Cambridge University Sports Centre
Sunday, 5th December 2021
STOP PRESS In the second Challenger Tournament, following the success of the first such event in December 2019, which Christian Blackaby won, Anthony Goodwin from the Derby Moor Fives Club won the Tankard, beating Genesis Nsenga of the Edward Alleyn Club in the final.
Cambridge University was represented by Emrys Thursfield, Lennie Wells, Ben Yass and Holly Nugent, with former players Laurence Cook and Savanna Leboff; Derby Moor by Anthony Goodwin, Ashley Hill, Vishal Singh and Aaron Wheatley, the Edward Alleyn Club by Joe Garratt and Genesis Nsenga, plus newcomers to RFA events Oscar Naden and Max Langtry.
Charlie Brooks reports: Anthony Goodwin emerged victorious from the RFA Challenger Tournament, after a series of extremely close matches throughout the day. In the main draw, the semi-finals and final were very tight affairs, and the plate competitions continued this theme. Coming through to win the plates were Laurence Cook (1st Plate), Oscar Naden (2nd Plate) and Savanna Leboff (3rd Plate). Congratulations to all!
This was the second Challenger Tournament, after the 2019 debut (more had been planned before Covid lockdowns struck), and was held at the Cambridge courts alongside the National Singles. The event is open to everyone, except the 16 who qualified for the Nationals. This ensures new matchups, allowing a wider variety of players, including newcomers and younger players, to compete in closely fought knockout games.
The tournament started with 4 groups of 4 players each, playing up to 11. Most of these followed the seedings, but there were some cracking contests that set the tone for the day: Wells vs Cook and Mathias vs Wheatley both ended 11-10. Once the groups were completed, players were split into the main draw (for the group winners) and 3 plate competitions — this is where the action really sparked into life.
Throughout the group stages, those players not on court were able to watch some of the National Singles finals. Did this added inspiration spur on the Challengers? It certainly seemed that way as match after match went down to the wire. Of the 12 knockout games, all but one was 15-10 or closer, and that one was after the two opponents had each edged their previous game 16-15!
With such an exhibition, it is tough to pick any out specifically, but the whole event was surely epitomised by Louise Mathias and Oscar Naden in one of the semi-finals. It went to 16-15 after more than an hour of hard-fought play.
In the main draw, Anthony just about got the better of Emrys Thursfield in the top half, while a hotly contested match between Genesis Nsenga and Ashley Hill went the way of the younger player, Genesis winning 16-14. That score was repeated in the final, but this time it was Anthony who came out on top. He used all his experience and guile to save a number of match points, with both players’ hard-hitting producing numerous clear winners.
Thank you to all competitors; it was a brilliant showcase of Fives and demonstrated the value of this format. There were players who had never played in ranking tournaments before, and closely contested matches for all entrants — exactly the intent. The RFA is planning to hold two more Challenger Tournaments this season, so please keep an eye out as we head into 2022.
Group 1: Anthony Goodwin bt Ben Yass 11-5, bt Oscar Naden 11-0, bt Savanna Leboff 11-0; Yass bt Naden 11-4, bt Leboff 11-1; Naden bt Leboff 11-0
Group 2: Ashley Hill bt Laurence Cook 11-6, bt Lennie Wells 11-6, bt Joe Garratt 11-0; Wells bt Cook 11-10, bt Garratt 11-2; Cook bt Garratt 11-0
Group 3: Emrys Thursfield bt Aaron Wheatley 11-8, bt Louise Mathias 11-3, bt Max Langtry 11-0; Wheatley bt Mathias 11-10, bt Langtry 11-0; Mathias bt Langtry 11-7
Group 4: Genesis Nsenga bt Vishal Singh 11-4, bt Ritvik Patel 11-4, bt Holly Nugent 11-3; Singh bt Patel 11-2, bt Nugent 11-4; Patel bt Nugent 11-5
Semi-finals: Goodwin bt Thursfield 15-11, Nsenga bt Hill 16-14
Final: Goodwin bt Nsenga 16-14
3rd Place: Thursfield bt Hill 15-13
1st Plate: Semi-finals: Yass bt Wheatley 15-12, Cook bt Singh 15-10. Final: Cook bt Yass 16-14
2nd Plate: Semi-finals: Naden bt Mathias 16-15, Garratt bt Patel 16-15. Final: Naden bt Garratt 15-2
3rd Plate: Semi-finals: Leboff bt Langtry 15-10, Nugent bt Wells w/o. Final: Leboff bt Nugent 15-10
Genesis and Anthony (with tankard)