2006 Veterans Tournament

Graham Pulsford reports:

The twenty-second Over 40s Tournament was held on Sunday 23rd May at Eton College. Thirty two combatants prepared themselves for an enjoyable afternoon of fives; many employing a curious combination of ointments, sprays, comical stretches and surgical supports to get themselves on court.

Familiar faces were joined by the welcome addition of comparative youngsters from the Highgate based Monday Club, and my thanks go to Patrick Gibbs for enthusing four pairs to enter. Martin Lindsay was playing in his twenty-second consecutive tournament and Derek Whitehead, at 73, set a record for the oldest entrant and in doing so a suitable challenge for Mike Fenn and Gordon Stringer to follow. It was also pleasing to see the return of veteran stalwarts John Collett, Anthony Wagg and Ronald Pattison.

Each pair played four rounds of one game up to fifteen points and then the two unbeaten pairs contested the final. Once again the Cox Coefficient was applied and the senior pairs started at a plus point rating from 1 to 8; a suitable deficit to dent the confidence of youth! This helped to produce a series of closer matches and some gripping fives.

Matches were keenly fought with all players entering into the spirit of the competition. The pick of the early matches was John Caudle/Ronald Pattison, recovering from 2-10 down, to overtake Anthony Wagg/Martin Powell and win 15-10. This followed the latter pairs enthralling 15-14 victory over Derek Whitehead/Gordon Whitehead in the previous game.

The old warhorses Simon Woolfries/Peter Boughton were hustled out 7-15 by the newcomers Marco Rimini/Justin Byam Shaw, and Neil Margerison/Nigel Cox were grateful to overcome the potential "banana skin" of Andrew Mitchell/Phil Corn. The smiliest pair was undoubtedly John Cooley/Gordon Stringer and the unluckiest pair Martin Fiennes/Michael Till (any other group and...).

The first semi-final saw the highly experienced Neil Margerison/Nigel Cox see off the serious challenge of Marco Rimini/Justin Byam Shaw by fully exploiting the advantages of the Cox Coefficient - no surprises there! Having established a 10-0 lead they eventually won through 15-10. The younger pair will no doubt return to fight again!

In the second semi-final Courtney Friend/Graham Pulsford won through 15-8 against a relaxed John Caudle/Ronald Pattison. The latter pair was still celebrating their remarkable victory in the previous match and, John in particular, continued to do so well into the evening.

The final was therefore a repeat of 2004, and the result was identical. The experienced Doctors, Neil Margerison/Nigel Cox, started off with a 4-0 Cox Coefficient advantage but this was erased by the holders Courtney Friend/Graham Pulsford who went quickly into a 5-4 lead. At this stage the best fives of the match was played with Neil Margerison playing some excellent defensive fives. The scores seesawed upward to 9-9 when, after a lengthy and exhaustive rally, Courtney Friend upped a gear and the holders rushed through to a 15-9 victory.

Gordon Stringer presented the trophy, adding some well chosen words that Martin Shortland-Jones would certainly have enjoyed. The winners then dedicated their victory to their coach, Joe Seelig, whose erudite glasses confirmed the brilliance of the fives brain within.

The ensemble then retired to the Watermans Arms for suitable liquid refreshment. A pleasant time was enjoyed by all, although John Caudle's recounting of his "amazing comeback" did get a little overused - it still takes two!