Midlands 2015: Redemption for Barker and Houlden

02/11/15: Repton was once again the host for the 2015 Midland Tournament at the weekend with another good turnout of over 30 pairs taking part in one of the most entertaining events on the Fives calendar. It is a tournament that has a high emphasis on sociability and friendly fives, with some unusual pairings and yet it still retains a highly competitive edge when it gets to the business end. This year's tournament produced new names on the trophy as Cambridge University's Tony Barker and Riki Houlden bounced back from their shock defeat in last week's Universities tournament to claim the title, beating David Mew and Andrew Rennie in the final.

With players ranging from 12-70 and from novice to expert, the Saturday group stages were designed to ease everyone in gently and sort out which pairs go into the main tournament on Sunday and which into the Festival. For once, even the Ipswich contingent made it just about in time, although not even Stubbsy could get lost driving to the school he attended for five years. Actaully, I'm sure he could, but on this occasion he didn't - there's a first time for everything after all. Tournament organisers Howard Wiseman and Dom Redmond took the popular and pragmatic decision not to play a knock-out round on Saturday to allow everyone to watch the rugby world cup final; one or two players (no names) were getting into the mood by playing Fives like an All Black back rower hitting a ruck, but everyone survived to fight on on Sunday after the well-attended Saturday dinner at which young Caplin demonstrated some impressive fraternisation skills, while one or two of his supposed elders and betters prepared for the second day's play in more traditional Fives style. Unusually for a gathering of Fives players, the next door Hallowe'en themed wedding reception did make us the smartest-looking group in the hotel. Seb's shirt and jacket combo did appear to be a case of him hedging his bets, however. 

There were no major shocks in the last 16 of the main competition, although young Ipswichians Cameron Lyle and Isaac Wagland can consider themselves a bit unfortunate not to have had a kinder draw. On the comeback trail after a back operation and now fully 45 years since his last appearance in the final, uberveteran Nigel Cox was back for another crack at the Midland title with giant of the game Seb Cooley; sadly for Nigel and the uberveteran supporters club they were unable to find a way past last year's runners-up Howard Wiseman and Tom Gallagher in the quarter-finals. Elsewhere in the draw, Noah Caplin's excellent weekend saw him and partner Alex Constantine take a surprise 1-0 lead against David Mew and Andrew Rennie before the favoured pair pulled clear to win 2-1, Wulfrunian legends Mark Yates and David Jones rolled back the years to beat Ryan Perrie and Johnny Saunders and Cambridge students Barker and Houlden overcame a second game blip to defeat the Berkhamsted staff/old boy pairing of Doug Foster and Charles Holroyd.

The Wulfrunian pair - with 1992 schools' winner Jones looking like he'd never been away - got off to a flier in their semi-final against Mew and Rennie. Andrew and Dave had started slowly and won in the quarter-final and although their first game fightback wasn't enough to stop them going 1-0 down, it was a sufficiently significant momentum shift to turn the match in their favour from thereon in, and having lost the second game, the Wulfrunian pair decided that they had had enough and retired with their dignity still intact if not a fully functioning set of limbs. The other semi was a belter, with the canny Wiseman and his latest Olavian protégé Gallagher getting the better of the Cambridge pair. As the match went on, Wiseman and Gallagher continued to match Barker and Houlden around the court, but Tony and Riki began to take control of the set piece, and is so often the case this was the deciding factor as they went on to win the second and third games.

With time moving on and the fog rolling in, the good sized crowd who had enjoyed watching the semi-finals melted away into the Derbyshire night, leaving your correspondent and tournament results official and proto-Williams Hugo Tobias the only spectators. Those who didn't stay missed a treat, especially in the first game which was a terrific contest, with thrills, spills,and a trade-off between a reasonably high error count and some spectacular attacking play and glorious winners from all four players. Barker and Houlden generally held the edge throughout the first game, but a change of cutter as 8-11 became 10-11 produced a couple of wobbly moments and a glimmer of hope for Mew and Rennie. The glimmer was quickly snuffed out, however, as Barker and Houlden - intent on making up for the disappointment of losing their university title last week - closed out the game and then established a commanding early lead in the second. From then on they tightened their grip on the set piece once again and began to force more errors from the gloves of Mew, impressive in his first big final since missing the whole of last season through injury and Rennie, playing in his first big final. This was a fine performance from Tony and Riki, who in the last 13 months have won the universities, U21 and Midland titles as well as reaching the Kinnaird quarter-finals.

The Festival was no less fiercely contested and if anything even more unpredictable. In the end it was Old Olavians Tim Leech and James Rumble, not without a cople of scares en route, who won a titanic final against Berkhamsted coach Ant Theodossi and M-i-C Martin Pett in front of a raucous crowd of Berkhamsted supporters.

Plate glory was also on offer for those who were prepared to dig in and persevere and Ipswichians Lyle and Wagland gained some compensation for not progressing further in the main tournament by swatting aside all comers in the main competition plate, finishing with a 15-7 win over Olavians Harry Russell and Vish Shetty. A delightful footnote to the competition was also written by Derby Moor Rugby Fives duo Brian Kirk and Stuart Kirby, whose years of patient and steady improvement at the alien code were rewarded with a fine win in the Festival plate competition.

Our thanks go to Repton for allowing us to use their facilities, to Howard Wiseman, Dominique Redmond and Hugo Tobias for their organisational work and to all those who contributed to such an enjoyable weekend.


Results:

Main Tournament

Last 16

D.Mew & A.Rennie beat I.Wagland & C.Lyle 12-9, 12-6

A.Constantine & N.Caplin beat P.Boughton & T.Stubbs 12-4, 12-10

R.Perrie & J.Saunders beat H.Russell & V.Shetty 12-5, 12-6

M.Yates & D.Jones beat C.Stocks & K.Walton 12-10, 12-1

T.Barker & R.Houlden beat Balaji & Mclean 12-0, 12-0

D.Foster & C.Holroyd beat J.Prior & K.Nwuba 12-2, 14-11

S.Cooley & N.Cox beat G.Hoskins & H.Asquith 12-4, 12-2

H.Wiseman & T.Gallagher beat K.Hird & C.Cooley 12-4, 12-1

Quarter-Finals

D.Mew & A.Rennie beat A.Constantine & N.Caplin 7-12, 12-7, 12-7

M.Yates & D.Jones beat R.Perrie & J.Saunders 12-10, 13-10

T.Barker & R.Houlden beat D.Foster & C.Holroyd 12-5, 5-12, 12-4

H.Wiseman & T.Gallagher beat S.Cooley & N.Cox 12-3, 12-5

Semi-Finals

D.Mew & A.Rennie beat M.Yates & D.Jones 7-12, 12-7, ret

T.Barker & R.Houlden beat H.Wiseman & T.Gallagher 10-12, 12-4, 12-6

Final

T.Barker & R.Houlden beat D.Mew & A.Rennie 12-10, 12-4

Main Tournament Plate

I.Wagland & C.Lyle beat H.Russell & V.Shetty 15-7

Festival

Quarter-Finals

J.Levick & JP. Levick beat D.Redmond & G.Wiseman 12-7, 12-6

A.Theodossi & M.Pett beat B.Christie & C.Christie 7-12, 12-7, 12-6

A.Lumbard & C.Ballingall beat Derby Moor 2 12-5, 12-9

J.Rumble & T.Leech beat Edmonds & Boddington 13-12, 12-1

Semi-Finals

A.Theodossi & M.Pett beat J.Levick & JP. Levick 12-9, 12-6

J.Rumble & T.Leech beat A.Lumbard & C.Ballingall 12-4, 12-1

Final

J.Rumble & T.Leech beat A.Theodossi & M.Pett 12-7, 15-13, 12-10

Festival Plate

S.Kirby & B.Kirk beat C.Wheeler & R.Morgan 3-12, 12-0, 12-3, 12-5

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