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June 2015: Aldenham Tournament - Rennie & Pulsford win (but it wasn't a fix, honestly...)

Graham Pulsford reports:

Played at Aldenham on Sunday 14th June 2015

The courts were buzzing well before the start with players warming up and practising their favourite shots. The clearing of the skies and warmer weather added to the general bonhomie as did the arrival of players in a mix of Heath green and multi-coloured past winners' shirts. Our guests Gareth Hoskins, Karen Hird and Harriet Asquith were welcomed from North Oxford EFC as well as Ralph Morgan who is a rare Old Abingdonian fives player on the circuit!

On paper this was the strongest line up for the Heath competition in our history. On show were the current winners of the EFA Trophy, the Graves Cup, the Westminster Cup, the Heath’s James Fredenham Cup, the Open Veterans Cup, the Over 50s Veterans Cup(s), the Over 60s Veterans Cup and the Ladies National Championship. Two past Public School winners and a Barber Cup winner added to the mix. In addition, and this is all the same person, we had the winner of the Birmingham & West Midland Jewish Chronicle Prize Crossword, the FT Prize Crossword, an OBE, an Olivier and allegedly the previous Friday’s £93m Euro Millions Lottery rollover!

Back to reality. The tournament rules were three matches of 25 minutes using normal game scoring and the pair with the most points in total over the 25 minutes was the winner. The two unbeaten pairs then contest a 25 minute final as the BBQ begins. This format allowed little time to relax as all pairs played simultaneous back to back matches until the final.

By the time of the draw only Josh Rose was late.

There were no seeds in the open draw and this produced some interesting pairings. The first pair picked, and immediate favourites, were Carl Rennie/Graham Pulsford but then as the next pairs drawn in this half of the draw were Gareth Hoskins/Neil Margerison, Andrew Rennie/Paul Kendall and the potential ‘dark horse’ pairing of Phil Lyndon/Ralph Morgan this became the ‘Group of Death’.

In the first match the battle of the brothers was won by ‘the older’ as Carl Rennie/Graham Pulsford saw off the early challenge of Andrew Rennie/Paul Kendall. In the next court an upset was in progress as Phil Lyndon/Ralph Morgan edged through to beat Gareth Hoskins/Neil Margerison 11-10. The winners were unable to sustain this form in the semi-final against Carl Rennie/Graham Pulsford but did finish second in this half of the draw.

In the other half of the draw Chris Austin/Karen Hird were pitted against Rubel Malik/Harriet Asquith whilst Josh Rose arrived just in time to be paired with Richard Dennis. The newly crowned ‘Butcher of Berkhamsted’, Mark Blundell , was paired with Oli Lawton and in their first game they had a convincing win over Joseph Seelig/Tim Pemberton.

There was a highly tactical game between Chris Austin/Karen Hird and Rubel Malik/Harriet Asquith (Harriet typically incurring a ‘blood injury’) that was controlled and won by an impressive Karen Hird with Chris Austin unusually playing ‘second fiddle’. In the semi-final this pair played the evergreen Richard Dennis/Josh Rose in a tremendous game that the evergreens won 9-8 but not without some scares along the way as Chris Austin reverted to type and showed just how well a left hander can play!

The final followed this match with just a short break and this worked well for Richard Dennis/Josh Rose as they opened up a 3-0 lead in the first hand. Carl Rennie/Graham Pulsford Rennie, who had played some ruthlessly ‘fast and furious’ fives in earlier games, struggled to get into the match and a couple of nervous errors saw the score move to 6-0.

For a long period the rallies were evenly matched and with ten minutes left Carl Rennie/Graham Pulsford finally scored their first point. A further period of consistent return of cut from Carl Rennie/Graham Pulsford forced Richard Dennis/Josh Rose to play a continuing series of full bloodied rallies on their opponent’s return of cut. The finesse may have slipped from the game but the pressure told and with two minutes left on the clock the score was 6-5 to Richard Dennis/Josh Rose. One magnificent left hand shot into the buttress from the back court by Carl brought the scores level and a last attempt to cut down the second server saw a volley arc agonisingly out of court off the top of the buttress. Game over and 7-6 to Carl Rennie/Graham Pulsford.

The Jim Fredenham initially presented the James Fredenham Trophy to Richard Dennis and Graham Pulsford with the kind words ‘nice to see two grey-haired winners’ but the Cup finally ended up in the true winners hands. The 2015 winners’ shirt was unveiled as green with yellow motif and a clever saying attributed to Carl Rennie. This was followed by a relaxing BBQ in warm sunshine.

Our thanks to Andrew Fraser for preparing the courts and providing us with an industrial size BBQ and Jim Fredenham for his work as Tournament adjudicator.

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