2012 Richard Black Cup: Highgate Perform Black Magic
The 2012 Richard Black Cup was claimed in fine style at Eton yesterday by Highgate School who overcame a strong field of seven teams in the biggest and best Black Cup in the competition's short history, beating the EFA representative team 3-0 in the final.
The Black Cup is a unique event in the Fives calendar, the only Ladies Fives team competition, and now in its fourth year is beginning to establish itself as an important tournament, striking a balance between producing high quality and fiercely competitive Fives whilst maintaining a strong emphasis on enjoyment, sociability and inclusiveness.
A record seven teams, and therefore a total of nearly 50 players, entered this year, with sides from Highgate School, Olavians, Ipswich, Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Wycombe (making their debut as a club in any EFA tournament) and the EFA taking part. The round robin format saw every team play each other across three pairs over one game, providing plenty of scope for squad rotation and interesting pair selections. Highgate School made a strong start in Round 1, winning 3-0 against the defending champions from St.Olave's for the loss of only 2 points in three games. The EFA side saw off Cambridge 3-0 and Oxford won 2-1 against Wycombe, with Karen Hird and Rosie Scott claiming Wycombe's first ever competition win at first pair. Karen and Rosie continued this form in the second round with an impressive 12-11 win over the Highgate first pair of Aimee Paul and Eve Smith-Bingham; this was only a temporary upset for the Highgate girls, however, who continued to dominate and book their place in the final by topping the standings at the end of the round robin stage.
Ipswich entered the fray in the second round and quickly established themselves in the pack of teams fighting for second place and a chance to take on Highgate in the final. Ipswich, Oxford University, Wycombe, Olavians and the EFA all took points off each other as the tournament progressed, making predictions tricky and a point or two either way likely to be crucial. Cambridge were struggling to stay in the race, but were always competitive and picked up a couple of wins along the way as well as getting very close in several other matches.
In the end, the EFA team came through ahead of the rest to claim second place with their blend of youth and experience to produce a final of great contrasts; a Highgate School team who are all still Under 14s but who have been playing at a high level for several seasons now against the EFA team, none of whom played Fives at school apart from Emily Scoones who only began to play in her final year. The two sides were drawn to play each other in the final round but with both sides clear and uncatchable in the top two slots, their match was played as a best of three final instead.
Highgate dominated right from the start at second and third pairs, with Olivia Hirshfield and Marjolaine Briscoe brushing aside Natalie Lilienthal and Teresa Dunbar and Phoebe Bracken and Amira Reimer winning comfortably against Marlborough pair Melissa Cole and Carrie Walk. The first pair match was a lot closer and was in fact one of the best matches of the day; in the end it produced a clean sweep for Highgate as Eve Smith-Bingham and Aimee Paul beat Emily Scoones and Fiona Barnes 14-13, 12-7 to finish the day in style and claim the trophy for Highgate for the first time, a remarkable achievement for such a young group of players.
Only two points separated 3rd from 6th in the table, with Oxford University matching their third place finish from 2011, Ipswich and the Olavians level in fourth and Wycombe one point behind in sixth.
Thanks are due to Mike Hughes and Eton for hosting the tournament, to all players and team organisers who made the day a great success, to Krystyna Vargas for presenting the trophies and to Richard Black for providing the magnificent trophy and the individual prizes.
1 Highgate School 14
2 EFA 12
3 Oxford University 9
=4 Olavians 8
=4 Ipswich 8
6 Wycombe 7
7 Cambridge University 2
Highgate beat EFA 3-0
E.Smith-Bingham & A.Paul beat E.Scoones & F.Barnes 2-0 (14-13, 12-7)
P.Bracken & A.Reimer beat M.Cole & C.Walk 2-0 (12-1, 12-2)
O.Hirshfield & M.Briscoe beat T.Dunbar & N.Lilienthal 2-0 (12-4, 12-1)