30 Jan 2019
Martin Pett Plate

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On Sunday 27th January, the inaugural U13 National Team Competition took place and we were honoured to host the event here at Berkhamsted. The competition runs in a similar vein to the William’s Cup and Hughes Cup where schools enter a team of three pairs and the win is based on the overall result of that three pair fixture against an opposition three pairs.

Eight teams took part with representation from Ipswich (three teams), Berkhamsted (two teams), Cranleigh Prep, Belmont and St. Olaves; a pleasing entry for a first outing of this competition. The teams were split into two pools of four with the top two from each going straight into the semi-finals, the boys and girls played single set matches up to 12 with no setting. Berkhamsted were represented by both an U13 squad and an U12 squad. We had an extra two players in the U12 squad, so the boys were very generous to then help our fellow Belmont opposition who had turned up with one less player due to a late drop-out, by jumping into their side to form a ‘Berkmont’ coalition.

Across the groups the U13s dropped a single set in the 2nd pair against St. Olaves, while the U12s had a full un-beaten run; this then qualified both teams into the semi-finals where they fortunately ended up in the other halves of the draw. The U13s then faced off against Belmont (with a Berko representative in their side!) while the U12s faced a tough looking St. Olaves team. The U13s claimed a pretty conclusive 3 – 0 putting them through to the final. The U12s had a much tougher encounter playing boys a year older; the St. Olaves players made use of their size to try and overpower the junior Berko boys in the matches, but the skill and finesse of the 12s is what made the difference in their games. The 2nd pairing of Francis & Crocker had a resounding win 12 – 4 drawing first blood to Berko. The 3rd pairing of Hoad & Senior had a very tough game and were just piped to the finish line 10 – 15 by St. Olaves. With the fixture standing at 1 – 1 it came down to the 1st pairing of Head & Spooner to try and overcome a very solid looking Olaves pair; it was a tight game throughout but the Berko boys found some form and a flurry of points came near the end of the game allowing them to tale the set 15 – 10.

And so it came down to an all Berkhamsted final with the U13 squad facing off the U12 squad with the matches now being played as best of threes. The 1st pairing of Kaynama & Baines v Head & Spooner was a fantastic game to behold with some extremely high-quality Fives played throughout. Kaynama & Baines found their form early and smashed through the first set to claim the set 12 – 1. The second set was a much tighter affair; Head & Spooner did not drop their heads and this early defeat and instead came back with a tactical plan to get around their older counterparts, it began to pay off with the U12s leading the way throughout most of the set but the U13s were often only a point or tow behind. In the end, Kaynama & Baines found another gear and managed to just pip them to the finish line 12 – 10.

The 2nd pair match was also a very high-quality match; the 13s were represented by Harris & Kibble while the 12s pairing of Crocker & Francis were ready to do battle. In the group stage Kibble & Harris had lost to the 2nd Olaves paring while in the semi-finals Crocker & Francis had dominated them so it was uncertain how this match would turn out. The first game was very close, with both pairs playing some extremely high-quality Fives finding good lengths to try and kill the ball in the buttress but then some equally great retrievals on the top-step particularly from young Harris. The first set just wen the way of the 13s 12 – 8. The second set followed in a similar vein and it was pleasing to see both sides adapt to the killing of the ball in the buttress by working hard to block and defend to counteract this. The game was pretty much level all the way and was particularly tense at 5 – 5 where neither side had gained a pint for a while. It wasn’t until right at the end that the U13s managed to up their momentum to steal the set 12 – 9 securing the overall victory for the U13 squad.

The final pairings saw U13s Phelps & Rennie do battle with Senior & Smith; it should be noted here that Smith had been a star all day playing alongside the Belmont team so it was very gracious of his fellow team mate Hoad to step-aside to allow his team mate a chance to play for the Berko side, a great display of team spirit. The game did not start well for the 12s with the 13s finding an early form and applying lots of pressure to plie on the points early taking the first set 12 – 5. In the second set the 12s tried to come up with a plan and adjusted their tactics accordingly; it paid off with a very close match which then resulted in a reversal with the 12s winning 12 – 10. The final set was also a great match with both pairs playing for the win despite the overall result already being decided, a great sign of good attitude and sportsmanship. In the end the 12s took the final set giving a consolation prize to the U12s squad.

All in all, it was a hugely successful and incredibly enjoyable event made even more fitting that the Pett Plate was both hosted at and then won by Berkhamsted, the cherry on the cake being an all Berkhamsted final. My thanks go to Mark Williams from Eton College for running such a fine tournament, to all the schools and Masters who took the Sunday off to bring teams over (particularly to Ipswich for kindly using their minibus as a shuttle service between the Prep and Castle courts), to Ryan Perrie for making sure the event ran smoothly up at the Prep School and to all the parents and spectators for coming along to support on what was a rather bitter and cold day! And finally, my thanks to Martin Pett himself, not only for joining us on the day to help with the event, but for all his years of service to the school and the Fives in particular; the game would not be in the fine state it is now without his hard work, dedication and commitment, thank you.

Mr A. Theodossi