Varsity Fives-A double report on all the highlights of the day

Report 1: by James Duboff

Last week saw the massive Oxford dynasty descend upon Eton, all guns blazing, raring to go and greet the Cambridge kids. The chiselled Oxford first team dominated their way onto their designated courts and eagerly awaited the arrival of their opponents. Led by the dynamic duo, Peter Kennedy and Andy Erskine, the first team exhibited style and prowess with every stroke, exceeding all their predecessors in the game of the blackguards. They demonstrated their extreme back court superiority, but unfortunately weren’t able to get it off the step often enough, conceding the first match by exceedingly close margins. This arbitrary result was outshone by the first pair winning the post-lash, despite the ‘bridge’s attempts to keep up. The second pair, namely Will Betts and Chris Michaels, fought bravely, but at the last minute, the Cambridge duo tricked their way towards a light blue achievement. The final game for the first’s force was fronted by the phenomenal Duncan Bloor-Young and the ferocious Henry Mostyn. DJ-ABY managed to get up two flair shots in a row off the pepper on the top step in a fearsome and fast-paced fifth set, but the sneaky Tabs penetrated again.The Oxford second team, The Peppers, took the courts by storm. Freddie Krespi joined Ben Samuel who played most proficiently together, bringing a firm 3-1 demolishment upon the Cambridge twosome.

Theo Peterson and Jonny Nelmes annihilated their counterparts with a glorious 3-0 victory for the Oxford pair. It seems PK’s inspired battleplan of attacking the back corners paid dividends. Nelmes’ tuneful devotion to finishing before the Tabs had even got into the swing of it, rumoured to be his favourite tactic, meant they left on a very high note! Peterson shared this rhythm as he volleyed imperiously all game.

Last and by far not the least, the Duboff, J. – Pattenden, H. duo, truly brought sexy back to the Eton courts. Having already won on banterous prestige, they took on the infamous Ralph and his friend. JD + HP were shockingly dislodged by the unexpected force of the Cambridge “bantex” (banter vortex) and as such, had to fight the true underlying battle here in finding new niches and caveats to exploit.

Rosie Scott scored a very impressive 2-0 for the Oxford ladies, joining the ranks of her predecessor and new partner, Juliet Browning, who was glad to have set the standard for the ladies and see it continue with impeccable strength and power. Emma Cernis led new girl Alex Colvin into a brilliant match, which they thoroughly enjoyed. The ladies were triumphant on the whole so they too won another Magnum of Pol for the Oxford elite to share at the legendary dinner later that evening.Ultimately, the Cambridge boys and girls admitted defeat by leaving ridiculously early so they could get back to the ‘bridge before their bedtimes – quoting their captain “we intend to keep our Magnum for our AGM next week”….cute.

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Report 2: by Theo Peterson

The Varsity Fives was sponsored this year by Pol Roger, so please excuse a degree of haziness surrounding the details of events. But I have it on good authority that the match definitely did take place. As if the endorsement of a major champagne company were not enough to demonstrate the public-school credentials of the occasion, the whole affair was hosted by Eton. Ironically, Oxford and Cambridge don’t even have enough courts to accommodate their own varsity. How embarrassing. Incidentally, if anyone is still wondering what all this Fives business is actually about…it’s like squash with your hands, alright?

We were fired up, by gosh, and ready to claim victory by bashing the Tabs, or whatever it is kids do nowadays. The loss of our best player (in fact one of the country’s best players) to the real world at the end of last year was certainly a blow, but we had a pretty strong team. But it was Cambridge who scored the first psychological point by turning up en masse as we sat around with our pre-match sandwiches, and shedding their overcoats to reveal gleaming polo-shirts emblazoned with all sorts of logos and badges and whatnot. Stash! Why didn’t we have stash? Their shirts said Cambridge on the back; ours offered nothing. We didn’t even know who we were. Nevertheless, once we had overcome this mild identity crisis and warmed up we were ready to start. Of the six boys’ matches, three were rather close, and three were not so close, although no less hardly fought. The top three pairs formed the Varsity team proper, and in this part of the competition I’m afraid to say we suffered something of a whitewash. But it was only a whitewash on paper.

Peter Kennedy, our valiant captain, and Andrew Erskine played bravely, eventually succumbing to a tricksy Cambridge first pair 0-3. Our second and third pairs held out a while longer, both taking their matches to the full five sets. Will Betts & Chris Michaels on court 2, and Henry Mostyn & Duncan “Nate-Dog” “Big D” “Dr Dunkenstein” Bloor-Young on court 3 provided some thrilling Fives against very evenly matched Cambridge opposition. The latter match was the last to finish, and had garnered quite a crowd by the end. As their opponents closed in on the final points, Our Boys dug deep to stall the onslaught, and when Duncan pulled out two cracking shots up off the buttress in a row it seemed for a moment that they might turn the tide. But sadly exhaustion took hold and despite the fact that one had injured his hand the Cambridge pair romped home.

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It was in the second team, the so-called Peppers, that our real success lay. I’m not ashamed to admit that Jonny Nelmes and I were the first to claim victory, despatching with a slightly lacklustre fifth pair within the hour. Things were rather more exciting in the fourth pair match. Freddy Krespi and Ben Samuel went one set down, before remembering what they were playing for and fighting back to take the match 3-1. Only our sixth pair suffered defeat, James Duboff and Hugh Pattenden going down all hands on deck, but that wasn’t enough to deny us the magnum of Pol Roger offered to the winners of each part of the event.

Champagne was similarly forthcoming in the women’s match. Juliet Browning and Rosie Scott destroyed the Cambridge pair 12-2 12-5, although that same pair then went on to beat our women’s second. We still got the magnum though. All in all it was a grand day out, even if we did lose overall, and things were only improved by the lavish dinner that followed, at which we were most certainly victorious.