Berkhamsted Scholars & Rogues 2021

Anthony Theodossi reports:

05/07/21: After a years’ break the ever popular Scholars & Rogues Eton Fives competition took place on Wednesday 30th June.

Due to the current restrictions only one year group could take part, and as it was technically their last year priority was given to the Y9 pupils; it was then particularly pleasing to see such a high entry with 31 pairs stepping on to the courts to do battle.

The players were divided into five pools of five and one pool of six with the top two from each going through to a last 12 round in timed eight-minute matches. Games were frantically played and break-neck speed with players rolling on and off the courts constantly. There were lots of very close games throughout, but also a great sense of sportsmanship and coaching towards those less experienced to the game. The closest match-up came in Pool A where both Pett & Toby D (9Sw) and Wille & Josh N (9Ad) ended the round with 2 wins, a loss and a draw each. The draw came against one another so with a Head-to-Head situation out the window it came down to points difference; in the end Pett & Toby came through by just a +2 points difference. The only other upset came in Pool D where S&R veteran, David Vila, and partner Ben S (9Ti) also drew against Old Berkhamstedian Oli Holdroyd and his partner Tom P (9Co). Again, the draw game meant a Head-to-Head decision was void so it came down to points difference with Holdroyd & Tom winning this one comfortably.

From here we moved into the group stages which with a straight knock-out last 12 round and timed ten-minute matches. Again, there were lots of close matches with 1st seeds Evers & Noah H (9Gr) having a scare against 2019 champion Chris Sutton and new partner Kiran M (9Sw) but just manage to edge out the last point in the final whistle. An all-English department affair also took place with Dr Cutler & Douglas L (9Ti) taking on Master-in-Charge of Fives Martin Pett & Toby D (9Sw); it was a tight game all the way to the final whistle with both side racking up the points, but the experience and finesse of the MiC and his head strong young partner allowed them to creep through one point ahead at the whistle. Stanford & Finn W (9Lo) also unfortunately drew a tough round coming up against Vila & Ben who had been bumped down losing their 1st place slot in the pool stages. There was some excellent play from all sides particularly some strong cutting from the relatively new to the game Stanford, but the experience of Vila & Ben paid off allowing them to push through the last few points to take the win.

Last 12 (timed 10 min matches)

Evers & Noah H beat Sutton & Kiran M 5 – 4

Foster & Patrick P beat Falder & Charles C 7 – 3

Pett & Toby D beat Cutler & Douglas L 9 – 8

Holdroyd & Tom P beat Pengelly & Olly S 9 – 1

Davey & Will T beat McWalter & Hugo S 8 – 3

Vila & Ben S beat Stanford & Finn W 5 – 3

We then moved into the quarter-final stages, and with six pairs remaining they were divided into two mini pools of three with the top two from each going through to the semi-finals. They were again timed games with players having eight minutes for each game. There were again lots of high quality rallies from all players throughout; notably was Vila & Spooner now getting revenge on Holdroyd & Peachey from the group stages taking a tight win to claim them the 1st position slot. In the other pool young Patrick Penaliggon had been playing exceptionally well all day and showed some real class to dig in against 1st seeds Evers & Head to take the win giving them that vital 1st place slot and bumping Evers & Head into second place position.

We now entered the tasty part of the tournament and with a few upsets along the way there were a couple of pairs here not many had expected to see but both of whom had thoroughly earned the passage through. Matches were again timed at 10 minutes. The first semi-final pitted Foster & Patrick against Holdroyd & Tom, the two teams could not have more different styles of play; Holdroyd & Tom tried to go all guns blazing playing attacking shot after attacking shot to try and rack up the points, whereas Foster & Patrick played a very tight and controlled game simply trying to keep the ball in play. It was the latter pairs tactic that paid off with the controlled style of Fives forcing their opposition to make mistake after mistake allowing them to collect points. The other semi-final saw Berkhamsted School 1st pair and National Champions Ben S and Noah H now facing off against one another. Both Vila & Spooner are certainly veterans of this competition now, and after having tasted his first final last year Evers was keen to go that step further with the big win. Vila & Ben had other ideas of course though and the wily southpaw Vila managed to creep in a few early points thanks to those oddly hit angles only a left-hander can find. Evers worked hard on the top-step but was let down slightly with has back-court play just being caught out a few times too many from some fine angle shots. Noah and Ben also had some titanic battles on the top-step with neither looking to ever really be in control of the other and each sharing the spoils of victories. In the end Vila & Ben just edged over the line to take the win and make the final.

Semi-Finals (timed 10 min matches)

Foster & Patrick beat Holdroyd & Tom 5 – 1

Vila & Ben beat Evers & Noah 4 – 2

And so we moved into the final! This was Vila’s fifth final overall since the competition started and he has walked away with two wins so far, a record matched only by the Master-in-Charge himself Martin Pett. It was again a timed game but upped to 15 mins so the players could sink their teeth into the game a bit more. It was a very slow start from both sides as it seemed nerves were certainly getting the best of all players on court. Points did appear slowly however but always alongside one another with both pairs going 1-1, 2-2, 3-3. A great run of cut-returns then came however from Foster and he was ably supported by his young partner from the back of the court who kept managing to get extremely difficult shots back into play time after time. Ben S played extremely well on top-step though managing to win a good number of rallies against Mr Foster, picking on his left hand with tight vollies into the left side wall and low into the buttress. Vila also played some outrages angles from the back of the court catching both Foster & Patrick off guard. The Head of Swifts and his young protegee were not deterred however and managed to nick a point at a time and creep ahead while not allowing any to be given away. Vila & Ben fought back fiercely though trying to get back into the game but again the safe hands and tight play of the Swifts boys allowed them to keep their lead. It paid off with the final whistle going and Foster & Patrick being crowned Scholars & Rogues 2021 champions. It was most pleasing to see my old coach Mr Foster take the win for a competition he first created way back in 2006.

Final (timed 15 min match)

Foster & Patrick P beat Vila & Ben S 9 – 5

I would like to say a few thanks, firstly to Ben Hill and his Chartwells team who despite the restrictions managed to cater us so superbly. To Mr Riley for his help running the early stages of the competition and taking in all the scores and results. And finally, to all of you, the players, for turning out and making the event so enjoyable to all the pupils who were able to take part.

We look forward to welcoming you all back for the 2022 event whether as a player or a spectator to come and enjoy the day with us again.

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