2018/19 School Reports
Read on to find out the schools' views on the 2018/19 season. Missing reports will hopefully be added shortly...
National Schools' Festival Finalists; Vargas Trophy winners
This was a most enjoyable season with a group of reliable and well-motivated players. The groundwork of our recent seniors has clearly paid off.
The fives group won or drew over 60% of the fixtures played including block wins v Westminster Stowe and Mill Hill. National’s week at Shrewsbury was a thoroughly enjoyable occasion. All players improved during the course of the day and we managed to reach the last 32 in both U14 and U16 competitions. Two pairs at U14 level lost in plate finals. Clearly still some work to do v the well-established programmes!
The seniors enjoyed some trophy success winning the Vargas 3 pair competition in March having finished runners up in September. At the nationals week our first senior pair defeated our second pair in a thrilling Festival final. Overall the squad were awarded the Zuoz trophy for fair play for the season which is a tribute to all players involved in the programme.
Overall, Belmont Fives has had a good season and one which is certainly going to provide some good foundations for Mill Hill when the year 8’s move up the road in September. With a particular achievement being the increased number of girls playing the sport. The year 3 & 4 club was removed from the weekly schedule in order to allow for a mixed invitational club to take place which was a great achievement and a very worthwhile exercise. Around 75 pupils played fives this year with a good number of them also representing the school in fixtures. With these numbers, court numbers and playing time continue to be a significant limiting factor in the progression of the sport at Belmont.
At the start of the year some Belmont pupils were invited to play in the annual ‘Summers Cup’ competition where a current pupil plays with an Old Millhillian and this was won by Year 6 pupil Jake Turner who partnered OM Charles Plummer. With fixtures throughout the year it was great to see the playing ability of so many progress so well across the year, almost to the stage where we possibly had too many fixtures and not enough practice time so the balance may have to be looked at for next year. There is still also a large imbalance between the number of fixtures for boys and for that of girls. However, this is slowly changing and heading in the right direction which is fantastic for the sport and for the fantastic number of girls playing.
The national champions were a fantastic opportunity as ever. The U13s did very well with our second pair having an extremely close game with Berkhamsted 1 in the last 16 which they only just lost. The first pair progressed to the quarterfinals before losing another very close game. In the U11s, the first pair came back from losing the first set to also progress to the quarterfinals before a bit of tiredness and a small injury hindered them slightly, however, played a very good match losing out to a strong Berkhamsted pair. In the Under 13 girls competition, the girls did themselves proud, again with one pair reaching the quarterfinals before losing to Ipswich in an emotional match and 2nd pair reaching the final 16.
End of term awards were as follows:
Most improved: Annabel O
Best player: Toby S
Mason Girls Cup: Hannah T-Y
Fives colours: Juliette M, Riva P, Sophia A, Christian C, Edgar G, Luke C, Oliver O, Aden B, Edward F
Krendel Fives Cup: Edgar G
Most improved: Oliver O
Mason Girls’ Fives Cup: Jasmine G
Under 11 Cup: Jake T
The Bob Pace ‘Best Pair’ shield: Toby S & Edgar G
Fives colours: Daniel P, Guy R, Dhruv J, Samuel C, Jamie C, Charlie O, Jaiveer S, Carter C
It was a great season for Belmont School and I look forward to seeing how all the pupils progress in the next couple of years. Thanks as ever to Ollie McGuinness who’s support and enthusiasm does wonders for the game in terms of recruitment and development. Thanks also to Steve Plummer and the Old Millhillians for the constant support that they provide.
U15 champions; Prep Schools winners; Turnbull Trophy finalists; Pett Cup winners
When writing these reports, it always fascinates me going back through the year just how much has been accomplished in essentially just two terms. So, below I have tried to summarise all the major events, but there is certainly a lot to read about and celebrate, so please bear with me!
The Derek Whitehead Trophy, now in its 4th incarnation, once again began our season back at the start of September. It is a fun social tournament where an OB pairs up with a junior pupil. It is a great way to get the season started for both the pupils and OBs, as well as establish those all-important early links between the Club and the School. 32 players took part aged from 10 – 70 and there were lots of high level and competitive matches throughout the tournament. In the end Old Berkhamstedian Richard Dennis walked away as the top dog alongside his senior school partner Nathaniel Cunnold to claim the 2018 trophy.
The first taste of Inter-House sport at the school always comes in the form of the inter-House Fives Competitions in early September. These prove to be very popular events with pupils as many find themselves on a level playing field and the majority of top players are split across the Houses, meaning the later rounds are always very tight and competitive matches. An astonishing 297 pupils took part from years 7 – 11 in the boys’ school with Tilman House winning the prestigious Paul Dicker Cup for the second year in a row, having won the Y7, Y8 and Y10 events.
The 2018-19 season also had to see an expanded fixture card particularly for the U12s. This was due to both an influx of new pupils with the school expanding its numbers to another full class of Y7 pupils as well as the huge numbers of boys and girls coming through from the Prep, who have been exposed to the game early on. An impressive fixture card saw Berkhamsted pupils compete in 160 fixtures across the two terms with 161 pupils taking part from Y6 – Y13 girls and boys. Berkhamsted boys and girls did battle on court against a huge variety of schools, including Ipswich, Summer Fields, Highgate, Ludgrove, Westminster Under, RGS High Wycombe, St. Olaves, Holyport, Mill Hill & Belmont, Westway, Queen Elizabeth Barnet, Eton, Harrow, Aldenham, Shrewsbury, Westminster, Cranleigh, Uppingham, Emanuel and Charterhouse. What is most pleasing is that we have so many and such a mixed ability of players, so we are able to cater for all standards of schools and, more importantly, make sure that those pupils only just starting out are able to represent the school at a sport they enjoy and are passionate about. One of the highlights, however, was a new initiative to play the Prep School against the senior with the Y7s taking on the Y6s with both a boys’ and a girls’ fixture. The girls’ fixture was a little one-sided with the Y7s being too strong for the Prep girls, but it was pleasing to see after a couple of sets the Y7s girls taking the Prep girls under their wings with some coaching points and mix-around games. The boys’ fixture was very competitive and in the end the match saw a well-deserved 3-3 draw.
Berkhamsted was also well represented in a number of school and adult competitions. The REFCA (Rugby & Eton Fives Coaching Agency) Individual competitions always provide a great afternoon of Fives with players mixing in from all schools, also allowing individuals to meet and make new friends from other schools, who they will see across the season. In the U12s event the Senior School took a step back to allow the U11s at the Prep the opportunity to play some more competitive matches and 24 Berkhamsted players took part. In the end the final saw no less than three Berkhamsted pupils and one Highgate player; the match went the way of the Berkhamsted/Highgate pairing in a very tight game. The senior girls’ team was also able to strut their stuff with 6 pupils from Y7 – 13 taking part in the Open Individual; in the end our top U15 pupil Bethan Miles took the win alongside a Westminster pupil.
The ever-popular Graham Turnbull Trophy (old boy/coach paired with a pupil) tournament saw a record entry of 37 pairs with 3 of them being Berkhamsted. The highlight saw young Jack Pemberton (Y10) reaching the final alongside coach Ryan Perrie. They overcame a tough quarter-final against Eton 2 before coming up against 2nd seeds, Shrewsbury 1 in the semis. Some real grit and determination saw them fend off the coach and U18 pairing to make it all the way to the final. Pemberton & Perrie had run out of steam by this point unfortunately and, despite playing well on occasions, went down in two sets. This was still an impressive result, however, and Pemberton may be the youngest pupil to reach a Turnbull Final.
January saw 13 girls from Y7 & 8 travel over to Eton for the annual Girls’ Festival. This competition is designed to encourage girls to take up and enjoy the game playing lots of fun and social matches, so no real results or winners are decided, with players simply rolling on and off court against a number of opposition. The majority of the schools were in the Y9 – 11 age bracket, so with Berkhamsted representing a much younger squad it was pleasing to see the girls step up and win about 80% of their matches across the day.
Berkhamsted also had the pleasure of hosting the inaugural Martin Pett Plate, named in honour of Berkhamsted’s long serving MiC, a three pair team competition similar to the Hughes and Williams Cups, but aimed at the U13 age group. A healthy entry of 8 teams took part with two teams from Berkhamsted in the form of an U13 and an U12 squad. It was pleasing, therefore, to see the final was an all Berkhamsted affair with the U13 squad taking on the U12s. The final itself was very tight, but in the end it went the way of the U13s with an overall 2 – 1 result.
One of the most memorable school competitions of the year was the Hughes Cup, the three pair U15 team competition. There was a total entry of eight teams split across two venues, Eton and Harrow. Berkhamsted found themselves based at Harrow along with Harrow and two Rydal Penrhos teams. The boys won reasonably comfortably against both the Rydal teams, but the Harrow match was as close as it could be! In the end all three pairs tied their games with a win and a loss in each. This meant it came down to points difference and Berkhamsted won the day by a single point! This, then, pitted us against Shrewsbury, a few weeks later for the semi-final stage and again there was some extremely high-quality Fives played throughout. Berkhamsted won against the 1st pair with a reasonably comfortable 3 – 1, while the 3rd pair had an epic 5 setter, which went the way of Shrewsbury. This meant it came down to the 2nd pair, which went reasonably comfortably the way of Berkhamsted 3 – 0. This was the first time that Berkhamsted had reached the final of this competition and they would now square off against Eton, who had won the competition for the last few years. The 1st pair saw a re-match of last year’s U14 Nationals final and unfortunately, it was the same result with Doe & Hubbard battling hard with some high-quality Fives, but losing out in 3 straight sets. The 2nd pairing of Foster & Pemberton (who, I might add, had not lost a fixture this whole season at this point) once again steadied the team with another superb 3 – 0 win, levelling the match at one all. And so, it came down to the 3rd pairing of Thompson and young Boylan, one half of our top U14 pair, who had stepped in at the last minute. They sent a shockwave through the Eton squad after claiming the first set 12 – 9. Once Eton had reflected and found their composure, they battled back to claim the second set 4 – 12. The Berkhamsted boys refused to give up and the next two sets were some of the best quality Fives of the entire fixture. Unfortunately, both went the way of Eton 10 – 12, 10 – 12, but it was a remarkable standard and an impressive achievement from young Boylan, stepping up to one of the top Fives playing schools in the county and going toe-to-toe with them, ably supported by Thompson driving and encouraging his partner through the match.
Pupils also competed in a number of adult competitions, including the London Tournament, the Ladies Champions, the Mixed Competition and League 1. In the London three U15 pairs took part in the Festival section; our 2nd and 3rd pairs made it to the main Plate Final, where they faced each other and in a very tight match Auld & Longbottom managed to sneak the win 15 – 12. Our 1st pairing of Doe & Pemberton did well to make it to the quarter-final stages of the main tournament, before losing out to a solid senior and coach Ipswichian pairing also with a score line of 15 – 12.
In the Ladies championship our top U18 pairing of Nicholls & Butler along with our top U15 pairing of Miles & Hannah competed. With the new straight knock-out format both pairs found themselves up against very strong opposition with Nicholls & Butler losing 0 – 3 to the second seeds (thought there were plenty of good rallies and patches of fine play from the Berkhamsted girls) while Miles & Hannah also lost in three straight, but very tight, sets to the top U18 Shrewsbury girls pair. Miles & Hannah then went on to win the main Plate competition. However, an impressive result for a junior pair at an adult competition.
The Mixed saw just one entry from coach Bethan Miles & coach Ant Theodossi. Many players had been watching young Bethan all day (not so much her ageing coach) for both her extremely high quality of play and mature attitude and sportsmanship throughout. They just missed out topping their group after losing a very tight fixture against one of the top pairs in the competition 12 – 11, a frustrating result having been 11 – 9 up and two very annoying and weak lets caused by an immobile Westminster player! This pitted them against the second seeds, to whom they lost out in a high-quality match 15 – 8 in the quarters.
We had set up the league this year with the philosophy of bringing on some of our top U15 squad players along with our top U18 pupil, who were paired up with coaches from the school. There were lots of tough matches throughout the season, which resulted in some fine wins and other close encounters. Berkhamsted finished a deservedly mid-table position, a very impressive result for pupils as young as 14 to be playing such highly competitive Fives.
The Nationals began very early before Lent half term. There are certainly many more competitions now than there have ever been in previous years, a promising sign of the healthy state of Fives across the country. Although not officially under the Nationals banner, the Prep Championships is the premier U13 competition of the season and it was an absolute thrill to see young Sam Kaynama & Barney Baines walk away with the Championship Trophy after the 43-year break since Berkhamsted had last won it. The icing on the cake was that of the remaining three plate trophies, Berkhamsted walked away with two of them, a total 3 out of 4 trophy haul for the U13 team. Another highlight saw Bethan Miles & Lola Hannah claiming the U15 Girls Nationals title for the 3rd year in a row, an achievement that is likely never to be beaten. At the junior end the U12s won their Nationals in impressive style dropping a maximum of 5 points in a set across the whole tournament, while the U11s dominated their competition seeing 8 of the quarter-finalists being Berkhamsted pairs. In the end, history was made with the first ever all Berkhamsted Final at the Nationals! At the senior end there were some very good results, most notably from our U14 pair, who made the semi-final stages, but due to a rugby injury, had to withdraw and concede, a real shame as they certainly seemed one of the best pairs in the competition. A full run-down of each competition with its result can be found below.
Overall Nationals Results
U12 Qualifier: Finalists
U12 Elite: Winners
Prep Championships: Winners
U13 Girls: Semi-Finalists
U15s: Last 16
U15 Girls: Winners
U18s: Last 16
U18 Girls: Quarter-Finalists
It is amazing just how much has gone on over the course of just two terms with Berkhamsted Fives and all of the astonishing results achieved, thanks to all the hard work and dedication of our boys and girls across the year groups.
We must also say thank you and farewell to our leavers, Zoe Nicholls & Freya Butler, both of whom took the game up at a very late stage in Y11 and have managed to develop their game to play at such a high standard. I wish them all the best in their future endeavours and hopefully will see them continue to enjoy their Fives as part of the Old Berkhamstedian side, once they have left for university.
No report received yet
It has been another encouraging year for Fives at Charterhouse, with the usual host of fixtures against school rivals and adult club sides alike, and culminating in an enjoyable trip to Shrewsbury for the National Schools’ competition in the final week of Quarter.
The game continues to enjoy a healthy interest at all levels: we have had several successful inter-house competitions run over the year, with Bodeites emerging as Junior champions and Gownboys the winners of the Senior competition, and more than held our own on a competitive schools fixture list. Representing Charterhouse in fixtures and tournaments (including the newly-christened Vargas trophy which we hosted for the first time) have been everything from enthusiastic newcomers (Toby Slater and Hugh Hutchinson making an excellent start to their Fives-playing careers in the Fourths) to fast-developing Underschoolers (Hugo Wheatland in particular looking one to watch) and the more seasoned hands (if the reader will pardon the expression). In the LQ we have enjoyed wins at U16, U15 and Yearlings against Westminster, Highgate and Eton; there has also been some good girls’ Fives played by our first senior pair of Holy Gardner and Lia Rockey.
Perhaps the most heartening prospect for next season is the number of boys in the 5ths and 1YS playing the game at a good level – in the National Schools’ championships the foursome of Charlie Turner, Toby Ball, Demi Adeyinka and Ambrose Witherspoon gave excellent accounts of themselves, despite being two years young for the competition, and the U17 pair of Jamie Marmion and Fin McLellan came away with the scalps of two good Shrewsbury pairs; also involved over the season from the 1YS have been Charlie Howard and Louis Thomson – all of which bodes (dare one say, Bodes? such is the passion for the game from Dr Aidonis’ charges) very well for next year.
A real highlight has been the performance of our first boys’ pair, Hector Platt and captain Robert Elston, who have enjoyed an unbeaten term in school fixtures (including wins against Highgate and Eton), and were also the best overall pair in the Vargas salver. At the Nationals the pair won their group easily, and coasted past a reasonably strong Shrewsbury pair in the first knockout round, before finally meeting their match in an excellent Eton 3rd pair – the Fives was of a fantastic standard throughout with plenty of aggressive volleying, and Hector’s fluidity and power well complemented by Rob’s tenacious retrieval.
Thanks must go, variously, to Jonny Nelmes for his boundless good humour and enthusiasm for the game at all levels, Rob Morris for bringing a fresh pair of eyes to the Fives club this term, both our visiting Tuesday coaches Mark and Hugo, plus the additional expertise of Mike Hughes and Oliver O’Callaghan-Brown which has done so much to develop the senior players within the club over the past few months. Most of all thanks go to captain Robert Elston, a better ambassador for the game one would be hard-pressed to find: a much-improved player in his own right, and responsible for single-handedly organising two terms’ worth of inter-house competitions with patience and good cheer. Fives will, as ever, continue in some form or other over even the summer months; for now, however, the club can reflect on another enjoyable and successful season.
Jonny Nelmes/John Troy
City of London
City of London at the Turnbull Trophy
No report received yet
Cranleigh U15s at the Schools' Nationals
After some years in abeyance, Eton Fives has been brought back to life at Cranleigh this year. Arriving in September, I found all the courts filled with furniture, some old gloves hiding at the back of a cupboard, and no balls anywhere in the school. We are, however, blessed to have the superb Mark Halstead coaching at the Prep School and this year, as every year, he has provided us with a talented and keen crop of young players.
It was thanks to the eagerness of these boys and girls that I was able to institute three Fives activity sessions each week, and they proved so successful that by the end of the Michaelmas Term we had a waiting list! Once three of the six courts were cleared, matches began and gradually more and more Cranleighans came down to see what all the fuss was about.
Having not had a school fixture in some years, we started off with a couple of friendlies against the Prep School, which proved very close and highly entertaining matches. Suitably satisfied that we might be able to hold our own against another school, I began to organise fixtures. In the Lent Term we played Lancing (Home & Away), Berkhamsted (Away), Charterhouse (Home & Away) and a range of opponents in the Vargas Salver. Against much more experienced and more professionally coached sides we held our own, ending the season with a 53% win ratio, and a particularly memorable 1st & 2nd Pair victory over Charterhouse away from home.
The real highlight was a trip to Nationals at Shrewsbury, entering three pairs in the U15 tournament. This was the first time Cranleigh had entered the U15s in over 10 years, and with four of our six boys playing up a year I was delighted to see two pairs winning a match, and for one pair to come away with a Plate trophy. The photo below shows our squad at the end of a long and hugely enjoyable day:
We are unfortunate to lose 5 very strong players from our upper sixth this year, including Louis Halstead and Jeff Olsen. However we have some very capable players in the U14 & U15 age groups, who with time and coaching could find themselves challenging at the highest level. We already have twice as many fixtures in the calendar for next year, and look forward to continuing to build the fastest growing sport at Cranleigh School.
Cranleigh has had a very busy and, for us, successful season. There has been unprecedented success with National finalists in 2 categories and a strong playing base beneath. However perhaps the most pleasing aspect has been the work done by Mr Tom Constable at Cranleigh Senior School who has started to breathe some life back into the Fives scene at the Senior School.
Fives at Cranleigh Prep School is a non-selective activity played in the children’s spare time after school. As a coach you are very much dependent on their enthusiasm for the game and their willingness to turn up after school on cold, wet and dark days through the winter months. We are very lucky to have the talent and enthusiasm of Mr Harry Thomas who has given so much to the game in his time at the school coaching and encouraging the children to keep striving harder. He sets high standards in everything that he does and this is reflected in the way the children play the game.
Before I get onto describing the more notable achievements I do want to begin by mentioning all the stalwarts who turn up each and every week and who have made such great improvements in their play. Unfortunately we were unable to attend the U13 Nationals this year because of a clash with exams so some missed their big day out but I am sure their time will come if they keep playing. Their enjoyment and improvements has been the thing which has given me most pleasure in the whole process and I really hope they continue to play as they go to their Senior Schools.
The first Tournament of the season was the Girls U13 Nationals. Fielding 3 pairs for the first time we had a wonderful day out. Pair 2 of Lily and Winnie and Pair 3 Isabella and Phoebe surprised themselves by winning their respective plate competitions and pulled in the first silverware of the season. Pair 1 Effie and Charlotte impressed throughout the day sweeping all before them. They cruised into the final without dropping a game where they met a strong Highgate pair. It was an even game which we looked like winning all the way. At 6-1 up in the final game it seemed more a case of when rather than if but Fives can be a cruel game and Highgate kept coming back and eventually took the crown. Still second in the country was not a bad effort.
The U12 National- Qualifiers were next and again we were able to field 3 pairs for this. These competitions are always a slight journey into the unknown due to our lack of school matches. However I was hopeful if not confident. Once again it was a very pleasant surprise to see how competitive we were at this level. All 3 pairs qualified for the last 16 and I was impressed by their standard of play and sportsmanship over the day. Pair 3 of Louis and Oscar narrowly went out at this stage but Pair2 of Ivan and Rory and Pair 1 of James and Henry reached the quarter-finals thus securing entry to U12 Elite tournament. Ivan and Rory went out in the quarters but could perhaps have gone further with a little more consistency in their game. James and Henry however went all the won and won the competition without dropping a game. Their level of play was outstanding and they were learning as they went on.
Following our success in the qualifiers the move up to the Elite section was a journey into the unknown. Certainly the standard was a lot tougher with all the powerhouses entering the fray. Ivan and Rory made it to the last 24 where they came unstuck against some more experienced players. Meanwhile James and Henry just kept beating whoever was placed in front of them. In the quarters they claimed the scalp of Sunningdale 1 and then defeated Summer Fields 1 in the semis. This saw them into the final against a hgih fancied Berkhamsted team. Although I think we played some excellent fives it was a case of one step to far. However second in the country wasn’t a bad effort!
The final tournament of the season saw us off to the Prep schools at Eton. It is always a very tough competition and with a few absences on the day we were slightly below par. Nevertheless there was some good play from all the pairs on the day and Pair 1 of Max and Harry reached the final of the Roddy Forman Salver where we lost to a Berkhamsted pair.
It has been a great season for all at Cranleigh. A vintage year and one to remember. Well done and thanks to everyone involved.
No-one quite knows when Dover College last entered an EFA tournament, with estimates ranging from 46 to upwards of 60 years. On a cold afternoon towards the end of the Michaelmas Term at Eton College the renaissance began and we were delighted to be welcomed back on the circuit after our lengthy absence. With one of our two courts refurbished and up and running, eight Under 13 pupils did Dover College proud as they competed against many other pupils from Fives playing Prep schools. In the Lent term we made the not inconsiderable journey to North Wales for a residential Fives trip at Rydal Penrhos, where we were hosted in impeccable fashion, playing just over four hours of Fives over the two days we were there. And in our inaugural 24 hour Dover College Sports Marathon, the “Fives at Five” (PM and AM!) slot was a personal highlight! Next year we are looking to compete on a greater scale, and hopefully avoid a Rosslyn Park clash with the Nationals, which would be tremendous for the profile of the game at the College.
Many thanks to all at the Eton Fives Association for the unstinting support.
No report received yet
Williams Cup winners; Open finalists; U16 winners
Eton College has enjoyed another busy year of Fives, both externally and internally. Externally, the school has competed in over fifty fixtures, across all five year groups, with more than 80 boys playing in competitive fixtures. Internally, the annual New Boy’s competition had over 100 entries, whilst the Beaks & Boys competition is always one of the highlights of the year.
At the top of the school our Keepers, Billy Keith (RDOC), Cassian Mcdonald (RDOC) & Xander Watt (RDOC) have led from the front, never shirking their duties. Billy’s enthusiasm and passion for the sport has helped enormously when coaching the large amount of new boy Fives players. Whilst Cassian & Xander have produced fantastic Fives all year, and have been a pleasure to watch. We also have great strength in depth, with Alfie Backhouse (COLL) stepping up on his U16 National win from last year and Ben Porter (AW) showing promising signs of improvement. Alfie and Ben have also been selected to be the Keepers for the next year, which is evidence for their ability and attitudes for Fives at Eton – congratulations to them.
At Under 16’s level, we are equally strong at the top end, with a fantastic wealth of talented Fives players. Last year’s U16 winner; Milo Russell (PGW) has played superbly throughout the year, whilst being adequately supported by Ed Bingham (JD), Joe Menell (COLL), Tom Capstick-Dale (JCAJ), Beau Swallow (JDN) and David Doughty (RDOC). Our numbers for the U16’s National Competition were bolstered by U15s (who could not play in this year’s U15 Tournament by virtue of reaching last year’s U14 National Schools quarter-finals or beyond). The likes of: Seb Hopkins (PGW), Max Krefting (PGW), Henry Daly (JDN), Louis Hopton (PAH), Jake Turcan (RDOC) and Henry Buxton (RDOC), stepped up extremely well, playing a year above their age group.
Our U15 – involving the vast majority of novice Fives players from last year – showed excellent improvements, which culminated in excellent showings in the U15’s Nationals at Shrewsbury, where we delighted to have three pairs in the quarter finals. A strong squad included the likes of: George Coomber (PGW), Hugh Halfhide (PGW), Edward Pearce (PAH), Ben Smailes (JDN), Rowan Hathaway (JDN), Zach Holmes (RDOC), Will Dawson (RDOC), Seb Hoornweg (JD), Harvey Bracken-Smith (RDOC) and Alfie Dean (AW).
At the bottom end of the school, we were fortunate to receive some excellent Fives players from Summerfield’s, in the likes of: Sebastian Corso (NPTL), George Lythgoe (JCAJ) and Ollie Edwards (JCAJ). These boys produced some excellent Fives throughout the year and represented the school exceptional well, whilst also providing a platform for the other novices to aim for. Our novices this year, have proven to have excellent strength in depth, with over 40 pupils representing the school over the course of the year. The success of this was underlined by having three pairs in the quarterfinals of the U14’s National Championships, and then two pairs in the semi-finals.
In the team competitions, Eton performed admirably well, managing to retain the competitions which we won last year. In this year’s Williams Team Cup, began in a tight but convincing win over St Olaves, against the other schools, there were moments where it looked like it could swing either way, however despite this, Eton ran out comfortable winners.
For the U15’s Hughes Cup, Eton progresses to the final in straight forward fashion – where they faced Berkhamsted. The three matches were all incredibly tight and at times, the balance of play swung equally between both teams. Eton’s first pair of Seb Hopkins (PGW) & Henry Daly (JDN) began to turn the screw and ran out comfortable winners. Eton’s second pair of Jake Turcan (RDOC) & Louis Hopton (PAH), played well but unfortunately fell short in three sets. This left the third pair of Max Krefting (PGW) & Henry Buxton (RDOC) needing a win to seal the victory for Eton, which they did after a fantastic and inspired performance, coming from behind to win 3-1.
Onto the Nationals, hosted at Shrewsbury this year. Our senior pairs were seeded one, six & seven respectively, whilst we also had the first seeds in the U16’s. The competition started on the Sunday with the U15’s, where there were many fine performances, notably: Edward Pearce (PAH) & George Coomber (PGW), Rowan Hathaway (JDN) & Seb Salata (ASR) and Alfie Dean (AW) & Harvey Bracken-Smith (RDOC). However, the highlight was the impressive performance from Ben Smailes (JDN) & Hugh Halfhide (PGW), who beat a strong Ipswich first pair on route to losing in the Semi-Finals.
The U16’s competition began on the Monday and they pressure was on Eton’s first pair of Seb Hopkins (PGW) and Milo Russell (PGW) – last year’s U16’s winner. However, we need not be concerned as they cruised through to the final, and after one or two tense moments, managed to come through in a fantastic final, 3-1.
Our main chance in the U14 Expert competition lay with Seb Corso (NPTL) & George Lythgoe (JCAJ), who despite not playing as often as they should of this year, performed above expectations, managing to beat the Highgate first pair on the way to the Semi-Finals where they lost to Harrow – the eventual winners. Credit also to Ollie Edwards (MGHM), who has also played some fantastic Fives over the year and performed excellently to reach the last 16 of the competition.
Our novices were out in force on the final day of the competition, producing nine pairs of budding and eager Fives players (I’m sure delighted to be missing a full day of school)! Each pair played there heart out and Eton had three pairs in the quarter finals, with two of these reaching the semi-finals. Ollie Alcock (RDOC) & Marcel Mauratille (NPTL) managed to beat the Harrow first pair, but unfortunately Oscar Turpin (PAH) & Taran Bola (RDOC) lost in a tight match to Shrewsbury’s first pair. In a close final which could of gone either way, Shrewsbury managed to beat Eton in a competitive and excellent game of Fives 3-1. However, the boys can be immensely proud of their efforts.
Now onto the seniors, where our second (Cassian McDonald RDOC & Ben Porter (AW) and third seeded pairs (Billy Keith RDOC & Henry Wilkinson RDOC) performed exceptional well to reach the quarter-finals. However, it was Xander Watt (RDOC) & Alfie Backhouse (COLL) who managed to cruise through in the final to face Shrewsbury’s first pair. In what has been described as the best ever game of school boy Fives, Shrewsbury narrowly won after a 4 ½ hour roller-coaster ride of fantastic fives, in the scorching heat and in front of over a hundred spectators. Both pairs had their opportunities to win the game but the consistency in the return of cuts from Shrewsbury meant they just edged it.
As ever, in my first year as Master in charge of Fives, I have built up considerable debts, the lines below is falls way short of the gratitude they deserve! Firstly, the keepers have been excellent in their efforts this year, where they have worked tirelessly to ensure the Fives Club is a place where boys want to come play and improve. Secondly, Sherisa Gumbs and Rachel Pilkington, whose enthusiasm and passion for the sport, has been fantastic, do keep playing! Thirdly, to Mark Strutt, who retires at the end of the year, and has been such a positive influence for Eton Fives over a number of years. Mark’s commitment to attending every Tuesday and Thursday evening training sessions have been brilliant for the boys, who consistently leave the courts, not understanding how they’ve just lost in straight sets. Enjoy your retirement Mark!
Lastly, to Ralph Oliphant-Callum, whose enthusiasm and passion for the sport of Eton Fives has benefitted hundreds of pupils’ who have passed through this school. Recently this has been recognised in the award of the highly coveted ‘Unsung Hero Award’ at the Eton Fives RAC dinner. Many congratulations to Ralph and thank you for all your help.
Several local schools used the courts this year in conjunction with Shaftesbury Enterprise.
Cameras were introduced to three courts and a redevelopment of the Fives area is planned for April next year.
We had an overall win loss ratio of above 60% with over 60 competitive matches played across both terms and four teams.
Several boys played in the adult league team alongside OHs and the Old Harrovians won the Barber Cup for the first time in the history of the competition.
It is particularly pleasing that 3 recent leavers from the school contributed so much to this success: Oskar Denby, Rahul Wijeratne and Qassi Gaba.
There was huge success again at The National Schools' Championships at Shrewsbury with The U14s and U15s winning.
Richard Barber Cup teams; Turnbull Trophy entrants and winners; U25 finalists
As we near the end of another busy and successful year it is nice to remember the efforts made by the pupils this season. Across the schools 71 Fixtures or Tournaments were undertaken over the Michaelmas and Lent terms.
The teaching programme this year expanded to include a full half term with all pupils in years 3 and 4, which follows into the pupils being able to choose Fives as one of the options available in Lent in years 5 & 6. In this trial year a pleasing 36 pupils chose Fives, most for the first time. Of these players we sent a full 10 pairs to the u11 National Championships.
In the Senior School all lessons were at capacity, with the courts being used in both Michaelmas and Lent on all three Sport’s afternoons. A pleasing mix of the normal faces and newcomers ensured that a lively and fun program was enjoyed by all.
Throughout the year we were represented at all the age group tournaments, including hosting a Ladies tournament in November, to which Girls from 7 schools attended. The School sent 77 pairs to compete in the National Championships across the age groups. Senior Pupils continue to integrate and play for the OC teams in the league and tournaments.
My thanks go to all the pupils and staff involved in the program this year, roll on September!
In the Adult Game:
Emma and Mia – National U25 Finalists.
Ivan and Johnny (OC) – Turnbull Trophy winners.
Adult and Pupil mixed team – 2nd Place Richard Barber Cup
In Schools Fives:
Emma, Mia, Charles and Ivan – National U18 Mixed Semi-Finalists.
Catherine and Mimi- National Champions U14.
Mimi and Norah – National Champions U13.
Will, George, Wyn and Eliot- National Semi-Finalists U16
Staff & Pupils Tournament; Vargas Trophy action; Girls Festival; Team of the Year
Holyport College again had a hugely successful year, we played more fixtures and hosted our own girls festival at Eton College. We entered our first team competition and performed well at Nationals.
Our girls continue to be a strength as we had three pairs reach the last 16 at U14 level. C.Cowper and D.Owywole reached the final where they lost to a good Highgate pair. D.Panizo-Madrid and M. Alvargonzalez won Plate A. As a result of an outstanding performance at the schools' nationals, Holyport College awarded the under 14 girls “team of the year”. Not only did this recognise their success but firmly embedded the sport at the College. T.Pendrich and C.Mobley were also awarded “pair of the year” for their commitment to the sport and for making outstanding progress throughout the season.
For a second year running we hosted a hugely successful Girls, Boys and Beaks competition, which saw 24 mixed pairs enter. It was a fantastic event and congratulations again to our winners M.Ticehurst and J.Ticehurst.
The Upper Sixth boys helped run and establish friday night fives club which has been a huge success all year. As most of them are moving on to University I wish them the best of luck and I hope they continue playing Fives.
Kinnaird Festival winners; Ipswich at Eton & Shrewsbury
“I like fives, it’s not pressured like other sports we have to play.” The words of an U14 boy, which had me wondering if we should be more driven, if we should be trying harder to hone skills in order to win more. I realised though that the answer was in the sentence. If we make it more pressured, the game will no longer be so attractive to those ‘escaping’ other pursuits. The fives ‘experience’ is and should be in contrast to what they get elsewhere.
The Ipswich courts were once again awash at lunchtimes with players in the younger age groups this year. There were also good numbers for the Tuesday and Friday after-school clubs. Trying to fit all the players on to court at some point was again the difficulty and thank goodness squash is not that popular, so that we can utilise their two courts for overspill handball during lunchtimes. Nevertheless, Charlotta Cooley once again master-minded the internal House Competitions, successfully dragging former players on to court and resurrecting memories of how much they used to enjoy the game.
The majority of the competitive fives we play is provided by the tournaments organised by the EFA and REFCA and we are hugely indebted to all who enable them - thank you all. That said, the magnificent hot chocolate machine at Berkhamsted enticed us to travel there on several occasions and we also enjoyed home and away matches against Uppingham (such a lovely place to visit and play). There were frustrations – court space as mentioned and of course the competition with academic and other pressures (only allowed time out of school for national competitions and only one day per pupil). Around half the new U12 intake had a go at fives with about 35 being regulars at lunchtime.
We had good support for several of the open tournaments this year. We took five pairs to the Midland Championships and it was lovely not only to enjoy the Repton experience once more but to include three ‘returners’. Jonny Tait, having been a Schools’ U13 quarter-finalist, was persuaded out of retirement by fellow sixth-former Will Carron, and Joe Cooper, making a return himself, dragged former Ipswich classmate, Louis Commercial, back on to court. Both pairs reached the Festival semi-finals. Another still-at- school ‘Old Ipswichian’, Eloise Carter, helped Charlie Tweedy into the last sixteen of the main competition. The last time Charlie featured, due to injury and the need to concentrate on studies. Unlike other years the London Festival proved a draw in 2018 and we had eight pairs. There were good performances from U14s Soni and Banks and U16s Paisley and Dunnett, with Isaac Weaver making the quarter-final alongside coach Tony Stubbs. The Turnbull Trophy has not been well populated with Ipswichians in the last couple of years but an excellent commitment this year saw us with six pairs enjoying an excellent day’s fives, if not featuring in headline news reports. Girls’ Fives Captain, Nadia Mason, helped Charlotta Cooley’s Ipswich side reach the final of the Richard Black Cup, one step up from last year and presumably a precursor to victory next. The lure of Shrewsbury for the Northern Tournament is unfailing and eleven pupils delighted in the experience this year. No silverware but good fives and a brilliant weekend. We also took six pairs to the Kinnaird Festival, where Keeper of Fives Isaac Weaver managed to carry coach Tony Stubbs to victory.
The pupils achieved some success at the Schools’ Championships with semi-finalists in the U13 & U14 Girls’ competitions and quarter-finalists in the U13 Girls’, Boys’ U13, U14, & U15 and in the Mixed. It was particularly pleasing to have five out of six pairs reach the last sixteen in the Girls’ U13 competition. Our first team won the Plate in the inaugural U13 team event and there were a further four Plate wins, including a clean sweep of all three of those for the U14 Boys. The U12s did okay in the qualifying competition with one pair making the semis but sadly didn’t play at their best in the main competition.
It has been a privilege to coach another enjoyable season at Ipswich and a huge thank you to Tony ‘mine’s a cappuccino’ Stubbs, (such a legend, even amongst those who aren’t aware of his link to the heyday of Repton fives) and to Charlotta ‘I’m not going to lose’ Cooley (another legend not only in fives circles but also for her production line of amazing cakes for the Ipswich Common Room – her gateau de souris râpées is apparently to dream of).
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Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz
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Summers Cup players and winners
Having lost a strong U6th, it was always going to have a knock on affect. However, the year started with the Summers Cup competition where it was good to see Old Millhillians return to play with a current pupil. The tournament was another great success in good weather and helping to build links with the OM’s. This was also the first year that we had two girls playing in the competition who did very well with Sienna.T reaching the semi-final before losing out to eventual winner and younger brother Jake.T. The trophy was once again presented by Mr A.Summers OM.
The development this year has been slightly limited with very few 6th form players so a lot of reliance has been on the top U16 players to lead, when U6th captain Dylan.G was unavailable, and they have done very well at this, training regularly and being a good example to the rest of the players. With pupils coming through from Belmont in good numbers the Monday girls club and Wednesday U14 club have had good numbers and developed well over the course of the year. The U16 first pair also had their first match for the OMs in division two which was a great experience and hopefully one that will become a more regular occurrence in the 6th form years. A couple of pairs of girls had a good day out at Eton for the girls festival which was a great experience and very worthwhile for them to gain some match experience.
A trip up to Shrewsbury for the Nationals was a good couple of days for the U14s, playing in both the beginners and U14 open competitions gaining lots of experience and progressing well in both competitions. Three U15 pairs and two U16 pairs headed up for another good couple of days with the second U16 pair particularly impressing with a determination that should be acknowledged. One highlight was the mass pizza order enjoyed at Pizza express in the evening!
We took two U15 girls pairs to the nationals at Eton this year which was a great success overall with first pair (Sienna.F & Evelyne.F) reaching the Quarterfinal stage and then the final of their plate competition. We only took one pair to the U14 competition, which were a pair of girls that only joined the school in September, however, have played on a regular basis and to their credit also made the quarterfinal stage before losing a very close and long match to Highgate.
Award winners were as follows:
Boys Junior most improved: Kyle.R
Boys Junior player of season: Jed.L
Boys senior most improved: Eddie.H
Boys senior player of season: Nick.J
Girls Junior most improved: Gina.B
Girls junior player of season: Evelyne.F
As always, thanks go to Steve Plummer who has again done so much to support the programme at Mill Hill this year.
This year has again been fruitful for Eton Fives, a number of students have been able to don the gloves and try the sport for the first time. The courts continue to be in use for the majority of the week for both the activity and games programmes. With a number of our more senior players leaving last year, the challenge has been taken on by others. Our first meeting of the year with Uppingham was in the winter term, all four students playing admirably, and Oakham were able to win the Challenge Cup for the first time, which is up for grabs whenever the schools meet.
Subsequent fixtures against both Uppingham and Shrewsbury in the Spring term were not quite as successful, but the fixtures were played in incredibly good spirits and helped develop our students for further competition. Playing against top opposition is an education in its own right. A mini festival of Eton Fives between the schools was well played and raised the standard of play greatly. We were also very pleased to support Uppingham’s world record attempt for longest match by playing alongside.
This has been a very successful year for QE boys’ Fives, especially in terms of trying to really build the sport at a school that is very much suited to. We have had over 40 boys represent the school competitively this year, with 28 boys travelling up to Shrewsbury for the Nationals – which was a huge success. Our Year 9’s enjoyed a really good day in the sunshine and came away winners of the ‘Plate B’ competition (Abhijay Singh & Jamie Hoang). Our senior side also had a fantastic day up in Shrewsbury and came away winners of both the ‘Plate A’ (Rasvan Rusu & Jay Nafade ) and ‘Plate B’ (Abilash Sivathason & Thushan Mohan ) competitions. In our regular season we’ve had really competitive fixtures against Aldenham, Mill Hill, St Olave’s and Berkhamsted which have all benefited our boys greatly. The introduction of a new coach (Mr Sharmash) this year has really helped the boys’ skill level and we hope that this will continue onto next year where we plan to keep the progression of Fives going on.
RGS High Wycombe
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Welsh Invitational winners
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Newbury at the Richard Barber Cup
St Bartholomew’s took part in a number of matches at the Nationals this year. A pair of Year 9s took part at Shrewsbury and although they did not win, they were a credit to themselves and the school. The same can be said of our Year 7 top pair who played at Eton and did well enough to reach the Elite finals the following week. Sadly, injury caused them to have to pull out, but they are keen to do at least as well next year. Lastly, we saw the first House Fives Championship at the school and hope that it will become an annual event.
Richard Barber Cup winners; Northern Festival winners; U12 champions; U16 finalists; Girls Festival winners
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Open winners; Girls champions; Girls senior squad; U14 beginners winners; National Ladies Festival finalists
The 2019 Nationals were hosted this year by Shrewsbury in the last week of the Lent term. This made for a much more relaxed week for the Shrewsbury staff and for far fewer lessons missed by the students. This was very welcome from our point of view; rumours that a local minibus company and a hotel of a well-known chain in Slough went into administration have not been confirmed. The entry into the tournament was nonetheless strong and overall the week ran as smoothly and as well as any I can remember; several masters-in-charge from other schools have been in touch to commend the way the week was run. This was doubtless helped by some glorious conditions (in both 2013 and 2016 we have hosted in snow) which meant everyone was happy around the courts between games and spectating was comfortable.
The U15s kicked off proceedings on March 24th, with 11 Salopian pairs entered, seven of these qualifying from their pool. Credit is due to Harry Cooke who with Henry McGowan ran fourth seeds St Olave’s very close in the first game, narrowly missing out on a place in quarter finals. Another week playing together might have done it. As it was we had two pairs in quarters, where Nick Argyle & Jago Ainslie drew the top seeds, Harrow. They didn’t have the firepower to win that encounter. Rory McDonald-O'Brien & Digby Taylor-West reached the final and played Harrow in a repeat of last year’s beginners final with, sadly for us, the same result, though this year Harrow won 3-0, not 3-1. The Harrow pair have selected this as their main sport for the first two terms and we know that if we are to catch up with them next year, our boys will have to commit fully during the Lent.
The U16s were up next and here we knew that, having committed their 4th form Lent term to football and got onto the fives courts around their football commitments this year too, Finn Sansom, Guy Gowar and Ted Davis would need to get as much court time as possible during the tournament and some close matches early on to fire them into action. APM had put a lot of thought and juggling into finding the most effective pairings. At the last 16 stage we had two pairs left in the competition. The second pair had got past Harrow 2 to get to this stage, but came up against a strong first seed in Eton and didn’t score a point. Our first pair had had a tussle (12-8, 12-8) against Highgate 3 and drew Harrow 1 (7th seeds) in the last 16. It was just the match we needed but it took just too long to get into it: we lost 13-12 in the third.
It is always difficult to predict how the U14 beginner tournament will go: all players are on such a steep trajectory that their response to the competitive fives over the competition is what makes the difference in the later stages. We have three strong pairs in this year group; the pairings had been shuffling in the fortnight before to find the best combination. All three of these pairs reached quarter-finals but some tough draws and strong opposition meant that only one (Alex Clark and George Hughes) went through to semis: something for this group to work on in future years. Alex and George were looking strong: they got through semis despite not playing their best fives: George’s cut, devastating when it works well, was inconsistent and Alex was trying to emulate it without much success. Nonetheless during rallies in the semi-final against Eton 2 they were manoeuvring the play competently onto their terms (promisingly these terms being the corner of the court around the buttress) and winning it here. This premise they retained in the final against a strong Eton 1. With the Open final in the next door court they did well to retain concentration and, again, won the match in and around the buttress to claim the tournament victory.
In the Ladies’ competition we had strong pairs: our first and second pairs were a shuffling of last year’s finalists, with Sophia Breese this year playing with Emma Graham in pair 1 and Katie Oswald with Lizzie Ware in pair 2. Our third pair of Issy Wong (L6th) and Izzy Morris (4th form) knew they were dangerous, both having exceptionally strong cuts. Indeed such is our dominance at the senior ladies’ level that (perhaps helped by the home championships) we had eight pars in the last 16. Sadly only our top three pairs named above pressed through into the quarters but they each won their quarter, setting up a Shrewsbury 1 vs Shrewsbury 3 semi-final. This became a five-set epic finishing around 7:30 in the evening, with the younger girls eventually winning out in the decider, having lost a 2-0 lead. Katie and Lizzie went through their semi-final more comfortably, setting up another all-Shrewsbury final, this year pair 2 against pair 3. The final, too, was a long battle. Issy and Izzy won the first game 14-13; Katie and Lizzie drew level; the youngsters roared away in the third, winning 12-3, but the Upper 6th formers showed fight and stamina (and possibly the previous evening’s sets were causing some fatigue). The match levelled at 2-2 and it was Katie and Lizzie who held their nerve and consistency in the 5th to take the title. Katie has thus won back-to-back Open titles and the future looks promising with the other two finalists both still with us next year.
The defeated semi-finalists in the Ladies’, Emma and Sophia, were free to concentrate on the mixed which started alongside the Ladies’ final. They were playing with the top two boys, Dan Humes and Will Sissons respectively. Of our nine pairs in the last sixteen these two pulled through to semis. The boys had had their own four hour 5-setter the previous day (more on which below) and Will in particular looked mentally drained from that battle. Nonetheless these pairs reached semi-finals: both came through against tough opposition from Highgate, thus setting up a repeat of last year’s final. This was the last match of the entire week and now, playing against friends, the pressure came off Will and Dan who were able to relax a little and play more freely. This, combined with astonishing retrieving from both girls, turned the match into a real exhibition of first-class mixed fives; some of the shots being hit by all four players would have stood out positively in an adult mixed final. Sophia and Will came through winners in the end, though of course this match too went to a deciding game!
The boys’ Open competition had been billed as a good, open tournament all season, with most of 2018 semi-finalists having been Upper 6th formers. Will Sissons and Dan Humes were always our stand-out pair in the year, Will having come to us from Rydal as a 6th form entrant and Dan having always been well ahead of others in the year. Much depended on Dan’s fitness though: he had been struggling with back problems through the sixth form and had missed much of the last season with a stress fracture. After his return to sport he had still struggled with muscular pain: though it didn’t hamper his athleticism it was a worry and although this had still been a problem in September after two months off sport, it was only in December that he saw the school physiotherapist. Through the term it had become clear that games on consecutive days caused him discomfort; the two weeks before the Championships were given over entirely to physio work, stretching and core strength and it needed huge discipline from Dan to make sure he was fit for potentially difficult quarters, semis and, hopefully, final. The pair had done enough in the season to be seeded 2nd though their games against 3rd seeds St Olave’s had been close and had often swung in the Olavians’ favour.
In the rest of the Open competition we had a further 14 pairs, composed of U16 pairs gaining invaluable experience, Lower 6th entrants new to the game and Upper 6th formers who have come back to the game having realised they’ve missed it while out running with the hunt or playing football. These played alongside our usual top 6 pairs. We even had the return to the game of Peter Clark, off for the season with his own stress fracture, back on court for the first time in the Nationals week. It was deemed most sensible to play him in a lower pair with an entrant rather than put him in a more pressurised second pair where competitive instincts might override caution with regard to his back. Three of these pairs made it through to the last 16, our second pair missing out on quarter-finals by the narrowest of margins, losing 3-2 to seeded Highgate 2 at 7:30 on Tuesday evening. Arthur Garrett will look forward to resuming his partnership with Peter Clark next year: while they had flashes of brilliance, the unsettled nature of his partnership with Joe Kynaston meant that they were not consistent enough to dismantle a strong opponent.
Will and Dan, meanwhile, cruised through their last 16 match against Highgate 3, allowing Dan to recover and do his stretches in advance of Wednesday morning’s quarter. In this they played Eton 3, a competent pair and potential banana-skin, but an assured performance sent them through 12-7, 12-0, 12-6 again, without too much strain on bodies. The semi-final was to be a key match against St Olave’s who, as mentioned, had sometimes been on top through the season. Will and Dan put in a strong performance on Thursday morning and, though they held with the game, the Olavians were always under pressure and chasing. Again, Shrewsbury won 3-0 and were starting to look like they were peaking at the right time.
After their semi-finals, the four finalists came together to agree a start time for the final of 9:30 on Friday morning. As is the nature of fives, this was negotiated and agreed entirely by the players themselves. What followed through that afternoon and evening was one of the strongest endorsements of schoolboy sport I have experienced. Eton coach, George Thomason (an Old Salopian and himself a former winner of this tournament), had unfortunately been in hospital for much of the week and had a chance of being discharged around midday on Friday. He got in touch with the Eton pair and their staff, who asked whether the final might be delayed so that he could watch. The immediate response from Will, as he tried to get in touch with Dan through the aftermath of the Ingram’s house play, was “I assume Dan will agree with me to play at 2pm - I'm sure the Eton boys would do the same if we had a coach wanting to watch.” And so it was: the final was moved to 2:30pm, which also allowed our U6th to organise an army of home supporters since it didn’t clash with the School assembly.
The final began to form, with both pairs scoring from the start and the first game remaining close until Shrewsbury conceded a number of points in quick succession – one of their trademarks through the term and something we had worked to correct. They didn’t recover and lost the game 9-12, then went behind 2-8 in the second. At this stage things didn’t look too positive, but rarely does a pair win this tournament without a bit of fight and Will and Dan were determined. Roared on by a large home crowd, they found their returns of cut and put together some runs of points of their own, pulling back into the game to level 10-10. The final stages seemed critical and unsurprisingly, perhaps, the game reached sudden death at 12-12. It was Shrewsbury who clinched the game, perhaps crucially, as a 2-0 lead would have presented an enormous challenge. Bouyed by this and some more outstanding returning of the cut, Shrewsbury raced to win the third 12-6. By this time the coach was live tweeting the scores, primarily to give himself something to do that didn’t involve biting his nails or indeed gnawing his fingers down to the knuckle. It seemed Shrewsbury should have the momentum into the 4th, but Eton threw everything at the game which, again, went to 10-10 and this time was set to 15. Eton raced to 14 in one hand, but Shrewsbury saved game points and pulled back to 11, 12 and 13. Just as it appeared Shrewbury might pull through, Eton found the winner they needed and levelled the match at 2-2. It was to be decided by a fifth game. By now they were on their third ball of the match and all four players were regularly returning cut from under the front wall: unusual but such was the level of retrieving that few cuts – and indeed few shots into the buttress – went unreturned. Will and Dan were putting into practice – as they had been throughout the match, much of the work they had done through the season on taking the pace off their approach shots into the buttress, thereby setting up more attacking chances at the front of court. Dan’s astonishing athleticism and Will’s apparently effortless movement (he has been described as appearing weightless in strength and conditioning sessions by other students) around the court kept them in points that Eton might justifiably have thought they’d earned. The fifth game, to script, also reached 10-10 after long rallies and unbelievable retrieving all round. It, too, was set to 15. This time Shrewsbury worked their way to match points and, though Eton saved one, Will and Dan converted the second to close out 15-12 and the match. It had taken four hours.
A coach learns a lot about their players in these competitive moments and matches. And sometimes the players about their coach! But what stood out for me and many spectators was the atmosphere on court. The four players dealt with refereeing their game to the highest of standards and showed throughout it a mutual respect for each other which transcended even the quality of their play. Dan, in particular, had shown this in the semi-final too, insisting a let be played although the Olavian coach had overruled his pair to let them know a shot was in, since the players should decide the matter on court. The ability of the players to call objectively on their shots when there is so much at stake and they are so invested in the result marks this game apart from all their other sporting endeavours and it gives certainly this coach an even greater pride in the players and the result that it was won so emphatically in the right spirit.
I must thank the Shrewsbury School events staff and coaches who put in so much time and care into making sure that everything was ready for hosting the tournament and helping make the week such a resounding success: it really was, for every reason I can think of, the best Nationals I can remember.
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World Record Breakers
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