Under 21s 2014: Wilson and Abbott win again; Highgate's girls prove unstoppable
The 2014 Under 21 Tournament took place at Eton at the weekend, with 20 pairs braving the flood waters around Eton to compete for the men's and ladies titles.
The mens tournament featured 13 very strong pairs, including defending champions Robert Wilson and Jamie Abbott from Cambridge and top school pairs from Eton and Shrewsbury. Wilson and Abbott made a strong start, winning their group without losing a game, ahead of Shrewsbury's second pair of Sansom Yick and Nick Pearce and Old Aldenhamians Carl and Andrew Rennie. UCL's James Tugwell and Davin Chandra and George Shillam and Eliot Banks from Imperial missed out.
Shrewsbury's first pair George Lewis and Henry Blofield, fresh from reaching the quarter-finals in the recent Northern Tournament, won Group B but were pushed hard by Eton's second pair of Tom Weld and Tom Kirkby, by former Eton keepers Charlie Fairbanks-Smith and Matt Asquith and by Westway youngsters Dan Arwas and Noah Caplin. Weld & Kirkby impressed all those watching to take the second qualification slot, leaving Fairbanks-Smith and Asquith needing to win a play-off against a pair from Group C.
That pair turned out to be young Salopians Tom Breese and Ed Holroyd, who were pipped to second place by another Old Aldenhamian pair, cousins Darshan and Nirav Patel. The group was won by Eton's first pair James Cobb and James Piggot with Cambridge's Jack Weller and Charlie Moore unlucky to miss out.
Charlie and Matt won the play-off and their reward was a quarter-final against the top seeds and defending champions, who cruised through 15-1. Lewis & Blofield won the battle of the Shrewsbury pairs against Yick & Pearce and Weld and Kirkby continued their good form to dispatch the Patels 15-7. The Rennie brothers, meanwhile, had saved their best Fives for the afternoon and were involved in the closest of the four quarter-finals, pushing Cobb and Piggot hard for long periods of the game before the home pair moved away at the end to claim the last semi-final slot.
Robert Wilson and Jamie Abbott had won the 2012 and 2013 Universities tournaments and the 2013 Under 21s without losing a game and had also reached the quarter-finals of the Kinnaird Cup last year. All looked under control as they won the first game of their semi-final 12-3 against the two Toms, but the young Etonian pair turned the tables in the second, upping the pace of the game and rattling the top seeds. They took it 14-12 to set up a decider, and although the Cambridge pair recovered their poise sufficiently to win 12-6, Weld & Kirkby can be delighted at the way they performed.
In the other semi-final, the mantle of favourites fell on Cobb & Piggott, with the season's form lines and home advantage taken into consideration. They were not quite on top form, however, and the fast volleying attacking Fives of Shrewsbury's Lewis & Blofield was enough to give them the edge in two tight games, sending them through 12-9, 13-10. This may not be the last time these two pairs play against each other this season.
In the final, the extra experience and strength of Wilson and Abbott was evident right from the start as they took the lead and never let go. The Shrewsbury pair gave it everything they had, but were unable to put the Cambridge pair under enough pressure and went down 12-7, 12-6. Robert and Jamie deserved to retain their title, but with Robert in his last year at this level and Jamie abroad next year, the 2015 competition will see new names on the trophy.
Seven pairs took part in the Ladies competition, including four from Highgate School, and only Oxford's Scarlett Maguire and Hannah Pritchard were able to prevent a Highgate clean sweep. Eve Smith-Bingham - now a three time winner of this competition - and Amira Reimer, with her first title, were the standout pair and won all of their matches comfortably, demonstrating great skill and flair throughout. They beat the Highgate second pair of Phoebe Bracken and Olivia Hirschfield 12-3, 12-3 in the final round of matches to ensure their win. Fellow Cholmeleians Georgia Allen and Marjolaine Briscoe finished third ahead of Pritchard and Maguire.
My thanks go to all those who played and to Anthony Brunner, Mark Collins, Seb Cooley, Andy Barnard and Mike Hughes for their support as well as to Eton for hosting the tournament. This is a great competition, that brings together the best school pairs with a variety of recent leavers and university pairs and I hope it continues to be so well supported in the future.
R.Wilson & J.Abbott beat M.Asquith & C.Fairbanks-Smith 15-1
T.Weld & T.Kirkby beat N.Patel & D.Patel 15-7
G.Lewis & H.Blofield beat S.Yick & N.Pearce 15-6
J.Cobb & J.Piggot beat A.Rennie & C.Rennie 15-9
R.Wilson & J.Abbott beat T.Weld & T.Kirkby 12-3, 12-14, 12-6
G.Lewis & H.Blofield beat J.Cobb & J.Piggot 12-9, 13-10
R.Wilson & J.Abbott beat G.Lewis & H.Blofield 12-7, 12-6
Plate: T.Breese & E.Holroyd
E.Smith-Bingham & A.Reimer beat P.Bracken & O.Hirschfield 12-3, 12-3
3rd: G.Allen & M.Briscoe
4th: S.Maguire & H.Pritchard