2002 Varsity Match

Rodney Knight reports:

Rain did not stop play

Seldom in recent years has the Varsity Match held at Eton courtesy of the Provost and Fellows attracted an audience of 50! And seldom has it rained so persistently from knock-up to finish! But we were not deterred from watching and enjoying the customary hard-fought contest and admiring the sporting spirit in which it was played.

As for several years now, Oxford and Cambridge fielded 6 pairs , itself no mean achievement in these times of highly competitive entry and academic focus. And with only one of the 6 rubbers being played over less than 4 games, this 2002 competition was evenly matched. The Light Blues emerged as winners for the fifth time in the last six encounters, losing one rubber in each of the Blues and matches.

The first court provided a fast and furious clash between Nick Shaw (CU) and Tom Dunbar (OU) with their partners doing their best to keep up with their accuracy and pace. In the first game Paul Thompson came closest to this and the pair forced errors from the Oxford pair. But a series of backcourt errors helped to settle Oxford and Sanjaya Ranasinghe and they levelled the match very quickly. The key third game showed both pairs at their best and was decided only after some extended rallies and the volleying of Tom Dunbar. Victory to Oxford in the fourth was marred by a nasty eye injury to this first year Harrovian, but he gamely carried on to claim his due in this fine rubber.

Cambridge started better in the other two Blues courts too, requiring Oxford to dig deep to recover the initiative. At third pair Hennesey and Caroe pulled back a game in the third, but the greater consistency of Record and Bartholomew brought them a 3-1 victory, leaving the match result in the hands of those on court two. There Thompson and Randall had convincingly turned the tables on the Cambridge captain Ryder and Cooley and went on to win the third also. They couldn't keep up the pressure however and ceded the fourth to Cambridge to 7. The match result therefore depended on the fifth game in the second court and it was Cambridge who came through some excellent rallies with fewer errors and great determination to win the match for the Light Blues in front of a sizeable but damp crowd.

In the second team fixture only the third pair finished in reasonable time with a comfortable 3-0 win for Cambridge's Perks and Robinson. The other two courts kept the devoted supporters in the rain for 4 hours sharing the honours and giving the Cambridge Penguins the victory 2-1 over Oxford's Peppers. Both Schmitt and Chatterjee and Arasaratnam and Fletcher won the first for Cambridge and then ceded games two and three to a determined opposition. Nicholson and Marshall at first pair for Oxford could not maintain this form and Cambridge won the fourth and fifth to take the rubber and the match for the Penguins. Knight and Cox should have won their second pair rubber in the fourth when Cambridge squeezed past them 14-12. But they hung on to an early lead in the fifth to win it 12-10 and redeem the Peppers.

So the glory went to the Light Blues: but the supporters deserve a special mention. Rain never stops play in an Eton Fives match, but it certainly can deter onlookers. This crowd watched 4 hours of exciting Fives in four hours of rain. This may be a record!

Thanks are especially due to Mark Williams the master-in-charge of Fives at Eton, who made courts and facilities available to the Varsity Clubs and had optimistically arranged a hot lunch in the school for all the players at 1.30pm. Only one rubber was completed by that time so lunch had to be cancelled; but it was the thought that counted on another good day for our game at its eponymous progenitor.

Results

Cambridge beat Oxford 2-1

N Shaw (Harrow and Corpus Christi) & P Thompson (KES Birmingham and Selwyn) lost to T Dunbar (Harrow & Balliol) & S Ranasinghe (St Olave's & St Johns) 12-10, 1-12, 11-13, 9-12

E Ryder (Berkhamsted and Christ's) & O Cooley (St. Olave's and Trinity) beat E Thompson (Berkhamsted & Wadham) & S Randall (Eton & Trinity) 12-11, 6-12, 4-12, 12-7, 12-5

T Record (Lancing and Pembroke) & M Bartholomew (Berkhamsted and St. John's) beat P Hennessey (Berkhamsted & Balliol) & C Caroe (Eton & Balliol) 12-9, 12-7, 8-12, 12-8

Cambridge Penguins beat Oxford Peppers 2-1

C Schmitt (Zuoz and Corpus Christi) & R Chatterjee (City of London and Magdalene) beat G Nicholson (Eton & Worcester) & M Marshall (Charterhouse & Oriel) 12-6, 6-12, 6-12, 12-7, 12-6

R Arasaratnam (Ipswich and Emmanuel) & T Fletcher (Ipswich and Downing) lost to J Knight (Eton & Brasenose) & D Cox (Ipswich & Magdalen) 14-12, 4-12, 10-12, 14-12, 10-12

E Perks (Repton and Christ's) & J Robinson (Ipswich and Queens') beat M Hardy (Eton & Lady Margaret Hall) & E Johnson (KES Birmingham & Lincoln) 12-6, 12-3, 12-5

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