2003 Aberconway Cup

Mike Fenn reports:

The Thirteenth Championship contained five new pairs contributing to over half the entry. Some eight Clubs/Schools were represented with players from Eton, Shrewsbury, Highgate, King Edward's, City of London, Lancing, St Olave's and Goddington. Several regulars were absent due to injury with one or two fathers hanging up their gloves whilst others were unable to enter due to sons abroad or away at University. With five further potential newcomer pairs in the wings and some eighteen others still playing the potential for next year is enormous.

And so on a dull but warm day, rain was forecast, nine pairs arrived at Eton ready to do battle. Newcomers included Andrew and William Betts; the Hon. Peter Remnant and Edward; David and Robert Cooper; Colin and Steve Spurrell; and Jonathan and Aston Stockdale with Christopher and Richard Horne and Garry and Paul James returning after an absence of six an seven years repectively. With the expected rain failing to materialise Graham and Teresa Dunbar and sons Tom and Peter were unable to take part, both boys captaining cricket teams, Tom at Oxford and Peter at Harrow. Other noteable absentees were the Markkanens, having played in ten consecutive Championships; the Cooley family; and the 2001 Champions the Rodwells.

The pairs were divided into two groups one of four, and one of five. Those in the smaller group played two games setting at fourteen and in the other group two games setting at eleven. The Walters (Tony and this year Jake); the Knowles (Peter and Jonathan); the Remnants (Peter and Edward); and the Hornes (Christopher and Richard) were seeded 1-4 respectively, with each group arranged to known strengths, age and club. Winners and runners up to progress to the semi-finals.

Group Matches

The four seeds comfortably reached the semi-finals but not in the sequence of the seeding. There was no major upset in Group 1 with the Walters winning all three matches comfortably. Their toughest match was against the Remnants and although winning 15-8, 15-8 the Remnants were to prove a greater challenge later in the tournament as father Peter shook off the court rust of four years. Newcomers Stockdales played well, with the Coopers winning their first Championship match. Group 2 was the group of surprises with fourth seeds Hornes taking out second seeds Knowles in a close match 12-11, 12-7. On their return the Jameses did well to win one and draw one, the same scoreline as newcomers the Spurrells. Although going down in all four matches Andrew and William Betts, in their first tournament, did well to take a game off off the Spurrells.

Semi-finals

The semi-finals, best of three games, were played in the afternoon after an excellent lunch at the Waterman's Arms. The first match witnessed the Walters, winners of Group 1, facing the Knowles, runners-up in Group 2. Sadly the Knowles were well below their best, perhaps demoralised by their morning defeat by the Hornes, and could find no answer to the attacking volleying play of Jake Walters. Jake was ably supported by Tony as they ran out comfortable winners 12-1, 12-1.

The second all 'Etonian' semi-final pitting the Hornes against the Remnants was an entirely different affair. In a close long hard fought match the game swayed one way and then the other. As the match progressed there was some outstanding vintage placement and retrieval play from Peter Remnant showing what a good ball player he has been and still remains. He was ably supported by son Ed as they took the first game 12-8. A feature of the Horne game was the outstanding volleying by Richard well supported, at times much to his embarrassment, by a loquacious father Christopher. Can I play with someone else was the plaintive cry! The Hornes were determined to win the second game and this they did but not before a few heartstopping moments. Comfortably ahead at 10-5 they allowed it to slip to 10-10 and then 10-12 before a dominant volleying period of play by Richard levelled the scores at 12-12. A couple of unforced errors by Ed advanced the score to 14-12 and although the Remnants took the next point steady play from the Hornes saw them take the game 15-13. The match was beginning to take its toll on both pairs, much to the joy of the other waiting finalists. Although the Hornes were soon 2-0 up in the third Richard, who at times had appeared to be scampering all over the court, began to run out of steam and in the shortest game of the match the Remnants ran out worthy winners 12-5. This semi-final was played in good humour throughout no more so than during the third game when play continued as the ball dropped having been trapped between Christopher and the side wall for some half minute. (A dead ball perhaps?).

The Final

There was a short debate as to whether or not Peter Remnant could continue after his exhausting semi-final but like a true sportsman he agreed to play on. (Fortunately the organiser was unlikely to come face to face with his wife in the following days!). An extra incentive was that Tony Walter's mobility was slightly restricted due to a back problem. The Remnants shot out of the trap and were soon 9-4 up in the first best of three game final. The Walters, having comfortably won their semi-final, suddenly seemed vulnerable, but with steady play from Tony and dominate volley play by Jake clawed their way back to 10-10. A choice of foot at eleven by the tiring Remnants saw the Walters go one up and after several chances for the Walters to take the game levelled at 11-11 and in the same hand took the game 12-11. A close run thing. Sadly the Remnants were unable to maintain their high standard of play as errors crept into their game. They tired and visibly wilted under the relentless volleying pressure exerted by Jake Walters and the ability of Tony to retrieve apparant winning shots, losing the next two game to three and the final 2-1.

In the presentation that followed, Christopher Horne paid tribute to the late Lord Aberconway, the instigator of the Tournament in 1991. In presenting the Cup he congratulated Tony on winning the tournament with Jake, having won last year with Anthony; remaining the oldest holder of the Cup; and for reaching the final for a record sixth time. He commiserated with Peter and Ed Remnant who had done exceptionally well in reaching the final at their first attempt. In closing he expressed thanks to Mike Fenn the organiser.

Results

Group 1

A & J Walters won 3, lost 0

Hon.P & E Remnant won 2, lost 1

D & R Cooper won 1, lost 2

J & A Stockdale won 0, lost 3

Group 2

C & R Horne won 4, lost 0

P & J Knowles won 3, lost 1

G & P James won 1, drew 1, lost 2

C & S Spurrell won 1, drew 1, lost 2

A & W Betts won 0, lost 4

Semi-finals

A & J Walters beat P & J Knowles 2-0 (12-1, 12-1)

Hon.P & E Remnant beat C & R Horne 2-1 (12-8, 13-15, 12-5)

Final

A & J Walters beat Hon.P J & E Remnant 2-1 (11-12, 12-3, 12-3)