‘The 2015 Jesters Universities Tournament took place at Eton on Saturday 24th October with a terrific turnout of 29 pairs from 17 different universities – Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Swansea, Cardiff, Durham, Liverpool, Loughborough, Leicester, Bath, QM, King’s, LSE, UCL, Middlesex, Imperial and RVC.’
The standard in the men’s tournament was particularly high this year, and acted as a major wake-up call to the Cambridge Men’s team as things didn’t go quite their way. The men’s tournament saw the entry of five Cambridge pairs:
- Tony Barker + Riki Houlden
- Jack Parham + Sudhir Balaji
- Alistair Stewart + Ben Merrett
- Nathan Turnbull + Nic Walker
- Kai Bilimoria + Xiao Lin
The morning group stages produced some fantastic matches, with pairs competing for the top two spots in each group in order to proceed to the knockout stages. The defending champions Tony and Riki topped their group comfortably. However, there was disappointment for the Cambridge team as Cam 2 and Cam 3 came third in their groups, and Cam 4 and Cam 5 came fourth and fifth in theirs respectively, taking them into the Plate Competition.
The four group winners, including Cam 1, all won their quarter-finals without much difficulty. However, the semi-final match between Cam 1 and LSE (S. Yick and I. Salim) marked the first time in the past 12 months that Tony and Riki had lost a match at university or U25 level. The unexpected challenge meant that the LSE pair took an early lead in the first game, which the Cambridge pair managed to fight back to a tie-break with some incredibly high quality fives being played throughout. However, accustomed to being the more aggressive pair on court, Cam 1 were unable to adapt to having to play defensively as the LSE pair increased the tempo, and lost 14-11. They were unable to regain composure after the shock of losing the first game, and lost the second 12-4, ending their winning streak that had begun at the same tournament exactly one year before.
A painful final to watch for Cam 1 then followed, between LSE and Oxford 1 (J. Cobb and J. Piggot). ‘The effort – both mental and physical – required to win their semi-final took a lot out of the LSE pair, who were unable to sustain the speed and intensity that had carried them to victory’. They lost to the Oxford pair 12-2, 12-4, in a match of scrappy, tired fives. This result was frustrating not only because the title went to Oxford, but also because Riki had comfortably beaten the same pair a month before in the National U25s Championships final (http://www.bluebirdnews.co.uk/victory-at-the-u25-national-championships/)– had LSE not gone into the match tired, they would likely have done the same.
‘The strength in depth of the tournament was shown by the high quality of all of the plate competitions.’ In plate A, both Cam 2 (Jack and Sudhir) and Cam 3 (Alistair and Ben) went on to win all their matches up to the semi-finals, hoping to show that they too should have made it through to the knockout stages. An unexpected defeat for Cam 2 came in the semi-finals against UCL 1, but a strong performance by Cam 3 in the final meant a Plate A victory for Cambridge and vengeance for Cam 2. Cam 4 (Nic and Nathan) and Cam 5 (Kai and Xiao) gave it their all for the rest of the day, with Cam 4 taking runners-up spot in Plate B and Cam 5 reaching the semis of Plate C.
Alistair Stewart and Ben Merrett (Cambridge 3) after winning Plate A