The third weekend in March saw the gathering of 56 Old Salopians, Shrewsbury Students and friends of fives for a fixture that filled all fourteen courts at Shrewsbury School.
The date was carefully chosen and listed on the school Fasti to give the school fives players stiff competition and practice immediately before the Nationals at Eton which commenced on Sunday 18th of March and to take advantage of the balmy and heart-warming Spring weather.
The Saturday fixture was a Grant Williams Invitational Event which also happened to coincide with St Patrick's Day, so the omens were all lining up nicely. The organisation went very smoothly which is unusual when it comes to getting Old Salopians to commit and ended up being marginally easier than organising a ceasefire in Eastern Damascus.
As we started to gather on Saturday at 1.45pm the snow was starting to fall quite nicely as the temperature dipped below freezing, perfect for an afternoons fives! As anyone who has ever organised a fives event will attest, there is always some last minute adjustments to the pairings and this was no exception.
Due to the fantastic attendance and the tremendous effort that the Old Salopians made travelling from as far afield as Durham and London we were able to run two fixtures concurrently. The first was a 14 pair rubber of the G Williams friends against the School including two ladies pairs, the other being six pairs of Old Salopians against the School.
The Salopians were very strong at the first fives pairs and special mention must be given to Jeremy Lees (O 1977-82) and Martin Griffiths (R 1982-87) who were brought out of fives retirement having not played since leaving Shrewsbury School in the 80s. They had a practice game with their sons who are both at the Schools now and were then thrown in at 6th pair.
The Old Salopians were too strong for the School, fielding five current and past Barber Cup players but special mention should go to Tom Brunskill (S U6) and Dan Humes (I L6) who gave ex Fives Captains Tom Breese (PH 2011-16) and Guy Williams (Rb 2008-13) a run for their money despite losing in straight games. The first Salopian four pairs all won 3-0. The fifth pair of the Mitchell Brothers (Ian, PH 1982-87 and Andrew, DB 1976-80) were 2-1 up when the school pair decided they had other commitments and disappeared thus conceding. The sixth pair of Lees and Griffiths gradually rediscovering their form of former years went 3-0 down to Hinwood and McLoughlin spoiling the Salopians clean sweep. The Salopians won this fixture 5-1.
Beyond the Salopians, the Friends of Grant Williams had a much tougher challenge. The Ladies pairs of Fiona Mitchell and Emily O’Malley went down 0-3 to Sophia Breese and Lizzie Ware, Mandie Barnes and T Walters suffering a similar fate to Emma Graham and Katie Oswald, which bodes well for this week’s Nationals.
Elsewhere the Schools were dominant with only the pairings David Wray (staff) and Bill Christie (parent) and Will Sillar (O 1977-81) and Dom Dootson (M 2010-15) victorious. The overall result was Grant Williams Invitational Team 8 versus the Schools 6.
A great day was had by all with Christie and Wray finally overcoming Legeais (parent) and Kynaston 3-1 at 4.15 pm, the last remaining spectators looking forward to a cup of tea which was provided in the Quod. Many thanks go out to all of those who participated as well as Chris Hughes for his invaluable help in such a good Old Salopian turnout, Seb Cooley and Andy Barnard for organising the school pairings and to Shrewsbury School for use of the courts and the excellent tea in the Quod. Hopefully this fixture can become a staple of the Shrewsbury School and Old Salopian fives calendar.
North v South
The North v South match had been a regular fixture for many years but for one reason or another had not been played since 2009. With so many Salopians around it was a great opportunity to resurrect this great fixture.
Mother nature did us no favours overnight as we gathered at 10.30am it was still zero degrees with snowing laying on the ground. The local 10km run had been cancelled, and it was no surprise that we had a couple of cry offs in the morning which reduced us from five to four courts, but everyone present was up for it.
To achieve a result, the ladies court became a separate fixture which Fiona Mitchell and Mandie Barnes won leaving three courts for the main event.
First pair saw Tom Cox (M 2000-05) and Sam Welti (I 2007-12), both recent Barber Cup finalists take on T Walters and Tom Welti (I 2004-09), with nothing like a bit of sibling rivalry to add some spice. Sadly Tom Cox picked up an injury and was replaced by Adam Aslam Baskeyville who along with Andrew Mitchell (DB 1976-80) had already dispatched Ian Mitchell (PH 1982-87) and Adam Morris (Rb 2007-12) at third pair, another internecine battle.
Despite one of Sam Welti’s purple patches which are now proven to be more than folklore, the experience of Walters and Tom Welti’s determination to beat his brother saw them win meaning the
North retained the trophy after a nine-year break. The second pair of Grant Williams (parent) and Guy Williams representing the North went down 3-1 to Chris Hughes and Tom Breese in what was a very lively and fast paced game interrupted briefly when Tom Breese, returning the ball to the court in a move which was not even part of a rally, threw the ball onto the roof where it landed in the snow. He then had to suffer the indignation of standing on a snow-covered bench with a long broom trying to retrieve the ball whilst being showered in the snow that came off the roof with everyone watching and being very supportive as you can imagine.
The match was won 2-1 to the North. We all retired for lunch at the Boathouse where the trophy was presented to the victors, a perfect end to a great weekend with everybody looking forward to next year. Much fives was discussed throughout the weekend with plans afoot for a tour to Grillon and a Salopian end of season jamboree in June. Watch this space!