2003 Varsity Match
Rodney Knight reports:
Revenge with Champagne
The generous support of Eton College allied to sponsorship from Pol Roger ensured that this year's needle match for both Varsity Clubs was an Event to remember. For the supporters too, last year's rain was forgotten and we all enjoyed a fine, bright day a little later in the season than previously and in the afternoon rather than in the morning.
The Oxford side looked impressive on paper, containing two Kinnaird Cup winners, a host of old Blues and one of the 2001 Schools winners. In contrast Cambridge fielded only three previous Blues and illness had deprived them of their intended first pair. The scene was set for revenge for two years of defeat! And so it proved, with Oxford sweeping to a 3-0 victory in the Blues match and conceding only at first pair in the second team match.
With such fine players as Tom Dunbar and James Toop playing in first and second pairs respectively, the Dark Blues never lost the initiative. Ably supported by Hedley Young and Sanjaya Ranasinghe, their superior volleying and return of cut ensured straight game wins, conceding only seven and six points in the two rubbers.
The third pairs were more evenly matched and Cambridge's Birch and Davis fought back to take the third game after a slow start. Randall and Thompson, who lost a cliffhanger in the fifth as last year's second pair for Oxford, were not to be denied, however, and came back with a solid performance in the fourth to ensure a clean sweep for Oxford.
Meanwhile a more evenly contested match was unfolding between the Peppers and the Penguins. Only third pair played four games, MacAuslan and Hennessey recovering from an upset in the first game to take the next three for Oxford against a less experienced Monteiro and Maskell.
Both the other rubbers went to five games and the match could have gone either way. Mir and Gill for Cambridge surprised the experienced Nicholson and Marshall by snatching the last game at first pair; but Cox and Johnson fought back after losing the fourth and clinched the Peppers victory by two rubbers to one.
Winners and losers then had every opportunity to enjoy this year's innovation of a very pleasantly staged champagne reception, at which Tom Fortune for Pol Roger presented bottles to the winning Blues side. This was followed by a superb buffet banquet organised by Mark Williams, Eton's master i/c Fives, for both teams, EFA representatives and the very attractive guests of the players, at a modest cost.
We all dare to hope that the elevation of this contest to the level of a prestigious, sponsored event in the Eton Fives calendar will further encourage the playing of the game at Oxbridge where so many other activities compete for the attentions of players and which remain the only universities with courts.
Blues Match: Oxford beat Cambridge 3-0
T Dunbar (Harrow and Balliol) and H Young (Highgate and Worcester) beat E Ryder (Berkhamsted and Christ's) and O Cooley (St Olave's and Trinity) 12-1, 12-2, 12-4
J Toop (St Olave's and Jesus) and S Ranasinghe (St Olave's and St. Johns) beat T Fletcher (Ipswich and Downing) and R Arasaratnam (Ipswich and Emmanuel) 12-2, 12-3, 12-1
S Randall (Eton and Trinity) and E Thompson (Berkhamsted and Wadham) beat J Birch (King Edwards and Hughes Hall) and D Davis (Highgate and St Catharine's) 12-6, 12-8, 4-12, 12-9
Oxford Peppers bt Cambridge Penguins 2-1
G Nicholson (Eton and Worcester) and M Marshall (Charterhouse and Oriel) lost to F Mir (Mill Hill and Pembroke) and N Gill (City of London and Magdalene) 12-6, 10-12, 8-12, 13-11, 8-12;
D Cox (Ipswich and Magdalene) and E Johnson (King Edward's, Birmingham and Lincoln) beat P Nichols (Shrewsbury and Emmanuel) and E Pickard (Repton and Fitzwilliam) 12-4, 6-12, 12-3, 6-12, 12-9;
I MacAuslan (Charterhouse and Balliol) and P Hennessey (Berkhamsted and Balliol) beat J Monteiro (RGS High Wycombe and Emmanuel) and S Maskell (Malvern and Corpus Christi) 11-14, 12-8, 12-7, 12-4