22 Sep 2021
Derek Whitehead Trophy 2021

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2021 Players 2021 Plate Winners, James Green & Harry B 2021 Finalists, Richard Dennis & Zac S 2021 Winners, Charles Holroyd & James B

After a year’s break the annual Derek Whitehead tournament took place last Sunday; now in its 6th year since its inaugural event the tournament sees current pupils pairing up with Old Berkhamstedians, staff and guests to help promote strong ties between the Ob and school community for a fun and social but competitive tournament.

After a slight re-jig to the draw due to a couple of no-shows we still had another great turn out with 36 players taking part; the school pupils saw representation from Year 7 to Year 10 while the adult players saw a mix of staff and OB’s ranging from recent leavers to veterans of the game.

Pool Stages (one game to 8, step on 7)

The 18 pairs were split into two pools of 5 and two pools of 4 across the six courts with the top two from each group going through to the main competition while those who missed out would enter the Derek Whitehead Plate. Players took part in a frenzy of quick fire matches only up to 8 points which saw lots of great competitive but also good, spirited games across the board. There were no real favourites this year making the draw particularly hard to seed but this did also add to the excitement of the unknown as to who would progress through the days’ tournament. After about an hour and a half’s play, the participates retired for a well-earned BBQ break kindly put on by the Chartwells team before the next round.

Quarter-Finals (one game to 12, no setting)

Lots of the matches were very close across the board, so much in fact that only 3 of the 18 pairs won all their games in the pool stages. This led to some serious number crunching for the organiser to work out the remaining 5 pairs who qualified! There was also a real mix of players who had made this stage with the youngest player being 11 and the oldest around his 70s (it was better not to ask for an exact number at the time!). All four games saw some top rally play from all players, but the most closely contested saw OB Will Roen-Tate and his partner Tom M (7 Cox’s) having a tough battle against our top 6th form player and senior Fives Captain Jack Pemberton paired with new squad player Monty H (7 Loxwood). It was nip and tuck all the way but Roen-Tate & Tom managed to just edge out their opposition at the end 12 – 10.

Richard Dennis (OB) & Zac S (8 Loxwood) BEAT Jon Shorrocks (OB) & Leo H (7 Fry’s)

12 – 4

Charles Holroyd (OB) & James B (8 Greenes) BEAT Grant McWalter (staff) & Patrick P (10 Swifts)

12 – 3

Alex Rattan (OB) & Matt B (7 Cox’s) BEAT Chris Davey (staff) & Jack S (7 Swifts)

12 – 4

Will Roen-Tate (OB) & Tom M (7 Cox’s) BEAT Jack Pemberton (13 Hawks) & Monty H (7 Loxwood)

12 – 10

Semi-Finals (one game to 12, normal setting)

After a short break we moved into the business end of the competition; on one side of the draw we saw the wily veteran Richard Dennis Year Fives Captain Zac S taking on the youth of OB Roen-Tate & Tom M. It was a great match, with lots of superb set piece play from both sides and all four players. In the end it was Richard’s experience and wisdom towards his young partner that paid off as they just kept ahead of their junior opponents throughout the game before claiming the win.

The other side of the draw saw former teammates and school Fives partners Rattan & Holroyd go head-to-head ably supported by their young partners. This was a very different game of Fives from the other semi-final with lots of long drawn out and high intensity rallies; all four players were moving frantically around the court to dig up balls, attack vollies and try to keep the pressure on their opponents. It was great to see the two junior boys not being phased by the hard hitting shots of their opponents and they themselves being fully immersed in each and every rally. The game good have gone either way and reached 10-10 where the decision was made to play up to step on 12 up to 13; in the end it was actually some fine cut returning by young James B that allowed them to nick the last few points putting him and Holroyd through to the final.

Richard Dennis & Zac S BEAT Will Roen-Tate & Tom M

12 – 8

Charles Holroyd & James B BEAT Alex Rattan & Matt B

13 – 10

Final (best of 3)

And so we reached the grand finale! This was Richard’s second final having won the event back in 2018 and clearly looking to be the first individual to have their name engraved on the Derek Whitehead Trophy twice since its creation back in 2015. It was a shaky start from the adult players, either due to their exertion from the semi-final stage or just nerves, whereas both the school pupils seemed the calmest and relaxed on court. The two pairs had very different game play styles; Richard had clearly educated his young partner in the finer points of Fives with both playing a very delicate game making sure to place the ball in just the right areas of the court to try and cause their opponents to make the mistakes. Young James B had clearly picked up on his partner Holroyd’s style of Fives with lots of quick and lighting movement across the court to intercept vollies and play a very attacking game to keep the pressure on their opponents. In the end it was the latter pair’s style that claimed the first set seeing them take the lead with a 12 – 7 win.

In between sets Richard imparted more fine wisdom to his young partner and it clearly paid off with them getting off to a strong start taking an early lead with a few quick points. Holroyd & James B were unfazed however and set about correcting their situation; the top-step play from both teams was superb, but it was the back court play where the differences showed. Some lovely angle shots from the Holroyd & James B duo as well as some storming strong strikes deep to the back left and right corners allowed them to pick up the points by almost powering their opponents off the court. Young Zac S wasn’t going down without a fight though and some excellent top-step play with retrieval and attacking vollies kept him and Richard in the game. It was all a little too late however and Holroyd & James B managed to edge out the last few points to match their first set score-line and take the 2021 title.

Charles Holroyd & James B BEAT Richard Dennis & Zac S

12 – 7, 12 – 7

Plate Competition

A relatively new addition to the overall tournament format, the Plate was introduced last year due to both the ever-increasing size of the entry and the want of players for more Fives after the group stages. The remaining 10 pairs were split into two pools of 5, the plan being for the top two to go through to a semi-final and then the final itself. Despite the short games of step on 5 first to 6 the pool rounds took a long time as all the games were of a very close and similar standard; for this reason, the decision was taken to simply promote the top pair from each pool straight into a final. In the end this saw OB and ex Head Boy James Green with his relatively new to the game partner Harry B (8 Bees) taking on his former fellow school teammate Ashley Hornsey and young partner Beau C (7 Loxwood). The game was shortened to a single set to 8, step on 7 and the delay in the pools actually added to the event with the Plate final taking place after the main final meaning all eyes were on this match. Again it was a high quality game with all four players throwing themselves into the match and the school lads having fully supporting roles. In the end it came down to being a game ‘mistakes’ with Green & Harry B just playing a slightly tighter version of Fives keeping the ball in and safe forcing their opponents to make the mistakes and hand them the points. James Green had started the game with a slightly softer cut towards his young opposition Beau, but after seeing the ball comeback with interest from young Beau he decided t up his game and hit a full cut; this was also ably returned by the young Loxwood player which kept him and Ashley in h game throughout thanks to his fine set-piece play. In the end Green & Harry B managed to just edge out their opposition in the last few points to claim the Dereek Whitehead 2021 Plate.

James Green (OB) & Harry B (8 Bees) BEAT Ashley Hornsey (OB) & Beau C (8 Loxwood)

8 – 5

Despite the slightly delayed start time, it was great to see we had wrapped everything up with a slightly earlier finish time at around 3.30pm which allowed more time for everyone to catch up and socialise with refreshments and nibbles in Old Hall. A fine speech was then given by the Master On Charge, Martin Pett with the man himself Derek Whitehead kindly in attendance to hand out the trophies to the deserved winners.

As always there are a number of individuals to thank for making the event the great success it always is; firstly to the Chartwells catering staff, for hosting and looking us so well with both the fine BBQ and refreshments at the end of the day. To all the staff and parents who had simply turned out to support the event and the day which really helped add to the wonderful atmosphere that was created. To all the players, both adult and pupils, for giving up their time to come and take part and enjoy what has become one of the highlights of the Old Berkhamstedians sports calendar. And finally to the man himself, Derek Whitehead, not only for supporting on the day, but his tireless effort and commitment Berkhamsted Fives both at school and still going to this day; without him Berkhamsted Fives certainly wouldn’t be in the fine state we have it at today if not for the solid foundation he had created over all these years.

We hope to welcome even more OB’s next year and continue to grow the event either as a player on the day or a welcome back guest to enjoy the event with us. Here’s looking forward to the 2022 tournament and seeing you all on court soon.

Anthony Theodossi