The 2015/16 Fives season got underway at Eton with the first major tournament of the year played out amid a pleasing backdrop of blue skies, enthusiastic spectators and hordes of young Etonians watching some top class Fives and in many cases getting the gloves on themselves for the first time.
The men’s tournament featured a long and in some cases gruelling group stage with four pairs marking themselves out as the ones to watch: four-time champion Andrew Joyce, bidding to make it five in his final year at this level and playing in a new pairing with reigning U21 and Universities champion Riki Houlden; 2014 schools’ champions James Cobb and James Piggot; 2015 schools’ winner Tommy Weld alongside Salopian Chris Hughes; and fittingly, given that they were competing for the John Rimer trophy, Aldenhamians Carl and Andrew Rennie. These four made it through comfortably, taking the top two slots in each group.
The quarter-finals went to form, with the top four pairs from the morning’s games advancing without incident. Joyce and Houlden then confirmed themselves as favourites for the title with a convincing 15-7 semi-final win over the Rennie brothers. The other semi-final produced the game of the day as Cobb & Piggot took on Hughes & Weld, with Mike Hughes watching on as three of his recent Eton schools’ winners did battle along with his son. This match always looked like it was going to be close, and close it was with both sides having chances at 14-14 before Cobb and Piggot struck the final blow to take them through to their first U25 final by the skin of their teeth.
As is often the case in these tournaments, especially after an epic semi-final, the final itself was something of an anticlimax. Cobb and Piggot fought hard and played some excellent Fives; their harder passage through to the final was beginning to show, though, as they began to run out of steam when put under pressure by the classy Joyce and the indefatigable Houlden. There were some terrific passages of play and the overall standard was high, but the result was never in doubt and Andrew and Riki duly won 12-4, 12-5, giving Andrew an outstanding fifth and final U25 win and enabling Riki to add the U25 crown to the U21 and University titles he already holds.
Andrew Joyce (left) and Riki Houlden (CUEFC Captain, right) with the U25 trophy