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The 2015 Kinnaird Cup weekend saw nearly 50 pairs take part in a range of competitions, festivals and plates. 28 pairs entered the main competition, the blue riband event in the Eton Fives calendar. While this is by no means a disappointing number, it is a shame that more Fives players don't consider entering; not only is it an opportunity to take part in the sport's most prestigious competition, the format means that as well getting the chance to share a court with the top players, a whole range of matches is guaranteed across the weekend against a wide variety of pairs of all ages and abilities.
The top four seeds were given a bye through the first round, leaving the remaining 24 pairs to battle it out on the Saturday morning. The first round didn't produce any massive upsets but there were nevertheless some noteworthy performances: Olavian schoolboys Josh Ravi and Morgan Pugh took fifth seeds Andrew Joyce and Doug Foster to 14-13 in the first game of their match, while fellow school pairs Olavians Gallagher and Nwuba and Cholmeleians Light and Holdsworth were both slightly disappointed to lose to Brigands Alex Knight and Phil Roper and Lancing Old Boys Will and Tom Betts respectively, both of the older pairs playing well and showing the value of match experience. The one school pair who did manage to make it through were Etonians Tommy Weld and Arthur Wellesley, who put in a fine display to defeat the Rennie brothers in straight games in a match that many felt would be much closer. The one first round match that did go the distance was the battle of the Chapmans, with North Oxford's Spencer Chapman and Alex Yusaf delighted to win in five tight and gruelling games against Guy Chapman and Al Taylor.
Chapman and Yusaf's reward for their first round heroics was a Last 16 match up with second seeds James Toop and Matthew Wiseman, and any visions of a glorious upset were quickly snuffed out by the Olavian pair. The other seeds who had sat out Round one also made short work of their opponents, although a special mention must go to Grant and Guy Williams, who took 8 points off defending champions Seb Cooley and Tom Dunbar in the first game, more than they have conceded to anyone apart from Toop and Wiseman for a long time. The lower seeded pairs were also generally in control: young Cholmeleians Jonny Ho and Joe Marks lost a game but saw off the dangerous Wulfrunian pair of Chris Austin and Sid Simmons in four while Vishal Bhimjiyani and Sunil Tailor ended Knight and Roper's challenge and Joyce and Foster put out Weld and Wellesley, although once again the fifth seeds only just squeaked through 13-12 in the third. The sixth seeds Laurie Brock and Chris Hughes were having an altogether tougher time, however. The Cambridge first pair of Tony Barker and Riki Houlden have had an outstanding season, winning the Universities and U21 titles already, and came into this match full of confidence. Hughes in particular was also coming into the match in fine form after his run to the semi-finals of the Northern tournament at Shrewsbury a couple of weeks ago and it was he and Brock who got off to the better start, winning the first game 12-9. They had chances to win the second game, too, and had they taken one of them it could easily have been a different story. As it was, Riki and Tony won the second 14-13 and the momentum gained was enough to get them on top and win the next two games to 7 and 9 to make it into the quarter-finals for the first time.
The story of the season in the major tournaments so far has been the evident gap between the top two pairs and the chasing pack, and the Sunday quarter-finals confirmed this once again as Tom Dunbar & Seb Cooley eased past Marks & Ho and Toop & Wiseman made equally short work of Bhimjiyani & Tailor. The other two quarter-finals were far closer, however. One of those was expected - the Berkhamsted derby between fourth seeds Ant Theodossi and Ryan Perrie and fifth seeds Andrew Joyce and Doug Foster. Most observers found picking a winner pre-match difficult and the form guide was no help as their one previous major tournament meeting - the quarter-final of the 2013 London - was a nailbiting five game epic. Another one of those looked on the cards as the first two games took well over two hours to complete. Joyce and Foster won the first 12-9 before winning the most important point of the match to take the second 14-13. Had it gone the other way, the two pairs might well still be on court heading for a fifth game, but losing that game and going 2-0 down after such a long battle knocked some of the fight out of Theodossi and Perrie and it was Foster and Joyce who won the third game to 5 to clinch their place in the semi-finals. The final match was between third seeds Howard Wiseman and Ed Taylor and the tournament's surprise package - Barker and Houlden. In the previous round, the pupil had defeated the master, with Old Westminster Laurie Brock going out to his OW protégé Houlden and this time it was Barker's turn as he took on his former coach and fellow Olavian Wiseman. The Cambridge pair, surfing a wave of confidence following their second round win, got off to a great start and were in front for most of the first game. When they were pegged back right at the last - Wiseman and Taylor taking it 15-13 - and then beaten comfortably in the second, it looked like their challenge was over, but Riki and Tony showed great resilience and tenacity in the third, redoubling their efforts and once more getting their noses in front. This time they managed to convert the lead into a win, taking it 12-9 and at 7-8 in the fourth, a fifth game and possibly even a shock win seemed tantalisingly within their grasp. Howard and Ed, though, are seasoned campaigners and both have great pedigree in this competition. Sensing that the match was in the balance and that this was the time to strike, they produced their best Fives of the match, upping the intensity and forcing errors from their opponents to move from 8-7 to 11-7 in one hand and then close out the match shortly after, bringing an end to a great run by Barker and Houlden.
The semi-finals take place at Eton on March 8th at 2:30pm and pit Foster & Joyce against Dunbar & Cooley and Wiseman (H) and Taylor against Wiseman (M) & Toop. Can either of the lower ranked pairs bridge the gap and prevent yet another final between the top two seeds?
The Pepperpot Plate competition for first round losers is usually a tough and hard fought competition. It was slightly disappointing this year that so few of the potential pairs were able to come back on the Sunday and compete for the trophy; having said that, there were some tough matches in the competition and worthy winners in Olavians Josh Ravi and Tom Gallagher. Plate B for second round losers produced some cracking matches, most notably a marathon between Weld & Wellesley and Williams & Williams; in the end it was Grant and Guy who emerged victorious.
The Sunday Festival competition produced a very healthy entry of over 20 pairs and fulfilled its remit perfectly, providing a day of competitive yet fun Fives for all sorts of players. The knockout stages produced some close and long battles and it was perhaps no surprise that it was the youngest pair in the last four who went on to win as Merlin Goldman & James Skelton, Mike Hughes & Ralph Oliphant-Callum and Andrew Rennie & Ralph Morgan all began to run out of steam. Having said that, the winning Westminster School pair of Matt Lewin and Ismail Salim played some terrific Fives all day and had looked likely champions right from the beginning and their win in the final over Rennie & Morgan was thoroughly well deserved. There was more Westminster success in the plate as Will Capstick partnered Charlotta Cooley to victory with Olavian youngsters Edmonds & Lewis and Shetty & Plews mopping up the lower plates.
Thanks go to Mark Williams, MIke Hughes and Eton for hosting the event, to Mark (plus Richard Black and Paul Bowden) for running things so efficiently and to all those who came and played. If you didn't, you should have done and we look forward to seeing you on court next year!
G.Williams & G.Williams beat T.Fletcher & T.Gregory 12-4, 12-5, 12-0
A.Simmons & C.Austin beat K.Hird & C.Cooley 12-1, 12-0, 12-0
J.Ho & J.Marks (8) beat M.Capstick-Dale & J.Capstick-Dale 12-4, 12-0, 12-2
A.Joyce & D.Foster (5) beat J.Ravi & M.Pugh 14-13, 12-5, 12-4
T.Weld & A.Wellesley beat C.Rennie & A.Rennie 12-8, 12-7, 12-5
G.Hoskins & A.Bhattacharya beat B.Jones & A.Morris 12-8, 12-9, 12-5
W.Betts & T.Betts beat D.Light & M.Holdsworth 14-11, 12-7, 12-10
T.Barker & R.Houlden beat B.Dovgyy & S.Kelly 12-2, 12-0, 12-1
L.Brock & C.Hughes (6) beat J.Staley & R.Morgan 12-1, 12-0, 12-1
V.Bhimjiyani & S.Tailor (7) beat O.Light & J.Hopkins 12-2, 12-5, 12-2
A.Knight & P.Roper beat T.Gallagher & K.Nwuba 12-5, 12-9, 12-6
S.Chapman & A.Yusaf beat G.Chapman & A.Taylor 5-12, 15-14, 12-9, 6-12, 12-7
T.Dunbar & S.Cooley (1) beat G.Williams & G.Williams 12-8, 12-0, 12-2
J.Ho & J.Marks (8) beat A.Simmons & C.Austin 12-9, 12-4, 9-12, 12-9
A.Joyce & D.Foster (5) beat T.Weld & A.Wellesley 12-4, 12-8, 13-12
A.Theodossi & R.Perrie (4) beat G.Hoskins & A.Bhattacharya 12-2, 12-2, 12-1
E.Taylor & H.Wiseman (3) beat T.Betts & W.Betts 12-2, 12-5, 12-3
T.Barker & R.Houlden beat L.Brock & C.Hughes (6) 9-12, 14-13, 12-7, 12-9
V.Bhimjiyani & S.Tailor (7) beat A.Knight & P.Roper 12-3, 12-8, 12-9
J.Toop & M.Wiseman (2) beat S.Chapman & A.Yusaf 12-3, 12-0, 12-2
T.Dunbar & S.Cooley (1) beat J.Ho & J.Marks (8) 12-5, 12-0, 12-2
A.Joyce & D.Foster (5) beat A.Theodossi & R.Perrie (4) 12-9, 13-12, 12-5
E.Taylor & H.Wiseman (3) beat T.Barker & R.Houlden 15-13, 12-5, 9-12, 12-7
J.Toop & M.Wiseman (2) beat V.Bhimjiyani & S.Tailor (7) 12-4, 12-3, 12-5
J.Ravi & T.Gallagher beat M.Capstick-Dale & J.Capstick-Dale 12-7, 12-5
G.Williams & G.Williams
B.Christie & C.Christie beat B.Dovgyy & S.Kelly 12-4, 12-5
G.Hoskins & H.Asquith beat M.Capstick-Dale & J.Capstick-Dale 12-7, 12-8
A.Yusaf & N.Turnbull beat A.Bhattacharya & C.Wheeler 14-13, 12-6
K.Walton & J.Tate beat C.Rennie & C.Turnbull 2-12, 12-7, 12-8
A.Rennie & R.Morgan beat B.Christie & C.Christie 12-5, 14-10
M.Goldman & J.Skelton beat G.Hoskins & H.Asquith 12-6, 12-2
M.Hughes & R.Oliphant-Callum beat A.Yusaf & N.Turnbull 10-12, 12-9, 12-3
M.Lewin & I.Salim beat K.Walton & J.Tate 12-4, 12-4
A.Rennie & R.Morgan beat M.Goldman & J.Skelton 12-7, 12-6
M.Lewin & I.Salim beat M.Hughes & R.Oliphant-Callum 12-4, 12-7
M.Lewin & I.Salim beat A.Rennie & R.Morgan 12-1, 12-7
J.Prior & A.Tomlinson beat M.Skelton & C.Nicholls 12-9, 12-9
C.Cooley & W.Capstick beat E.King & H.Russell 5-12, 14-12, 13-12
C.Cooley & W.Capstick beat J.Prior & A.Tomlinson w/o
W.Edmond & A.Lewis beat F.Rowe & J.Caplin 12-6, 12-7
V.Shetty & C.Plews beat P.Westwood & A.Westwood 12-9, 12-11