U12 Qualifiers Through To The Main Competition
Mark Williams reports:
07/03/19: 43 pairs from 10 schools entered this inaugural Under 12 qualifying competition at the National Schools' Championships in association with Advanta Wealth.
The overall entry for the Under 12 competition has been extremely high over the past few years, and so it was agreed this year to run a qualifying competition to a conclusion for the less strong pairs, with the eight quarter-finalists invited to take part in the Main competition on Monday 18th March.
We currently have a total of 68 pairs for both competitions, which is significantly smaller than in the recent past, mainly due to the absence of four or so schools who have normally taken part with large numbers. Schools decided for themselves how to divide up their pairs between the two competitions, and mostly got it right, after some last minute shuffling by the organiser. However, it has proved a successful experiment, with all commenting on how much more relaxed the competition was with these numbers.
There were eight pools with five or six pairs, with the first four pairs qualifying for the 2nd round, where each match was was Pool 1st v 4th or Pool 2nd v 3rd. Most of the matches were one-sided, but there were three instances of Pool 3rd defeating 2nd: Cranleigh Prep 2, Ipswich 4 and Berkhamsted 3 being the victors. The 3rd round (last 16, best of three with a shortened 3rd game) produced six comfortable 2-0 victories, but there were impressive comebacks for Berkhamsted 2 and Ipswich 3 after conceding the first game, against Ipswich 2 and Belmont 1 respectively. Berkhamsted showed their strength in depth by getting six of their seven pairs to this round.
In the quarter-finals (best of 3 with a shortened 3rd game) there were easy wins for Cranleigh Prep 1 and Berkhamsted 1, but Berkhamsted 2 narrowly defeated Cranleigh 2 in two games, whilst Ipswich 3 again conceded the first game (to a talented St Bartholomew's 1 3-12 this time) , before turning the tables in the second game and winning the tie-break third 6-3. Both semi-finals (best of 3 games) saw one-sided victories for Cranleigh Prep 1 and Berkhamsted 1 against Ipswich 3 and Berkhamsted 2 respectively.
The final (best of 3 games) was an excellent match between four very talented games players and was played in a competitive, but entirely fair, spirit. Berkhamsted were more accurate in their approach play and top step manoeuvring when they had the chance, but Cranleigh cut excellently throughout, and played naturally aggressive fives at high pace. The rallies in both games were even, but Cranleigh had the edge on the set piece, and this proved decisive in both games. The result was a triumph for Mark Halstead, Cranleigh's long-serving fives coach; it was Cranleigh's first success in any boys' competition and richly deserved.
It has to be said though that the two finalists dropped just 16 points in eight matches in reaching the final, and were much too strong for all of the other pairs: no matter, we will have a clearer idea of where to draw the line next year, and overall the experience was a very positive one. This is clearly a model to be explored and extended to other competitions in the future, in the event of entry levels continuing to rise.
My particular thanks to Barnaby Harrison (OE and current Oxford player) for his help in administering the Pools stage whilst I was teaching and then running Plate A; he was extremely efficient and personable with players and coaches alike.
Cranleigh Prep 1 beat Highgate 1 2-0 (12-1, 12-1)
Ipswich 3 beat St.Bartholomew's 1 2-1 (3-12, 12-7, 6-3)
Berkhamsted 2 beat Cranleigh Prep 2 2-0 (12-8, 12-10)
Berkhamsted 1 beat Berkhamsted 3 2-0 (12-1, 12-2)
Cranleigh Prep 1 (J.Marriott & H.Prior) beat Ipswich 3 (O.Free & R.Catchpole) 2-0 (12-1, 12-1)
Berkhamsted 1 (O.Smith & F.Webster) beat Berkhamsted 2 (D.Lynch & L.Kempe) 2-0 (12-1, 12-6)
Cranleigh Prep 1 beat Berkhamsted 1 2-0 (12-4, 12-6)
Emanuel 2 beat Rydal Penrhos 2
Highgate 7 beat Rydal Penrhos 3
Ipswich 2 beat Berkhamsted 4
Highgate 1 beat Cranleigh Prep 2