2010 EFA Universities: A higher degree of success

The 2010 Universities Championships took place at Eton on Saturday 13th November, with a record 34 pairs representing 17 different universities in a feast of Fives. Oxford and Cambridge - the only two universities with their own courts and clubs - provided 9 pairs apiece, but pairs from all over the country made an enormous effort to get to Eton with players taking part from Durham, Newcastle, Nottingham, Manchester, Bristol, Bath, Cardiff, Exeter, Oxford Brookes, Brunel, King's, Imperial, UCL, Queen Mary's and City University.

This diversity produced some unlikely and splendid pairings - an Ipswich/Norwich duo representing Nottingham, an Eton Fives/Rugby Fives double act from Cardiff and a Franco-Swiss alliance from Manchester to name but three.

The end result was a fantastic day of Fives with 117 games completed in one day. The men's tournament started off with four large groups looking to produce two qualifiers each for the quarter-finals. Groups A and C were straightforward, with Cambridge 1, London 1, Newcastle and Cambridge 2 all qualifying, although the London 2 pairing of Raj Patel and Jonathan Fagan gave a good account of themselves to finish third in Group C. Group D was dominated by the Lancing/Berkhamsted pairing of Andrew Joyce and Will Betts, but second place was very much up for grabs, with three pairs all ending tied on 2 wins and 2 defeats each. The points difference was nearly as close with the Oxford 2 pairing of James Batting and Fritz von Guionneau finishing one point ahead of Cambridge 4 and 3 points ahead of Exeter. Group B also featured a three way scrap. With the final group match poised at 11-11 between Bristol and Oxford 1, the next point was going to decide which of those two pairs and Cambridge 3 would qualify. Bristol won it, Cambridge 3 qualified in second and James Hopton and Ben Slater of Oxford failed to go through by the narrowest of margins.

The top three seeds made it through the quarter-finals comfortably with Laurie Brock and Rory Griffiths (Cambridge 1) looking in fine form as they beat Oxford 2. The Durham pair continued untroubled with a 15-3 win over Edward Winfield and Mike McCulloch (Cambridge 2) and the Newcastle pairing of Tom Betts and Tom Welti won 15-7 against Alfred Jackson and George Illingworth (Cambridge 3). The fourth and fifth seeds clashed in the other quarter-final and it was the Ipswichian/Harrovian London pair of David Leach and Tommy Faber who came out on top, winning 15-6 against the Bristol Etonians Theo Bossom and Ed Salt.

In the semis, Cambridge repeated their group stage victory over London 1 with another dominant performance. The other match was much closer as the Durham versus Newcastle battle of the Betts brothers built to a climax. First blood went to the younger brother and his Salopian partner as underdogs Newcastle snatched the first game 12-6. Will Betts and Andrew Joyce didn't panic, however, and gradually began to cut out the unforced errors and put the two Toms under more and more pressure. They never cracked, but the improvement in the Durham pair's play was enough to see them through 6-12, 12-7, 12-8.

The final, whilst not necessarily an anticlimax, confirmed the impression that had been building during the course of the competition that Cambridge 1 were a class apart in this field. The Durham pair gave it their best shot but defending champion Laurie Brock was his usual steady self and talented Salopian freshman Rory Griffiths showed that he is one to watch out for in future years as the Cambridge pair won 12-4, 12-4 to keep the men's title in East Anglia for another year.

The men's plate competition was was keenly contested, with Exeter, Cardiff, Oxford 1 and London 2 making it out of the group stages into the knockout rounds. The final gave both Exeter and Oxford 1 the chance to make up for their narrow failure to make the quarter-finals earlier in the day and in the end it was Exeter's Salopians Alex Sale and Mark Tomley who came out on top against Oxford's Etonians 15-5. Plate B for the losing quarter-finalists was won by Cambridge 2.

The Ladies tournament this year featured 13 pairs, a record entry, and always had the makings of an exciting competition, with no obvious favourite and several pairs in with a chance at the start of the day. The growing strength in depth in the ladies game could clearly be seen in the quality and closeness of some of the group stage matches. Cambridge 2 (Olivia Prankerd-Smith and Sarah Greasley) took top seeds London 1 (Micky Galperti and Juliet Browning) to 15-11 in Group A, whilst Oxford 2 (Alice Walker and Izzy Watts) performed heroics to beat Durham (Eleanor Ward and Lucy Bell) 15-14 to win Group B.

The Cambridge squad did extremely well to get three pairs into the quarter-finals but Cambridge 3 (Annelise O'Malley and Julia Toynton) were no match for the increasingly impressive London pair and Cambridge 2 came up against the formidable Oxford 1 pairing of Constance Mantle and Hannah Cutmore-Scott. Cambridge 1 did make it though to the semis, defending champion Annabel Griffiths partnering Cambridge captain Eli Hullis to a 15-1 win over Durham and they were joined by Oxford 2, who overcame Emily Scoones and Zarina Siganporia from Bath in an epic 15-14 thriller, the second successive such win by the Oxford duo.

After those two matches, it was no surprise that Alice and Izzy were no match for the Galperti and Browning Fives machine in the first semi-final, the London pair winning 12-5, 12-1. The other semi was an Oxbridge grudge match. Connie and Hannah had lost to Cambridge in last year's Varsity Match first pair, but with different Cambridge opposition this time around were hoping for a different result. The first game was nip and tuck, with Oxford just edging it 13-10, before they turned up the power to win the second 12-5 and ensure that Cambridge wouldn't be able to defend their title.

London's Juliet Browning won this tournament two years ago playing for Oxford was was determined to make history by winning it again for a different university. Her partnership with Zuozer Micky Galperti had been improving all day long and they soon got into their stride in the final. The Oxford pair fought hard, however, and despite losing the first game 12-9 had high hopes of a second game comeback. At this point, however, the London pair produced their best Fives of the tournament and ran away with the second game 12-1 to win the title in fine style.

Plate A for losing quarter-finalists was won by Bath and Plate B by Oxford 3 (Harriet Allan and Harriet Asquith), who narrowly won ahead of Nottingham (Caz Rands and Nina Sorensen) and London 2 (Emma Double and Sophie Hazell).

My thanks go to all those who helped with recruitment (especially Emily Scoones, Alun Meredith, Emma Double, Constance Mantle, Eli Hullis, Laurie Brock, James Hopton, Alex Sale and Fenno Brakel), to all those who took part, especially those who travelled such a long way, to Richard Barber for presenting the trophies, and to Seb Cooley and Mark Williams at Eton.

Men's Tournament

Quarter-Finals

Cambridge 1 (L.Brock & R.Griffiths) beat Oxford 2 (J.Batting & F.von Guionneau) 15-2

London 1 (D.Leach & T.Faber) beat Bristol (T.Bossom & E.Salt) 15-6

Newcastle (T.Betts & T.Welti) beat Cambridge 3 (A.Jackson & G.Illingworth) 15-7

Durham (W.Betts & A.Joyce) beat Cambridge 2 (E.Winfield & M.McCulloch) 15-3

Semi-Finals

Cambridge 1 beat London 1 2-0 (12-7, 12-1)

Durham beat Newcastle 2-1 (6-12, 12-7, 12-8)

Final

Cambridge 1 beat Durham 2-0 (12-4, 12-4)

Plate A

Semi-Finals

Exeter (A.Sale & M.Tomley) beat Cardiff (A.Yusaf & E.Leakey)

Oxford 1 (J.Hopton & B.Slater) beat London 2 (J.Fagan & R.Patel)

Final

Exeter beat Oxford 1 15-5

Plate B

Cambridge 2 beat Oxford 2 2-0 (12-8, 12-4)


Ladies Tournament

Quarter-Finals

London 1 (M.Galperti & J.Browning) beat Cambridge 3 (A.O'Malley & J.Toynton) 15-2

Oxford 2 (A.Walker & I.Watts) beat Bath (E.Scoones & Z.Siganporia) 15-14

Cambridge 1 (A.Griffiths & E.Hullis) beat Durham (E.Ward & L.Bell) 15-1

Oxford 1 (C.Mantle & H.Cutmore-Scott) beat Cambridge 2 (O.Prankerd-Smith & S.Greasley) 15-5

Semi-Finals

London 1 beat Oxford 2 2-0 (12-5, 12-1)

Oxford 1 beat Cambridge 1 2-0 (13-10, 12-5)

Final

London 1 beat Oxford 1 2-0 (12-9, 12-1)

Plate A (Round Robin)

Winners: Bath

Runners-up: Durham

Plate B (Round Robin)

Winners: Oxford 3 (H.Allan & H.Asquith)

Runners-up: Nottingham (N.Sorensen & C.Rands)

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