|5 Aug 2020|
We were lucky to fit in as much as we did in the season that was abruptly curtailed. The bare statistics show the OIs played ten matches, treading the midline of wins and losses, participated in six representative tournaments and six non-team competitions. We came 6th in Division 2 of the league (roughly in line with expectations) and were represented by twenty eight players in all, including five guests. Amongst those, Charlotte and Natasha Gregory (daughters of Tim) should probably be counted as OIs by descent. Eight players turned out four or more times and twelve just once (you’ll never get fit at that rate chaps). It was something of a historic year with neither John Caudle nor Simon Woolfries playing in the league side. Simon also missed out on possibly adding his fourth Over 60s title in a row in the cancelled Veterans tournament.
A couple of wins at the start of the season against the Jesters and Cambridge Chroniclers had Tim Gregory suggesting that perhaps 2019-20 would be our promotion year but when he added that it could be a double with Ipswich Town FC going up we realised he was kidding. The Old Olavians’ satnav, unfortunately, managed to find a way round the blockage on the A12, enabling them to spring an unsurprising 3-0 whitewash on us in the Alan Barber Cup first round (the Eton Fives equivalent of the FA Cup). It was a poor substitute for the Suffolk Cup that had to make way so the tie could be played. Charlotta Cooley, of the School’s Maths Department, sported Old Olavian colours for the occasion, in contrast to most of the season when she proved the most prominent Old Ipswichian, wearing the OI shirt on eleven occasions. (She also managed to win the London and Kinnaird Festivals, make the last sixteen in the Midland and Kinnaird Championships and was probably only prevented from adding to her huge array of Ladies’ and Mixed titles by the coronavirus restrictions. If only Gareth Hoskins had been available for the Barber – Howard Wiseman would probably have had to take his sweater off. No matter, pleasingly that was the only time in the season when we suffered an all court defeat, which is something. Despite never winning at first pair in the league games we always picked up second or third, except against North Oxford 2 when it was both, again. Always nice.
It was marvellous to have Cam Lyle around, now working in London, and particularly pairing up with Isaac Wagland early in the season against the Old Etonians. Tim Gregory may have pulled a fast one here (suspected inside information!) but having withdrawn on the basis that ‘the OEs always struggle to raise a side – so it’s not really worth playing’ - we found ourselves facing three former Schools’ Championships winners plus other members of recent Oxford University’s all-conquering sides. That we only lost 1-2 was miraculous and down to a tremendous effort from Pete Forrest and Sam Basu (Old Reptonian guest) at third pair. Cam and Isaac raised their level, as we know they can, to give Cobb and Piggott a tight game in the third, which was splendid to watch and if only Charlotta Cooley had had Gregory as partner instead of the aged Boughton, she would undoubtedly have found the six extra points needed to have made it 2-1. Cam and Isaac’s third game performance was probably the best fives in Ipswichian colours during the season. More of these younger players in harness please. Cam may have had a raw deal, being thrown in on the hard springs of the first pair every time he played, allowing others to enjoy the soft upholstery of the lower pairs but he didn’t complain and more practice at the higher level will undoubtedly benefit his game. Tim Gregory (3 wins from 4 of the 6 league matches played) was our most successful player. He leapfrogged Will Gibbons, Tim Fletcher and Gareth Hoskins in reaching a total of 67 matches played for the OIs. Only another 615 to catch Mike Fenn at the top of the all-time list. Tom Fletcher was a mainstay of the league side once again but statistically suffered from always leading the charge at first pair. Mark Graves with three wins from four outings (sadly only one in the league) showed he remains a top class player and when he and Steve Burnell were available the team had a much more solid look.
The inaugural mixed team competition provided the chance for all three Gregorys to team up. It also allowed Nadia Mason to make her only appearance of the season – putting in a stellar performance in the Plate final, according to the organiser, guesting for an amalgamated side. A storming performance from the OI team saw them reach the final having lost just one set. That this was a rather unusual and unsettling experience for the OIs proved correct as Highgate A, who we had beaten in the group game, proved a tad too good second time round and a 1-2 defeat left us runners-up.
At the Midland Championships Gareth Hoskins, playing with his (now KES Birmingham pupil) son Tom, kindly allowed Tony Stubbs and Peter Boughton to join Steve Burnell and Isaac Weaver in the quarter-finals. However it was Steve and Isaac who nearly upset the form book going down 12-15, 13-14 to the redoubtable pair of Howard Wiseman and Jeff Lawrence.
Tim Gregory masterminded a successful foray in the Eton Fives Association Trophy with the OIs making the last four for the second time in three years. Steve Burnell & Simon Woolfries at third pair and Charlotta Cooley & Simon Cass at second took maximum points off everyone apart from North Oxford and gave us a pitch at the Old Salopians in the semi-final. Although Cam Lyle and Steve Burnell pulled back impressively in that encounter, forcing their opponents to capitulate, first and third pairs went down, allowing the OSs through to beat North Oxford in the final.
Cam Lyle and Isaac Weaver had a good run in the Graham Turnbull Trophy (which pairs a pupil with a former pupil or coach), making the quarter-final before falling to those Olavians again. It was certainly the best Ipswichian showing in the competition for a while. Charlotta Cooley, playing with Year 10 pupil Luke Free, also impressed, making the last sixteen before bumping into eventual winners Jonny Ho and George Everitt (Highgate). It was the first time Luke has played at that level so a great effort from him.
The Ipswich Tournament for the Graves Cup has provided the high point of the Ipswichian fives calendar for forty one years. The brainchild of master tactician John Caudle it retains an unfailing ability to mix players of all sorts and ages in a seriously social weekend that challenges not just fives ability but equanimity (and alcohol tolerance as well, for those so inclined). Eighteen pairs this year was an excellent turnout, with just under forty attending the dinner. How Nigel Cox (Old Lancing) and Peter Boughton with 143 years between them managed to talk their way into the last eight is still a mystery, even to them. The gallery of past greats who have graced the tournament is impressive, but several of the current top players have not yet had the courage to face the sight of Oli Watts on the Sunday morning. This year there were some great games, none better than Gareth Hoskins and Will Kelly’s (Year 10) semi-final against Tim Gregory and Will Woods (Year 9), with Tim and Will earning the right to face multiple UK champion Seb Cooley and Year 8’s Owen Free, who had overcome Karen Hird and Oli Watts in another tight semi-final. Despite a strong start by Tim and Will in the final, Seb and Owen proved worthy winners. Steve Burnell and Alex Williams beat Charlotta Cooley and Andrew Whitehead for the Stubbs Plate.
Steve Burnell and Charlotta Cooley spearheaded a respectable performance in the Richard Barber Cup ( a pupil/ former pupil team event) with Isaac Weaver on fine form leading the School element. Losing tight games in the group meant we missed the semis and having made the Plate final we were frustrated to lose 1-2 to St Olave’s 2. There were promising performances from the U15 pupils Sankaman Malaravan and Rohit Bhagwat but they weren’t quite able to carry coach Tony Stubbs over the line. We look forward to having them playing in OI colours before long.
Steve Burnell and Tim Gregory had good wins in their group at the Northern Tournament, Shrewsbury, making the play-off for the last eight but finding Cox and Worth a bit too good. Tony Stubbs and Peter Boughton made the Festival quarter-final.
Steve and Tim took a respectable number of points off Ed and Al Taylor in the first round of the Kinnaird Championship and just missed a semi-final place in the Pepperpot Plate, losing 7-8 in the quarter-final decider. Tim switched to playing with daughter Natasha in the Festival and reached the quarter-finals, as did Isaac Weaver. The resultant Ipswichian head to head in the quarter-final losers Plate final went to the Gregorys 15-14.
Lockdown gives time to contemplate how lucky we who play this wonderful game are to enjoy not only a fantastic sport on court but also the friendships and socialising that come with it. If ever you have thought about giving fives a go, or picking it up again, please do contact Peter Boughton (email@example.com) as we would love to give you the chance to try it, or if you are not near to Ipswich or London, put you in touch with your nearest centre. You don’t have to be a great sportsperson, it is a game that can be enjoyed by all, interestingly sometimes by those that thought they disliked sport.
Peter Boughton OI (1958-1969)
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