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News > Alumni News > OI Fives Graves Cup 2023

OI Fives Graves Cup 2023

The annual Ipswich Fives Tournament for the Graves Cup was back in its traditional early January slot for the first time since 2020.
Charlotta Cooley and Toryn Whitehead Won the Graves Cup 2023
Charlotta Cooley and Toryn Whitehead Won the Graves Cup 2023

With 2021 written off to the pandemic and a smaller than usual 2022 version played in mid-summer, the start of 2023 saw the Ipswich Fives world settle back onto its traditional New Year axis.

On the Saturday morning at 10:30am, the weather was cold and wet and a number of familiar faces (plus a few optimistic younger ones already wearing gloves and Fives kit) gathered in the School Pavilion as if they'd never been away.

The Graves Cup brings together Old Ipswichians, current pupils, staff and carefully selected guests with the seeding committee meeting on the Friday evening to carefully put together the pairings and produce a draw. A strong field of thirteen pairs took to the start line this time, with Saturday's play consisting of three groups - one per court - with the rough aim of somehow producing eight quarter-finalists by the end of the day.

There was some early rust to shake off - Stubbsy only realised right at the last minute that he was supposed to win the plate, successfully losing his first match in Group C alongside Elliot Caldwell 15-14 having been 11-4 and 14-10 ahead. This was the group of five pairs, and although there was another 15-14 result and two 15-13s (most seeming to involve the "Class of 91" pairing of Gareth Hoskins and Alistair Kelly), the group finished with a satisfying neatness - Harry Asquith and Henry Gardner winning the group decider ahead of Peter Forrest and Harvey Garrard, Hoskins and Kelly coming third, Stubbs and Caldwell - as is traditional - positioning themselves for the plate in fourth and 2022 winner Simon Cass eying up the wooden spoon alongside Mandie Barnes.

The other two groups both involved four pairs, with matches played over two games to 12. Group A was the tightest - Isaac Wagland and uber veteran Nigel Cox scored comfortably the highest number of sartorial points and posed some problems for their opponents, but fared less well in terms of actual games won; the other three pairs, however, played out a series of 1-1 draws which left the group as a three way tie. It came down to points to split them, with Isaac Weaver and Nadia Mason edging out Mark Graves and Will Carron for top spot with Cam Lyle and Sam Allen unlucky to end up third.

The seeding committee found themselves in Group B and suffered contrasting fortunes; Peter Boughton was unable to trouble the scorers, although his young partner John Hall showed a lot of promise and marked himself out as one to watch. Charlotta Cooley, however, was battling it out for top spot with partner Toryn Whitehead against Steve Burnell  and Alex Phillips, with yet another 1-1 draw producing another tie at the top. Steve and Alex came out on top of the group once the numbers had been crunched, while Tim Gregory and Dmitri Seymour-Howell had to content themselves with third spot.

The organiser was then left with a very Ipswich Tournament problem of getting nine pairs into eight quarter-final slots and in classic Boughtonian style, the answer was to introduce a tenth pair. One or two of the older and more cynical OIs may have raised half an eyebrow at the possibility of "giant of the game" Seb Cooley not playing on Saturday then miraculously finding himself in the knockout draw on Sunday and winning the tournament (it has been known...); others would perhaps take the approach that teaching all day Saturday and doing a seven hour round trip just to take part in as much of the tournament as possible shows admirable commitment to the cause. Either way it meant a couple of Sunday morning play-offs to see who would be joining the group winners and runners-up in the quarter-finals.

Stubbsy's route to yet more Plate glory was dealt a hefty blow on Sunday morning as Seb and partner Kishan Soni fell at the first hurdle at the hands of Cam Lyle and Sam Allen. They then proceeded to take on and defeat all comers in Plate A.

Gregory and Seymour-Howell were the other pair to make it through the early morning repechage and they made the most of the opportunity, producing the upset of the tournament to knock out the fancied and hitherto unbeaten pairing of Asquith and Gardner 15-14 in the quarter-finals. Fellow qualifiers Cam and Sam were brushed aside by Burnell and Phillips, Weaver and Mason produced an imperious display to dispatch Forrest and Garrard and Cooley (C) and Whitehead completed the semi-final line-up, squeezing past Graves and Carron in a tight game that could easily have gone either way.

The semis were more straightforward with Gregory and Seymour-Howell's run ended by Weaver and Mason, who continued to combine to great effect. The other semi-final was a repeat of one of the previous day's drawn matches but Cooley and Whitehead had gained in confidence from winning their tricky quarter-final, took their game up a couple of notches and came up against a pairing in Burnell and Phillips who couldn't find any answers and rapidly ran out of steam.

The best of five final was a great match up, a first ever Graves Cup final between two mixed pairs. 

This year's final was an exciting prospect, with the Cooley and Whitehead partnership taking on Weaver and Mason, whose game was based around some all-court pyrotechnics from Isaac with Nadia providing a solid set piece and steady back court support. Nadia continued to do her job well throughout the final but if they were to win it, Isaac was going to have to successfully walk the tightrope between taking on enough himself to win the rallies but not taking too much and making too many mistakes. The fact that they got so close was proof of how well they did it for the majority of the final, winning the first and fourth games to take it to a fifth game decider; indeed at two games all and 7-5 up they seemed the more likely winners. Charlotta was playing well, but Toryn's level - excellent all weekend - had dipped a little in the fifth after a decent start and Isaac and Nadia were beginning to take advantage and close in on victory. To his credit, Toryn refound his cutting form just at the right time, denying his opponents easy points-scoring opportunities and creating enough chances for his pair to come through and take the deciding game 12-7. Worthy champions indeed.

Mark Graves was on hand to present the trophy in front of the decent-sized crowd who had stayed to watch the final and bring an end to the 2023 Graves Cup, now back in its rightful place and hopefully on track for many years to come. 

Thanks as always to everyone at Ipswich School and the OI Club for helping to make it happen, but especially to Peter Boughton for overseeing everything with his traditional air of insouciant calm. 



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