2012 Ipswich Tournament: Walking in a Wagland Wonderland
The 2012 Ipswich Tournament took place over the weekend of Jan 7th/8th with Old Ipswichians, Ipswich School pupils and guests taking part in a typically sociable yet competitive edition of this well-established January tournament. The Graves Cup was won in impressive style by Nick Bunyan and Isaac Wagland who overcame Seb Cooley and William Clough in the final.
For some people, the arrival of the New Year means soon-to-be-broken resolutions, quickly abandoned detox regimes and post-Christmas empty wallets. For those Fives players fortunate enough to have learned their Fives in Suffolk, however, the first weekend in January means only one thing - the Graves Cup.
Created back in the mists of time by John Caudle to help foster links between the school players and the OI club - not to mention giving himself and others an excuse to spend an entire weekend drinking Adnams and hitting the odd Fives ball - the Ipswich Tournament this year truly reflected its position in the calendar, both harking back to the old and looking forward to the new. Taking the old first, this was the first year since the very first tournament in 1979 that wasn't graced by the presence of OI legend Mike Fenn, unfortunately absent due to illness, but many of the old traditions were all in place: the handicap system for pairings with the top ranked players playing with the youngest schoolboys, the mystifying qualification process understood only by organiser Peter Boughton to somehow produce eight quarter-finalists for the Sunday's play, the port flowing at the Saturday evening dinner and the Sunday morning creaking and groaning. The new was very much in evidence too: with a few honourable exceptions, the majority of players were under 30, with a young group of OIs alongside a talented group of school players. The Ipswichian ladies were also to the fore as Annabel Griffiths, Eli Hullis, Eleanor Ward, Sarah Frost, Stephanie Smith and Caroline Hunt all more than held their own over the course of the weekend, both on and off court.
The group stages on the Saturday produced some terrific matches, with a large number of games being won by the odd point. Group A was won by Seb Cooley and his U13 partner William Clough, who pipped 2010 finalist Tom Martin and the evergreen Boughton (who this year filled the Will Gibbons role of playing with at least three different partners over the course of the weekend) by one single point. Group B was this year's group of death as all four pairs had chances to qualify; in the end it was Nick Bunyan and U15 Isaac Wagland who came top ahead of 2011 winner Gareth Hoskins and his U13 partner James Gray. The third group was topped by Tim Fletcher and Cameron Lyle at a canter.
The Saturday night dinner was as enjoyable as always, with top marks going to Oli Watts and Peter Baxter for proving their Ipswichian Fives credentials by staying and sleeping on the changing room floor before getting up on Sunday morning to play some serious 1v1 Fives to "sweat it off" before heading to the Greyhound for a full English breakfast in preparation for the day's play.
The quarter-finals all went to form; Cooley and Clough beat Peter Baxter and Ed Leach, Hoskins and Gray cruised past Simon Woolfries and Elli Hullis, Fletcher and Lyle looked impressive as they made short work of Tony Stubbs and Matt Crowe and Bunyan and Wagland overcame the challenge of Steve Burnell and Sam Clark. In the semi-finals, William Clough won the battle of the Under 13s against James Gray with a modicum of help from his partner Cooley to book their place in the final. In the other half of the draw it looked like Cameron Lyle was on course for his third successive Graves Cup final appearance as he and Tim Fletcher stormed through the first game against a shell-shocked Bunyan and Wagland. It is not without reason, however, that several seasoned observers on the Fives circuit have already noted Isaac Wagland down as one to watch and in a situation where others could easily have folded, he showed steely-eyed determination as well as impressive cutting and volleying to drag his pair back into contention in the second game. The two older players on court (one slightly older, the other rather more so to be fair) were both producing some fine Fives themselves but the highlight of the whole weekend was the duel in games two and three between Lyle and Wagland, who matched each other shot for shot in a terrific display before Isaac's refusal to countenance the possibility of defeat proved enough as he and Nick narrowly won 2-1 to make it into the final.
The final was a fascinating match-up. Cooley was producing some typically breathtaking moments but was very conscious of not trying to win the match single-handedly and was therefore relying on his young and inexperienced partner to keep them in contention. Clough rose to the challenge and played a full part in a tight contest but he struggled to cut Nick and Isaac down consistently and as in the semi-final the difference was Isaac Wagland's ferocious will to win and he and Nick came through in the end to win in four close games. When asked how he felt on winning at the end of a long weekend's Fives, Isaac's reply was "like going to bed". Nick's was rather more unrepeatable but theirs was a well-deserved victory.
Another recently established tradition was upheld as plate specialist Tony Stubbs once again emerged victorious in that particular competition along with Oli Watts, their win over Burnell and Clark proving to be the decider.
Thanks as always are due to the school, the catering staff and to organisational maestro Peter Boughton who made it all possible.
S.Cooley & W.Clough beat G.Hoskins & J.Gray 2-1 (12-7, 11-14, 12-8)
N.Bunyan & I.Wagland beat Tim Fletcher & C.Lyle 2-1 (4-12, 14-11, 12-8)
N.Bunyan & I.Wagland beat S.Cooley & W.Clough 3-1 (12-11, 8-12, 12-7, 13-11)
Plate winners: T.Stubbs & O.Watts