2010 Aberconway Cup - because they're Worth it...

Mike Fenn reports:

A record equalling number of 18 pairs entered the twentieth Championship which was played on a sunny spring day at Eton. The competitive element was of a very high standard and featured probably the best pairings that the Aberconway has witnessed.

Certainly the all round strength gave the organiser quite a challenge to determine the order of seeding and to create four reasonably balanced groups. Matters were not helped by the one group of six pairs needing to only play three pairs within their group. The usual format of selecting group pairings of two stronger pairs in each group, avoiding opponents from the previous year and where possible players from the same club was the basis for the morning play and helped to ensure that all pairings had at least one good match. Each match was played the best of three games setting at eleven.

One daughter took part and much to the relief of the organiser all players turned up at the appointed hour. A strong contingent of Salopians had travelled down from Shropshire intent on retaining the Cup, the Salopians producing the winners for the past four years. The holders Mike and Chris Hughes were unable to defend their title so much rested on the shoulders of Anthony and T Walters (winners 1995 and 2002), Peter and Rex Worth (2007), Grant and Guy Williams and David and Alex Blofield, the Blofields entering for the first time. Other newcomers included Mark and Charlie Fairbanks-Smith (Eton); Jonathan and Matt Asquith (Eton); John & Jake Tacchi (Ipswich) and James & Noah Caplin (Westway). It was good to see the return of Richard and Julian Black (Lancing) after an absence of three years.

Group Matches

In Group 1 Peter Worth and Rex comfortably won their three matches dropping only fourteen points in the process, nine of them against newcomers Jonathan and Matt Asquith, the latter acquitting themselves well against the former holders to finish second in the group. Mark & Nathan Cousins pipped newcomers John and Jake Tacchi into third place.

Group 2 turned out to be the most evenly balanced and most hard fought with Richard and Julian Black taking the group winners Grant and Guy Williams to three games. Martin and Charlie Fairbanks-Smith finished, on their first outing, a credible third with David and Rob Cooper in bottom spot.

Newcomers David and Alex Blofield ran out comfortable winners of Group 3 winning all three matches defeating last year semi-finalists Tim and Jonathan Best in two straight games. A fine tussle for third and fourth spot between Peter and Dominic Robson and newcomers James and Noah Caplin saw the Robsons triumph 2-1.

The Group 4 winners were Tony and Anthony Walters with Peter and Edward Boughton in runner-up position. Seb and John Cooley came third losing to the Boughtons 2-1 with Patrick and Rufus Gibbs filling third slot. All credit for a fine win goes to Trevor and Charlie Bailey. Like ‘Barnacle Bailey’ they never gave up and recorded their first match win in five championships narrowly defeating Mike and Rebecca Dunk 2-1.

Semi-finals

Play resumed after a splendid lunch at the Watermans Arms and as predicted the four semi-finalists, accepting Grant as an honorary Salopian, was an all Shrewsbury affair. Both matches, best of three, went the full distance and any one of the four pairs could have made the final.

In the first Peter and Rex Worth could so easily have lost to Grant and Guy Williams in two straight games narrowly winning the first 14-11, losing the second to 5 before triumphing 12-5 in the third. The volleying and attacking play of the two boys and indeed all four players was of the highest standard and the retrieving by Peter of potentially winning shots helped ensure the Worths survival. Disappointment for the Williams but with Guy improving each year I am sure their time will come.

The second semi-final was played at a less frantic pace but was nevertheless full of outstanding crisp volleying, cutting and retrieving. For the Walters, Anthony was the dominant player ably supported by Dad. Newcomers David and Alex Blofield, the surprise pairing of this year’s Championship, were both equal to the task of matching the volleying power of Anthony. In the first game the Walters got off to a poor start and from 4-6 down soon found the game lost at 4-12. However like true former champions they bounced back in the second and were beginning to get on top when at 7-5 up disaster struck. Anthony in going for a volley fell/was tripped by the step, landing awkwardly on his right arm. He was clearly hurt, but gamely continued basically in left hand mode. By sheer perseverance, doggedness and willpower the Walters held on and took the game 13-11. Unfortunately for them the excellent attacking play of the Blofields and the lack of a right arm mobility of Anthony lead to the inevitable loss in the third to 5. A case of what might have been?

Final

In an all Salopian best of three final the Blofields got off to a quick start and were soon leading 3-0 but at 3-2 Rex Worth came into his own, the Blofields were unable to cut him down and with two changes of hand the score within minutes turned to 3-10 down. Although David and Alex fought back they lost the first 12-8. They continued to play well in the second but were no match for the Worths. A couple of further runs by Rex supported by great retrieving and wise play by the ‘old pro’ Peter ensured a comfortable win for the 2007 Champions 12-6.

Before asking Mark Williams to present the cup to the winners Christopher Horne thanked Mike Fenn for his organisation; Eton for hosting the event; congratulated the Blofields in doing so well in their first Championship; and commiserated with the Walters, Tony having played in 18 of the 20 Championships reaching the final 9 times and winning on three occasions.

Semi-Finals

P & R Worth beat G & G Williams 2-1 (14-11, 5-12, 12-5)

D & A Blofield beat A & A Walters 2-1 (12-4, 11-13, 12-5)

Final

P & R Worth beat D & A Blofield 2-0 (12-8, 12-6)

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