Aberconway Cup: Wisemans Take The Title
12/07/21: There was a new name on the Aberconway Cup in association with Advanta Wealth this year as Howard & Gwydion Wiseman won their first title with a 2-0 win over Grant & Guy Williams in the final at Eton on Saturday.
Over two years since the previous edition of the competition, the Aberconway Cup (the tournament for intergenerational family pairs) returned to Eton on Saturday with the usual mixture of enthusiasm and enjoyment, some old faces, some welcome new ones and a new name on the trophy for the first time in some considerable time.
Perhaps unsurprisingly - a reflection of the badly disrupted season as a whole - the build-up to the tournament was far from plain-sailing with late withdrawals due to a combination of work commitments and enforced self-isolation of three strong pairs - nine times champions Mike & Chris Hughes, David & Tom McCahon and Mark & Hector Platt. Nervertheless, twelve pairs made it to the start line for the morning group stages, which saw the field divided into three groups of four pairs, with the top two in each group progressing to the knockout stages and the third and fourth placed pairs heading into the Mike Fenn plate.
The top-seeded Wisemans and Williams progressed serenely into the semi-finals; the other four pairs making it through to the knockout stages were Gareth & Tom Hoskins, Bill & Conor Christie, Tim & Natasha Gregory and Adam & Jack Pemberton. Gareth & Tom had started the day strongly, reversing their 2019 defeat at the hands of the Christies in convincing style in the group stages and establishing an 8-5 lead against the Gregorys in their play-off match to make the last four. At this point, though, Tim & Natasha began to turn the screw, cutting well to stop the flow of points and starting to land a few blows of their own, playing some excellent Fives in the second half of the match to take the win. The Christies had not quite been able to find the form that took them to the semi-finals two years ago and were unable to halt the march of the Berkhamstedian Pembertons to the semi-finals in their first attempt at the competition, father Adam providing solid support to the excellent attacking play of son Jack.
The Pembertons and Gregorys both gave good accounts of themselves in their respective semi-finals but were no match for their more experienced opponents, as Grant & Guy Williams made it through to their tenth final and Howard & Gwydion Wiseman to their second. Back in 2018, Gwydion was a promising 14 year old and the final against Mike & Chris Hughes was a step too far. Three years on, things were rather different and not even the renowned competitive spirit and fighting qualities of the Williams pair could prevent Howard & Gwydion taking an early grip on the final that they never really relinquished. As you would expect, Grant & Guy gave it everything but Howard was able to control the majority of the rallies and Gwydion provided some serious firepower, especially from the back of the court, taking them to a 12-6, 12-8 win to provide a watershed moment in the history of the competition.
If you regard Grant as an honorary Salopian, Howard & Gwydion are the first non-Salopian names on the trophy since the Dunbars back in 2005 as the tournament has been dominated by the Hughes, Williams and Worth families in that time. No doubt Grant & Guy and Mike & Chris Hughes will be back next year keen to get their hands back on the trophy, but this year belonged to the Wisemans, who will no doubt be hoping this win might turn out to be the first of many.
The Mike Fenn Plate, meanwhile, was offering up some tremendous entertainment, with close matches and unpredictable results galore. Brian & Henry Steele improved as the day went on but were unable to get past the opening knockout round; Mark & Ruby Halstead got close but somehow mastered the art of losing close matches they could have won to fall out of the running early on; Paul & James Holland from Newbury and Pete & Jana Scholey began to find some form, while Alistair & Will Kelly and Roland & Archie Seddon's morning performances had earned themselves a route directly into the semi-finals.
The Scholeys, with Pete equalling John Cooley's record of playing in the Aberconway Cup at least once with all four of his children, sneaked past the Kellys 15-13 in a tight encounter, while in the other semi-final, the Hollands' run was brought to an end by the Seddons from Berkhamsted, young left-hander Archie showing some delightful touches. The final was a classic game of cat and mouse, although it started as one-way traffic as the Seddons raced out to a 9-0 lead. If they thought it was in the bag at that point, they had reckoned without the formidable competitive instincts of Pete Scholey, who decided to take the game by the scruff on the neck, gradually pulling them back into contention and taking it to 14-14. The Scholeys had a chance with Jana returning the first game ball cut, but they couldn't convert and the Seddons took advantage to win the final point and claim the plate trophy, a deserved reward for a fine first showing in the tournament.
Thanks go to Advanta Wealth for their continued sponsorship, to Eton for hosting the tournament, to Harriet Asquith for her organisational assistance and to all those who came and played and made it such an enjoyable day.
A & J Pemberton beat B & C Christie 15-8
T & N Gregory beat G & T Hoskins 15-9
H & G Wiseman beat A & J Pemberton 2-0 (12-5, 12-5)
G & G Williams beat T & N Gregory 2-0 (12-7, 12-2)
H & G Wiseman beat G & G Williams 2-0 (12-6, 12-8)
Mike Fenn Plate
P & J Scholey beat B & H Steele 15-5
P & J Holland beat M & R Halstead 15-13
P & J Scholey beat A & W Kelly 15-13
R & A Seddon beat P & J Holland 15-9
R & A Seddon beat P & J Scholey 15-14