2010/11 Under 21s: Joyce and O'Neill retain their title
The second EFA Under 21 Championships took place at Eton yesterday, with a much larger entry than last year and a tremendous day's Fives.
A good mix of current school pairs and recent leavers from a variety of schools - Berkhamsted, Highgate, RGS High Wycombe, St.Olave's, Emanuel, Harrow, Westminster, Mill Hill, Shrewsbury and Aldenham were all represented - were split up into four pools to determine the eight quarter-finalists. The eight seeded pairs all made it through into the knockout rounds, but a couple of surprise results meant that the quarter-final line-up contained some unexpected match-ups. Cambridge pair Ed Winfield and George Illingworth surprised third seeds Alex Poole and Tommy Faber in their group, which left the Harrow pair having to face top seeds and defending champions Andrew Joyce and Jeremy O'Neill in the last eight. Other notable performances were the three wins out of three for Mill Hill school pair Oliver John and Matthew Jackson and the 15-7 win by Laurie Brock and Alfred Jackson over second seeded Salopians Tom Welti and Jack Hudson-Williams.
The knock out stages produced some terrific contests. Faber and Poole refound their form and made all the running in the first game against Joyce and O'Neill before losing it 14-13. A 12-9 second game win for the Berkhamstedian pair left the young Harrovians ruing missed opportunities. Winfield and Illingworth were unable to build on their strong group stage form and lost to the dangerous scratch pairing of Cholmeleian Joe Marks and Lancing sixth former Jamie Betts. Meanwhile the two top-rated Shrewsbury pairs were improving as the day went on, with Welti and Hudson-Williams proving too good for John and Jackson and Henry Lewis and Jason Tse recovering from 11-7 down in the first game to defeat Brock and Jackson 14-11, 15-11.
At the semi-final stage, the Marks/Betts combination ran out of steam and went down tamely to Lewis and Tse. In the next door court, Joyce and O'Neill were again involved in a tight battle against Welti and Hudson-Williams. The holders edged a close first game 14-11, before a string of errors forced by some severe Salopian pressure gave the second game 12-6 to the Shrewsbury pair. Joyce and O'Neill have gained a lot of experience of league and tournament Fives in the last two or three years, however, and this proved crucial as they regrouped in the third game, cut down the error count and put the pressure back on their more inexperienced opponents to win 12-4 and move into the final.
The final followed a similar pattern, the Berkhamstedians edging a tight first game 14-11. Lewis and Tse were battling hard and having had a more comfortable passage to the final it seemed their fresher legs might tell as Joyce and O'Neill began to tire in the second game. The aggressive volleying of Lewis and level-headed steadiness of Tse gave them the second game 12-9 to level the scores and set up a thrilling decider. As in the semi-final, the experience of Joyce and O'Neill now began to shine through. They found some reserves of energy from somewhere and established an early lead in the third game which they never relinquished, despite the best efforts of the Shrewsbury pair. A 12-7 third game scoreline clinched the title for the second successive year.
Thanks to Mark Williams and Seb Cooley at Eton and to all those who entered a competition which is now established in the calendar and set to go from strength to strength in years to come.
A.Joyce & J.O'Neill beat A.Poole & T.Faber 2-0
T.Welti & J.Hudson-Williams beat O.John & M.Jackson 2-0
J.Marks & J.Betts beat E.Winfield & G.Illingworth 2-0
H.Lewis & J.Tse beat L.Brock & A.Jackson 2-0
A.Joyce & J.O'Neill beat T.Welti & J.Hudson-Williams 2-1 (14-11, 6-12, 12-4)
H.Lewis & J.Tse beat J.Marks & J.Betts 2-0 (12-4, 12-2)
A.Joyce & J.O'Neill beat H.Lewis & J.Tse 2-1 (14-11, 9-12, 12-7)
G.Williams & J.Flowers beat R.Wilson & M.Noyes 2-1 (12-15, 12-2, 12-2)
A.Meredith & S.Eglund-Newby beat J.Weller & S.Levy 2-1 (12-9, 5-12, 12-8)
G.Williams & J.Flowers beat A.Meredith & S.Eglund-Newby 2-0 (12-9, 12-10)