North Stars: Cooley and Dunbar retain the 2012 Northern

Top seeds Tom Dunbar and Seb Cooley retained their Northern Tournament title with a convincing 3-0 (12-7, 12-3, 12-7) win over James Toop and Matthew Wiseman at Shrewsbury on Sunday.

The Northern Tournament has been a fixture in the Fives calendar for many years as the Fives world makes its annual foray to the courts and curry houses of Shrewsbury. This year's tournament, aided by a large entry from the host school, attracted a total of 68 pairs, which made for a busy weekend on all 14 courts and a logistical challenge for organiser Andrew Mitchell. Conditions were also challenging at times, with frozen run offs on Saturday and wet courts on Sunday, but the players were undeterred and completed a huge number of games during the course of the weekend in the main tournament, the festival and umpteen plate competitions.

The main tournament featured 24 pairs in four groups of six, with the majority of the country's top-ranked players taking part. The standard of Fives across the four groups was tremendous with special mention going to EFA Chairman Peter Worth, partnering son Rex and rolling back the years on the recently renamed Worth courts.

The eight seeded pairs all came through the groups unscathed and into the quarter-finals on Saturday evening. Young Old Salopians George Thomason and Tom Welti and schoolboys and Under 21 champions Jack Hudson-Williams and Henry Lewis all gained valuable experience in defeat against the two top seeded pairs. The Lancing Old Boy pair of George Campbell and Doug Foster, seeded fifth, flew out of the blocks against fourth seeds Richard Tyler and David Mew and took the first game in no time. Tyler and Mew improved in the second game, which was a much closer contest, but the Lancing pair always had the edge and made it through to the semis. Old Westminsters Laurie Brock and Ed Rose have been producing some good results in recent weeks and quietly fancied their chances of causing an upset against third seeds Peter Cohen and Howard Wiseman. Having won the first game and 5-1 up in the second, things were looking good for the OW pair, but Wiseman and Cohen then showed their quality by upping their game and taking control to come back and win 2-1.

The semi-finals on Sunday morning were once again proof of the current dominance of Tom Dunbar, Seb Cooley, James Toop and Matthew Wiseman as both pairs progressed to the final in straight games. As a good crowd gathered for the final, the first hope was that this year's match would go the distance after injury retirements had cut short both of the last two finals. The second hope was that the match would reach the heights of last year's Kinnaird Cup final, when the same four players - in their only previous completed meeting - produced some scintillating Fives.

In that respect, the match that followed could be viewed as something of a disappointment; by the stratospherically high standards of the players involved the unforced error count was quite high and there were far fewer long and error-free rallies than in their previous meeting. What was clear from the start, however, was that Tom Dunbar and Seb Cooley had the edge, both at the set piece and around the court where Dunbar's trademark reaction volleys were doing a lot of damage. The top seeds won the first game to 7 without really hitting top gear, and then immediately moved into a big lead at the start of the second game as they began to settle, going on to win it to 3. The early stages of the third game saw Matthew and James raise their game, their high energy Fives putting the defending champions under pressure for the first time in the match, as they took a 5-1 lead. They couldn't sustain it, however, and Tom and Seb responded by re-establishing their set piece dominance, quickly wiping out the deficit and moving on to a 12-7 victory; yet another major title for a pair who have now been playing together for twelve months and remain undefeated. They will be the first to acknowledge, however, that with the first half of the season lost to injury for Matthew and mainly devoted to Rugby Fives for James, the Olavian pair's challenge to regain the Kinnaird title later in the year can not be discounted.

In the meantime, the excellence of the champions and their dominance in recent tournaments deserve great praise and their victory provided a fitting climax to an excellent tournament.


Results

Main Tournament

Quarter-finals:

T.Dunbar & S.Cooley (1) beat G.Thomason & T.Welti (8) 2-0

G.Campbell & D.Foster (5) beat R.Tyler & D.Mew (4) 2-0

P.Cohen & H.Wiseman (3) beat L.Brock & E.Rose (6) 2-1

J.Toop & M.Wiseman (2) beat J.Hudson-Williams & H.Lewis (7) 2-0

Semi-finals:

T.Dunbar & S.Cooley (1) beat G.Campbell & D.Foster (5) 3-0 (12-2, 12-4, 12-7)

J.Toop & M.Wiseman (2) beat P.Cohen & H.Wiseman (3) 3-0 (12-1, 12-8, 12-7)

Final:

T.Dunbar & S.Cooley (1) beat J.Toop & M.Wiseman (2) 3-0 (12-7, 12-3, 12-7)

Plate A:

T.Barker & H.Ravi beat C.Self & S.Kundu

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