Sunday, 15th April 2018
In the enforced absence of defending champions Kathleen Briedenhann and Tessa Mills new champions were bound to emerge from this rearranged fixture. Organiser Maddy Raynor reports:
The Ladies Winchester Fives Championships were held on Sunday, 15th April at Bradfield College. This was a rearranged date due to the competition having to be postponed as a result of snowy weather. Firstly I would like to give a big thank you to the College and to Jeremy Ball for their understanding, support and helpfulness with reorganising this competition. I would also like to thank everyone that entered and supported the competition, as the new date was not a date in the fives calendar.
Ladies (including schoolgirls) came from across the country for a very enjoyable and competitive day of fives.
The day started off with a Doubles competition consisting initially of a round robin of one game to 15. The first games saw schoolgirls, Anna Laakkonen & Isabella Lee, play Katie Sumner & Maddie Kent. This was a good game, with both pairs getting used to the Winchester court and its buttress. After a battle it was Laakkonen & Lee that came out victorious 15-3. On the other court Maddy Raynor & Alexandra Steel took on Louise Mathias & Wendy Carling. With Mathias’ strong hitting and Carling’s volleying (coming from her Eton fives background) they made a strong pairing and meant business against Raynor & Steel, who had won the National Rugby Fives doubles earlier this year in January. The game lasted 45 minutes, with Raynor & Steel managing to hold off Mathias & Carling 15-10. This match set the tone for the event– it was going to be a long day. After some great and, I must say, long games of fives the Doubles finals commenced at 2pm, with the Singles still to come. Laakonen & Lee played Sumner & Kent in the plate final, with a trophy and mugs to win. Both pairs exhibited great fives and played some fantastic rallies — and it was clear to see that they were putting in to practice the advice that they had been given throughout the day. It was, however, Laakkonen and Lee who were victorious and regained their doubles plate trophy 15-1, 15-7. The final saw Raynor & Steel play Mathias & Carling, At the beginning of the match it looked like it was going to be a gruelling repeat of the round robin contest, with long rallies and the scoreboard not moving. However, Raynor & Steel relied on their experience of playing together and began to pull away. Mathias & Carling did not stop battling, though, until the very end. The final point was won with Mathias hitting the buttress on her serve, which looked like an unreturnable winner, but Raynor, who had been waiting all match for this opportunity (and had failed on many attempts before), dived across the court and managed to return the ball just above the bar as a drop shot into the right-hand corner. So Raynor & Steel beat Mathias & Carling 15-2, 15-2. After these two epic battles, there was no time to recover; it was time for the Singles competition to begin.
The Singles was a knock-out competition. The 1st round saw Lee face Sumner, two young players who were evenly matched and the score constantly changing; however, it was Lee who just edged in front of Sumner to win 15-12. The other matches saw Steel beat Kent 15-0 and Mathias beat Laakkonen 15-1. Unfortunately Carling had to pull out of the Singles due to other commitments, which gave organiser Raynor a bye into the semi-finals, where she faced Lee. Lee proved herself as a very competent and talented opponent, and Raynor had to battle hard to win eventually by 15-6. The other semi-final saw Mathias take on Steel; this was an exhibition of ladies fives at its best, with both battling hard. It was Steel who just managed to get the edge and win 15-7. Whilst the main competition was happening, Sumner, Laakonen and Kent battled it out in a round robin for the singles plate, with Sumner victorious, beating both Kent and Laakkonen. The level of fives that was displayed in this plate competition shows how much talent there is in ladies fives and what a great job schoolgirls’ coaches are doing.
The Singles final saw a grudge match between Raynor and Steel, who are both OId Blundellians and Exeter Rugby Fives Club members as well as doubles partners. The first game started with the two players demonstrating great fives with long rallies. It was eventually Raynor who crept ahead to 14-5, game point; however Steel kept fighting, despite the number of times Raynor managed to hit the buttress. 18 game points later and Steel had got the score to 14-9, but eventually Raynor managed to win the first game 15-9. Both Ladies were exhausted, but the final had to continue. The second game was a battle of determination where both ladies fought valiantly. However, Raynor got the edge and again it was 14-5. Raynor, now even more determined not to be on game point for as long as in the first game, finally managed after a long rally to find the buttress and finish the match. It was four years ago Raynor made her first final, which was on these courts at Bradfield. It has been a long and epic journey of fives, but she has eventually done it.
The sportsmanship and atmosphere at Bradfield on the day was amazing. I know that Denise would have been proud of all the ladies and schoolgirls who played and would have thoroughly enjoyed watching all the matches. It was a long and tiring day of great fives, but a highlight for me as organiser was to see how well the schoolgirls stepped up to the mark in a National Ladies competition and held their own.
1st round: Lee bt Sumner 15-12; Steel bt Kent 15-0; Mathias bt Laakkonen 15-1
Semi-finals: Raynor bt Lee 15-6; Steel bt Mathias 15-7
Final: Raynor bt Steel 15-9, 15-5
Plate Round Robin: Sumner bt Kent 11-1 ; Laakkonen bt Kent 11-1; Sumner bt Laakkonen 11-3 — Winner: Sumner
Round Robin: Raynor & Steel bt Carling & Mathias 15-10; Raynor & Steel bt Laakkonen & Lee 15-1; Raynor & Steel bt Kent & Sumner 15-1
Carling & Mathias bt Laakkonen & Lee 15-4; Carling & Mathias bt Kent & Sumner 15-1; Laakkonen & Lee bt Kent & Sumner 15-3
Final: Raynor & Steel bt Carling & Mathias 15-2, 15-2
Plate: Laakkonen & Lee bt Kent & Sumner 15-1, 15-7