2004 Varsity Match
Rodney Knight reports:
An Honourable Win
In a match involving six pairs, it might be thought that, if each side achieves three wins, the result would be declared an honourable draw! But that is not the case in the Eton Fives Varsity Match where the result of the Blues match (the first three pairs) decides the annual winner. And this year the palm, and the Pol Roger champagne, went again to Oxford.
The Blues Match
On a chilly mid-February day which restricted the audience at Eton to officials and the most devoted supporters of the participants, the quality of the first and second Oxford pairs convincingly brought victory to the Dark Blues without the loss of a game.
Even with a severely strained right shoulder, Tom Dunbar dominated play on the step and he was supported by a fine performance from the back of the court by Hedley Young. Cambridge captain Dexter Davis was sharp and agile and partner George Eleftheriou produced many high quality shots; both cut well. But the accuracy of Oxford's play forced them to return the ball too high on the front wall giving the inevitable opportunity to Dunbar to put it away. A good scoring run in the first and third games was all that the Light Blues could manage and Oxford ran out comfortable winners 3-0.A similar result was achieved by Peter Dunbar and the Oxford captain Simon Randall at second pair. They were aggressive and consistent and did not allow Tom Fletcher and Nick Gill to settle to their game after the first flurry of points. Good retrieval of the cut ensured the Dark Blues plenty of time to score points and they won quite convincingly 3-0.
When did two brothers last represent their university as the two Harrovians did here with such distinction? Was it the May brothers in 1951?
Cambridge were not going to be rolled over however and a spirited display by Oli Cooley and Faisal Mir upset Sanjaya Ranasinghe and Alex Mackenzie. The Oxford pair started badly with a string of unforced errors, but then recovered to play two tight games and produce an excellent match. Cambridge did not however lose their nerve and kept the pressure on with good retrieval of the cut and few errors, to take the rubber 3-1 and rescue the honour of the Light Blues.
The Penguins/Peppers match is renowned for five game rubbers, keeping players tantalisingly away from the Pol Roger champagne and turning onlookers into pillars of ice! But not this year; not one rubber went to more than three games. And it was Cambridge Penguins who won this second-team match, reversing last year's result.
At first pair the improved Nichols and veteran Chatterjee had an excellent game with Cox and Arasaratnam, proving to be more effective on the step: while the enthusiam and commitment of the City of London pair Friedman and Beckman overcame Nelmes and Curl, the Oxford third pair. Heindorff and Cordle for Oxford, however, outplayed Pickard and Foster after a close second game and so ensured a point for the Dark Blues.
Once again we were all grateful to Mark Williams (and family), who gave up a day of his half term leave to open the Eton facilities for us and to Tom Fortune and Pol Roger for hosting another splendid Champagne reception.
An enjoyable dinner was taken this year in a local restaurant and involved an appalling test of manhood in which beer was consumed from footwear.
Presidents Constantinidi and Knight (and probably some guests!) made a careful note to ensure that the offer to use the Eton dining facilities was taken up next year as last!
Blues Match: Oxford bt Cambridge 2-1
T G Dunbar (Harrow & Balliol) and H Young (Highgate & Worcester) beat D S Davis (Highgate & St Catharine's) and G Eleftheriou (Highgate & St Catharine's) 12-6, 12-3, 12-6;
P R Dunbar (Harrow & Balliol) and S A Randall (Eton & Trinity) beat T S Fletcher (Ipswich & Downing) and N J T Gill (City of London & Magdalene) 12-5, 12-3, 12-5;
S T P Ranasinghe (St Olave's & St John's) and C A M Mackenzie (Westminster & Trinity) lost to O J N Cooley (St Olave's & Trinity) and F Mir (Mill Hill & Pembroke) 6-12, 12-10, 11-14, 6-12
Cambridge Penguins beat Oxford Peppers 2-1
P Nichols (Shrewsbury & Emmanuel) and R A Chatterjee (City of London & Magdalene) beat D L Cox (Ipswich & Magdalen) and R J S Arasaratnam (Ipswich & New) 12-7, 12-1, 12-8;
E Pickard (Repton & Fitzwilliam) and A Foster (Charterhouse & Emmanuel) lost to R Heindorff (City of London & Lincoln) and H P C Cordle (Eton & Wycliffe Hall) 1-12, 9-12, 3-12;
R Friedman (City of London & Emmanuel) and J Beckman (City of London & Magdalene) beat J Nelmes (Lancing & Oriel) and A W F Curl (Charterhouse & Lincoln) 12-4, 12-8, 12-5