2012 Jesters Universities Tournament: Blue is the Colour

The 2012 Jesters University Tournament took place at Eton on Saturday with a total of 28 pairs taking part representing 17 different Universities - Oxford, Cambridge, Oxford Brookes, Imperial, UCL, King's, Queen Mary London, Bristol, York, Warwick, Manchester, Exeter, Surrey, Sussex, Kent, City and Nottingham Trent (Kaplan Law School).

The Men's title was won for the seventh consecutive year by Cambridge, whose first pair Robert Wilson and Jamie Abbott beat Oxford's Alex Poole and Fergus Imrie in the final. The Dark Blues gained revenge in the Ladies final, which saw Connie Mantle and Izzy Watts defeating Cambridge pair Elana Osen and Olivia Prankerd-Smith to take the title back to Oxford for the first time since 2008.

The morning's Fives saw four large groups in the men's tournament playing a series of fast and furious games to produce two qualifiers from each group for the quarter-finals. There was a close finish in Group C, where the York pair came through two tight games against Imperial 1 and Cambridge 3 to top the group, with Cambridge's third pair of Andrew Crawford and Jack Weller unlucky to miss out on qualification. Group D also turned into a threeway battle at the top with Cambridge 2 (Alex Rattan and Shaneil Patel) losing 11-12 to Kaplan and winning 12-10 against QM to edge out the London pair.

Cambridge 2's second place in that group meant that they had to face tournament favourites Cambridge 1 in the quarter-final and the Fenland derby was won comfortably by Robert Wilson and freshman Jamie Abbott. The other match in the top half of the draw pitted two more freshers - Oxford 1's Salopians Jack Flowers and Tom Elliott - against the Imperial 1 pairing of Old Aldenhamian Darshan Patel and experienced Old Cholmeleian Abhishek Bhattacharya and it was Abhishek's steadiness and experience that won the day to send the London pair into the semis.

In the bottom half of the draw York - Old Westminster Callum Brock and Old Etonian Tom Witherow - continued their good form to defeat Exeter's Olavian/Harrovian combination of Harry Ravi and Steve Kirby. A Brock family battle in the semi-finals looked on the cards for a while as Kaplan Law School (Old Westminsters Laurie Brock and Ed Miles) inched ahead of Oxford 2 (OUEFC captain Fergus Imrie and Alex Poole from Brookes). In the end, though, the Oxford pair just pinched it 15-14 to make it into the last four.

Cambridge 1 continued their ominous form in the semi-finals as they made short work of Imperial 1, before settling down to watch the match of the day in the other semi-final. York got off to a strong start, winning the first game 12-7, but Tom Witherow's early start to travel down from Yorkshire began to show as he started to tire and Fergus and Alex sensed their opportunity. With Alex cutting fiercely and Fergus playing a solid game in support, Oxford took the crucial second game 13-11 and then went on to win the third 12-6 as Tom and Callum ran out of steam.

Epic victories in both the semis and quarters had taken their toll on the Oxford pair, however, and they struggled to compete with the Cambridge pair in the final. Alex and Fergus certainly battled hard and gave Robert and Jamie their hardest game of the day, but in the end it was the Light Blue pair who eased out to a comfortable 12-6, 12-6 win to take the title.

Meanwhile, the rest of the field were involved in a series of exciting and hard-fought plate competitions. The losing quarter-finalists plate was won by Exeter who beat Cambridge 2 15-14 in a thrilling match to claim 5th place overall. Plate A, for the teams who didn't finish in the top two in their morning groups, produced some cracking matches, with Queen Mary's (Old Westminsters Sam Williams and Adam Robinow) edging out Imperial/UCL (Olavian Vinay Rao and Etonian James Tugwell) 12-9 in the final. Plate B was for those who lost in the first round of Plate A and was won by the hastily assembled last minute pairing of Cholmeleian Rory Blackshaw and Ipswichian Dmitri Seymour-Howell, representing Manchester/Warwick, who got the better of Cambridge 5 (beginners Chris Meiring and John Crawford). Plate C for those who lost in the first round of Plate B was won by Imperial 2 (George Shillam and Eliot Banks) against Bristol/Imperial (Piers Stennett-Howard and Penn Chai). The plate for those who lost in the quarter-finals of Plate A was won by Exeter 2 (Etonian Barnaby Kelly and Berkhamstedian Guy Fountaine) who beat Kent (Carthusian Marcus Marsh and Ipswichian Shyam Thobhani).

The Ladies tournament was rather affected by late withdrawals this year, producing a smaller than usual field of seven pairs. The quality of the competition was high, however, with pairs from Oxford, Cambridge, City and London all eying up the trophy.

The morning group stages saw the four seeded pairs progress to the semi-finals, although Oxford 2 (Harriet Allan and Harriet Asquith) and Oxford 3 (Lucy Rands and Scarlett Maguire) both made life difficult for the higher ranked pairs. They met later on in the Plate final, with the Harriets coming out on top. It was great to see Scarlett returning to the sport; a schools' open finalist for Lancing as an U15 back in 2008, Scarlett moved away from Lancing in the sixth form only to return to Fives this autumn as a fresher at Oxford and will undoubtedly improve fast as she reacquaints herself with the game.

The first semi-final saw Oxford 1 (Connie Mantle and Izzy Watts) in dominant form as they easily beat the London pairing of Lucie Bishop (King's) and Sarah Greasley (Imperial) 12-1, 12-2. The other semi-final was much closer with double former champion Rosie Scott partering Old Ipswichian fresher Stephanie Smith for City University against the top Cambridge pair of Elana Osen and Olivia Prankerd-Smith. The smart pre-match money was on the City pair, but you should never underestimate the benefits of playing regularly and more importantly playing regularly together as a pair. Elana and Olivia produced one of the best performances of their time at Cambridge to win 12-5, 12-8 and set up an all-Varsity final.

Connie and Izzy were heavy favourites going in to the final and got off to a fine start, winning the first game 12-1 in no time at all. Elana and Olivia dug in impressively, however, and the second game was a lot closer, but the Oxford pair were too strong in the end and closed the match out 12-8 to claim the trophy for Oxford for the first time since Rosie Scott and Juliet Browning's win back in 2008.

My thanks go to all those who played, to Mark Williams and Mike Hughes at Eton, to Lindsey Brock for her taxi-driving, to Fergus Imrie, Izzy Watts, Marta Karbowska, Shaneil Patel and Abhishek Bhattacharya for their organisational skills and most of all to the Jesters who sponsor this tournament so generously and allow the EFA to pay for everyone's travel expenses on the day.

Men's Tournament

Quarter-Finals

Cambridge 1 (R.Wilson & J.Abbott) beat Cambridge 2 (S.Patel & A.Rattan) 15-3

Imperial 1 (A.Bhattacharya & D.Patel) beat Oxford 1 (J.Flowers & T.Elliot) 15-10

Oxford 2 (A.Poole & F.Imrie) beat Kaplan Law School (L.Brock & E.Miles) 15-14

York (C.Brock & T.Witherow) beat Exeter 1 (H.Ravi & S.Kirby) 15-5

Semi-Finals

Cambridge 1 beat Imperial 1 2-0 (12-3, 12-0)

Oxford 2 beat York 2-1 (7-12, 13-11, 12-6)

Final

Cambridge 1 beat Oxford 2 2-0 (12-6, 12-6)

Plate A

Quarter-Finals

Queen Mary, London (S.Williams & A.Robinow) beat Cambridge 4 (G.Ilingworth & C.Moore) 12-3

Imperial 3 (Aroop Bhattacharya & K.Rajan) beat Surrey/Sussex (J.Rumble & E.Phillips) 12-9

Cambridge 3 (A.Crawford & J.Weller) beat Kent (S.Thobhani & M.Marsh) 12-3

Imperial/UCL (V.Rao & J.Tugwell) beat Exeter 2 (B.Kelly & G.Fountaine) 12-5

Semi-Finals

QM beat Imperial 3 12-7

Imperial/UCL beat Cambridge 3 12-9

Final

QM beat Imperial/UCL 12-9

Quarter-Finalists Plate Final

Cambridge 2 beat Exeter 1 15-14

Plate A Quarter-Finalists Plate Final

Exeter 2 beat Kent 12-1

Plate B Final

Manchester/Warwick (R.Blackshaw & D.Seymour-Howell) beat Cambridge 5 (J.Crawford & C.Meiring) 12-5

Plate C Final

Imperial 2 (G.Shillam & E.Banks) beat Bristol/Imperial (P.Stennett-Howard & P.Chai) 12-8


Ladies Tournament

Semi-Finals

Oxford 1 (C.Mantle & I.Watts) beat London (S.Greasley & L.Bishop) 2-0 (12-1, 12-2)

Cambridge 1 (E.Osen & O.Prankerd-Smith) beat City (R.Scott & S.Smith) 2-0 (12-5, 12-8)

Final

Oxford 1 beat Cambridge 1 2-0 (12-1, 12-8)

Plate Final

Oxford 2 (H.Allan & H.Asquith) beat Oxford 3 (L.Rands & S.Maguire) 2-0 (12-5, 12-5)

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