An impressive nine pairs of Old Salopians and guests turned out to play the School in this first fixture of the term, to the great dissatisfaction of a number of the Fourth Form who found fewer courts than usual available for their practice at 3.00 pm! Our top seven or so senior pairs have shown themselves to be a strong squad over the week’s practices and the top two Fifth Form pairs are of known pedigree. Seeing the boys in action early in the week, it seemed their best chance was to start the game at high pace and hope to catch the occasional rusty Old Boy napping.
At first pair, Henry Blofield and George Lewis did attack, and had periods of dominance in rallies at several stages of the match but their opponents, George Thomason and T Walters, are not first pair for nothing and managed to absorb the pressure of the school’s attacks, indeed waited for them to overstretch and attack the wrong ball before pouncing on the opportunity to turn the tables.
Charlie White and Jamie Humes played Sam Welti and Guy Williams at second. Here, the school looked to take advantage of Sam being less focused and less agile about court than usual. They won the first game but lost the second despite some excellent retrieving from both of them. In the end they didn’t quite manage to move Guy and Sam around enough to ensure the analgesics were stretched beyond their limits and the Old Salopians took the match.
Third pair was similarly close-fought and was 1-1 with many of the others close to finishing. Tom Breese and George Panayi put up a strong showing here, as an U16 pair who, owing to exams, have not yet been out this term. They were disappointed to lose to Tom Welti but had to accept that he has significant experience and gravitas on court.
Nick Pearce and Samson Yick won fairly comfortably at pair 4 vs Bill Christie and KES based Rez Malik, making a case for promotion. “The Freds” Adair and Earlam are on their heels, similarly ruthless at 5 playing Reptonian Philip Horn and Rugby Fives convert Chis Davey. Ed Holroyd and Ed Barnard lost to coach Grant Williamswith Fiona Barnes, James Warburg and Max Hulse had a think about their game at 2-1 up and subsequently won against Tony Walters and Julian Davies, Jack Fox and Luke Lloyd-Jones were delighted to beat last year’s Oxford Ladies Fives Captain Alice Walker and ASBarnard and a peregrinating 9th pair match saw OS girls Alice Long and Elen Murphy take on a sequence of U14 and U15 pairs (Adair/Bromley-Davenport, Parsonage/Robinson-Boulton, Chapman/Aslam-Baskeyfield), all of whom were either too bemused or too gentlemanly to claim a victory.
It was a welcome first fixture; I’m grateful for all of our opponents for travelling to play. While the school’s play was not as crisp as we’d hoped (footwork and accuracy were definitely below the standards of the preceding week), every fixture against fresh faces broadens our repertoire and increases our experience. We look forward to taking on Highgate and Eton next weekend!