The Dark Blues of Oxford University Eton Fives Club (“OUEFC”) maintained their position as the top university by retaining both the Men’s and Women’s Universities Championship titles. The club also highlighted the strength of talent it currently possesses by producing five of the eight semi-finalists across the two tournaments and both finalists in the Women’s competition.
When such a prestigious event occurs so early in the Fives calendar (behind Varsity it is arguably the second most important fixture for the club), there is always the risk of being a little undercooked and not delivering on the day. In addition, the tournament was just about the largest and highest quality ever held, with over 65 players from 21 different universities in attendance. However, this Oxford team were not to be caught napping (once they finally arrived at least).
Despite having one of the shortest journeys to Eton, several factors conspired that threatened to end Oxford’s day almost before it had started. Thanks to some impromptu train hopping and “skillful” driving, eventually the entire Oxford team made it to the courts and were ready for action.
Oxford’s top three women’s pairs progressed effortlessly out of their groups, with Oxford 1 and Oxford 2 the two group winners, setting up an all Oxford semi-final between Rosie Parr (one of last year’s winners) & Carolina Valensise and Elena Zanchini & Helen Pugh which Parr and Valensise claimed relatively comfortably 12-3, 12-1. Oxford’s 1st pair of Georgia Allen & Marjolaine Briscoe showed similar dominance in the other semi-final, beating a Cardiff/Nottingham Trent pair 12-0, 12-4. Their strength would prove too much for Parr and Valensise in the final too, with Allen and Briscoe claiming it 12-2, 12-0 to retain the University’s title for the Oxford women.
The Men’s tournament was very much a draw of two halves, with Oxford’s top 3 pairs all finding themselves in the same half. After Oxford’s 1st pair of James Piggot and Thomas Kirkby saw off Oxford 3 in the group stages, they found themselves facing another Oxford pair in Arthur Wellesley & fresher Oskar Denby in the semi-finals. Oxford’s 2nd pair did very little wrong but ultimately came unstuck in the face of the quality of Piggot and Kirkby, with the defending champions pushed hard to win 12-9, 14-12. With high quality Durham and Cambridge pairs battling it out in a two-hour epic in the other semi-final, the defending champions were forced to wait to start the final. The Oxford pair were able to keep their focus and thankfully (for the spectators as well as the players) the final was more condensed although no lower in quality. Piggot and Kirkby were ruthless in their defeat of Cambridge, dispatching the likely Varsity opposition 12-5, 12-4 to win their 2nd Universities tournament as a pair, and Piggot’s 3rd overall.
A fantastic day for OUEFC, and hopefully the start of another very successful year for the Club. The quality of the freshers in particular was very encouraging to see, especially with several senior members of the club leaving over the summer. This bodes well not only for this year, but for the continued strength of OUEFC.
The official report with full results (perhaps written by a slightly less partisan author) can be found here.