Spooners Win The Werek Dighthead Trophy

Anthony Theodossi reports:

01/10/19: The 2019 edition of the annual Derek Whitehead Tournament took place in early September on a gorgeous sunny day in Berkhamsted.

Originally commissioned by the Old Berkhamstedians in honour of OB Derek Whitehead the tournament is designed to help create strong links between the school and the OB Fives communities by pairing pupils up with Old Berkhamstedians for a fun social tournament.

This year saw our biggest entry to date and for the first time we struggled getting out more pupils than OBs! In the end we had a strong entry of 18 pairs. There was representation from both OBs, staff, parents and pupils. It was great to see such a big mix of age groups from prep school to the veterans of the game!

Pool Stages

The 18 pairs were split into two sets of a five pool and a four pool on the front and back courts with matches being played up to eight points only; the top two pairs from each pool would progress through to the quarter-final stages with the remaining pairs going into the plate competition. There were lots of great matches throughout the groups but the top pairs in each group progressed reasonably comfortably; the 2nd place spots to qualify were a lot more closely contested in nearly all the pools.

Quarter-Finals

After an enjoyable BBQ lunch, we then went straight into the quarter-final stages. There was a real mix of players in this stage ranging from veterans, OBs, parents, guests and the pupils themselves from Y7 – Y9. Games were to be played as a single set to 12 with no setting. Only one of the games saw a whitewash with father and son duo of Spooner & Spooner showing no mercy to the other father and son duo of Baines & Baines scoring a bagel with a 12-0 win! The other matches were all pretty closely contested, the tightest one being that of veteran Blundell with young Y8 partner Crocker just losing out to OB Jeremy Steed and his younger partner Conde in Y7 in a 12-11 nail bitter.

Tom Ross & Sam Kaynama beat Richard Dennis & Tom Aston 12 – 9

Jeremy Steed & Silas Conde beat Mark Blundell & Charles Crocker 12 – 11

Ali Spooner & Ben Spooner beat Justin Baines & Barney Baines 12 – 0

Charlie Nicholls & Oli Francis beat Matt Dight & Natalie Lilenthel 12 – 5

Semi-Finals

A short break and we were then straight in for the semi-final stages. These were again a single game to 12 with no setting. The ‘youngsters’ semi-final saw Ross & Kaynama up against Nicholls & Francis; there were some extremely long rallies throughout with some great gets from all the players on court. Ross & Kaynama managed to just chip away a point at a time keeping them ahead of their opposition allowing them to take the set 12 – 6. The other semi was turning into a tasty match-up with young Steed & Conde throwing everything they had at the father and son duo of Spooner & Spooner. The game reached 5 – 5 when suddenly a loud ‘popping’ noise was heard and unfortunately Steed had to retire from an old shoulder injury allowing Spooner & Spooner to progress through to the final. A real shame for what was tuning into a thrilling set of Fives.

Tom Ross & Sam Kaynama beat Charlie Nicholls & Oli Francis 12 – 6

Ali Spooner & Ben Spooner beat Jeremy Steed & Silas Conde 5 – 5 (Steed ret)

Final

The final was to be a normal best of three match (which prompted a slight groan from senior Spooner!); It is important to play at least three sets for a final as it really takes away from the event and every year so far since the tournaments creation the final has gone to three sets! There was already a bit of rivalry between young Kaynama & Spooner from last season where Kaynama had got one over his year below counterpart in the Martin Pett Plate final and again in the annual Scholars & Rogues competition (though both had been very close match-ups!). The game kicked off with a real pace to it with all four players zipping around the court digging balls up left right and centre from some high-quality shots again from all players. Spooner senior found his form on top-step where he consistently retrieved the ball from some very good shots from young Kaynama; in the past at school boy level these shots would be out-right winners so Kaynama was at a bit of a loss if he didn’t kill the ball either in the hole or found the base of the buttress. Ross did all he could to aid his young partner and thought some deep back court shots to young Spooner might win a rally or two, but young Spooner had clocked his tactic early and positioned himself deep back off court so as to get back in nearly al the shots and giving himself enough time to play them back with interest which either won the rally or set up his dad for the winner. It was tight all the way with both teams being in the lead at some point but in the end Spooner & Spooner took the first set 12 – 9. The second set was a bit of an odd one as Ross & Kaynama didn’t seem to alter their tactics or come up with a game plan and so in response Spooner & Spooner were able to play the same brand of Fives that allowed them to take the first set. Although there were still some good close rallies the father and son duo ran away with it 12 – 4 winning the 2019 competition and for the first time in just two sets.

Ali Spooner & Ben Spooner beat Tom Ross & Sam Kaynama 12 – 9, 12 – 4

Plate Competition

With the increased size of entry over the last few years the Plate competition was introduced to those pairs who didn’t qualify from the main competition and who wanted more Fives across the day. This years’ competition saw eight pairs enter who were split into two pools of four with the top pair from each pool going through to the final. The pool matches were a single game up to six and the final was set to be a single match to 12 with no setting. Again, there were lots of close matches and there was no clear winner in either pool until right up to the last matches. In the end we saw veteran Jon Shorrocks (who made the Plate last year and just lost out in the final) with his young partner Jack Bailey taking on our new Grad assistant and Rugby Fives player Chris Davey paired up with young Alex Blomley. It was great that the timings fell so that this final was taking place alongside the main final and so spectators were treated to two very good games of Fives. In the end the experience of Shorrocks and guidance he gave to his young partner allowed them to take the match 12 – 6 winning the 2019 Plate.

Jon Shorrocks & Jack Bailey beat Chris Davey & Alex Blomley 12 – 6

It was great to see the competition all wrapped up by around 3.30pm which left plenty of time for refreshments and the presentation ceremony in Old Hall, as well as giving time for many of the OBs to catch up with their old school chums as well as meet and chat with the respective parents of their partners for the day. Derek kindly said a few words before the MiC himself Mr Pett stepped up to congratulate and present the trophies to the deserved winners.

Once again a big thank you to the Aramark staff for providing the fine catering throughout the day, to the OBs themselves for taking part in what is now becoming one of the more established tournaments in the calendar. To the many spectators who really added to the atmosphere of the day meaning the courts saw around 50 people there for the event and finally to Nigel Lane and Richard Dennis whose enthusiasm helped crate this fine tournament in the first place.

Again we hope that next year will see an even bigger entry as the trend is going with more and more players coming back, and as always we welcome any guests and outsiders who might be keen to play and take part to for what is a fine and fun day of Fives.

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