Scholars & Rogues 2019

Anthony Theodossi reports:

04/09/18: The annual Scholars & Rogues tournament, now in its 14th year, took place on Wednesday 26th June at Berkhamsted School on the Castle courts. We had our highest entry ever with 40 pairs taking part with representation from the Sixth, Boys, Girls and Prep Schools.

There was a brief discussion in the days before about whether to split the competition between the Castle and Prep courts, but it was decided to keep all the competitors in the one location to add to the atmosphere of the event. With only 6 courts to work with this did prove a bit of a logistical nightmare! In the end we opted for eight pools of five pairs meaning everyone had at least four matches; games were timed at five minutes with three points for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss. We managed to start quite promptly (for a change!) which helped the tournament flow with 14 rounds to get through. The top two pairs from each group would progress through to the Last 16 stage. In between matches players indulged in the ever-popular Aramark BBQ, though there were others who decided to scope out their opposition on court and find any weaknesses they might be able to exploit. What was particularly noticeable about this years’ competition was the extremely high standard throughout; when I first received the entries, it was extremely hard to seed out the competitors and sure enough many of the groups (and later stages) did not go at all the way I expected. A real credit to the work coming through from the Prep regarding the time and attention put into developing these young players early on.

Of the eight pools only three went the way of the seeding! These were in the form of Pools A, D and E which saw Pritchard & Boylan [U14 Nationals Semi-Finalist 2019], Cresswell & Miles [U15 Girls Nationals Winner 2019] and Vila & Spooner [U12 Elite Nationals Winner 2019] take the 1st place slots while Eaton & Matthews [U14 Nationals Girls Winner 2018], Mackay & Smith [U12 Qualifier Nationals Finalist 2019] and Cooper & Lynch all took the 2nd place positions. Vila & Spooner’s pool was particularly tight however that saw a three-way tie between them, Foster & Montero and Cooper & Lynch; in the end Foster & Montero just lost out on points difference. Pool B was also close with two times Scholars & Rogues veteran Pett & Sammars starting the day less favourably losing their first match; they then bounced back however to win two and draw one meaning they just pipped Director of Sport Gibson & Doyle into 2nd place by a point. Evers & Heginbottom took the 1st place spot reasonably comfortably. Pool C was also a very interesting affair; top seeds Cutler & Matthews [U14 Nationals Semi-Finalist 2019, Prep Championships Finalist 2018, U12 Nationals Finalists 2017] lost their first match to a strong looking McWalter & Wingfield (U13 Girls Nationals Semi-Finalist 2019, U13 Girls Nationals Finalists 2018] pushing them into 2nd place; McWalter & Wingfield then went on a winning spree drawing in one of their matches with Riley & Baker but still allowing them to claim the 1st place position. Pool E saw a reverse in the seeding positions with Principal Backhouse & Senior just beating Head of Wolstenholme House Pengelly & Nicholls in a tight game 2 – 3. Pool G was won reasonably comfortably by the top seeding in that group of Sutton & Kaynama [Prep Championships Winner 2019, U12 Nationals Winner 2018, U11 Nationals Winner 2017] but the battle for 2nd place position was very tight; veteran S&R player Redman & Khare did battle with first timer Gillam & Head. Their match ended in a 2 – 2 draw and with both players ending on equal points it came down to points difference; Redman & Khare just manged to edge them out to claim that important 2nd place position, a good first outing for young Gillam however. Pool H saw the biggest upset with neither of the two seeded pairs progressing out of their pool; 1st place slot was won by the wily pro player Campbell & Mackay after beating top seeds of the group Simons & Baines [Prep Championships Winner 2019, U12 Nationals Winner 2018, U11 Nationals Winner 2017]. The big surprise came from Pugh & Butler causing quite a stir first drawing with Simons & Baines and then again with Campbell & Mackay before winning their next two matches allowing them to just nick the 2nd place spot, good from Pugh to represent the Prep and getting through and out of the group stages!

After about 70 minutes of play and the riff separated from the raff, we had our Last 16 combatants. The games were again kept to quick five minute matches though from this stage on any game that ended on equal scores when the whistle went meant it was a sudden death situation with next point winning. Only three of the eight Last 16 matches saw convincing wins with the others all being very tight games (and again even the convincing wins saw some extremely high level Fives played); the 4th & 5th seeds match was a cracker which saw the 5th seeding of Cresswell & Miles just edge out 4th seeds Cutler & James 3 – 2. The unseeded paring of McWalter & Wingfield was also very close with Tilman Head of House Mackay ably supported by his young Tilman assistant Smith, just knock them out the competition with a 4 – 3 win. The Backhouse & Senior v Cooper & Lynch match was also very close with both teams struggling to even get on the scoreboard for the first few of minutes of the match; it wasn’t until right at the end that both sides got a point each before Cooper & Lynch managed to sneak in a final point to progress through to the quarter-finals with a 2 – 1 win.

Last 16

Pritchard & Boylan beat Pett & Sammars 7 – 2

Evers & Heginbottom beat Eaton & Matthews 3 – 0

Mackay & Smith beat McWalter & Wingfield 4 – 3

Cresswell & Miles beat Cutler & James 3 – 2

Vila & Spooner beat Pengelly & Nicholls 8 – 0

Cooper & Lynch beat Backhouse & Senior 2 – 1

Sutton & Kaynama beat Pugh & Butler 6 – 0

Campbell & Mackay beat Redman & Khare 2 – 1

We then moved into the quarter-final stages, again these would be quick fire matches but with the time upped to eight minutes. All of these games were very close with some really high quality Fives being played throughout both from the boys and girls and the staff. It was noted that of the eight quarter-finalist staff only one of them was a non-PE member of staff, however, it was also commented that at least they are representing that they are good at their jobs! All the matches only had a point or two in difference for their final scores, the exception being Vila & Spooner in a re-match game from their group stage with Cooper & Lynch who took the win 9 – 3. Sutton & Kaynama had a scare against Campbell & Mackay being 2 – 4 down with not much time to go before pulling it back to sneak the win 5 – 4, it certainly did seem that young Kaynama wanted to try and test himself and go toe-to-toe with pro player Campbell on the top-step which almost cost him the game……… Mackay & Smith continued their good run with an impressive win over Cresswell & Miles, some heavy hitting deep back court shots from Smith allowed them to notch up a few early points, and despite a valiant fight back from Cresswell & Miles it was too little too late putting them out the competition. The biggest upset came in the form of the Pritchard & Boylan v Evers & Heginbottom match-up; a S&R veteran it had been many years since Evers had progressed anywhere beyond this stage of the competition. His partner Heginbottom also played like a demon against fellow year 9 team mate Boylan and it was their consistency in both rally and set-piece play that allowed them to keep the score close and eventually edge out the top seeds in a fantastic 3 – 2 win.

Quarter-Finals

Evers & Heginbottom beat Pritchard & Boylan 3 – 2

Mackay & Smith beat Cresswell & Miles 5 – 3

Vila & Spooner beat Cooper & Lynch 9 – 3

Sutton & Kaynama beat Campbell & Mackay 5 – 4

And so onto the semi-finals! The time was again upped slightly to ten minutes and it was wonderful to see two surprise pairings make it this far in the form of Evers & Heginbottom (noted as the Dark Horses of the competition) and Mackay & Smith, and impressive round to reach for a Y7 particularly one who only took up the game this year. The Evers & Heginbottom v Mackay & Smith match was a real thriller with the two old guard of the PE department doing battle but with their young partners also playing full roles throughout the match. Mackay & Smith played quite the ‘power’ game with some strong cutting and deep back court shots from both players expertly aimed into the back corners of the court, it was here however that both Evers & Heginbottom shone managing to retrieve a high percentage of these keeping them in the rallies and waiting for their opposition to mess up as opposed to forcing the point. Nevertheless both sides played to their full potential with neither pair being ahead for very long before it saw a change. As we moved into the final minute of the game a key rally ensured which saw young Smith knock a ball out of play by inches which could have been a winner but instead allowed Evers & Heginbottom to get into the serving position and claim a final point before the whistle went allowing them to take the win 5 – 4 in a hard fought match. The other semi-final was also an also an absolute diamond of a game! Two times S&R winner Vila was looking to have his name engraved again on the illustrious ‘Dossi Dish’ to put himself out in front having only been one of two people to have ever won it twice so far, while ‘New Kid on the Block’ Sutton was looking to cause an upset. The quality of Fives throughout the match was extremely high with neither side having the lead for long; at first Sutton seemed to struggle with the ‘southpaw’ Vila not being used to the devastating left hand shots and angles Vila could play. Once he had worked it out though he found himself deeper and deeper off the back of the court to retrieve the deep driven back court shots while also blocking on his own left hand many of the incoming shots into the buttress. One of the highlights of the match however was the little battles between young Kaynama and Spooner; there really wasn’t much in it between them with both sharing the spoils of wins and points on top-step with some very tight play and fantastic retrieval of balls off the buttress that looked as though they had died. When the whistle went the game was poised at 7 – 7 and so it came down to the dreaded sudden death scenario of next point wins. With Sutton & Kaynama up to serve they were in the driving seat and they just managed to hold their nerve to take the win there and then 8 – 7.

Semi-Finals

Evers & Heginbottom beat Mackay & Smith 5 – 4

Sutton & Kaynama beat Vila & Spooner 8 – 7

We had now had about two hours of play and had finally whittled it down to the remaining two pairs who would play a ten minute match. It was great to see that this year’s final was made of four new players who had never yet graced the courts for a S&R final and it was clear the energy coming from all four players that this was a real chance to win that elusive ‘Dossi Dish’! It was also quite the contrast in pairings with veteran Evers alongside 2nd pair squad player Heginbottom squaring off against the young guns of newbie Sutton alongside Prep Championships winner 2019 Kaynama. All four competitors then threw themselves into a frenzy of Fives; there was some extremely tight and fine play from the junior boys both on top and back step. Both players have a similar style opting to play more conservatively, keeping the ball tight and drawing out long rallies as opposed to attacking the ball too early and forcing mistakes. Both Evers and Sutton had picked up on their counterparts' style of play and equally worked hard to make sure they simply kept the ball alive and in play as opposed to forcing the win and making a mistake (though not quite as gracefully as their young team mates!). For Evers in particular what had begun as a dim flicker of light now became a roaring fire and his competitiveness, drive and determination was really shining through; he took some full floor dives to retrieve what seemed impossible gets off the low end of the buttress to keep the rally going. The majority of rallies lasted a good 30/40 shots and nearly all ended with a kill ball from one of the four players. It was neck and neck for the majority of the match; 1 – 0, 1 – 1, 2 – 1, 2 – 2 and so the score went on up to 3 – 3; it was here though that Sutton & Kaynama found themselves 5 – 3 up after two quick points thanks to a couple of ‘Dossi Specials’ from Sutton at the back of the court (a pleasing sign he has been paying attention in our PE lessons with the Y8s). Evers & Heginbottom fought back with two strong cuts from Evers to get them back into the driving seat and try and get themselves back into the game. Kaynama took his time and in a similar vein planted two perfect cuts deep at his opposition’s left toes to allow them to get back in control of the game. This led to a further couple of points putting them 7 – 3 up. Not seeming to be fazed however, Evers & Heginbottom had one last push and worked tirelessly right up until the final whistle but couldn’t quite recover now being so far behind. And so the game ended at this score line making Sutton & Kaynama the 2019 champions.

Final

Sutton & Kaynama beat Evers & Heginbottom 7 – 3

One of the reasons this is one of the, if not the most anticipated events in the school calendar is thanks to all the hard work that goes in by so many people to make it a success; firstly to Kevin Washford and the Aramark staff for the catering and putting on the fine BBQ, to the Castle ground staff for helping transport and set up all the gazebos and tables, to Ollie Moore and Josh Grimsdale (11Sw) for taking all the fine photos and video footage across the day (look out for Josh’s completed video in the not too distant future!). To Doug Foster without who this fine event wouldn’t even exist in the first place, Ryan Perrie for helping me run the group stages so smoothly and as always to the MiC Martin Pett for all his support and fine speeches at the end of the day. It was also very pleasing to have Alex Knight join us from the EFA to come and see and support the event in action. And finally, to all of you, the staff and pupils, for taking the time to turn out and support the event helping create one of the highlights of the sporting calendar without whom the competition would not work.

We very much look forward to the 2020 event and seeing the competition in its 15th incarnation. Alliances and secret pacts have already been made between some staff and pupils for next year’s tournament so get on court and keep playing ready for next season!

 

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