2012 EFA Trophy: Winning Ways for the Wulfrunians
It was a day of mixed fortunes for Wolverhampton sport yesterday. The football team may find themselves rooted to the bottom of the Premier League after a 5-0 home thrashing at the hands of Manchester United, but pride was restored as the town's other major sporting team won the EFA Trophy for the second time in three years at Highgate.
The 2012 EFA Trophy was in some ways a disappointment, as the change of date and the clash with Mothering Sunday (who knew Fives players were such a caring bunch?) meant that the strong field of 8 teams assembled in midweek was gradually whittled down by withdrawal after withdrawal until on Saturday evening there were only three teams left.
The decision was taken to press ahead with the tournament and dispense with the separate finals day in April, creating an exciting three team, one day shootout which produced a terrific day's Fives and a fine reward for the teams who had made the effort to turn out.
Abhishek Bhattacharya has done a splendid job this year finding lapsed Fives players at Imperial College in London and bringing them back to the courts, and with the addition of his younger brother Aroop and Cambridge's Robert Wilson managed to produce a London Universities side, a team that we will hopefully see more of in this tournament in future years. The first match of the day saw them take on perennial EFA Trophy challengers North Oxford and the result was a 2-1 win for the Oxford team, who are currently riding high in Division 2. Spencer Chapman and Karen Hird comfortably defeated Karan Raj and Alun Meredith at third pair whilst Graham Pulsford and Carl Rennie went down to the impressive Wilson and Bhattacharya jr combination at first pair. The match hinged on the second pair result and as so often for North Oxford over the years it was the experienced combination of the two Chrises - Lloyd and Davies - that saw them home with a 12-9, 12-7 win over Abhishek Bhattacharya and Old Etonian Alex Archer.
The Universities side then stayed on court to take on the Wulfrunians, who arrived with an experienced and strong looking side. Third pair was quickly over in favour of the Midlands outfit with Mark Yates and Rich Ambler too good for Raj and Meredith and the win was assured as Andy Husselbee and Greg Hammond saw off another strong challenge from Bhattacharya and Archer at second pair. Although it was all in vain in the overall scheme of things, the most impressive performance of the day came from Robert Wilson and Aroop Bhattacharya at first pair as they beat the Wulfrunian first string of Chris Austin and Sid Simmons 13-11, 6-12, 14-11 in a terrific match, with Wilson in particular displaying a great deal of quality and sangfroid to clinch the win for the younger pair.
That left the two winning sides to contest a de facto final, with each pair played over best of five games. The early signs were promising for the Wulfrunians - Austin and Simmons at first pair were taking out their frustration at losing their first match on Pulsford and Rennie, storming through the first two games 12-6, 12-0. Hussellbee and Hammond also got off to a strong start with a 12-5 first game win over Chris Lloyd and Spencer Chapman at second pair. With Yates and Ambler 2-0 up in double quick time against Karen Hird and Julian Black at third pair, it looked like it might turn into a Wulfrunian rout.
North Oxford are made of stern stuff however and began to mount a fightback in all three courts: Hird and Black set the tone at third pair by turning a 2-12, 4-12 start into a 12-7 third game win by playing a more aggressive attacking game and improving their set piece markedly. Chapman and Lloyd were also nudging ahead in the second game of their match and had chances to win it before losing it 11-12. Even at 2-0 down, though, the Oxford pair didn't panic and won the third comfortably 12-7. Pulsford and Rennie also upped their game in the third, getting to 9 but going down in three to give first blood to the Wulfrunians. The North Oxford second and third pairs both made good starts in the crucial fourth games of their respective matches, but just as the tide seemed to be turning in their favour, the Wulfrunians regained control, Ambler and Yates refinding their cut returns to win the fourth game 12-6 and their rubber 3-1. With Lloyd and Chapman again failing to convert at gameball and losing another sudden death game to Husselbee and Hammond 12-11, the Wulfrunians could begin to celebrate a hard-fought 3-0 win and their second EFA Trophy success in the last three years.
Hopefully next year will see the entry for this tournament back up to its usual level, but no-one could claim that the Old Wulfrunians were anything other than deserving winners of the 2012 edition.
North Oxford beat London Universities 2-1
G.Pulsford & C.Rennie lost to Aroop Bhattacharya & R.Wilson 0-2 (8-12, 5-12)
C.Lloyd & C.Davies beat Abhishek Bhattacharya & A.Archer 2-0 (12-9, 12-7)
S.Chapman & K.Hird beat K.Raj & A.Meredith 2-0 (12-1, 12-0)
Old Wulfrunians beat London Universities 2-1
C.Austin & A.Simmons lost to Aroop Bhattacharya & R.Wilson 1-2 (11-13, 12-6, 11-14)
A.Husselbee & G.Hammond beat Abhishek Bhattacharya & A.Archer 2-0 (12-9, 12-7)
M.Yates & R.Ambler beat K.Raj & A.Meredith 2-0 (12-1, 12-0)
Old Wulfrunians beat North Oxford 3-0
C.Austin & A.Simmons beat G.Pulsford & C.Rennie 3-0 (12-6, 12-0, 12-9)
A.Husselbee & G.Hammond beat C.Lloyd & S.Chapman 3-1 (12-5, 12-11, 6-12, 12-11)
M.Yates & R.Ambler beat J.Black & K.Hird 3-1 (12-2, 12-4, 7-12, 12-6)