. Connor Christie found that two years of not playing meant that injury struck just as he was remembering what to do after they qualified behind the Caplins, who performed with distinction to claim their semi-final spot. The Hoskins showed some good form despite not breaking their winning duck but didn't seem overly upset as it meant they got a shot at winning the Plate.
The Hughes had the task of beating the Christies. Chris and Bill played against Shrewsbury a few weeks ago, however they had to turn that partnership into rivalry for this match. The Christies had a tough group, and did very well to get through, however Connor’s hand suffered in the process having not played for a couple of years. Unfortunately, this meant that he was unable to hit the ball with any pace and after the first set he was unable to continue any more meaning the Hughes were through to the final. A special mention should go to both Bill and Connor on reaching their first semi-final.
In the second Semi Final, the Caplins had the task of beating the Williams who had been on good form throughout the groups. The match was played at a good pace and Noah in particular showed just how much he has improved over the past few years. While the scoreline ended up being quite one sided there was a number of long and enthralling rallies. However, the Williams were able to make fewer mistakes and found consistency in their cut return, eventually winning 12-5, 12-5. Again, a special mention should go to the Caplins for reaching their first semi-final.
The Williams and Hughes have played each other four times in the competition – the Hughes with a 3-1 head to head lead but lost when they last played each other in the 2017 final. The two pairs know each other so well that the games are always difficult – with everyone seemingly knowing exactly what shot the other will be playing and positioning themselves accordingly.
The first set started a bit nervy – Chris in particular was unable to find any form on the cut. The Williams tried to put pressure on the Hughes' back court play and keep away from their volleying. Twelve hands went by without scoring and after the first 30+ shot rally, Mike rightly wanted to ensure there weren’t going to be too many of those! The scores crept up, two at a time until eight all. The Hughes won three quick points to take to step and managed to close it out. The Williams felt slightly hard done by in that first set and perhaps thought that they should have got further ahead in the beginning.
In the second set, the Hughes certainly upped their game having started to settle. Their return of cut was always slightly superior and the Williams therefore had to play a less risky game to counter this. Ultimately, a very good start from the Hughes meant the set was always likely to run away from the Williams. The Hughes were up 9-0 before the Williams found a few points in quick succession to bring the score back to 9-3. The Hughes were able to finish off the set and with that retain the Aberconway Cup.
This was the ninth time Chris and Mike have won the Aberconway Cup and they will certainly be wanting to get to number 10 next year!
Mike Fenn Plate
The Mike Fenn Plate was as keenly fought over as ever this year, starting with two groups of three pairs leading to a final. Gareth & Tom Hoskins finally got some wins under their belt, topping Group A ahead of the Osens and the Marwoods. The Gwynnes found the going hard in Group B, which came down to a shootout between Pete & George Scholey and Tim & Natasha Gregory, an excellent match which just went in favour of the Scholeys.
The final of the Plate thus saw two North Oxford pairs up against each other, with an Old Edwardian in Pete Scholey up against a current Edwardian in U14 Tom Hoskins. This was an intriguing battle with Gareth & Pete very familiar with each others' games, George full of ability but short on experience and match practice and Tom older, stronger and more confident than last year and improving fast. In what turned out to be the classic "game of three halves", the Hoskins started strongly to take an early lead, the Scholeys fought back to level things up at 8-8 and 9-9 and the Hoskins then reasserted their authority to move away to a 15-11 win and add their names to the distinguished roll of honour on the Mike Fenn Plate, which already in its short history features legends of the game such as Howard Wiseman, Seb Cooley and Colin Turnbull.
Ronald Pattison kindly agreed to present the awards this year (perhaps forgetting that the Kinnaird was being played at the same time - Sorry Ron!).
Many thanks to Eton for hosting the day, and a special thanks to everyone who took part. The day is epitomised by playing the game in the true spirit of Fives, balancing the desire to win with the desire to be fair.
Additional reporting by Gareth Hoskins
M & C Hughes beat B & C Christie 2-0 (12-0, ret)
G & G Williams beat J & N Caplin 3-0 (12-5, 12-5)
M & C Hughes beat G & G Williams 2-0 (12-8, 12-3)
Mike Fenn Plate
G & T Hoskins beat P & G Scholey 15-11