Midlands 2016: Phil-Ant-Trophy or the cup that keeps on giving...
31/10/16: The 10th anniversary of the reinstituted Midlands Tournament took place at Repton at the weekend, with 29 pairs from all over the country taking part.
All over the country was certainly the operative word on this occasion - there were players there who had learned their Fives at venues such as St.Bees, High Wycombe, Ipswich, Westway, Aldenham, Cranleigh, Lancing, Emanuel, Wolverhampton and City of London (not to mention several who have learned the game as adults) with not an Etonian, Harrovian, Cholmeleian or Salopian in sight. This is not intended to be any sort of slight on those clubs, all of whom provide huge numbers of player to all sorts of competitions, but it does illustrate the point about the importance of looking after what are often to be considered to be the outposts of the game and how the health of adult Fives relies as much on these places as on the perceived strongholds of the game at school level. Having said that, it would be nice to see a few Etonians and Salopians etc make it up to next year's competition as they undoubtedly missed out on one of the more enjoyable weekend of the Fives calendar, with the perfect balance of inclusivity, sociability and competition providing a memorable couple of days for all.
Saturday's play saw four large groups of seven or eight pairs battle it out to position themselves successfully for an assault on the following day's main, festival or plate competitions and was notable mainly for an unusually timely arrival by the Ipswich minibus (they must have given a couple of service stations on the A14 a miss for once) and some unusual attire from giant of the game Seb Cooley, who appeared to be confusing serving and cutting with trick or treating much to the bewilderment of his young Ipswichian partner Isaac Weaver.
The evening featured an Italian buffet back at the tournament hotel which fell conveniently into the hands (or laps, or gullets) of the a) carbo-loading pros or b) greedy so and sos who were there. The well-informed reader can make an educated guess as to how many of each group were present at this gathering.
No self-respecting tournament would be complete without a Tony Stubbs/minibus related incident and this year's also provided the answer to the age-old question of how many Ipswichians it takes to change a lightbulb. When it's a minibus headlight bulb and involves a Sunday morning trip to Halfords, the answer is apparently well into double figures, which did lead to the absence of a significant number of pairs at the stated start time of 10am. With the Ipswich contingent eventually on court, the sixteen pairs in the main competition were quickly whittled from sixteen down to eight and then four, with the four favourites all making it through to the semis despite Cooley's best attempts to play in full Jedi costume (minus lightsaber).
Mark Yates has a fine pedigree in this tournament, having won the first Repton edition back in 2007 and reached the final twice more since. Mark and Aldenhamian Andrew Rennie - himself a finalist last year - overcame 2010 winner Ryan Perrie and Uppingham's new master-in-charge James Holroyd in three games to make it through to the final against 2010 and 2012 champion Anthony Theodossi and Cranleighan Phil Roper, who knocked out the Cambridge pairing Riki Houlden and Sudhir Balaji in the other semi-final.
The final was best of five games and it was quickly apparent that Theodossi and Roper had a bit too much speed and a few too many attacking weapons for Yates and Rennie. The Wulfrunian/Aldenhamian pair fought hard and produced some good spells but were never able to to maintain any sustained pressure on their opponents; the points continued to flow freely and Phil and Ant duly won in three straight games to take the title, possibly a first ever EFA tournament win for an Old Cranleighan?
Windsor & Eton's Nathan Turnbull and Jeff Lawrence won the plate, with a convincing win in the final against ladies champions Karen Hird and Charlotta Cooley, who deserves a special mention for cooking enough baked goods to feed the entire field for the whole weekend. The Festival, meanwhile, was bubbling up nicely and happily finished at nearly exactly the same time as the main competition, allowing the spectators to enjoy the epic semi-final win by young Olavians Smith & Prajeeth over Rugby Fives players Stuart Kirby and Chris Davey and the eventual triumph of Dom Redmond and 13 year old Gwydion Wiseman, who beat the Ipswichian Charlies Coe and Tweedy in their semi-final before winning the final against the Olavian schoolboys.
Our thanks got to everyone at Repton - including housemaster David Exley who distinguished himself on court in partnership with his brother over the weekend - for hosting the tournament and to Howard Wiseman and Dom Redmond who ran everything in their usual relaxed and efficient way.
D.Redmond & G.Wiseman beat C.Coe & C.Tweedy
Prajeeth & Smith beat S.Kirby & C.Davey
D.Redmond & G.Wiseman beat Prajeeth & Smith
A.Theodossi & P.Roper beat A.Lumbard & C.Wheeler 15-1
S.Cooley & I.Weaver beat G.Hoskins & R.Scott 15-11
J.Rumble & T.Leech beat S.Burnell & J.Caudle 15-8
R.Houlden & S.Balaji beat J.Lawrence & N.Turnbull 15-2
M.Yates & A.Rennie beat D.Exley & R.Exley 15-0
N.Gill & A.Nice beat C.Ballingall & R.Morgan 15-12
H.Wiseman & J.Prior beat P.Boughton & T.Stubbs 15-12
R.Perrie & J.Holroyd beat K.Hird & C.Cooley 15-5
A.Theodossi & P.Roper beat S.Cooley & I.Weaver 12-6, 12-9
R.Houlden & S.Balaji beat J.Rumble & T.Leech 12-6, 12-2
M.Yates & A.Rennie beat N.Gill & A.Nice 12-4, 12-5
R.Perrie & J.Holroyd beat H.Wiseman & J.Prior 12-5, 12-3
A.Theodossi & P.Roper beat R.Houlden & S.Balaji 12-6, 12-9
M.Yates & A.Rennie beat R.Perrie & J.Holroyd 12-9, 9-12, 12-5
A.Theodossi & P.Roper beat M.Yates & A.Rennie 12-6, 12-7, 12-5
J.Lawrence & N.Turnbull beat K.Hird & C.Cooley 15-5