2011 Varsity Match: Cambridge edge historic contest

Rodney Knight reports:

In fine but cold weather, the newly refurbished Eton College courts welcomed this historic Varsity Match first, courtesy of the Provost and Fellows; and the occasion did not disappoint. Not just two men’s teams as has been the tradition now for 50 years, but for the frist time ever, two full teams of ladies contested the highly-prized result.

With twelve pairs to watch, no commentator could do justice to all the rubbers in a report, but the result of the men’s Blues match was not decided until 7.00pm when the second pair finally finished their game, which had gone right down to the wire!

Men’s Blues

The first pair match looked closer than the score indicated and was a high quality rubber. Oxford cut and returned well but Rex Worth’s lack of practice began to show in unforced errors in each game, allowing the more consistent Cambridge pair to break through and win each time. Fine play on the step by the Cambridge captain Laurie Brock and excellent retrieval by Tim Fletcher piled the pressure on Oxford and despite solid support from Fritz von Guionneau, they could not find a way back and Cambridge ran out winners 12-7 12-7 12-4.

The Oxford captain James Hopton and fellow Old Etonian Fred Burgess started really well in the third pair and despite a good fight-back in the second game by Ed Winfield and George Illingworth, they too kept up the pressure and won in three 12-0 13-12 12-2, playing a tighter game than the Cambridge pairing were able to contest.

So, as in previous years, the result came down to the second pair rubber and this was decidedly one of the longest and most intriguing contests ever recorded in this competition. Over 31/2 hours there was hardly any thing to separate the pairs. The cutting remained hard and effective throughout, backcourt play was seldom decisive , so advantage turned on cut return and attrition. With neither pair willing to succumb to pressure, the score progressed to setting in all the last three games. Even towards the end a run of errors by either side was not allowed to be terminal and at 11 all in the fifth, with tiredness and cramp affecting some key points, either side could have won the Varsity Match. As it turned out Kailey and Greene for Oxford did not convert their final game ball and Griffiths and Jackson did, thus deciding the rubber and the match for Cambridge 12-7 8-12 14-13 10-12 14-13. Watchers could only exhale with relief that their agony was over and drown their sorrow or joy in Pol Roger’s champagne.

Ladies’ Blues

Much excitement and anticipation attended the match which promised to be a close encounter. Hannah Cutmore-Scott and Connie Mantle lost narrowly last year to the Cambridge first pair and form suggested they would clinch a victory this time against Cambridge captain Elli Hullis and an earlier captain Annabel Griffiths. To our surprise however, it was the Cambridge pair who took the initiative and forced the errors from Oxford taking the first two games 12-6 and 12-5. The third game was going the same way when Oxford made a late advance to 10; but the Cambridge ladies did not let up and they ran out winners 12-10. The much improved Elli Hullis was well supported by her close relation Annabel and the trouble the pair had gone to in training really paid off in this fine victory.

Meanwhile in the second court Watts and Walker for Oxford proved too strong for Prankerd Smith and Loh, who put up good opposition in the first game but lost the next two and the rubber 9-12 2-12 5-12.

A closer match in the deciding third pair opposed two Westminster girls and two from schools without courts, demonstrating again the determination by both clubs to find and train willing freshers and bring them into contention. Osen and Greasley for Cambridge started strongly, Asquith and Allan improving as the rubber went on to make a good match of it. But the tighter game of the Cambridge pair pulled them through an exciting second game and they clinched the third to win the rubber and the Ladies match 12-5 15-12 12-7.

Penguins v Peppers

In a rather one-sided match Oxford Peppers defeated Cambridge Penguins without conceding a game. Only in the first pair did Patel and Luke make a good contest of the rubber but Luke and Collings kept up the pressure with their cutting and won in three games 12-10 12-8 12-8.

Batting and Slater were too strong for the less experienced Patel and Wessely and Mostafavi and McLean conceded only 15 points in three games to Crawford and Gribble. It was good however to see again players from schools not renowned for their fives contesting at this level.

Kestrels v Oxford 2

A closer result was produced in the Ladies Second Team match, the first time this match has been played. Somehow, with their single court, Cambridge managed to produce competent players from four schools without eton fives courts and Oxford did the same albeit having access to rather more courts. In this keenly contested match the Cambridge first pair MacDougal and Toynton did win in three games 12-10 12-2 12-2. Oxford’s O’Malley and Parry –Jones however defeated Cowen and Gorenflos in four 12-6 13-12 7-12 12-8 and Jago and Ke needed the full five to overcome Millar and Cornish to decide the match in favour of Cambridge.

In the pleasant atmosphere of the masters Common Room, we all toasted the sponsors at their champagne Reception and our host Mark Williams paid a tribute to Michael Constantinidi who was present for the last time as OUEFC president. An excellent dinner followed, enhanced by the presence of so many well dressed ladies and some distinguished guests!

The captains paid tributes to their teams, the support of EFA Secretary Gareth Hoskins and other coaches and hailed the result of the men’s Blues Match as the closest on record and the number of participating ladies as a revelation. All thanked Mark Williams for his sponsorship of the enlarged event on behalf of Eton College and for a memorable evening.

Cambridge names first.

Blues Match: Cambridge won 2-1

T.Fletcher (Ipswich & Downing) & L.Brock (Westminster & Girton) beat R.Worth (Shrewsbury & Lady Margaret Hall) & F.von Guionneau (Eton & St.Hilda’s) 3-0 (12-7, 12-7, 12-4)

R.Griffiths (Shrewsbury & Trinity Hall) & A.Jackson (Westminster & Jesus) beat B.Kailey (St.Olave’s & Brasenose) & T.Greene (Highgate & Worcester) 3-2 (12-7, 8-12, 14-13, 10-12, 14-13)

E.Winfield (Mill Hill & Peterhouse) & G.Illingworth (Westminster & Queens) lost to J.Hopton (Eton & Lady Margaret Hall) & F.Burgess (Eton & Trinity) 0-3 (0-12, 12-13, 2-12)

Penguins vs Peppers: Oxford won 3-0

S.Patel (Westminster & Caius ) & S.Sakhrani (Westminster & Jesus) lost to R.Luke (Harrow & Oriel) & F.Collings (Shrewsbury & St.Edmund Hall) 0-3 (10-12, 8-12, 8-12)

A.Patel (QE Barnet & Fitzwilliam) & A.Wessely (Westminster & Girton) lost to J.Batting (Harrow & Exeter) & B.Slater (Eton & Hertford) 0-3 (2-12, 8-12, 5-12)

A.Crawford (Reading & Caius) & L.Gribble (St.Bees & Trinity ) lost to M.Mostafavi (Westminster & Christchurch) & J.McLean (Lancing & Oxford Brookes) 0-3 (6-12, 6-12, 3-12)

Ladies Match: Cambridge won 2-1

A.Griffiths (Ipswich & Caius) & E.Hullis (Ipswich & Caius) beat H.Cutmore-Scott (Westminster & Christ Church) & C.Mantle (Highgate & Exeter) 3-0 (12-6, 12-5, 12-10)

O.Prankerd-Smith (Westminster & Peterhouse) & N.Loh (Westminster & Girton) lost to I.Watts (Woodbridge & Keble) & A.Walker (Shrewsbury & LMH) 0-3 (9-12, 2-12, 5-12)

E.Osen (Westminster & Magdalene) & S.Greasley (Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar & Magdalene) beat H.Asquith (Wycombe Abbey & Corpus Christi) & H.Allan (Westminster & Queen’s) 3-0 (12-6, 15-11, 12-6)

Ladies Second Team Match: Cambridge won 2-1

V.MacDougall (Westminster & Jesus) & J.Toynton (Canford & Caius) beat G.Ford (Westminster & Keble) & J.Mason (Tiffin Girls’ & Exeter) 3-0 (12-10, 12-2, 12-2)

A.O’Malley (St.Olave’s & Caius) & S.Parry-Jones (Ysgol Glan Y Mor & Magdalene) lost to S.Cowen (St.Mary’s, Shaftesbury & Exeter) & A.Gorenflos (Oxford High School & Exeter) 1-3 (12-7, 12-13, 7-12, 8-12)

C.Jago (Torquay Grammar School for Girls & Magdalene) & J.Ke (St.Paul’s Girls’ & Caius) beat K.Millar (Marlborough & LMH) & E.Cornish (Benenden & Christ Church) 3-2 (12-8, 6-12, 8-12, 12-10, 13-11)

Alumni Match: Cambridge 3½-3½ Oxford

A.Varma & N.Gill lost to J.Toop & N.Cox 1-3 (7-12, 6-12, 14-11, 3-12)

H.de Quetteville & G.Hoskins beat S.Ranasinghe & A.Erskine 3-1 (12-0, 10-12, 12-3, 12-4)

J.Asquith & A.Knight drew with A.Husselbee & M.Platt 2-2 (5-12, 5-12, 12-9, 12-9)

T.Fletcher & I.Mitchell beat D.Bloor-Young & H.Tobias 3-0 (14-12, 12-9, 12-5)

S.Woolfries & O.Watts beat F.Krespi & H.Mostyn 3-0 (12-3, 12-8, 12-7)

R.Morgan & C.Cooley lost to A.Mitchell & W.Howard 0-3 (6-12, 6-12, 10-12)

K.Hird & N.Lilienthal lost to H.Pattenden & S.Nowinski 2-3 (7-12, 12-9, 12-7, 14-15, 12-14)

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