Gown Beats Town To Win The EFA Trophy

29/02/16: Finals day of the EFA Trophy often produces some of the most exciting matches of the season and the 2016 edition certainly delivered its fair share of thrills and spills at Eton yesterday, ending in an Oxford derby in the final, with Gown defeating Town as the University side won the competition for the first time ever.

The morning semi-finals looked fascinatingly balanced. An early group stage defeat at the hands of the Monday Knights on the slippery Eton courts had cost the Oxford University team first place in their group, which meant they were up against pre-tournament favourites and serial EFA Trophy winners the Old Salopians. Here was intrigue galore: Oxford's captain Jack Flowers and team-mate Sam Welti are both Salopians, with their former school coach Grant Williams in the OS line-up; the rest of the University side learned their Fives at Eton under the tutelage of Mike Hughes, who was also playing for the Shrewsbury team. First blood went to the students with Sam Oppenheimer and Will Ponsonby impressive 3-0 winners over former Dark Blue Peter Stewart and Harry Turnbull. The old firm of Williams & Hughes soon levelled it up, just having the edge in a tight four game encounter with Welti and Tom Kirkby. The match therefore came down to second pair, with a large crowd gathered to watch Oxford's captain and secretary - Flowers and Ollie Sale - take on Samson Yick and schoolboy Adam Aslam-Baskeyfield. This was the archetypal rollercoaster match, the Oxford pair winning the third 12-2 to go 2-1 up and confident of victory. Less than an hour later, though, it was 2-2 with the Salopians 9-1 up in the fifth and closing in on a place in the final. Flowers and Sale were not to be denied, however, turning 1-9 into 4-10 and then going on an inspired run to level at 10-10. With the momentum now theirs, the Oxford pair closed the game out 15-11 to take the students through to the final and avenge their semi-final defeat in 2015 and their final defeat in 2014 at the hands of the same opposition.

The other semi-final pitted the Monday Knights against 2009 champions North Oxford and was another hotly contested battle. Fergue Imrie and Gareth Hoskins at first pair for North Oxford made short work of Marco Rimini and Mike Skjott to put the Oxford team 1-0 up. The second pair match was a classic with nothing to choose between the pairs, Bill Emlyn Jones and Johnny Saunders coming from 2-1 down to win in five, Saunders in particular impressing under pressure at the end of the match. Third pair was a slightly late start by agreement which meant once again that all eyes were on the last pair still on court to decide who would make it through. North Oxford had an Old Salopian of their own in Ian Mitchell and his steadiness alongside the classy touches of veteran Chris Davies were enough to overcome the loss of the second game to Ralph Hazell and Paddy Gibbs and keep the North Oxford pair ahead in the third and fourth.

North Oxford and Oxford University have met innumerable times over the last few years but usually in two pair friendlies at Iffley Road or Summer Fields. This was a first serious competitive meeting between the two teams and a real town v gown local derby. Having overcome the formidable Salopian team in the morning, the Oxford boys were confident going in to the final and despite a between match run-in with the local rozzers on Eton High Street they got off to a strong start across the board in the final, the younger legs recovering better from the morning's exertions than those of some of their more experienced North Oxford counterparts. The Iffley Rd southerners took the first game against the Summer Fields northerners in all three pairs and a one-sided contest looked like it might be on the cards but the North Oxford pairs dug in and fought back hard. Hoskins and Imrie levelled the scores at 1-1 at first pair against Kirkby and Welti, and the fresh legs of Old Summerfieldian Barnaby Harrison kept him and Spencer Chapman in the contest at second pair. Meanwhile the Chrises - Lloyd and Davies - somehow found the energy to come back from losing the first game 12-5 against Oppenheimer and Ponsonby and cause problems for the University pair. Ultimately, though, the fightbacks at second and third weren't enough to turn the tide as Flowers and Sale wrapped up their match against Harrison and Chapman 7,8 and 9 and the Chrises' defiance was ended by the narrowest of margins with 12-11 and 12-10 defeats in the second and third games. At this stage the first pair match - a real close scrap - was still in the third game but at its conclusion (Welt and Kirkby taking it to 10) and with the overall result decided, the North Oxford pair conceded defeat and the students were able to celebrate a memorable victory which sets them up nicely for the Varsity match next weekend.

Despite Mike Hughes's intital protestations, the 3rd/4th match between the Salopians and the Monday Knights was also played over best of five games. Hughes recovered from a rather slow start to win at first pair with Grant Williams against Rimini and Skjott; Bill Emlyn Jones and Johnny Saunders (yet another Old Salopian playing for an opposing team!) made sure they had got their money's worth with another five game win at second pair and Peter Stewart and Samson Yick then wrapped up third place for the Salopians with a win over Ralph Hazell and Tom Emlyn Jones.

My thanks go to Mike Hughes and Eton for hosting the evernt, to all the team captains who got their players there and to all who came and took part in a tremendous day's Fives.

Semi-Finals

North Oxford beat The Monday Knights 2-1

G.Hoskins & F.Imrie beat M.Rimini & M.Skjott 3-0 (12-8, 12-6, 12-4)
S.Chapman & C.Lloyd lost to B.Emlyn Jones & J.Saunders 2-3 (12-7, 7-12, 12-6, 9-12, 9-12)
C.Davies & I.Mitchell beat P.Gibbs & R.Hazell 3-1 (12-9, 11-13, 12-9, 12-9)

Oxford University beat Old Salopians 2-1

T.Kirkby & S.Welti lost to G.Williams & M.Hughes 1-3 (12-13, 9-12, 14-13, 6-12)
J.Flowers & O.Sale beat A.Aslam-Baskeyfield & S.Yick 3-2 (10-12, 12-8, 12-2, 7-12, 15-11)
S.Oppenheimer & W.Ponsonby beat P.Stewart & H.Turnbull 3-0 (12-7, 12-7, 12-7)

Final

Oxford University beat North Oxford 3-0

T.Kirkby & S.Welti beat G.Hoskins & F.Imrie 3-1 (12-7, 10-13, 12-10 ret)
J.Flowers & O.Sale beat B.Harrison & S.Chapman 3-0 (12-7, 12-8, 12-9)
S.Oppenheimer & W.Ponsonby beat C.Davies & C.Lloyd 3-0 (12-5, 12-11, 12-10)

3rd/4th

Old Salopians beat Monday Knights 2-1

G.Williams & M.Hughes beat M.Rimini & M.Skjott 3-1
A.Aslam-Baskeyfield & H.Turnbull lost to B.Emlyn Jones & J.Saunders 2-3
P.Stewart & S.Yick beat T.Emlyn Jones & R.Hazell 3-0

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