2005 Varsity Match

Rodney Knight reports:

Blue was the colour.....including spectators

The Dunbar brothers again made the news in the Varsity Match held at Eton courtesy of the Provost and Fellows on a bitter February afternoon, the absence of one almost certainly losing the match for Oxford, the presence of the other ensuring that it was not a Cambridge whitewash!

Oxford were firm favourites to continue their run of victories in this long-running rivalry, but Kinnaird Cup and Northern Championship winner Tom Dunbar withdrew with a leg injury, leaving teeth-chattering spectators to enjoy a much more even Blues Match. The Penguins, presumably better equipped for the arctic conditions, made comparatively short work of the Peppers.

Peter Dunbar, the Oxford captain,was the best player in the first pair match and several times dominated play from the step with fine retrieval and accurate volleying.

Oxford claimed the first game 12-9, but the agility and determination of Dexter Davis and Peter Nichols forced enough errors from him and Tom Sinclair to take the second game after setting at 11 all. Winning the third more comfortably 12-6, it seemed that Dunbar would carry the rubber; but Cambridge dug deep and pulled the fourth back from 10-5 down to win it 15-12.

Alongside them a fine second pair match was producing close scores the other way round. Two ex-Highgate first pair players, Hedley Young for Oxford and Aly Patel for Cambridge battled it out for supremacy on the step, supported ably and sometimes vociferously by Simon Randall and Simon Purkis respectively. When Cambridge won the third 13-10 it looked as though this too would go the distance.

In third pair, Cambridge captain Nick Gill was playing with Patel�s Highgate partner James O'Callaghan against Oliver Butler and the experienced but erratic Sanjaya Ranasinghe. Too many errors by the Oxford pair allowed Cambridge to win the first two games comfortably; but Oxford produced much better form in the third and took it 14-13. This only inspired a firm reaction from Cambridge and they swept Oxford away in the fourth 12-3 to win the rubber.This left Oxford the obligation to win in both the other pairs to claim the match and the Pol Roger champagne and there were times when the increasingly frigid on lookers clustered round the first two courts did not know which way it would go. Second pair was the first to get a result when Cambridge tightened up their game, going out 12-6 winners in the fourth after an unfortunate fall by Young lost Oxford vital concentration.

This gave the Blues Match to Cambridge, but they did not have it all their own way. Dunbar and Sinclair steadied their game in the fifth despite stiff opposition and ran out winners at first pair 12-8.

The second team match provided the usual mixed quality of play but no lack of enthusiasm and commitment.

It was clear that the Cambridge pairs were better prepared for the encounter. They were more assertive with their volleys and made fewer errors. The first two pairs got off to a fast start winning 12-1 in each court. Cooley O and Chatterjee showed their experience of this fixture and kept their partners' focus on scoring when on the step, both Cambridge pairs winning in straight games. A good battle developed in the third pair where the sides were very even, Friedman and Pickard coming out winners in the fifth set by attrition.

Further gall was added to the Oxford cup when the accomplished Charlotta Cooley, the first lady to appear in any Varsity encounter, and her steady partner Ed Paul defeated the second Pepper pairing who gamely substituted for the missing fourth Oxford pair and lost for the second time!

Mark Williams, Eton and Pol Roger were then the heroes of the next four hours in Beckynton. The champagne flowed, an excellent dinner was served to the teams, the EFA Board members present and guests miraculously transformed from frozen statues into glamorous partners of the Light Blues. The captains were almost generous to each other and expressed gratitude to Mark Williams and Pol Roger (in the hobbling guise of Tom Dunbar) for providing what has to be the best after-match treat fives players will ever enjoy!

There then followed the customary deterioration in the proceedings featuring drinking challenges, hilarity and the appearence of prone figures in the Common Room lavatory!

But nothing could detract from the huge enjoyment of the occasion for all concerned and the evidence of an enthusiastic and competent following for the game in these two colleges of further education!

Results:

Cambridge beat Oxford 2-1

D S Davis (Highgate and St Catharine's) & P W C Nichols (Shrewsbury and Emmanuel) lost to P R Dunbar (Harrow and Balliol) & T Sinclair (Eton and St Catherine's) 9-12, 12-11, 6-12, 15-12, 8-12

A Patel (Highate and Trinity) & S F G Purkis (King Edward's and Churchill) beat H Young (Highgate and Worcester) & S A Randall (Eton and Trinity) 13-10, 8-12, 13-12, 12-6

N J T Gill (City of London and Magdalene) & J P O'Callaghan (Highgate and Christ's) beat O Butler (Westminster and Balliol) & S T P Ranasinghe (St Olave's and St John's) 12-4, 12-6, 13-14, 12-3

Cambridge Penguins beat Oxford Peppers 3-0

O J N Cooley (St Olave's and Trinity) & J A A Potts (Highgate and Emmanuel) beat C A M Mackenzie (Westminster and Trinity) & H P Tobias (Wellington and Brookes) 12-1, 12-6, 12-7

R A Chatterjee (City of London and Magdalene) & P E Jefferys (Berkhamsted and Trinity) beat J Howsley (Ipswich and University) & A J Bowditch (Ipswich and St John's) 12-1, 12-3, 12-6

R Friedman (City of London and Emmanuel) & E J Pickard (Repton and Fitzwilliam) beat J R Owen (Highgate and St John's) & D B Y Bloor-Young (Highgate and Merton) 12-4, 12-9, 8-12, 12-13, 12-5

Due to withdrawls and injury in the Oxford team a planned seventh pair match did not take place. However the Oxford Peppers second pair sportingly played the Cambridge Penguins fourth pair losing to Miss C E M C Cooley (St Olave's and Girton) & E C Paul (Lancing and Trinity) 12-5, 12-14, 10-12

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