Berkhamsted Scholars & Rogues 2023
Anthony Theodossi reports:
27/06/23: On a sunny Monday after school, we held the 16th annual Scholars & Rogues Eton Fives competition.
After a few last-minute entries and drop-outs we settled on a fantastic entry of 33 pairs (though we had 34 with a last-minute arrival of a pair who hadn’t signed up, but we sorted them some games anyway!). We saw representation from the Prep, Kings, Castle and 6th form sites, not to mention support staff, our retired former MiC Martin Pett, and our local squash club specialist Adam Fuller all taking part. It was also a healthy mix of girls and boys and for the first time ever we had our first ever Prep pupil taking part from Y5!
The standard across the courts was exceptionally high even in the pool games with lots of matches going to the wire. A lot of work goes into trying to seed the pairs out across the groups, but there are always unexpected results (especially over a timed game) which adds to the real fun of the event. After about 1 ½ hours play time we had whittled the 33 pairs down to a last 16. One of the closest results came in a Pool G (a four pair pool) where three pairs finished level. It then came down to points difference which allowed the father and son duo of Mr Hadcroft & Louie H to win through and claim the second place slot. This was also the case in Pool C (a five pair pool) with a three-way tie. It again came down to points difference and allowed Mr J. Savill & Jake B to just win through and take the second place spot. As you can see below lots of the matches were very close and all of an extremely high quality. The closest game being that of Mrs Wates & Beau C vs Mr Davey & Josh A; Mr Davey, having won the competition last year, was looking to add his name for a second time to the illustrious ‘Dossi Dish’ and it looked like they would as they led all the way through the match. Some exceptional cut-returning from young Beau ably supported at the back of the court by a darting blur which must have been Mrs Wates allowed them to claim a quick few points in the dying seconds of the game to take the well-earned win.
Mr Vila & Archie S beat Mr Burgess & Dilan R 8 – 2
Mr Evers & Connor F beat Talia W (replaced Mr Silvey who left early) & Emily J 4 – 1
Max H replaced Mr Sutton who left early) & Oli B beat Mr Lewin & Rosie W 5 – 1
Mr A Hornsey & Theo L-E beat Mr Hadcroft & Louie H 9 – 1
Mr Hockedy & Zac S beat Mr T. Savill & Flynn M 6 – 2
Mr Risman & Rufus H beat J. Savill & Jake B 7 – 1
Mrs Wates & Beau C beat Mr Davey & Josh A 7 – 6
Miss Gibbons & James B beat Mr Pett & Harry B 7 – 5
We then pushed on into the quarter-final stages with a slightly extended time limit of eight-minute matches. At this stage six of the staff still in the competition were all PE monkeys, probably a good result to show that they are earning their keep and still actually able to play sport! The only other staff member still in was young Ashley Hornsey, son of Mr Hornsey, who has been working part time at the school as support staff but is also an OB himself. The final pair was the newly formed school pairing of Max H & Oli B who came up against the might of Mr Vila & Archie S, Mr Vila having won the competition twice and been in five finals and Archie still basking in the glory of his U14 Nationals title win earlier in the season. They made rather short work of the school pair showing what experience can do, though Max & Oli put up a decent battle. The Evers & Connor F and Gibbons & James B match was a much closer affair. It was nip-and-tuck all the way and I believe at one point Evers & Connor were 0 – 3 down, James B also showing why he was the other winning half of this years’ U14 National title. They dug their heels in though and moved through the gears putting pressure on thanks to some fine attacking top-step play allowing them to take the win.
Quarter-Finals (timed eight min matches)
Mr Vila & Archie S beat Max H & Oli B 7 – 0
Mr Evers & Connor F beat Miss Gibbons & James B 5 – 4
Mr A. Hornsey & Theo L-E beat Mrs Wates & Beau C 11 – 1
Mr Hockedy & Zac S beat Mr Risman & Rufus H 5 – 2
We now moved into the tasty part of the tournament, with four extremely competent pairs many of whom had all reached these dizzying semi-final heights before. The games were again increased in time, now to ten minutes. The first semi-final saw Hornsey & Theo taking on Evers & Connor; Hornsey & Theo came flying out of the blocks and took an early 6 – 0 lead. Evers & Field did what they could to try and stem the tide, but Hornsey & Theo simply wouldn’t let them get into the game and kept the pressure on all the way. It was also clear the tough quarter-final match the round before had taken its toll on Evers & Connor while Hornsey & Theo seemed almost fresh faced and playing their first match of the day! In the end they took the win rather comfortably. The other semi-final was a much tighter affair; Vila and Hockedy had met in battle several times now across the Fives court and Hockedy looked to implement a game plan with his young partner Zac S. They did this to great success by picking on Mr Vila’s weaker right hand with some beastly cuts down the line to catch him out. It worked extremely well for the first half of the game, but the wily southpaw adapted, a skill he has always shown to be one of his greatest strengths, and moved into better positions to begin picking the shot off to get the ball back into play. They did also try this tactic against Archie S but he highlighted again why he is National champion looking as a complete ambidextrous player instead of just a left-hander. It was tight all the way with both sides having the lead at one point or another, but in the end, it was the finesse and adaptability of Vila & Archie that allowed them to take the win.
Semi-Finals (timed ten min matches)
Mr Vila & Archie S beat Mr Hockedy & Zac S 5 – 3
Mr A. Hornsey Theo L-E beat Mr Evers & Connor F 10 – 1
And so, on to the 2023 final! The game time limit was again extended further to 15 minutes allowing for a bit more of a real game for the players to really sink their teeth into. This was now Mr Vila’s sixth final in the competition, always wearing his trusty Dingwall Cycle shirt to bring him good luck. This was Ashley Hornsey’s second time playing in this competition, as he had been knocked out in the last 16 stage by Mr Campbell last year. Having now made it this far he and Theo were all in for the win. It was a fascinating game to watch with two very contrasting styles of play. Mr Vila & Archie opted for quite an aggressive style, looking to apply pressure with lots of attacking vollies on top-step. Ashley & Theo opted for a very different approach and simply tried to get the ball back into play but keeping the ball tight so as to mitigate any chance of an attacking retaliatory shot and force their opponents to make the errors. It was the latter’s tactic that managed to win out as they slowly gained points but were only just ahead. Vila & Archie’s attacking style was still highly effective though and made a real statement that if Ashley & Theo wanted to win it in a defensive way, they would have to make sure they didn’t make a single error, or this would allow Vila & Archie to get a foot in the door. The one attacking shot that Theo did play, and with great success, was the fabled Dossi Special! Every time the opportunity presented itself, he hit this shot with near perfection getting both the right accuracy and power every time. Across the game he must have played about 13 of them, every single one was a winner. This was certainly the best we had really seen Theo play, a huge statement considering the last time he stepped on court was back in Lent 2023 at the Nationals. In the end the consistency and safe hands allowed Ashley & Theo to close the game out and take the win. It was certainly one of the highest quality, and possibly most memorable, finals I have seen in my 14 years here. It was also pleasing to see history being made with the first support staff member taking the win.
Final (timed 15 min match)
Mr A. Hornsey & Theo L-E beat Mr Vila & Archie S 6 – 4
Firstly, a big thank you to the Chartwells catering team for another wonderful BBQ to keep all the players and spectators fed and watered. To the caretakers for kindly setting up all the gazebos and tables as well as making sure the courts looked in pristine order. To our Y11 Captain Douglas L for coming back into school after his exams to help run the competition in the always frantic group stages. And finally, to all the staff, both those playing and those spectating for supporting us on the day.