As always, Oxford and Cambridge were well represented with Cambridge in particular bringing 13 pairs – a fantastic effort given that the club operates with just one court. They were joined this year by several other universities, with players travelling from far and wide; the Durham pair had had a 5:30am start to get to Eton in time for the group matches and there were also entries from Manchester, Cardiff, UEA, UCL, Imperial, Royal Holloway, Northampton and Bristol.
The first round in the men’s tournament contained some of the best and most closely-fought matches of the day. Oxford 2 came through 12-10 in the deciding game against Cambridge 4; Royal Holloway won the London derby by beating Imperial 12-4, 6-12, 12-7 and UEA pushed Cambridge 2 all the way in a memorable encounter, with Cambridge finally sneaking through 11-14, 12-11, 12-10.
The effort required to get through that match meant that Cambridge 2 had little left in the tank for their quarter-final against the strong Bristol pair of Theo Bossom and Will Jones. In fact, Bristol and the other three seeded pairs in the men’s tournament made it through their best of one game quarter-finals with a collective loss of just six points.
The semi-finals were played over three games and matched up the four pre-tournament favourites. Having looked so impressive in their quarter-final, Bristol found the Oxford 1 pairing of Rex Worth and Balrik Kailey much harder to handle and went down 5-12, 6-12. In the other semi-final, Cambridge 1 (Robert Desmond and Laurie Brock) had to play at the top of their game to subdue the dangerous Northampton pair of George Campbell and Jeremy O’Neill 12-8, 12-6.
The final looked like a close contest on paper and didn’t disappoint in the early stages, with the flair of Oxford’s Worth and Kailey matching up to the consistency of Desmond and Brock from Cambridge. As the match wore on, though, the Cambridge pair’s steadiness gradually turned into domination as they forced mistakes from the Oxford duo and produced some impressive winners of their own to take the match and the title 12-8, 12-6.
The Ladies tournament this year featured nine pairs, including six from Cambridge, which is clearly now a thriving centre for the ladies game. As with the men’s tournament, the four top-seeded pairs made it through the group stages, although not without the Cambridge third pair (Olivia Prankerd-Smith and Eli Hullis) pushing the Cambridge second pair (Lucie Bishop and Emmalina Thompsell) all the way, only losing 14-15.
In the first semi-final, the Cambridge first pair of Annabel Griffiths and Karen Hird won comfortably against their second pair. In the other semi-final it seemed like the early start was beginning to catch up with the Durham pair of Eleanor Ward and Lucy Bell as they lost the first game easily to Rosie Scott and Hannah Cutmore-Scott of Oxford. The second game, however, saw a splendid Durham comeback before Oxford finally came through 12-1, 12-10.
The final, the last match of the day to be finished, was watched by a large and vociferous crowd and showed just how much the standard of Ladies Fives has improved in the last few years. There was very little to choose between the two pairs right from the start, but despite being up against two former schools’ champions in Rosie and Hannah, the Cambridge pair always managed to keep their noses in front to win the match 12-10, 12-10. This was a splendid achievement, given both the quality of the opposition and the fact that Karen has only been playing the game for just over a year. In the final analysis, however, it was probably her impressive cutting and volleying that proved decisive for Cambridge.
The Plate competitions were also keenly fought and highly competitive. The Ladies plate final was won by Cambridge 3 against Cambridge 4, whilst UEA (Will Gibbons and Theo Elliott) recovered from their narrow first round defeat in the main competition to go on an impressive unbeaten run to the final of Plate A, where they narrowly defeated Cambridge 4 (George Illingworth and Michael McCulloch) 15-12. Plate B – for the losing quarter-finalists – was won by Cambridge 2 (Will Illingworth and Oli Watts).
EFA Chairman Richard Barber was on hand to present the trophies to the winning Cambridge pairs. We are looking forward to an even bigger entry from a wider number of universities next year to provide a strong challenge to the defending champions. Thanks are due to Eton for hosting the competition; to Richard Barber, Seb Cooley and Mark Williams for their help on the day; to all the spectators who braved the elements to come and watch; and to all the players who made the effort to organise pairs and travel to Eton for what turned out to be a terrific day’s Fives.
Ladies Tournament Results
Oxford 1 (R.Scott & H.Cutmore-Scott) beat Durham (E.Ward & L.Bell) 12-1, 12-10
Cambridge 1 (A.Griffiths & K.Hird) beat Cambridge 2 (E.Thompsell & L.Bishop) 12-1, 12-4
Cambridge 1 beat Oxford 1 12-10, 12-10
Cambridge 3 (E.Hullis & O.Prankerd-Smith) beat Cambridge 4 (R.Tennyson & C.Farquharson-Roberts) 15-10
Mens Tournament Results
Oxford 1 (R.Worth & B.Kailey) beat Bristol (W.Jones & T.Bossom) 12-5, 12-6
Cambridge 1 (R.Desmond & L.Brock) beat N'hampton (G.Campbell & J.O'Neill) 12-8, 12-6
Cambridge 1 beat Oxford 1 12-8, 12-6
Plate A Final:
UEA (W.Gibbons & T.Elliott) beat Cambridge 4 (G.Illingworth & M.McCulloch) 15-12
Cambridge 2 (W.Illingworth & O.Watts)