Representative Match: RFA v. BUSF — just one point in it!


Representative Match: British Students (BUSF) VI versus RFA VI
Alleyn’s School, Dulwich  and St. Paul’s School, Barnes
Sunday, 3rd March 2019

Club Manager Hamish Buchanan reports: After a stuttering start, with last minute RFA team changes and sweating Alleyn’s courts, this year’s match between the best of the students against an experienced RFA team finally hit its stride at St Paul’s.

Right from the start participants and interested observers were predicting a close match, even after the RFA shuffled their line-up and brought in James Birch at the eleventh hour: there were few people willing to commit to the outcome. To add to the uncertainty, none of the RFA team had actually played for the Association in this match in the past, although most had played for the students at some point.

The early exchanges from the three and a half singles played at Alleyn’s led to a narrow lead for the RFA, and this continued with the remainder of singles at St Paul’s, at the end of which there was a five point cushion for the RFA. Notable games from the singles were, firstly, a 15-12 victory for Dave Butler over an out of sorts Ed Kay, with Dave remaining focused under the pressure exerted by an uneven bouncing ball, whereas Ed struggled to adapt to the random nature of the bounce and, secondly, a ding dong battle between the mercurial Ollie Arnold and six-times National Singles champion James Toop. Indeed with James not having played singles for over two years the expectancy was for an early lead for Ollie, but, as is often the way in this format of one game with every point counting, the early exchanges were long and cagey. Then James found his length and Ollie struggled with consistency, James moved into a 13-4 lead. But with some degree of anger and a touch of exasperation Ollie chose to hit out and the increased pace caught a slightly complacent James off guard: Ollie tied the game at 14-14. James regrouped, as a great champion does, to win 16-14, but had Ollie set the tone for what was to come?

On to the doubles and the first two rounds of the ‘uneven’ matches, where third pair plays second, second plays first etc and the spectators and tacticians try to evaluate who is looking the strongest and most likely winners of a match that in all likelihood will go down to the wire.

The RFA stretched their lead to 20 points with some outstanding retrieval and angles from Toop & Maconie, great ball striking from Birch & Watkinson to upset Boyd & Butler and solid dominance from Beltrami & Kay.

There were still 90 points for each side up for grabs in the final round of two-to-15 against opposite pairs. Unfortunately, James Toop had unavoidable evening plans and the repercussion of the shift of venue and time spent travelling from Dulwich to Barnes led to only one game being played between the second pairs.

Toop & Maconie won this game 16-14, which meant a 22 point lead for the RFA, but these final games can result in large shifts and the students were not done yet. Arnold & Parker did not falter in a 15-8 victory over Beltrami & Kay and Low & McCreath looked fresh and determined in turning a 9-1 lead into a 15-8 victory in the penultimate games. At this point the RFA was ahead by 8, with two games to go.

The RFA dug in but the momentum was with the students and 15-11, 15-10 wins in the final games gave them a one point victory by 205-204. Well played to all, a wonderful example of team Fives — where every point counts!

Many thanks to Alleyn’s and St Paul’s schools for hosting this event and to the team captains for engineering such an exciting match.

3rd March 2019




Alleyn’s School



David Butler v. Ed Kay 15-12
Andrew Boyd v. Ben Beltrami   6-15
Theo Parker v. Tom Watkinson  15-8
Ollie Arnold v. James Toop 14-16
Cameron Low v. Tom Maconie   6-15
Archie McCreath v. James Birch 15-10
Arnold & Parker v. Birch & Watkinson 15-5
Boyd & Butler v. Beltrami & Kay 9-15
Low & McCreath v. Maconie & Toop 5-15
Arnold & Parker v. Maconie & Toop 15-10
Boyd & Butler v. Birch & Watkinson 13-15
Low & McCreath v. Beltrami & Kay 3-15
Arnold & Parker v. Beltrami & Kay 15-8
Boyd & Butler v. Maconie & Toop 14-16
Low & McCreath v. Birch & Watkinson 15-8


      BUSF VI beat the RFA VI by 205 points to 204