Welsh Tournament 2015: A Sissons Clean Sweep
22/09/15: The third annual Welsh Tournament was played at Rydal Penrhos School in Colwyn Bay at the weekend, with the usual mixture of school pupils, staff, current and former gap year coaches and guests taking part in a highly enjoyable weekend of Fives, which once again demonstrated just how far Fives has come at the school in the last five years since the game was re-established there under the guidance of Mike Leach.
Expertly organised by Paul Bowden, the tournament was a weekend of two halves; Saturday's play consisted of one single competition, with timed matches between constantly changing pairings, each time putting a more experienced player with a less experienced one up against a similar combination. At the end of proceedings the two best-scoring senior pupils were paired with the two best-scoring juniors to produce a final. As has already become traditional in this event, U15 Will Sissons - already an U13 winner and U14 runner-up at the national schools' championships - dominated proceedings, teaming up with Max Robinson to beat Matty Fiorita and Zak Speakman convincingly in the final. It was particularly pleasing to see some of the girls taking part this year and making a good impression - hopefully we'll see more and more girls' pairs coming through from Rydal in future years.
Sunday's play ran along similar lines, but with the senior pupils and guests in one tournament and the juniors in a separate competition, masterminded by Mike Leach. The guest adult players - Seb Cooley, Gareth Hoskins, Mark Yates, Aroop Bhattacharya (in fine form after a comparatively early night on the Saturday, in bed by 3am this year), Isaac Wagland, Sarah Frost and Karen Hird were all highly impressed by the standard of the school players and there were some excellent matches in the senior tournament. At the end of the group stage, the highest scoring four from each section were paired up to produce a semi-final draw. The first semi-final was won by Mark Yates and youngster Richard Sabisky, at school locally but who has learned his Fives at Westway in London, who overcame the challenge of Seb Cooley and Michael Thomas. There may or may not be some truth in the theory that Seb's relatively poor performance was linked to his failure to maintain his traditional pudding eating standards at the previous evening's dinner. Will Sissons was again to the fore in the other semi-final, partnering Sarah Frost to an 11-5 lead over Karen Hird and Raffa Mortuza before Raffa suddenly hit a hot streak returning cut; Will and Sarah quickly saw their lead disappear and a fine comeback win looked on the cards as Raffa and Karen levelled at 11-11 before Will and Sarah held their nerve to clinch the final point and make it into the final.
The finals of the senior and junior tournaments were played simultaneously in front of a good crowd of players, parents and other spectators, who were treated to a fine exhibition of Fives. In the senior final, Will and Sarah managed to avoid a repeat of their semi-final near disaster and kept Mark and Richard at arm's length throughout to win 12-6, allowing Will to complete a fine weekend double. He really is a highly talented player, standing out even among the many good players at Rydal, and is definitely one to watch. The junior final was just as entertaining with the younger players showing just how much they had improved over the course of the weekend and it was deservedly won by Iestyn Williams and Ben Purcell.
It is great to see Fives flourishing in one of its more remote geographical outposts and Rydal's success in having lots of pupils playing and to such a high standard is testament to the dedication and enthusiasm of master in charge Mike Leach and the succession of gap year coaches who have made Fives a major part of the school's sporting provision. Here's hoping that this carries on for years to come and that this tournament continues to flourish.
Will Sissons & Max Robinson beat Matty Fiorita & Zak Speakman 12-2
Sarah Frost & Will Sissons beat Karen Hird & Raffa Mortuza 12 -11
Mark Yates & Richard Sabisky beat Seb Cooley & Michael Thomas 12 - 9
Sarah Frost & Will Sissons beat Mark Yates & Richard Sabisky 12 - 6
Iestyn Williams & Ben Purcell beat Luke Davies & Anthony Bowe 12 - 5