Olavians Win Again In The Barber
21/02/22: The Old Olavians won the Alan Barber Cup in association with Advanta Wealth yet again at Eton yesterday, their 21st win in the last 23 years.
Old Olavians beat Old Salopians 2½-½ at Eton 20/02/22:
J.Toop & H.Wiseman drew with E.Taylor & R.Worth 2-2 (12-10, 7-12, 7-12, 12-4)
S.Cooley & T.Barker beat G.Thomason & S.Welti 3-1 (8-12, 12-5, 13-12, 12-4)
I.Jochim & T.Gallagher beat C.Hughes & H.Blofield 3-0 (12-6, 12-6, 12-6)
The Olavians were up against familiar foes in the form of the Old Salopians, back in the final for the first time since 2019, but regular opponents for the Olavian team during the last decade or so.
There were plenty of familiar names in both teams, with Howard Wiseman, James Toop and Seb Cooley all central to the two decade long run of success for the Kent team. There have been occasions in recent years when the younger members of the team have felt almost surplus to requirements, but that wasn't the case this time as Isaac Jochim & Tom Gallagher - playing together at third pair - set the desired tone early on, winning the first game 12-6 against Chris Hughes & Henry Blofield, while the more experienced team members had their hands full at first and second pair.
Isaac & Tom continued to play well, never allowing their Salopian opponents back into the match and putting the first point on he board with a convincing straight games win. This meant that the Salopians needed to win both of the first two pairs to win the tie, but both matches were proving to be very tight. George Thomason & Sam Welti got off to an outstanding start against Seb Cooley & Tony Barker, playing their favoured fast attacking style to take the first game 12-8. Seb & Tony struck back to win the second but the third game swung back in favour of the Salopians, with Sam & George getting 10-6 ahead. Meanwhile the Salopian first pair were also beginning to get on top in the first pair match; Ed Taylor & Rex Worth lost a long, close first game 10-12 to Howard Wiseman & James Toop but began to get on top in the next two, winning them both to 7 to go 2-1 ahead, and with Sam & George within touching distance of a similar lead in the second pair, Salopian hopes were high.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the player to turn the tide was eleven-time Kinnaird Cup winner Seb Cooley, who dragged the Olavian pair back from 6-10 down in the third to level at 10-10 and then crucially go on to win the game 13-12. Instead of 2-1 up in both remaining pairs, the Salopians suddenly found themselves 1-2 down and facing a Cooley/Barker pairing now full of confidence. Almost inevitably, the Olavians went on to win the fourth game comfortably, and with Howard & James also fighting back in the fourth game of the first pair, things had quickly turned back round and the Olavians had got thri hands on the trophy once again.
As well as being their 21st win in 23 years (and 22nd overall), the Olavians also now move to only one behind the all time record of the Old Cholmeleians, which stands at 23. Will next year be the year they draw level? Or can one of the chasing pack break the stranglehold and get their hands on the trophy? For now, though, the Olavians remain the team to beat and remain the team setting the standard at the top end of the club game.
My thanks go to Eton for hosting the tournament and to Advanta Wealth for their sponsorship.