Winchester Fives Championship
Sedbergh School, Cumbria, Sunday March 12th
Harry Akerman writes:
With four pairs withdrawing in the final few days before the tournament, the organisers decided to play the tournament as two groups of six pairs in a round-robin format, with the top two pairs going through to the semi-finals. A plate was then held for the other eight pairs.
The round-robin fixtures produced no unexpected results, but plenty of good Winchester Fives. Dave Fox was rolling back the years to serve with irritating regularity straight into the buttress much to the enjoyment of the watching Lawrence Catlow (retired fives master at Sedbergh).
James Bristow and Hamish Buchanan pushed top seeds Will Ellison and Gareth Price close in losing 15-10, before Mike Crompton and Harry Akerman briefly found themselves 8-4 up against Dave Butler and Ben Beltrami, until improving consistency by the younger pair and decreasing energy levels by the older pair meant that normal order was restored (15-8).
Impressive Fives by the Sedbergh colt Taylor McGuire and (playing in his first season) Sedbergh master Jordan Annett ensured there were plenty of tough games in the pre-lunch round-robin, but the top four seeds made it through to the semi-finals, where the power of the first two seeds proved too much for the third and fourth seeds. Will was therefore into the final and looking to land an eighth title, whilst the other three finalists were yet to get their names on the trophy.
The top seeds were fast out the blocks, playing a series of winners to find themselves 12-6 up, with Will especially showing what a fine player of Winchester Fives he is, with amazing speed and reflexes around the buttress and the front of the court. Dave and Ben steadied the ship and started playing with more control to take the game to 13-13, but with the game slipping away from him, Will then served a pair of unretrievable buttress serves and then went to win the first game 15-13.
Dave and Ben were not disheartened, however, and continued in the second game largely where they had left off in the first to build a commanding lead before closing the game out 15-2. You felt that Will and Gareth would have to start the third game strongly to stand any chance of winning the title, and they did go 3-0 up, but Dave and Ben chipped and away and kept the pressure on a resilient, but tiring, Gareth, before going on to win the decider 15-8.
The plate tournament was a straight knockout, with Dave Fox (still serving into the buttress with irritating regularity!) and Bill Gunyon (drafted in at the last minute for an injured John Minta) coming from behind to beat Andy Passey and Will Akerman 15-11.
The format of the day worked well, with everyone getting plenty of Fives; the courts, which had been pre-heated for 48 hours, did not sweat one iota; the hospitality of Jon Lidiard and Sedbergh was very generous; and so, all in all, it was a very enjoyable weekend. Thanks very much Sedbergh. Bradfield next year…
Victories in Round-Robin (out of five games played)
W.Ellison & G.Price 5; B.Hale & M.Catton 1; J.Lidiard & T.McGuire 2; J.Bristow & H.Buchanan 4; A.Passey & W.Akerman 3; T.Wakelam & S.Shepherd 0
J.Annett & R.Bradley 1; D.Butler & B.Beltrami 5; R.James-Duff & J.Gribble 2; M.Patterson & M.Patterson 0; D.Fox & B.GunYon 3; M.Crompton & H.Akerman 4
Semi-Finals: W.Ellison & G.Price beat M.Crompton + H.Akerman 15-2, 15-11; D.Butler & B.Beltrami beat J.Bristow and H.Buchanan 15-4, 15-1
Final: Butler & Beltrami beat Ellison & Price 13-15, 15-2, 15-8
Plate: Fox & Gunyon beat Passey and W.Akerman 15-11