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EFA Trophy: Four In A Row For The Salopians

12/02/24: The Old Salopians won the EFA Trophy in association with Advanta Wealth for the fourth consecutive time at Aldenham yesterday.

The Old Salopians haven't lost a knockout match in this competition since the 2019 final against Oxford University and arrived at Aldenham - a new venue for finals day with Eton out of action - as favourites to lift the trophy once again. Events immediately conspired in their favour as Isaac Wagland of the Old Ipswichians failed to make it in time for the morning match, handing a walkover (and a rest) to the Salopian third pair and requiring the OIs to move everyone up a place. Tim Gregory & Steve Burnell at first pair and Will Gibbons & Pete Forrest at second battled hard but when OS captain Adam Morris & Sam Mcloughlin clinched their 3-0 win over Will & Pete it was job done and the Salopian team were able to put their feet up for a while.

And they had to wait a while as the other semi-final turned into an absolute thriller. North Oxford took first blood against the St.Olave's team as Nathan Turnbull & Karen Hird cruised to a relatively straightforward third pair win against Jeff Lawence & Sanjay Kundu. In the other two courts, however, it was advantage to the Olavians: Aadi Aagarwal & Harry Ravi quickly went 1-0 up against Alex Abrahams & Matt Asquith at first pair and Gwydion Wiseman & Aryan Akanda repeated the dose at second pair against Peter Scholey & Stephen Thatcher. Things got even more perilous for the North Oxford team when both Olavian pairs won much tighter second games, 15-12 at first pair and 13-12 from 7-12 down at second. The third games both went the other way, though, Thatcher & Scholey producing their best Fives of the match to win to 9 and Asquith & Abrahams saving a couple of match points before coming through 14-11. One of the two North Oxford pairs needed to go all the way and turn a 0-2 deficit into a 3-2 win; it didn't come at second pair where Pete & Stephen were unable to maintain their form of the previous two games and subsided somewhat against a resurgent Gwydion & Aryan. First pair, though, was turning into one of the great EFA Trophy matches as Alex & Matt levelled at 2-2 with another 14-11 win - twice taking significant leads and twice being pegged back - and a third sucessive game set at 10-10 or 11-11. The fifth game was a thriller with some wild momentum shifts. Alex & Matt made the early running, moving out to 5-0 and 7-2 leads. The Olavian pair dug in, however, and with Harry & Aadi both beginning to find some cut and return form and Aadi hitting the hole seemingly at will for a spell, they turned 2-7 down into 10-7 then 11-8 up. Back came the North Oxford pair, however, saving more match points (an hour and a half after the previous ones) and sending the match to 11-11 once again. It stayed at 11-11 for a few hands, waiting for the decisive break and when it came it was in the Olavians' favour, a gameball cut out of court sealing a fantastic win.

The big problem for the Olavians at this point was that the Salopians were well rested and raring to go for the final, while two of the top Olavian players were exhausted after a three and a half hour epic, making an already tough task even tougher. The Salopians also had greater strength in depth in their favour and Grant Williams & Mike Hughes were able to come off the bench for their first Fives of the day, making short work of Lawrence & Akanda, losing only 4 points in the process. The Olavians needed Aadi Agarwal to repeat his morning heroics, this time partnering Kundu at second pair against Sam & Adam. A combination of understandable tiredness and excellent play from the two Salopians quickly snuffed out any hope the Olavians might have had and a routine 3,3 and 4 second pair win had the trophy wrapped up in double quick time. The first pair game - while not ultimately counting for much - turned out to be a belter as Gwydion & Harry went 2-0 up on Luke Lloyd-Jones & Jack Flowers before the Salopians upped their game in the third and fourth to level at 2-2. By that stage, with everyone else long finished, an honourable draw seemed like a fair result.

The 3rd/4th play off thankfully had a full complement of players, Wagland having finally located Aldenham, and North Oxford won an entertaining encounter 2-1.

My thanks go to Aldenham for proving to be a fantastic venue for both qualifiers and finals day, to Advanta Wealth for their sponsorship and to all of the teams who took part in the competition this year.



Old Salopians beat Old Ipswichians 2½-½

J.Flowers & L.Lloyd-Jones drew with T.Gregory & S.Burnell (12-10, 12-7, draw agreed)

S.Mcloughlin & A.Morris beat W.Gibbons & P.Forrest 3-0 (12-4, 12-11, 12-9)

Old Ipswichians conceded third pair


St.Olave's beat North Oxford 2-1

A.Agarwal & H.Ravi beat A.Abrahams & M.Asquith 3-2 (12-4, 15-11, 11-14, 11-14, 14-11)

G.Wiseman & A.Akanda beat P.Scholey & S.Thatcher 3-1 (12-9, 13-12, 9-12, 12-5)

J.Lawrence & S.Kundu lost to K.Hird & N.Turnbull 0-3 (4-12, 5-12, 7-12)



Old Salopians beat St.Olave's 2½-½

J.Flowers & L.Lloyd-Jones drew with G.Wiseman & H.Ravi 2-2 (9-12, 12-14, 12-6, 12-5 draw agreed)

S.Mcloughlin & A.Morris beat A.Agarwal & S.Kundu 3-0 (12-3, 12-3, 12-4)

M.Hughes & G.Williams beat J.Lawrence & A.Akanda 3-0 (12-2, 12-1, 12-1)



North Oxford beat Old Ipswichians 2-1

A.Abrahams & M.Asquith beat I.Wagland & W.Gibbons 3-0 (12-6, 12-6, 12-3)

N.Turnbull & S.Thatcher beat C.Cooley & S.Burnell 3-1 (5-12, 12-7, 12-9, 12-3)

P.Scholey & K.Hird lost to T.Gregory & P.Forrest 0-3 (4-12, 9-12, 7-12)


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