Eton Win Their First Ever Turnbull Trophy
06/12/21: The Graham Turnbull Trophy in association with Advanta Wealth was won on Sunday for the first time by Eton, at the end of a fantastic day of Fives.
The Turnbull Trophy is a competition for pairs containing one current and one former pupil from a school or centre. This year's tournament attracted an excellent entry of 32 pairs: there were 10 from Highgate - a terrific effort by them - but lots of representation from elsewhere with pairs entering from Shrewsbury (4), Eton (3), Repton (3), QEB (2), Aldenham (2), Burford (2), St.Bart's (2), KES Birmingham, Harrow, Holyport and Berkhamsted.
All sixteen courts were soon in use as the pairs were divided into eight groups of four for the morning's play. All would be heading for an afternoon of knockout Fives, with the top two pairs in each group heading into the main competition last sixteen and the other two heading into Plate B. From thereon in it would be a case of trying to get as far in each section of the competition as possible and then entering a new plate competition once knocked out with the other pairs falling at the same hurdle.
One of the delights of the Turnbull is the coming together of new pairings and different styles of play and the group stages allowed all of the pairs to get used to playing with their adult or school partners. There were a few terrific group deciders - Highgate 3 (Aroop Bhattacharya & Ben Womack) just got the better of Shrewsbury 2 (Adam Morris & Guy Bradshaw) in Group B, Eton 3 (Alex Knight & Max Krefting) put in a strong performance to edge out Highgate 2 (Abhishek Bhattacharya & Theodore Browne) for the Group C top spot while the tie of the round saw KES Birmingham (Richard Tyler & Tom Hoskins) go 12-9 up, then 12-14 down before winning 15-14 against Harrow (Will Thomas & Fred Prickett) in Group G. Elsewhere, the big guns of Eton 1 (James Cobb & Seb Hopkins), Highgate 1 (Jonny Ho & Sasha DeFreitas-Vile), Berkhamsted (Alex Rattan & Jack Pemberton) and Shrewsbury 1 (Mike Hughes & Jago Ainslie) all progressed comfortably, while wild cards Repton 1 (Charles Plummer & Nafis Shaikh) put themselves right in the mix with a dominant performance to win Group F.
No sooner had Repton 1 announced themselves as a pair who looked like they might cause some of the top seeded pairs a few problems, then they had a bit of a disaster in the last sixteen, losing 15-6 to an inspired Highgate 2, Abs Bhattacharya hitting a well-timed purple patch to send his pair into the quarter-finals and Repton 1 into Plate A. The big four all continued to cruise through (mention here for the top Aldenham pair of Andrew Rennie & Sam, who did a great job getting through to the last sixteen), KES took the confidence from their win over Harrow and played their best Fives of the day to defeat Shrewsbury 2 15-7 and Harrow almost made amends but just fell at the hands of Highgate 3. The match of the round this time, however, was the all-Eton battle between Eton 2 (Matt Asquith & Jake Turcan) and Eton 3. It all looked pretty straightforward to start with: Eton 2 got on top and looked set for a routine win at 14-7 ahead. Occasionally, though, you get games where the final point becomes trickier and trickier to win. Eton 2 couldn't convert any early chances and Eton 3 gradually grew in confidence. Alex & Max were both cutting well and suddenly neither Matt nor Jake looked like they had any idea how they were going to get a gameball cut back, just minutes after working themselves into an almost unassailable postition with some dominant attacking Fives. The gap narrowed, the crowd watching got larger and the closer it got the more it seemed almost inevitable that it would get to 14-14. It did and almost as inevitably Alex & Max were the ones who did get the gameball cut back and won the rally to claim an amazing victory and a spot in the quarter-finals, leaving Matt & Jake rather shellshocked and ruefully having to concentrate on Plate A.
With the main competition now beginning to reach the sharp end, the top ranked pairs continued to assert their dominance in the quarter-finals. Highgate 1 did to Highgate 3 what they'd done to Highgate 5 in the previous round, Berkhamsted ruthlessly ensured that there were no further Abs Bhattacharya heroics, Shrewsbury 1 succeeded where Eton 2 had failed and saw off Eton 3's challenge and KES found Eton 1 simply too strong for them. The matches now moved to best of three with a place in the final at stake. Highgate had won the three previous editions of the Turnbull Trophy, with Jonny Ho in the winning pair in the last two finals. He and Sasha continued to look strong in the first semi-final, ending Shrewsbury 1's challenge with the minimum of fuss 12-2, 12-2. Berkhamsted came into the other semi-final on the back of two successive 15-0 wins but it was immediately clear that Eton 1 were going to provide rather sterner opposition. The Berkhamsted pair of Alex Rattan & Jack Pemberton offered plenty of height, reach and cutting and volleying power; schoolboy Seb Hopkins offered some classy touches around the buttress and plenty of volleying options of his own, while his partner James Cobb displayed all of his trademark athleticism, movement and powers of recovery. The first game was a belter and was set at 10-10; crucially, Eton found the couple of cut returns they needed just at the right time and took it 13-11. Buoyed by this success, they got in front in the second game and closed it out impressively 12-6 to move into the final at the end of a high quality and thrilling match.
The final was a fascinating match up - the Highgate pair had been largely untroubled throughout the day, but how would the relatively inexperienced Sasha cope under greater pressure in the final? Would James & Seb be able to put him under pressure with the formidable Jonny Ho standing in their way? Could Seb - an outstanding serial champion at younger age groups - translate his undoubted promise to the senior stage and raise his game to another level? The result on court was a terrific first game. Eton started more strongly, returning cut well, attacking with purpose, targeting the left-handed Sasha at the back right of the court from time to time and not allowing Jonny to dictate play. They raced into a 10-2 lead but the threat that Jonny poses is always there and with Sasha beginning to settle and getting more and more into the game with his left-handed threat, the Highgate pair quickly began to eat into the lead. 10-2 became 10-10 in no time at all, with the momentum all seemingly in Highgate's favour. This was now a crucial phase in the match and it was Eton who responded quickest, all the more impressive given the run of points against them in the previous few hands. They didn't panic, got back on serve and went back to what had worked for them earlier in the game, returning well, moving swiftly around the court and taking the opportunity to attack when it presented itself. The rot was stopped and 10-10 became 13-10 to Eton and a 1-0 lead. The second game was of a similarly high quality but this time lacked the nailbiting finish. Echoing their semi-final performance, Seb & James were able to build on a tight first game win and take control of the second game early on. Highgate fought hard and played some terrific Fives, but this time they were unable to produce the run of points that would have got them back into it and Eton were able to close the game out 12-6 to claim the trophy. Remarkably, this was a first victory for Eton in the 25 year history of the competition; there are a couple of Etonian names on the trophy, but they were representing Sunningdale back in the early days of the tournament.
While all of this was going on, all sixteen courts continued to be in use for most of the afternoon featuring a multitude of plate competitions. The losing pairs in the last sixteen of the main competition went into Plate A and that was won - perhaps a small consolation for their disappointing defeat in the last 16 - by Repton 1, who defeated an exhausted Harrow pair in the final. There were strong showings, too, from Eton 2 and Shrewsbury 3 (Connor Jones & James Crews). It was fantastic to see three Repton pairs taking part in the competition, with coach Charles Plummer and the Exley brothers partnering three pupils, none of whom had been playing for all that long, but all of whom showed exactly why it won't be long before Repton are hopefully challenging at the business end of some school competitions. The Plate A quarter-finalists plate was won by Highgate 4 (Jack Flowers & Catherine Vos) against Highgate 5 (Jack Ledigo & Albie Gavshon) 12-11, a fitting reward for perseverance.
The sixteen non-qualifiers from the morning groups went into Plate B, which also followed a knockout format. Both St.Bart's pairs (Will Seath and Jack Hopkins partnering the Rawlins brothers) scored good wins in the first round, while the all-Repton battle of the Exley brothers was won by Richard & Henry Barton Smith over David & Harvey Wilson. Aldenham 2 (Karen Hird & Noah) were also showing well as were QEB and various lower ranked Highgate pairs, including two former Kinnaird Cup semi-finalists at pairs 9 and 10 in Niifio Addy and coach David Mew. Both fell to the Aldenham pair, however, who completed a Highgate hat trick to take the Plate B final with a win over Highgate 6 (Tom Halstead & Alessandor Antoniazzi). The Plate B quarter-finalists plate was won by Niifio and son Ethan, who had to beat the whole of St.Bart's (12-7 against pair 2, 12-11 aganst pair 1) to come out on top.
Plate C saw David Exley and partner Harvey finally begin to hit their stride as they dominated proceedings, scoring three successive wins 12-6, 12-4, 12-4 over QEB, Shrewsbury 4 and Highgate 8 to claim a second plate for Repton. Plate D featured some newer additions to the Fives ranks, with two Burford pairs taking part, coaches Steve Kaaber-Gore and Kirby Clayton partnering two youngsters who have only been playing for a few weeks and who improved visibly during the course of the day. Steve & Marco Ho beat QEB (the two schoolboys teaming up at this stage as their OE partners had a train to catch!) 12-10 to win Plate D, while Kirby & Daniel Orrell saved their best until last, pushing the Holyport pair of Sophie Wisa & Darcy Clarke all the way in the final of Plate E.
My thanks go to Ryan Perrie and everyone at Eton for hosting the competition, to Advanta Wealth for their sponsorship and to all of the people who put a huge amount of effort in to get pairs together for a tournament which continues to go from strength to strength.
Highgate 1 (J.Ho & A.DeFreitas) beat Highgate 5 (J.Ledigo & A.Gavshon) 15-2
Highgate 3 (Ar.Bhattacharya & B.Womack) beat Harrow (W.Thomas & F.Prickett) 15-12
Eton 3 (A.Knight & M.Krefting) beat Eton 2 (M.Asquith & J.Turcan) 15-14
Shrewsbury 1 (M.Hughes & J.Ainslie) beat Aldenham 1 (A.Rennie & S.?) 15-2
Berkhamsted (A.Rattan & J.Pemberton) beat Highgate 4 (J.Flowers & C.Vos) 15-0
Highgate 2 (Ab.Bhattacharya & T.Browne) beat Repton 1 (C.Plummer & N.Shaikh) 15-6
KES Birmingham (R.Tyler & T.Hoskins) beat Shrewsbury 2 (A.Morris & G.Bradshaw) 15-7
Eton 1 (J.Cobb & S.Hopkins) beat Shrewsbury 3 (C.Jones & A.Clark) 15-5
Highgate 1 beat Highgate 3 15-4
Shrewsbury 1 beat Eton 3 15-8
Berkhamsted beat Highgate 2 15-0
Eton 1 beat KES Birmingham 15-3
Highgate 1 beat Shrewsbury 1 2-0 (12-2, 12-2)
Eton 1 beat Berkhamsted 2-0 (13-11, 12-6)
Eton 1 beat Highggate 1 2-0 (13-10, 12-6)
Harrow beat Highgate 5 12-3
Eton 2 beat Aldenham 1 12-8
Repton 1 beat Highgate 4 12-0
Shrewsbury 3 beat Shrewsbury 2 12-9
Harrow beat Eton 2 14-12
Repton 1 beat Shrewsbury 3 12-10
Repton 1 beat Harrow 12-5
Plate A Quarter-Finalists Plate
Highgate 4 beat Highgate 5 12-11
Highgate 10 (D.Mew & Z.Kirstein) beat Burford 2 (K.Clayton & D.Orrell) 12-1
St.Bart's 2 (J.Hopkins & T.Rawlins) beat Highgate 8 (M.Halcox & B.Musikant) 12-8
Highgate 9 (N.Addy & E.Addy) beat Burford 1 (S.Kaaber-Gore & M.Ho) 12-4
Aldenham 2 (N.? & K.Hird) beat Highgate 7 (P.Chen & J.Lever) 12-4
QEB 2 (A.Sivathasan & D.Dissayanake) beat Holyport (D.Clarke & S.Wisa) 12-6
Highgate 6 (T.Halstead & A.Antoniazzi) beat Shrewsbury 4 (J.Argyle & J.Crews) 12-4
St.Bart's 1 (W.Seath & D.Rawlins) beat QEB 1 (A.Kumararuban & P.Bhavsar) 12-10
Repton 2 (R.Exley & H Barton Smith) beat Repton 3 (D.Exley & H.Wilson) 12-9
Highgate 10 beat St.Bart's 2 12-9
Aldenham 2 beat Highgate 9 12-8
Highgate 6 beat QEB 2 12-6
Repton 2 beat St.Bart's 1 12-9
Aldenham 2 beat Highgate 10 12-9
Highgate 6 beat Repton 2 12-6
Aldenham 2 beat Highgate 6 12-6
Plate B Quarter-Finalists Plate
Highgate 9 beat St.Bart's 2 12-7
St.Bart's 1 beat QEB 2 w/o
Highgate 9 beat St.Bart's 1 12-11
Highgate 8 beat Burford 2 12-2
Highgate 7 beat Burford 1 15-14
Shrewsbury 4 beat Holyport 12-2
Repton 3 beat QEB 1 12-6
Highgate 8 beat Highgate 7 12-11
Repton 3 beat Shrewsbury 4 12-4
Repton 3 beat Highgate 8 12-4
Burford 1 beat Burford 2 12-3
QEB 1 beat Holyport 12-2
Burford 1 beat QEB 1 12-10
Holyport beat Burford 2 12-6