Plummer & Cameron-Blackie Score A Home Win For Repton
31/10/23: The Midlands Tournament at Repton took place at the weekend with a home victory for former Repton coach Charles Plummer and Repton club organiser Archie Cameron-Blackie, who defeated Howard Wiseman & Andrew Rennie in a close final.
This year's Midlands Tournament again took place at Repton School, on the fantastic set of twelve recently refurbished courts which will host the finals week of the National Schools' Championships later in the season. The usual wide range of players took part, with some interesting pairings, a smattering of top players, strong Ipswichian and Olavian showings and a healthy home contingent with Repton club players, staff, pupils and alumni all on court over the course of the weekend.
Friday's play was the usual sorting out process as four large round robin groups played out to set up a main tournament and a festival tournament for the second day. A Saturday night in Derby added an additional layer of intrigue to the form lines, but rather than the usual knockout format on the Sunday, further groups were assembled to decide the semi-finalists in each competition.
While there were a couple of pairs looking to get into the mix for the main tournament knockout places - young Olavians Tommy Farmer & Tanish Arjaria and Newbury's ever present Will Thomas & Paul Holland chief amongst them - the four bookies favourites all made it through the group stage relatively unscathed, although the matches between them certainly produced some interesting matches. In Group A, Wiseman jr (playing with Joey Prior) overcame Wiseman sr (playing with 2017 champion Andrew Rennie) 15-11, with Rennie possibly easing himself into some Sunday morning Fives or possibly remembering his recent claim to be retired from competitive Fives. In the other side of the draw, Alex Abrahams & Ben Merrett teamed up to record an excellent 15-13 win over Charles Plummer & Archie Cameron-Blackie in the group decider.
It was clear from those two matches that there was little to choose between all four pairs and the semi-finals proved this conclusively. Both were played as best of three games and were on adjacent courts; compelling viewing for those lucky enough to be watching. In both cases the group winners took the opening games, with Joey & Gwydion impressive 12-6 winners over Charles & Archie and Alex & Ben recovering from a 0-7 deficit to win 13-11 over Howard & Andrew. The tables were turned in the second game on both courts, however, Howard & Andrew not relinquishing a lead twice in a row and Charles & Archie beginning to find a greater consistency. forcing more errors from Joey & Gwydion. Both went to a deciding game and unusually it was the group runners-up who both turned into semi-final winners: Howard & Andrew, having gained control in game two, retained it in game three, winning to 6, while Charles & Archie, despite squandering a strong position at 8-5 up to go to 10-10, always looked to have the edge over Gwydion & Joey and found the couple of rallies to prove it just when they needed them.
Given the formlines, it was no surprise that the final was close. Again played as a best of three, there was never much to choose between the pairs. Howard & Andrew had found their level in the semi-final and maintained it; Charles & Archie, however, had started to find an extra gear in the latter stages of their semi-final and they continued to raise their game in the final. Charles produced his usual array of lethal ambidextrous volleys on the top step and generally avoided the lapses into sloppiness that were there earlier in the day, while Archie stepped up impressively, with a strong set piece and a couple of fine back court shots into the base of the buttress at key points. They managed to get their noses in front and hold on in both games, winning 12-9, 12-8 to claim the trophy for the first time, a home win in a sense with Charles a former Repton School coach and Archie the mastermind behind the weekly Repton community club. Charles - adding the Midlands title to the U25s he won at the start of the season - also became the second Millhilllian Midlands champion (after Hal Gibson-Leitao) while Archie followed his former school partner Phil Roper as the second Cranleighan to get his name on the trophy.
The Festival followed the same pattern as the main tournament, with two large Sunday groups producing four semi-finalists. Group 2 was a tight one, with no pair emerging undefeated, Derby Moor's Stuart Kirby & Brian Kirk and Ipswich School's George Norfolk & Stan Bloomfield the two pairs who made it through. Group 1 was even tougher, St Bees staff pair Laurence Gribble & Brad Simpson and Wulfrunians Mark Yates & Ellie Frith both missing out, as - unluckily - did the Repton coach/pupil pairing of Karen Hird & Brianna Hansen-Hoare, who were narrowly defeated by Olavians Aryan Akanda & Rishi Nandakumar and Ipswichians Dan Ingram & Sam Cook. In the semi-finals, George & Stan ran out of steam against Rishi & Aryan, while Dan & Sam had too much Eton Fives savvy for the Derby Moor duo, leaving the two Group 1 pairs to meet again in the final.
The morning encounter had gone the way of Dan & Sam 12-9; as it turned out that turned out to be the widest margin of victory in any game between them all day as the final turned into a long, draining and tense nailbiter, with all four players giving it their absolute all. Dan & Sam took the lead with a 12-11 win in the first game; Rishi & Aryan hit back with a 12-10 victory in the second, before repeating the dose in the decider to win the trophy after one of the closest finals you will ever see in any tournament.
Thanks are due to Karen Hird, David Exley and everyone at Repton for hosting the tournament and to Howard Wiseman and Dominique Redmond - as ever - for their organisation and for putting on another great weekend. If you've never been to the Midlands Tournament, why not get it in your diary for next year?
H.Wiseman & A.Rennie beat A.Abrahams & B.Merrett 2-1 (11-13, 12-5, 12-6)
C.Plummer & A.Cameron-Blackie beat J.Prior & G.Wiseman 2-1 (6-12, 12-7, 13-11)
C.Plummer & A.Cameron-Blackie beat H.Wiseman & A.Rennie 2-0 (12-9, 12-8)
R.Nandakumar & A.Akanda beat G.Norfolk & S.Bloomfield 2-0 (12-1, ret)
D.Ingram & S.Cook beat S.Kirby & B.Kirk 2-0 (12-6, 12-6)
R.Nandakumar & A.Akanda beat D.Ingram & S.Cook 2-1 (11-12, 12-10, 12-10)