2012 Under 21s: Shrewsbury show the way

The EFA Under 21 men's tournament took place at Eton yesterday and produced an all-Salopian final, Jack Hudson-Williams and Henry Lewis coming through a strong field to beat Tom and Sam Welti in the final.


A very strong field featuring many of the top school and university players in the country gathered at Eton yesterday to fight it out for the title of EFA Under 21 champions. Berkhamsted pair Andrew Joyce and Jeremy O'Neill had been champions in 2010 and 2011, but with Joyce unavailable and O'Neill part of a last minute scratch pairing, the opportunity was there for a new pairing to put their name on the trophy.

It quickly became apparent in the group stages that the Salopians would be the ones to beat, as each of the three Shrewsbury pairs won their group. The fourth group was won by O'Neill alongside Olavian Sam Newby and they looked to be the biggest threat to the Shrewsbury contingent. The quarter final line-up was completed by three Highgate School pairs and Cambridge's Robert Wilson and Shaneil Patel.

The top-seeded Shrewsbury School pair of Jack Hudson-Williams and Henry Lewis made short work of Wilson and Patel in the first quarter-final, and Sam Welti and his Old Salopian brother Tom also progressed comfortably at the expense of Highgate's Bertie Mills and Jamie Willett. Another Highgate pair, Alec Noar and Aroop Bhattacharya, also went out in staight games in the last eight at the hands of O'Neill and Newby. The fourth quarter-final was much closer and featured the Highgate Under 16 pair of Charlie Noble and Joe Berriman against the Shrewsbury third string of Guy Williams and Jack Flowers in a terrific see-saw contest which ended in a 13-11 win in the decisive third game for the Highgate pair after the first two games had been shared.

Noble and Berriman's reward for their quarter-final heroics was a semi-final against Hudson-Williams and Lewis, who were beginning to hit their stride as they powered through into the final with an irresistible display of aggressive, attacking Fives. The other semi-final was much closer right from the start and quickly turned into the match of the tournament. The first two games were both epic encounters that could have gone either way. The Welti brothers edged the first 14-13 and O'Neill and Newby then took the second game 15-12 to set up a decider. With Hudson-Williams and Lewis watching with their feet up, it was the Welti brothers who got the upper hand in the third game to win 12-6 and set up an all Shrewsbury final.

Tom and Sam Welti got off to a good start in the final, establishing an early 3-0 lead. Sam Welti was volleying well from the back of the court and Tom was dominating the set piece for the first few hands. It was only a fleeting spell of dominance, however, as Hudson-Williams and Lewis soon began to impose their fast-paced, hard-hitting game on their opponents, the back court player pushing up so aggressively that at times the two of them were playing virtually right and left, rather than front and back, creating a two player barrier on the top step and challenging their opponents to get the ball past them. The Welti brothers refused to give in easily and continued to play some terrific Fives, particularly with their cutting and returning, but were unable to cope with the pressure that Jack and Henry continually put them under and the match was won 12-3, 12-6.

The Plate competitions had a strong Westminster flavour and it was OW Sam Williams along with Ipswichian David Leach who saw off the challenge of Westminster schoolboys Riki Houlden and Fred Tomlinson (in the semis) and James Alster and Leo Nelson-Jones (in the final) to win Plate A to lend further evidence to support their burgeoning reputation as plate specialists after their win in the same competition at the Universities tournament. Alster and Nelson-Jones were involved in a terrific semi-final against Cambridge's Jack Weller and Luke Abraham, which they won in three tight games.

Plate B was won by the other Westminster school pair, Ben Merrett and Alistair Stewart, who defeated Bath University's Simon Mckinney and Jonty Suenson-Taylor in the final.

Results:

Quarter-Finals:

J.Hudson-Williams & H.Lewis beat R.Wilson & S.Patel 2-0 (12-1, 12-3)
C.Noble & J.Berriman beat J.Flowers & G.Williams 2-1 (12-6, 8-12, 13-11)
T.Welti & S.Welti beat B.Mills & J.Willett 2-0 (12-4, 12-5)
J.O'Neill & S.Newby beat A.Noar & A.Bhattacharya 2-0 (12-5, 12-4)

Semi-Finals:

J.Hudson-Williams & H.Lewis beat C.Noble & J.Berriman 2-0 (12-5, 12-0)
T.Welti & S.Welti beat J.O'Neill & S.Newby 2-1 (14-13, 12-15, 12-6)

Final:

J.Hudson-Williams & H.Lewis beat T.Welti & S.Welti 2-0 (12-3, 12-6)

Plate A Semi-Finals:

L.Nelson-Jones & J.Alster beat J.Weller & L.Abraham 2-1 (12-8, 4-12, 12-9)
D.Leach & S.Williams beat R.Houlden & F.Tomlinson 2-0 (12-7, 12-7)

Final:

D.Leach & S.Williams beat L.Nelson-Jones & J.Alster 2-0 (13-12, 12-9)

Plate B:

B.Merrett & A.Stewart beat S.Mckinney & J.Suenson-Taylor 2-0 (12-6, 12-8)

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