The penultimate match of Michaelmas term was against the Old Cantabs on Saturday November 28th, and three men’s and one ladies pair were fielded. There was a buzz at the university sports centre as a sizeable Rugby Fives tournament was taking place to match the sizeable table of refreshments to the side of the courts. The surplus of sweet goods was a boon to the Eton Fives players, and the odd banana or chocolate offering did not go amiss between games.
Current Cambridge first pair Jamie Abbott and Tony Barker had no right to win the first set given early errors but mounted a late charge to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The second set was more comfortable as Barker and Abbott returned cut more frequently. Laurie Brock turned on the style in the third set as Old Cantabs took an early lead in the set and never looked like surrendering it. Perhaps tiredness creeped into Old Cantabs in the 4th as current Cambridge claimed it in similar style to the 2nd set, despite some good cut returns from Brock and powerful back court play from his partner Guy Chapman. The final scoreline 3-1 making for a very enjoyable match all round.
Alistair Stewart and Ben Merrett represented the current Cantabs’ second pair and reported “not a particularly enjoyable game for the current Cantabs, the ball was too hard and bouncy”. The Old Boys (George Illingworth and Ralph Morgan) took the lead in a slow-playing first game with cleaner, more consistent play, although Stewart and Merrett managed to pull it back at the eleventh hour. The next three games went in a similar fashion, with messy mistakes and general frustration from the younger lads allowing the experienced pair to win significant points, although the superior skill of the former got them over the finishing line in the end. After over two hours of fairly lacklustre play, the whole thing was over and Stewart and Merrett were happy to tuck into the veritable feast Rugby Fives had so generously provided.
Nic Walker and Fred Tomlinson in third pair played Old Cantabs Alex Nice and Joss Knight and the sides were well matched. Fred unearthed his Fives skills having been a regular at school, and made some impressive returns when serving. Like his partner though, he was prone to unforced errors. Nevertheless, the Old Cantabs showed symptoms of the same problem. Whilst Nic and Fred got their eye in, the Old Cantabs won the first game; however, the second was a close contest, only snatched by the Old Cantabs on step. Nic and Fred had many more game points than their opponents in this set so it could have gone either way. By the third set, Nic and Fred has lost their verve, and the competitiveness of the Old Cantabs duly won them the game. There were some good rallies though, and typically good humour which were consolations for the loss.
The ladies match saw Old Cantab Emma Sewart’s return to the Fives court after a long hiatus, and together with her partner – Charlie Farquharson-Roberts – easily dispatched the Cambridge pair. Relative newcomer Nicole Lim showed some impressive form while the more experienced Susanna Xu never quite hit her stride. Spirits were high on both sides though, as Cantabs old and new enjoyed a reunion on the courts.
The teams thus finished all square and was a satisfying afternoon of Fives for all to round off the term, and 2015.