2011 Universities Tournament: City and Cambridge Master the Arts of Fives

The 2011 Universities Championships took place at Eton on Saturday, with 32 pairs from 16 different universities taking part. The Ladies tournament was won by Charlotta Cooley and Rosie Scott of City University who defeated Emily Scoones and Hannah Blofield of Bath in the final while the Men's final saw Rory Griffiths and Robert Wilson of Cambridge beat the Yorkshire pair of Chris Hughes (Leeds) and Callum Brock (York).

The 2011 Universities Championships carried on from where the 2010 edition left off, with an extremely pleasing entry of student pairs from all over the country, including some who had travelled from Durham, Manchester, Bath and Exeter to take part. The field included a good mix of regular top level Fives players, school players who had not put on a pair of gloves since leaving and some near or complete novices. The end result was a competitive and highly enjoyable day's Fives which will hopefully inspire the participants to continue playing Fives through university and beyond.

The mens and ladies tournaments both followed similar formats, with group stages in the morning followed by the main tournament knock out stages and assorted plate competitions in the afternoon. This is a notoriously difficult tournament to seed accurately but the groups in the mens tournament went more or less as expected. Group C proved to be the most hotly contested with both Cambridge 2 and Queen Mary's exceeding expectations and giving group top seeds Durham 1 plenty to think about; in fact, the Cambridge pair of George Illingworth and Ed Winfield defeated Durham's Andrew Joyce and Hugo Meakin to top the group. QMUL's David Leach and Sam Williams only lost 12-9 and 12-10 to the top two and could consider themselves unlucky not to have made the knockout stages.

In the other groups, the experienced Peter Cohen - studying for an MBA at City University - had teamed up with City fresher and fellow Old Olavian Michael Winch in a intriguing little and large combination and they won Group A, with Bath impressing as runners-up, the Olavian/Salopian combination of Tim Leech and Tom Wordie seeing off the challenge of Imperial 1 and Cambridge 5. Chris Hughes of Leeds and Callum Brock of York had both seen their bona fide university partners cry off in the days leading up to the tournament so paired up to make a "Yorkshire Universities" pair. They were quickly out of the blocks in Group B and qualified top ahead of Manchester's Salopian/Cholmeleian combination of Jason Tse and Rory Blackshaw. Group D was dominated by Cambridge 1 with only Oxford Brookes (Salopians Tom Bozman and Rupert Salmon) offering any meaningful resistance to Rory Griffiths and Robert Wilson.

Cambridge 1 maintained their comfortable progress in the quarter-finals with a convincing 12-1, 12-1 win over Manchester and they were then able to sit back and relax whilst the other three quarter-finals all went the distance. Cohen and Joyce were locked in battle right from the start of their match with Winch and Meakin playing the supporting roles in a contest that could have gone either way. Eventually the Durham pair prevailed in an epic 11-12, 12-10, 15-11 victory to book their place in the last four against York/Leeds, who also needed three games to overcome the fast improving Oxford Brookes pair. The third quarter-final was equally tight, with Cambridge 2 taking the first game against Bath before the Bath team struck back in the second to level things up. In the third game, Illingworth and Winfield managed to get back on top to win 12-4 and set up an all Cambridge semi-final.

The semi-final stage followed the pattern of the previous round as Cambridge 1 cruised through with ease against their second pair while the other two pairs were involved in the match of the tournament. Everything was looking good for Durham as Joyce and Meakin won the first game 12-4. A combination of improved play by Hughes and Brock, the effects of the journey down from Durham and their earlier tough group games and quarter-final (not to mention the Durham team's night out on the Friday!) meant that momentum began to swing the way of the Yorkshire pair. The second and third games were full of excitement, tension, high quality winners and, increasingly for all four players as the match went on, tiredness-induced errors. York/Leeds won the second 15-13 and then came from behind to win the third 14-13, Brock completing the win with an unreturnable shot around the walls that landed in the final centimetres of the back right hand corner of the court.

Given their relative passages through the tournament, it was always going to be difficult for Hughes and Brock to challenge the Salopian/Wycombensian pair of Griffiths and Wilson in the final and they had barely made a start when Hughes's knee problem, which had already flared up towards the end of the semi-final, meant that he was unable to continue. This handed the title to Cambridge 1, who were clearly the outstanding pair in the field, but who were left slightly disappointed not to have been challeged harder at any stage during the day. That disappointment was soon tempered by the presentation of the trophy to them by EFA Chairman Peter Worth and they should both be back around next year to defend their crown.

The Plate competitions were no less fiercely contested. The non-qualifiers from the group stages split into four mini groups, with the winners of each moving into the Plate A semi-finals, the runners-up into Plate B and the third placed pairs into Plate C.

Queen Mary's had shown their ability earlier in the day when they had run eventual semi-finalists Cambridge 2 and Durham 1 so close and it was no surprise when they overcame the challenges of Alex Rattan and Andrew Crawford (Cambridge's 3rd pair) and Imperial 1's Abs Bhattacharya and Alun Meredith to win the plate. The Etonian/Berkhamstedian Exeter pairing of Barnaby Kelly and Guy Fountaine also made it into the last four.

Cambridge 5 saw off Manchester 2 (Tejas Thakerar and late replacement/guest player Karen Hird) and Durham 2 (Old Carthusian Anthony Kane and Old Ipswichian Sam Burrows) to win Plate B and Al Lang (Ipswich and UCL) partnered George Shillam (Westminster and Imperial) to victory in Plate C.

The Ladies competition produces greater strength in depth every year and this year was no exception, with all eight quarter-finalists playing some terrific Fives at times. The Plate competition also contained lots of exciting games and a huge improvement in the play of many of the players during the course of the day.

The comfortable passage of Cambridge 1 in the men's event was mirrored by the progress of City University in the Ladies competition. Charlotta Cooley (ex-Cambridge) and Rosie Scott (ex-Oxford), now both graduate students at City, were strong favourites at the start of the day and eased their way into the last four with a crushing quarter-final defeat of Oxford 3's Harriet Allan and Lucy Rands, who had performed well to qualify from their group. Oxford's second pair of Izzy Watts and Harriet Asquith were hoping to cause an upset in their quarter-final against King's College medical students Juliet Browning and Lucie Bishop, but despite a huge effort - and the bumps and bruises to prove it - they were unable to prevent the King's pair winning 12-5, 12-9.

The bottom half of the draw featured the third Oxford pair in the last eight and captains past and present Connie Mantle and Alice Walker won impressively 12-7, 12-7 against the potentially dangerous Durham pair of Lucy Bell and Sarah Frost, who went on to win the competition between the losing quarter-finalists. A quarter-final win had eluded the Bath men's pair but Emily Scoones and Hannah Blofield succeeded where they had failed as they won their match against the Old Westminster Cambridge 1 pair of Elana Osen and Olivia Prankerd-Smith 12-7, 12-9.

The semi-finals produced some interesting symmetry: firstly a London derby between City and King's, all four players post graduate students and each pair containing a former Cambridge and a former Oxford student, and secondly an all undergraduate match between two pairs each containing an Old Salopian and an Old Cholmeleian.

Juliet Browning won this tournament for London twelve months ago but this time round she and Lucie Bishop were unable to resist the Cooley/Scott onslaught, despite taking 8 points off them in the first game. The second semi was closer: Bath got off to a great start and won the first 12-4 but the Oxford pair didn't give up and roared back in the second to win by the same scoreline and level the match. The third game was a nailbiter but in the end it was the Bath pair of Scoones and Blofield who won 12-7 to go into the final.

As in the mens tournament, the ladies final was something of an anticlimax. Bath had had to work much harder to get to this stage and the experience and quality of Cooley and Scott were too much for the younger pair, who succumbed 12-1, 12-3, but who can be proud of their performances throughout the day.

The Plate produced some delightful matches and some very pleased winners, as Old Olavians Emma Double and Emily Thorne, representing York/Leicester, won all four of their matches to clinch the title ahead of another Salopian/Cholmeleian duo, Caz Rands and Alex Beever from Nottingham.

My thanks go to the Jesters, who generously sponsor this event and allow us to pay for travel costs of the participants, to Mike Hughes and Mark Willilams at Eton, to all of the spectators who came to watch (and go back into London to fetch the trophy - thanks Mrs Brock!), to EFA Chairman Peter Worth for presenting the trophies and to all those players who made the effort to travel to Eton for what was a terrific day's Fives and undoubtedly one of the highlights of the Fives calendar.


Mens Results

Quarter-Finals

Durham 1 (A.Joyce & H.Meakin) beat City University (P.Cohen & M.Winch) 2-1 (11-12, 12-10, 15-11)

York/Leeds (C.Brock & C.Hughes) beat Oxford Brookes (R.Salmon & T.Bozman) 2-1 (12-4, 6-12, 12-6)

Cambridge 2 (E.Winfield & G.Illingworth) beat Bath (T.Leech & T.Wordie) 2-1 (12-6, 10-12, 12-4)

Cambridge 1 (R.Griffiths & R.Wilson) beat Manchester 1 (J.Tse & R.Blackshaw) 2-0 (12-1, 12-1)

Semi-Finals

York/Leeds beat Durham 1 2-1 (4-12, 15-13, 14-13)

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

Final

Cambridge 1 beat York/Leeds 2-0 (4-2 ret)

Quarter-Finalists Plate

Bath beat Manchester 1 15-7

Plate A

Semi-Finals

Imperial 1 (A.Bhattacharya & A.Meredith) beat Exeter (B.Kelly & G.Fountaine) 15-9

QMUL (D.Leach & S.Williams) beat Cambridge 3 (A.Rattan & A.Crawford) 15-9

Final

QMUL beat Imperial 1 15-8

Plate B (Round Robin)

1. Cambridge 5 (S.Craigen & ?)

=2. Durham 2 (A.Kane & S.Burrows)

=2. Manchester 2 (T.Thakerar & K.Hird)

Plate C (Round Robin)

1. Imperial/UCL (A.Lang & G.Shillam)

2. Cambridge 6

3. Imperial 2 (C.Clarke & M.Palan)



Ladies Results

Quarter-Finals

City University (C.Cooley & R.Scott) beat Oxford 3 (L.Rands & H.Allan) 2-0 (12-0, 12-0)

King's College, London (L.Bishop & J.Browning) beat Oxford 2 (I.Watts & H.Asquith) 2-0 (12-5, 12-9)

Oxford 1 (C.Mantle & A.Walker) beat Durham (L.Bell & S.Frost) 2-0 (12-7, 12-7)

Bath (E.Scoones & H.Blofield) beat Cambridge 1 (E.Osen & O.Prankerd-Smith) 2-0 (12-7, 12-9)

Semi-Finals

City University beat King's College, London 2-0 (12-8, 12-2)

Bath beat Oxford 1 2-1 (12-4, 4-12, 12-7)

Final

City University beat Bath 2-0 (12-1, 12-3)

Quarter-Finalists Plate (Round Robin)

1. Durham

2. Cambridge 1

3. Oxford 3

Plate A (Round Robin)

1. York/Leicester (E.Double & E.Thorne)

2. Nottingham (C.Rands & A.Beever)

3. Cambridge 2 (A.O'Malley & M.Karbowska)

4. Cambridge/Durham (B.Tse & E.Ward)

5. Oxford 4 (G.Ford & S.Leonard)

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