2012 Varsity Match: Oxford regain the crown

Rodney Knight reports:

In this Jubilee year it was the Dark Blues who swept the board in the Men's Blues match; and although Cambridge Penguins did the same in the second team match, the Light Blues have reason to be disappointed with their result on the day. The Ladies match saw a clean sweep for the Oxford team, whilst Cambridge took the Alumni match 5-1.

Blues Match

Oxford produced the same first pair as in 2010 but they achieved a far better result, with a more practised and effective Rex Worth gradually dictating play on the step. Rory Griffiths and Robert Wilson for Cambridge started fast and won the first game to 8 with more accurate and fault-free play than Oxford; but in the next three games they seemed to lose their incisiveness as Worth and partner Peter Stewart upped their game. In a succession of games they failed to find a way past Worth on the step and found it harder to cut Oxford down. Well supported by Stewart, Worth simply brought more pressure to bear on the Cambridge pair and hard cutting reduced their ability to win points when up. The Oxford pair ran out winners 8-12 12-5, 12-4, 12-5.

In second pair James Hopton, the Oxford captain for the second year was joined by the untried James Macdonagh, who looked at first too unpractised to give the support needed to bring off a victory. The light blue partnership of George Illingworh,captain of Cambridge and Ed Winfield caused errors in the back court from Macdonagh and achieved results with some accurate cutting. But the Eton and Oxford pair came together at the end of the first game and won it 13-12, giving their confidence a huge boost which carried them through the second game which they won easily 12-5. A determined Cambridge fightback in the third again took them to set at 11 all, but despite their effort, Hopton's tight play on the step and the return to consistency of the talented left-handed Macdonagh brought them through 15-12 to take the rubber 3-0 and the match.

In third pair Slater and Collings for Oxford proved too strong for Sakhrani and Rattan, outplaying them in the back court after two good games that could have had different results. Oxford won 12-9, 12-9, 12-2. Shrewsbury School and Eton College produced seven out of the twelve players in the Blues match this year.

Peppers v Penguins

In a complete reversal of last year's contest, Cambridge achieved a 3-0 win without conceding a game to the Peppers.

In first pair Goodman and Imrie conceded at 2 games down to light blues Patel and Crawford who had performed too well for them up to that point, winning 12-5, 12-10, ret. The Cambridge second pair Weller and Wessely also outplayed Noyes and Hedley of Oxford to win 12-6,12-5,12-7 with much more determination and consistency. And in the third court Hewlett and Tandy of Cambridge did not suffer much resistance from dark blues Straker and Perkins and looked a competent and practised pair. They won 12-1,12-3 12-2.

Westminster continue to produce players for Varsity; five over the two teams this time; notably there were the first two appearances of players from RGS High Wycombe, Robert Wilson playing in the first pair for Cambridge and Matthew Noyes representing the Peppers.

Ladies Match

The Ladies match saw Oxford end a series of defeats in the most convincing style possible. Cambridge were immediately on the back foot due to the unavailability of their first pair from last year and it is to captain Elana Osen's great credit that she produced six good and enthusiastic pairs, with half of the team having learned their Fives at Cambridge. The effort required to instigate and sustain the recruitment and training to achieve this should not be underestimated, especially with only one court in Cambridge, and this bodes well for the future success of the Cambridge team, who have contributed so much to Ladies Fives in recent years.

Saturday's match, however, belonged to Oxford. Captain Alice Walker has built impressively this year on the foundations laid by her predecessor Constance Mantle and had the luxury of having all of last year's top six returning. With a strong second team pushing hard for places coupled with real dedication to practice and travelling to matches and tournaments the reward was crushing straight games wins for all of the top five pairs, with very few points conceded. The sixth pair featured four very inexperienced players and rarely, if ever, can all four players on a court have improved so much in the space of just one match. In the end, Sarah Leonard and Harriet Partridge of Oxford recovered from the loss of the first game to pip Sarah Basemera and Becca Steer of Cambridge in four, sparking an emotional Oxford "pitch invasion" as Harriet struck the winning shot to seal the whitewash.

The teams then retired to Bekynton and the relaxing glories of Pol Roger champagne. As our host for the Reception and Dinner and representing the sponsors, Mark Williams reminded those present of the debt we owe Pol Roger for helping to make this a proper sporting occasion. They had offered two handsome champagne buckets for the winning teams and these were presented with the individual prizes by EFA President Richard Barber. Mark had arranged an excellent Dinner for participants and guests and the captains spoke graciously and thanked Mark and their Presidents for the help and exposure that their association with the Clubs and this Varsity occasion brings.

Results: (Cambridge names first)

Blues Match:

Oxford won 3-0

R.Griffiths (Shrewsbury & Trinity Hall) & R.Wilson (RGS High Wycombe & Clare) lost to R.Worth (Shrewsbury & Lady Margaret Hall) & P.Stewart (Shrewsbury & Somerville) 1-3 (12-8, 8-12, 4-12, 5-12)

E.Winfield (Mill Hill & Peterhouse) & G.Illingworth (Westminster & Queens’) lost to J.Hopton (Eton & Lady Margaret Hall) & J.Macdonagh (Eton & Regent’s Park) 0-3 (12-13, 5-12, 12-15)

S.Sakhrani (Westminster & Jesus) & A.Rattan (Berkhamsted & King’s) lost to B.Slater (Eton & Hertford) & F.Collings (Shrewsbury & St.Edmund Hall) 0-3 (9-12, 9-12, 2-12)

Penguins vs Peppers:

Cambridge won 3-0

S.Patel (Westminster & Caius ) & A.Crawford (Reading & Caius) beat F.Goodman (Eton & ChristChurch) & F.Imrie (Charterhouse & Lady Margaret Hall) 3-0 (12-5, 12-10, ret)

J.Weller (Mill Hill & King’s) & A.Wessely (Westminster & Girton) beat M.Noyes (RGS High Wycombe & Lincoln) & W.Hedley (Shrewsbury & St.Hilda's) 3-0 (12-6, 12-5, 12-7)

D.Hewlett (St.Olave’s & Emmanuel) & N.Tandy (Westminster & Peterhouse) beat D.Perkins (Highgate & Trinity) & J.Straker (Eton & Queen’s) 3-0 (12-1, 12-3, 12-2)

Ladies Match:

Oxford won 3-0

E.Osen (Westminster & Magdalene) & N.Loh (Westminster & Girton) lost to I.Watts (Woodbridge & Keble) & C.Mantle (Highgate & Exeter) 0-3 (2-12, 3-12, 0-12)

O.Prankerd-Smith (Westminster & Peterhouse) & S.Greasley (Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar & Magdalene) lost to H.Cutmore-Scott (Westminster & Christ Church) & A.Walker (Shrewsbury & Lady Margaret Hall) 0-3 (5-12, 6-12, 1-12)

A.O’Malley (St.Olave’s & Caius) & A.Noraev (Cheltenham Ladies’ College & Peterhouse) lost to H.Asquith (Wycombe Abbey & Corpus Christi) & H.Allan (Westminster & Queen’s) 0-3 (9-12, 5-12, 0-12)

Ladies Second Team Match:

Oxford won 3-0

M.Karbowska (IB World School 1531 & Newnham) & A.Hughes (Westminster & Robinson) lost to J.Toynton (Canford & Keble) & G.Ford (Westminster & Keble) 0-3 (1-12, 1-12, 2-12)

B.Tse (Westminster & Emmanuel) & K.Morris (Cheltenham Ladies’ College & Homerton) lost to E.Cornish (Benenden & ChristChurch) & A.Gorenflos (Oxford High School & Exeter) 0-3 (4-12, 5-12, 2-12)

R.Steer (Ipswich High School for Girls & Emmanuel) & S.Basemera (Haberdasher’s Aske’s Hatcham College & Newnham) lost to S.Leonard (St.Mary’s College, Crosby & Christ Church) & H.Partridge (Lancing & Christ Church) 1-3 (12-9, 9-12, 9-12, 11-14)

Alumni Match

L.Brock & A.Taylor beat S.Ranasinghe & H.Tobias 3-0 (13-10, 12-2, 12-5)

H.de Quetteville & M.Street beat W.Howard & H.Cordle 3-0 (12-9, 12-3, 12-2)

K.Turnbull & S.Woolfries lost to N.Cox & A.Mitchell 1-3 (12-7, 1-12, 12-13, 5-12)

S.Purkis & C.Cooley beat F.Krespi & H.Mostyn 2-1 (12-3, 11-12, 12-5)

T.Fletcher & R.Morgan beat J.Batting & S.Nowinski 3-0 (12-2, 12-4, 12-1)

J.Black & N.Lilienthal beat H.Pattenden & E.Johnson 3-0 (12-3, 12-6, 12-1)

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