New Names On The Mixed Trophy
19/07/21: The final competition of the 2020/21 season took place at Eton yesterday with 29 pairs entering the Mixed Championships in association with Advanta Wealth.
A flurry of summer activity has enabled us to complete a few competitions that would otherwise have fallen victim to the disruptions that have dogged the majority of the season. The Mixed is always a highlight of the calendar and it was great to welcome it back for a first edition in over two years, with a strong entry of 29 pairs braving the searingly hot conditions to play a combined total of over 100 games of Fives during the course of the day.
It was good to see many of the top players taking part, as well as some familiar faces and welcome first timers. The morning group stages allowed everyone to get reacquainted with mixed rules and etiquette, adjust to conditions, fine tune thier partnership tactics and strategy and position themselves for an afternoon assault on either the main tournament trophy, the coveted "Dossi Dish" for plate A winners or one of the myriad other plate competitions.
Highlights of the group phase included two 15-14 humdingers in Group F to decide top spot between Highgate pair Catherine Vos & David Mew and scratch pairing Alex Abrahams and Emma Graham (a 2018 schools' champions when at Shrewsbury), which ended in favour of the Highgate and to separate Sian Evans & Andy Bishop and Archie Cameron-Blackie & Abigail Verweij-Thomas in third and fourth, the Repton duo of ACB and AVT just coming out on top. Elsewhere in the draw, Pete & Vanda Scholey scored a double whammy, beating Oxford University's Freya Butler & Hatam Barma 12-10 to claim the second qualifying spot in Group A and simultaneously making it through to lunchtime without the need for any marriage counselling.
Things began to heat up after lunch - quite literally despite the mass round of ice lollies - as group matches changed into knockout Fives. The four top seeded pairs were able to put their feet up in the shade for a little longer while the other two group winners and the six runners-up fought it out to see who would join them in the quarter-finals. Vanda & Pete's run came to an abrupt end at the hands of Harry Asquith & Tom McCahon but the other three matches produced some of the closest and most exciting Fives of the day. Catherine & David came through a second successive close match, winning 15-12 against recent ladies finalist Rachel Wood & Matt Chinery. Emma & Alex this time found themselves on the right end of a 15-14 game, ending the impressive challenge of youngsters Natasha Gregory & Gwydion Wiseman, and Emma's Shrewsbury school partner Katie Oswald also made it through as she and ex-Cambridge captain Viral Gudiwala overcame Shrewsbury siblings Fiona Barnes & Andrew Mitchell 15-13.
The quarter-finals were generally more straightforward as the "big beasts" of the competition returned to the fray. Charlotta & Seb Cooley - winners of the last eight competitions - ended Katie & Viral's run, Emma & Alex were dispatched efficiently by Karen Hird & Hugo Young and Catherine & David were unable to make it three in a row in the all-Highgate battle with Emily Scoones & Jonny Ho. Harry & Tom had already served notice that they were in a dangerously good form, though, and their match against former champions Dom Redmond & Howard Wiseman was the match of the round. Harry & Tom knew they had to be at their absolute best to get past such formidable opposition and were delighted to have produced a near flawless performance to overturn the seeding, win 15-12 and make it into the semi-finals.
Without downplaying the ability and importance of the male half of the pairings, the mixed rule in which the man only serves for one completed point puts a real onus on the female half of the partnership to deliver, especially at the set piece. It is perhaps no surprise, then, that the last five finals have featured Charlotta Cooley & Karen Hird up against each other, as in that time they have proved themselves to be the top pairing in the women's game. Harry & Tom and Emily & Jonny knew that they had their work cut out, therefore, if they were going to overcome the odds and prevent a sixth successive Hird v Cooley showdown. Both pairs fought hard and produced some terrific Fives but in the end the top two seeds had too much firepower, Charlotta & Seb defeating Harry & Tom 12-7, 12-2 and Karen & Hugo playing very well indeed to win a potentially tricky match against Emily & Jonny 12-6, 12-9.
Recent finals have all featured three of the same four players. Charlotta & Seb have proved invincible over that time, as Karen has worked her way through a series of different partners. Could Hugo Young succeed where Messrs Hoskins, Houlden, Brock and Barker had all failed? A good sized crowd was present to watch the final and what a treat it was. The play was scintillating from start to finish, momentum moving back and forth - as is often the case in mixed fives between well-matched pairs - and the outcome never certain right up until the last point. These matches tend to move one or two points at a time for the most part and are often decided by one or two key hands where the female player manages to string together a few cut returns - the only way of getting on a run of points. The first half of the first game was tight, before Charlotta & Seb went from 5-5 to 8-5 up over a period of several hands. Karen & Hugo needed one of those runs and they got it, Karen suddenly finding her return of cut and Hugo chipping in with some terrific cutting and finishing of his own, as the challengers surged in front to take the first game 12-9. They took that momentum forward into the second game and established an 8-3 lead, which looked like it might well prove decisive unless Charlotta could find a similar cut-returning run of her own. She did, and with Seb going increasingly on the attack (not to mention a couple of nerveless game ball cuts at 9-11 and 11-13) they closed the gap twice to level at 11-11 and then 13-13, with all four players producing a very high standard of Fives at the end of a long day and in what were still very hot and demanding conditions. It proved to be third time lucky, though, as this time Karen got Seb's game ball cut back in play and the chance was converted, taking them to a 14-13 win and a first ever mixed title for both of them.
Further down the ranks there were rewards for endurance as Rachel & Matt won the mini-plate for the pairs who went out in the play-off round and Emma won the Salopian battle over Katie as she & Alex won the quarter-finalists plate.
A little further down the ranks again, competition for the Dossi Dish was furious, with several pairs all fancying their chances of getting hold of a trophy. The first round saw impressive wins for young Ipswichian pairs Gracie Joslin & Victor Whytock (12-11 over Imi Culhane & Nick Choustikov) and Cara Peters & Will Woods (12-10 over Jana Scholey & Elliot Caldwell) as well as a noteworthy win for the Westway pair of Lucy Craughwell-Franks & Theo Santos, who raised their game several notches to defeat Archie & Abigail. Freya & Hatam looked in ominously good form against Elise Lau & Henry Gardner, Sian & Andy moved through smoothly against Emma Gilbert & Rupert Swallow, Kirby Clayton & Chris Lumbard won a potentially tough match against Ruby Halstead & Ed Habershon, Nina Sorensen & Spencer Chapman saw off veterans Wendy Carling & John Cooley and Mandie Barnes & Ian Mitchell completed the quarter-final line-up with a 12-5 over another Ipswich pair in Thalia Clement & Alex Phillips.
Tension rose as the fancied pairs got closer to the trophy: Mandie & Ian finally ended the challenge of the impressive Lucy & Theo 12-11 in a nailbiter, Freya & Hatam again looked strong against Sian & Andy and the two Ipswich pairs who had made it through saw their runs ended by Kirby & Chris and Nina & Spencer. Freya & Hatam finally met their match in the semis as Kirby Clayton - a player transformed by the scent of silverware in her nostrils - hit top gear to take her & Chris through 12-7, while Nina & Spencer - who this year failed to implement his usual tactic of playing badly in order to get into a plate competition he might win - crashed out 12-8 at the hands of Mandie & Ian.
Reaching the plate final at the end of such a draining day had clearly taken a lot out of all four players, but they all managed to produce one final effort as competitive instincts overrode any thoughts of tiredness. Kirby had shown herself to be just about the most improved player in the field during the course of the day and with Chris providing a steady hand on the tiller they were always just about in control of the final, although Mandie & Ian got close enough to cause a few flutters at the end before the winning shot was hit and Kirby & Chris could celebrate the win.
The Plate A quarter-finalists gamely carried on for yet another plate, which fittingly ended in another 12-11 thriller, won by Sian & Andy against Lucy & Theo, while the pairs who had lost in the first round of the Dossi Dish went into the last chance saloon of Plate C, which culminated in a Cranleigh derby, Archie Cameron-Blackie (and Abigail) defeating Ruby Halstead (and Ed) to claim the honours, leaving the organiser very relieved that there wasn't actually a trophy for Plate C, as it would almost certainly not have been big enough to cope with engraving the full names of the winning pair.
My thanks got to Eton for hosting the tournament, to Advanta for their sponsorship and to everyone who played through the heat to make it such a memorable day.
H.Asquith & T.McCahon beat V.Scholey & P.Scholey 15-2
C.Vos & D.Mew beat R.Wood & M.Chinery 15-12
E.Graham & A.Abrahams beat N.Gregory & G.Wiseman 15-14
K.Oswald & V.Gudiwala beat F.Barnes & A.Mitchell 15-13
C.Cooley & S.Cooley (1) beat K.Oswald & V.Gudiwala 15-6
H.Asquith & T.McCahon beat D.Redmond & H.Wiseman (4) 15-12
E.Scoones & J.Ho (3) beat C.Vos & D.Mew 15-5
K.Hird & H.Young (2) beat E.Graham & A.Abrahams 15-4
C.Cooley & S.Cooley beat H.Asquith & T.McCahon 2-0 (12-7, 12-2)
K.Hird & H.Young beat E.Scoones & J.Ho 2-0 (12-6, 12-9)
K.Hird & H.Young beat C.Cooley & S.Cooley 2-0 (12-9, 14-13)
Plate B (Play-off round losers)
N.Gregory & G.Wiseman beat V.Scholey & P.Scholey 12-9
R.Wood & M.Chinery beat F.Barnes & A.Mitchell 12-2
R.Wood & M.Chinery beat N.Gregory & G.Wiseman 12-8
E.Graham & A.Abrahams beat K.Oswald & V.Gudiwala 12-6
Plate A - The "Dossi Dish"
E.Lau & H.Gardner beat A.Goodhand & A.Goodhand 12-7
F.Butler & H.Barma beat E.Lau & H.Gardner 12-0
S.Evans & A.Bishop beat E.Gilbert & R.Swallow 12-3
K.Clayton & C.Lumbard beat R.Halstead & E.Habershon 12-7
G.Joslin & V.Whytock beat I.Culhane & N.Choustikov 12-11
M.Barnes & I.Mitchell beat T.Clement & A.Phillips 12-5
L.Craughwell-Franks & T.Santos beat A.Verweij-Thomas & A.Cameron-Blackie 12-9
N.Sorensen & S.Chapman beat W.Carling & J.Cooley 12-8
C.Peters & W.Woods beat J.Scholey & E.Caldwell 12-10
F.Butler & H.Barma beat S.Evans & A.Bishop 12-6
K.Clayton & C.Lumbard beat G.Joslin & V.Whytock 12-6
M.Barnes & I.Mitchell beat L.Craughwell-Franks & T.Santos 12-11
N.Sorensen & S.Chapman beat C.Peters & W.Woods 12-2
K.Clayton & C.Lumbard beat F.Butler & H.Barma 12-7
M.Barnes & I.Mitchell beat N.Sorensen & S.Chapman 12-8
K.Clayton & C.Lumbard beat M.Barnes & I.Mitchell 12-9
Plate A Quarter-Finalists Plate
S.Evans & A.Bishop beat G.Joslin & V.Whytock 12-7
L.Craughwell-Franks & T.Santos beat C.Peters & W.Woods 12-3
S.Evans & A.Bishop beat L.Craughwell-Franks & T.Santos 12-11
W.Carling & J.Cooley beat A.Goodhand & A.Goodhand 8-4
W.Carling & J.Cooley beat J.Scholey & E.Caldwell 8-7 then scratched
J.Scholey & E.Caldwell beat A.Goodhand & A.Goodhand 8-0
A.Verweij-Thomas & A.Cameron-Blackie beat T.Clement & A.Phillips 12-5
R.Halstead & E.Habershon beat I.Culhane & N.Choustikov 12-9
E.Lau & H.Gardner beat E.Gilbert & P.Boughton 12-11
A.Verweij-Thomas & A.Cameron-Blackie beat J.Scholey & E.Caldwell 12-5
R.Halstead & E.Habershon beat E.Lau & H.Gardner 12-4
A.Verweij-Thomas & A.Cameron-Blackie beat R.Halstead & E.Habershon 12-8