EFA Trophy Qualifiers: An Epic Day Of Fives
18/11/19: 16 courts, 13 teams, 90 players, 153 games and 2754 points.
All of this adds up to a fantastic day of Fives at Eton yesterday as the EFA Trophy in association with Advanta Wealth qualifying day lived up to its reputation as one of the best days in the Fives calendar.
Most of the usual tournament suspects were out in force, although disappointingly 2019 champions Oxford University were unable to raise a side to defend the trophy. Hardy perennials the Old Salopians, Old Ipswichians, North Oxford (two teams), Monday Knights and the Old Citizens were all there with Aldenham and the Wulfunians combining to make a joint team; it was nice to see Team Westway and Cambridge University back in the competition and the great work of Will Thomas, Will Seath and Ollie Avery was reflected in the appearance for the second year in a row of two teams from Newbury and one from Royal Holloway. Welcome newcomers (and serious contenders) to the competition this year were the school team from Eton College, who were able to gain invaluable experience playing against a variety of adult opposition during the course of the day.
The 13 teams were divided into a group of 7 (playing one game to 15) and a group of 6 (playing two games to 12). For six hours or so, the Fives was non-stop with the 16 courts full with a complete cross-section of Fives life - young and old, male and female, beginner and veteran: a demonstration of Fives as a game for all and with the sounds of laughter and enjoyment (plus the occasional howl of anguish) ringing around Eton.
The fashion competition was almost as fiercely contested as the on court Fives. Special mention should be made of John Cooley's socks and Paddy Gibbs's waistcoat, while Sam Basu of the always sartorially superior Monday Knights must have thought he'd nailed it with his carefully colour co-ordinated combo. Even he had to give way, however, to the Fives fashion force of nature that was Old Wulfrunian Richard Ambler. Mere words here could not possibly do him justice and all I can suggest is that you scroll down to the photo gallery at the bottom of this article to behold a sight that made Nick Bunyan look like an absolute amateur.
The action on court was almost as entertaining. The Old Salopians, as always, had come with a very strong team - including last year's schools' winner Will Sissons - and they controlled Group A from start to finish, seeing off strong challenges from Eton, the Old Citizens and the Monday Knights including two epic first pair wins for Will & Guy Williams against John Reynolds & Ashley Lumbard (15-13) and the Eton first pair (15-14). Eton's strength in depth gave them the edge over the other two main challengers and took them into second qualifying spot in a hard-fought group where the margins between 2nd and 4th place were very small indeed. Elsewhere in the group, North Oxford B made a nuisance of themselves against some of the more fancied contenders, an inexperienced Cambridge University team showed plenty of promise and the Newbury adults team - led by regional organiser Will Thomas - played an awful lot better than their final points tally suggests.
Group B felt a little more clear cut in terms of overall qualification, although within that there were some fantastic individual matches scattered throughout the day. North Oxford A dominated the group in the end, winning 29 out of a possible 30 games, but survived some close shaves against the Wulfnhamians, Ipswichians and Westway that could have made things a lot closer had they gone the other way. The Wulfnhamians had a rotating cast of thousands and boasted a wealth of experience (yes that is a rather kind euphemism) and Team Westway were led by the formidable Hugo Young, already a multiple tournament winner this year, but ultimately it was the Old Ipswichians who had the consistency and quality throughout the team - Steve Burnell & Simon Woolfries at third pair and Charlotta Cooley & Simon Cass at second taking maximum points off everyone apart from North Oxford - that enabled them to take second place and a slot in the last four for the second time in three years. Westway and the Wulfnhamians both finished with 50/50 records, the Newbury Juniors outscored their Senior counterparts in the other group and Royal Holloway showed again what enormous strides they have made in the last couple of years and what a great job Will Seath & Ollie Avery have done in creating a thriving club from nothing.
Thanks to Advanta Wealth for their sponsorship, to Eton for hosting the tournament, to George Thomason, Guy Williams, Bill Emlyn Jones, Viral Gudiwala, Will Thomas, Will Seath, John Reynolds, Tim Gregory, Phil Lyndon, Natalie Lilienthal and Dan Thackeray for their work in putting teams together and to all of the 90 players who came along and made it such a fantastic occasion.
Old Salopians 17 points
Eton College 13 points
Monday Knights 11 points
Old Citizens 11 points
North Oxford B 6 points
Cambridge University 4 points
Newbury Seniors 1 point
North Oxford A 29 points
Old Ipswichians 21 points
Old Wulfnhamians 15 points
Team Westway 15 points
Newbury Juniors 8 points
Royal Holloway 2 points
Semi-Finals: Eton February 23rd 2020 at 10:30am
Old Salopians v Old Ipswichians
North Oxford A v Eton College