National Ladies’ U23 Championships
St Paul’s School, Barnes
Saturday, 7th December 2019
STOP PRESS In this fourth running of the Ladies’ National U23 championships Louise Mathias made it a hat-trick of Singles titles and a hat-trick of Doubles crowns, but this year partnered by Martha Nugent, with whom Louise won as a scratch pair in 2017. Holly Nugent won the Singles Plate, Phoebe Thornhill & Viola King Forbes the Doubles Plate. 9 players contested this relatively new tournament: 2 players each from Cambridge University (India Blaksley and Holly) and Oxford University (Phoebe and Viola), Louise from Bristol University, Ibby Lee from London University, Helena Tunks from the Executioners, Lena Barton from Marlborough College and Martha from Alleyn’s School,
Organiser Louise Mathias reports: This year the Ladies’ U23s brought players together from Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol and London. Although a small entry of 9, the day was packed full of closely contended singles and doubles matches, which concluded just as the lights were being turned off! The event was held in tandem with the National Singles Championship, which made for a very exciting day of fives.
The morning kicked off with some round-robin singles with a group of 4 and one of 5. Both Martha Nugent and Louise Mathias won all their matches within their respective groups, thus reserving the first semi-final places. They were then joined by Ibby Lee, who, despite having a bruise which covered the entire front and back of her right hand, powered through to gain comfortable wins over Viola King Forbes and Holly Nugent. The last semi-final spot came down to a much closer margin. Lena Barton, Helena Tunks and Phoebe Thornhill all won two out of their four group games. In particular, the battle between Helena and Lena was fantastic to watch and by far the longest singles game of the day. Although Helena pulled away to win 15-9, it was Lena who had the next greatest points total within the group and so became the 4th semi-finalist.
After a short lunch break, the doubles got underway. With just four pairs, another round-robin ensued. This started with a battle between the Oxford and Cambridge pairs. Some long rallies and good hitting from both sides meant it was neck and neck throughout. After multiple changes of hand at 12-all, Holly & India finally broke away to win 15-13. In the other games Ibby & Helena played consistently and won two out of three games, losing only to previous doubles winners Louise & Martha, who came out on top. A final and a 3rd/4th play-off for the Plate then followed. The re-match between Cambridge and Oxford for 3rd place was another tight game. This time, however, Phoebe and Viola came back stronger to claim a 15-9 win and secure the bronze medals. In the final, Ibby & Helena went into an early lead against Louise & Martha but unfortunately could not maintain it. The final score was 15-4 to Louise & Martha.
And the day was not over yet! Back to singles, and the plate games and semi-finals were next to go on. The first semi-final was between Louise and Lena. Despite some great movement and variety of shots from Lena, the game was won by Louise 15-0. On the other court, a much closer match was being fought between Ibby and Martha. Excellent hitting was seen by both players but Martha’s serve proved particularly difficult to return, flying straight off the back wall. This undoubtedly helped her to maintain her lead and finally win 15-7.
While the semis were in action, another round-robin plate was taking place: this time just one game to 11. The stand-out match here, and the decider of the plate, was between Holly Nugent and Phoebe Thornhill. Both ladies played fantastically, and with neither player giving up, it came down to the very last point. Congratulations to Holly, who managed to claim the win, the final score being 11-10.
The last game of the day was the Singles final between the defending champion, Louise Mathias and her partner, Martha Nugent. This was Martha’s first appearance in a senior Singles final and, aged just 15, this is a very impressive achievement indeed. Despite some excellent movement and retrieving from Martha, Louise made it a hat-trick of U23 titles, the final score 15-0, 15-1.
A huge thank you to all players and everyone who came to support. It was fantastic day of high-quality fives. The next ladies’ event will be the National Ladies’ Rugby Fives Championships on 25th/26th January in Manchester – one not to miss!
Semi-finals: L Mathias bt L Barton 15-0; M Nugent bt I Lee 15-7
Final: Mathias bt M Nugent 15-0, 15-1
Plate: 1st H Nugent; 2nd P Thornhill
Final: Mathias & M Nugent bt Lee & Tunks 15-4
Plate: Thornhill & King Forbes bt H Nugent & Blaksley 15-9