Despite Dan Tristao and Will Ellison missing this fixture for the first time we had an excellent match on Sunday at Winchester College. The RFA have got the better of the Winchester Fives Association the last couple of years but this time the WFA edged out a very evenly matched game. No pair won all their games and all pairs won some. There were 4 old Bradfieldians on show for the WFA with James Birch being the dark horse and hitting the ball as cleanly as he always used to. Old pairings of James Marshall + Ed Ronan plus Kieran Mackinson + Tom Kidner (last year’s schools champions) were reunited so the WFA were able to use their ‘home advantage’ knowledge of the Winchester fives courts well. The overall scores in this excellent tight series now stands at 4-4 with the total of points won by the RFA being 1963 edging the 1943 won by the WFA….. 20 points over 8 years! The hard work of all was once again rewarded by lunch in the sun at the Queen.
Nice obituary of a fine fives player in the times today
There are some moments in a persons life that defines them as a human, moments that will be looked back on in years to come and remembered with such fondness by those present in body and in spirit that it brings a tingle to the spine and causes the hairs on the back of the neck to ruffle ones collar. Moments and events like these occur rarely and should be savoured and kept long in the memory. Of course one of these moments happened this past week - Giles Munn finally winning the Letchworth Bowl.
This brings us on nicely to the much more irrelevant topic of the Wood Cup. Months of preparation by Captain Akerman was not done and the week leading up to the tournament involved many frantic email exchanges and WhatApp groups being set up. However, finally a crack squad of Ellison, Butler, Hawke, Munn, Birch and Mettam was formed. A group of players so eager to fly the flag for King Frank of Wessex it was tough to see how they could lose.
For those who have no idea who half the people mentioned above are or indeed what the Wood Cup is, let me enlighten you.
The Wood Cup is the national club championship, four a side matches with some singles then doubles - you get the idea. That is the boring part done - now onto those fine individuals.
Ellison (Winchester, Imperial): Never missed a Wessex session in three years at school. We salute you brother William.
Hawke (Christ’s Hospital, Southampton): No, Hawk-Eye was not named after him. Yes, he was once on a video on the BBC sport website measuring a snooker table. No, on one has ever seen him in shorts.
Birch (Bradfield, Exeter, Army): A steely eyed deliverer of death who could kill with one stare.
Munn (Malvern, Imperial): Governor of the dynasty of Fives that is Winchester College.
Mettam (Bradfield, some medical school somewhere that may well have been Cambridge): Great bloke, always up for hiding the Sinton-Matthews cup when we have lost it, doesn’t happen often.
Butler: I will let Harry fill this one in.
Now I will endeavour to describe our semi final against the West of England Club. Messers Ellison, Butler, Hawke and Birch lined up to fly the flag. In the end this was a relatively straight forward win. My personal highlight was some advice from Hawke before yours truly was about to take to the doubles court with the steely eyed warrior, ‘don’t let him get carried away with the left handed volleys’. ‘Okay, Ed, I will bare that in mind’. Unbeknown to me Rear Admiral Birch had dug himself in on firm ground about halfway up the court on the left hand side and proceeded to give a left-handed volleying masterclass.
We were now through to the final against St Paul’s, the sergeant major rested, Braveheart (of Letchworth Bowl fame) came into the side. Tensions were high, chatter on the WhatsApp group fierce and the crowds were brewing. Wessex won the battle of the supporters, two to none. However it was tremendously disconcerting to find The Spiegal fraternising with the enemy before the match - but fear not, the Group Captain, who also came to support, split them up with ease.
The contest was going to be a close one. The top two on each side separated by only one ranking position, the singles was certainly going to set the tone for the match. However, neither was that close. Overall Wessex coming out 22 - 6 winners (one game to 11 each). Onto the bottom two games of singles. Fully trousered up, the Hawke battled hard to get to 7 in his match with Top 15 player Tilston, however it was in the battle of the fourth seeds where it could be argued the match was won. Giles, having gone a good margin down to the powerful left hander Tom Dean clawed his was back to win, a swing of about 10 points - life defining moments for the Winchester College head of sport. King Franks men went into the doubles 16 points to the good. The first round of doubles allowed the Paulines to claw back 4 points. Wessex 12 up going into the last round of doubles. Butler and Hawke decided to do their best to make it even closer by picking up the grand total of 0 points in the first of their games with the Pauline top pair, however restored some pride as they took the second game. This, along with the ever dependable Ellison and Munn pairing was enough to bring home the title to the great Kingdom of Wessex.
I am sure Harry has paraded the trophy and told you he taught us everything we know, this is a lie. A wonderful two days Fives, well done all, same again next year.
Disclaimer, I take no responsibility for the accuracy of any of this report or for that matter the spelling and/or grammar. It has been a tough morning getting over an awful hangover and watching the snooker.
Wessex vs Old Paulins
Will Ellison vs Charlie Brooks 11-5
Dave Butler v Julian Aquilina 11-1
Ed Hawke vs James Tilston 7-11
Giles Munn vs Tom Dean 11-7
Ellison + Munn vs Brooks + Dean 11-4, 12-11
Butler + Hawke vs Aquilina + Tilston 6-11, 4-11
Ellison + Munn vs Aquilina + Tilston 11-8, 11-9
Butler + Hawke vs Brooks + Dean 0-11, 11-9
Wessex win 106 - 98
Last night we had our end of season tournament with a slightly smaller draw than usual however the competitiveness remained high. Last year’s winner and international squash star Bev found the change in partner from David Butler (2017) to David Spiegal (2018) surprisingly difficult, I think Bev must have given all for Queen and country at the weekend.... The final was played between Kieran Mackison (Winchester College) and Wendy Carling who were edged out by Giles Munn (surprisingly winning the Letchworth Bowl for the first time) and one of our new recruits Chris Jack. Having enjoyed telling all at work that Chris lost to an > 75 year old last week at fives, I now fear I must spend the Summer being told by Chris you are only as good as your last game.
Much fun was had by all and the scores are displayed to ensure all bragging rights are factually based.
Whilst we await the full report this is from one of the fan club.....
Huge crowds gathered this morning at St Paul's to witness a couple of hours of nail-biting, epic, monster fives from the Wessex squad.
James and I must have arrived via the VIP entrance so somehow we missed the throng and also sadly had to leave just before the final match due to other commitments. Our arrival was slightly awkward as we thought we'd taken a wrong turn and entered the mens urinals (see attached photo) but we were reliably informed that this was indeed one of the fives courts.
I am sure you'll be informed rather more reliably about the evolution of the competition but all I can say is it was very exciting and bloody sweaty!
Congratulations to our Wood Cup Squad of Will Ellison, Dave Butler, James Birch, Giles Munn, Ed Hawke and Ian Mettam on their outstanding win against St Paul’s this afternoon . Full report to follow.
Enjoyable evening last night chatting with our international squash player. Well done to Bev who has been selected to represent England at Squash (in the over 75 category!!).
With 9 of the top 10 ranked players in the draw for this year’s Barnes Bridge it was the most eagerly awaited Winchester Fives Competition in years. There were 9 previous winners including a first appearance for many years for Roger Layton, the 5-time winner of this tournament (last victory 1996!). Roger, who this year was playing with his son Max was supported from the sidelines by his winning partner from those days Mike Tremellen (possibly regretting not entering himself??) and it was great to see 2 other members of their school team Philip Last and Tony Brown also joining in.
Concerns of the potential for sweating were raised when the courts started getting damp during a practice session played following Denise’s memorial service on the Saturday evening, however we were met with slightly cooler weather on the Sunday and bone dry courts so we started the tournament with optimism. Early round matches of note saw Mike Crompton and Rory James Duff push Tom Watkinson and Jez Sinton close before loosing 15-10, 16-15. Ben Hale and Steven Coffey would have claimed a game off Hamish Buchanan and Adam George had we been playing to 11 but they eventually went down 15-13, 15-5.
With the courts now sweating badly and with every likelihood they would get worse, a decision was made to take the plate and remainder of the tournament down to Winchester. Sadly not all plate players were able to make the journey but we still had all those in the main draw plus 7 pairs for an excellent plate.
On restarting the competition at the quarter finalist stage in Winchester our top 8 seeds were all still in the competition as expected. The only real fright for the top 4 seeds here saw Dan Tristao and Dan Grant given tough time by Sam Roberts and Giles Munn although the second seeds eventually went through in 2 games 16-14, 15-11. The first semi final saw a reasonably comfortable victory for number 1 seeds Will Ellison and Ed Kay against Theo Parker and Matt Shaw 15-5, 15-10 but there were some excellent rallies and Theo and Matt did make Will and Ed look rushed for the first time in the day. The Dans route to the final had been much harder work and they came through a very tough semi final against last year’s winners Dave Butler and Ben Beltrami 15-10, 7-15, 15-6. The top 2 seeds therefore reached the final and for the first time in this tournament we had the site of Ellison and Kay vs Tristao and Grant. Dan and Dan had lost 60 points on the way to the final compared to Ed and Will’s 17 and as a really exceptional game of Winchester Fives was played out fatigue started to play it’s part however the quality of the rallies remained exceptionally high and exciting. Will (for his 8th time) and Ed (for his 2nd time) came out winners in the end 15-8, 15-11.
The plate was played in a round robin format of 1 game to 11 against each pair and was won by Ben Hale and Steve Coffey who won all their games. They were pushed hard though by Rory James Duff and Oliver Bruce (11 - 10), against Tony Metcalf-Gibson and Harry Akerman (11-9) and against James Birch and Joe Gribble (11-8).
Thanks very much to Bradfield for kindly hosting us and of course to Winchester College for stepping in to save things when it was all getting a little slippy!
Next year we will be in Winchester hopefully for all of the tournament!
Preliminary Round: M. Crompton + R James-Duff bt N. Arnold + M. Stoddard 15-2, 15-1. R. Layton + M. Layton bt D. Shepherd + J. McIntyre.
First Round: W. Ellison + E. Kay bt J. Birch + J. Gribble 15-2, 15-0. J. Sinton + T. Watkinson bt M. Crompton + R. James-Duff 15-10, 16-15. J. Tilston + J. Aquilina bt L. Nelson + L. Amery 15-4, 15-2. T. Parker + M. Shaw bt T. Brown + P. Last 15-0, 15-0. D. Butler + B. Beltrami bt R. Layton + M. Layton 15-2, 15-3. H. Buchanan + A. George bt B. Hale + S. Coffey 15-13, 15-5. G. Munn + S. Roberts bt A. Metcalf-Gibson + H. Akerman 15-4, 15-8. D. Tristao + D. Grant bt N. Geere + A. Smith 15-2, 15-2
Quarter Final: W. Ellison + E. Kay bt J. Sinton + T. Watkinson 15-1, 15-0. T. Parker + M. Shaw bt J. Tilston + J. Aquilina 15-6, 15-8. D. Butler + B. Beltrami bt H. Buchanan + A. George 15-2, 15-4. D. Tristao + D. Grant bt G. Munn + S. Roberts 16-14, 15-11
Semi Final: W. Ellison + E. Kay bt T. Parker + M. Shaw 15-5, 15-10. D. Tristo + D. Grant bt D. Butler + B. Beltrami 15-10, 7-15, 15-6.
Final: W. Ellison + E. Kay bt D. Tristao + D. Grant 15-8, 15-11
Last weekend (19th to 21st Jan) was the annual Jesters Fives tour to Edinburgh which has always had strong links with Wessex. This year was the first year that Frank had not organised the tour with the organisation now in the safe Wessex hands of Ben Hale and Dave Butler. A few Wessex regulars were resting/ retired from the tour (we like to think the former).... Frank, Bev, Andy P, Will..... but it was great to welcome Nigel on his first fives trip North of the border. The tour remains an endurance 60 hours of little sleep, plenty of fives and even more socialising, with one thing being for certain- it takes longer every year to return to 'normal' on our return! Anyway, full tour report can be read by clicking here.