Articles (all written by Club President Andy Pringle) reproduced from the RFA and/or Fives Federation Annual Review
Oscar Wilde famously said that work is the curse of the drinking classes. Well, this year, it’s been the curse of the Fives-playing classes, too. All too often, the weekly Executioners email would go out, only to receive a reply saying that at least one of our members was chained to their desk and would miss that evening’s practice at St Paul’s.
Nevertheless, there were always enough willing bodies around to see some Fives played every Wednesday evening. Among the most regular were the likes of Alex and Archie Wall, Simon Stokes Malcolm Borthwick, Tony Julius, Richard Dyke, Jon Peterson and Tom Webster, along with a host of Old Wykehamists, including Ben Hale and Seb Woollard; and, although Dick Warner and Guy Matthews were less regular attendees, they always left a lasting impression. Usually on their fellow members’ eardrums.
Both Dick and Guy were also among the club’s most decorated players this year. Guy again successfully employed his tactic of ensuring a good President’s Cup partner by barely playing in the run-up to the event. This year, that resulted in his being drawn to partner top leftie Tom Dean, and together the pair won the Love Mug. Meanwhile, Dick again showed off his fighting qualities, reaching the singles plate final at the Vintage championships and claiming the silverware after coming back from 13-5 down to win 16-15.
However, it was left to club stalwarts Andy Pringle and Alex Steel (pictured above) to carry the club’s colours to greatest effect in national competitions – although poor Alex must be getting sick of the sight of runner-up medals. She and Andy fell just short of retaining their Winchester Fives mixed doubles title, losing in the final to a tremendously strong pair; and, Alex also finished as runner-up in the Ladies National Rugby Fives Doubles with Maddy Raynor, ending the season a very impressive third in the ladies national rankings.
Andy went one better than Alex – twice! – and can look back on this as the season in which he claimed his first regional title (the South East Doubles, with Ed Hatton) and his first national title (the Veterans Doubles, with John Minta). He also managed to retain the Executioners Singles ladder crown in a perfectly timed campaign, wresting top spot from Ben Hale just a week before the end of the season.
Sadly, we have to record some disappointments this season – being unable to raise a team for the Club Championship, for example, not having more club matches and failing to play an end-of-season tournament. So, in keeping with this report’s opening, we are considering adopting a new club motto for next season (with apologies to Mars): ‘Work less, and play.’
It’s been another eventful year for the Executioners on- and off its home courts at St Paul’s School. We’ve continued to welcome new members, such as James Smith and Tom Yellowlees, as well as delighting at the return of ‘lapsed’ players including Courtenay Barklem and Simon Stokes.
However, it was two of the cub’s stalwarts who hogged the headlines this year. Andy Pringle and Alex Steel won the Winchester Fives Mixed Doubles title for a record-breaking third consecutive year.
They also put up a strong showing in the club’s end-of-season doubles tournament, which took place in near-tropical temperatures in June and which – in typical club fashion – featured an odd number of players: organiser Guy Matthews played a ‘rolling role’, subbing in for players who were late, shattered or (in all probability) just happier to help themselves to the buffet.
After coming through a gruelling round-robin stage, Andy and Alex bowed out in the semi-final to the veteran pairing of Richard Bridge and Dick Warner, but the eventual champions were Ben Beltrami and Jon Peterson, who – in typically friendly Executioners fashion – were allowed to compete without (we think) having paid their club subs. Or, in Jon’s case, attending a club night all season…
Andy and Alex didn’t go home empty-handed, though. Andy was delighted to be the oldest ever winner of the club’s singles ladder, successfully resisting several challenges from defending champion Richard Dyke, while Alex won (not for the first time) the Most Competitive Player award – as voted for by the players sat around the table in the club’s spiritual home, the Sun Inn, after the end-of-season tournament.
Plans for next season centre on continuing to attract new members, expanding our fixture list, encouraging more members to take part in national tournaments. Oh, and getting a suitable prize for Alex…
It’s been another successful year for the Executioners, with several new faces joining the club’s stalwarts. It’s been great to see the likes of Alex Wall, Murray Lidgitt, Chris Waller and Karen Hird joining our regular Wednesday evening sessions alongside more seasoned campaigners such as Richard Bridge, Malcolm Borthwick, Tom Webster and Richard Kemp.
Several of our players have been regulars on the tournament circuit, too, with the Executioners elite squad reaching the Wood Cup semis again. However, the highlight was undoubtedly Andy Pringle and Alex Steel joining forces to retain their Winchester Fives Mixed Doubles title. Dick Warner, as ever, was a force to be reckoned with, picking up plates in the Scottish, Veterans’ and Vintage Championships, while Richard Dyke and Jez Sinton also got in on the act, winning the doubles plate at the 2013 South West Open.
For Richard, however, the best was yet to come. He deservedly found himself on top of the singles ladder in the last week of competition and facing a final challenge from Rupert Mathieu. In a fitting climax to the competition, and watched by a huge crowd (well, four players who were waiting to get on court!), it was Richard who eventually triumphed 16-15 in a match where grit played as much part as guile.
Sadly, the club’s usual summer doubles tournament wasn’t played this year – due to an unfortunate combination of St Paul’s closing earlier than expected and the organiser being otherwise engaged at some other sports event in Brazil.
Instead, we’ll try to run it as a season-opening event for the 2014-15 season, so if any Fives player finds themself in London, they’re invited to come and join us. We play every term-time Wednesday evening and would be delighted to demonstrate to newcomers why we consider ourselves London’s friendliest Fives club.
It’s been as good a year as I can remember for the Executioners – and I can remember quite a few! We continued our recent run of being able to boast a current national champion in our ranks, scored our best result in the Club Championship for years, and had a record-breaking 12 pairs in our summer doubles tournament.
In fact, we can count more than one national champion in our midst, as Alex Steel partnered Andy Pringle to win the National Winchester Fives Mixed Doubles title. Elsewhere on the tournament circuit, we seemed to specialise in runners-up: Andy in the National Veterans Doubles, Alex in the Ladies Winchester Fives championships, and Dick Warner in the Scottish Open Doubles. There were a few plates here and there, but in such a successful season, they don’t merit a mention. Sorry, Dick, Jez and Richard!
However, we were far from disappointed when our elite squad (Andy, plus Tom Maconie, Marcus Bate and Chris Burrows) finished as runners-up in the Club Championship. It was our best performance for almost 20 years.
Also causing us to reach for superlatives was our summer doubles
tournament, contested by no less than 24 players. Braving the refurbishment works at St Paul’s, they played (and ate the now traditional ‘banquet’ of whatever we could find in the local petrol station at the last minute) for hours in a superb spirit, with Richard Dyke and Duncan Neale taking a deserved victory.
Other winners this year were UCL’s Penn Chai, who joins us regularly and won the Young Gun award, while the club’s premier gong – for the singles ladder – went to Riaz Dharamshi, who remarkably retained his title. Sadly, he’ll be leaving the club when he takes up a new post outside London, but the club will be back next season, looking to build on this success.
So the glory continues. A year on from reporting the club’s delight at Alex Steel winning a national title (which she still holds!), we’re even more delighted to report the club has continued its winning ways this season.
The shock was that the win came from the club’s social secretary, Guy Matthews, who manfully carried his younger, BUCS-winning fellow Old Blue Luke Thomson to triumph in the President’s Cup. What’s more, he wasn’t the only Executioner picking up a trophy at the event, as Richard Dyke won the T-Pot, beating fellow club members Andy Pringle and Charles Lamb in the final.
Elsewhere, we’ve seen plenty of success on the tournament circuit: Dick Warner – in his usual quiet, unassuming way – was a semi-finalist in the Veterans Singles and Doubles, and runner-up in the Vintage doubles, while Andy Pringle was runner-up in the West of England Doubles.
Closer to home, we had an excellent eight pairs turn out for our summer doubles championship, which was won – after several hours’ hard-fought competition (and eating) – by the pair of What Car? journalists, Andy Pringle and Tom Webster.
In a clear demonstration of the club’s successful internal communications, the Singles Ladder trophy was awarded to Riaz Dharamshi – despite the fact that no singles ladder took place this season! Still, it was a richly deserved win, showing that Riaz has the important knack of being in the right place at the right time: in the pub when the prizes are being handed out.
Also presented at the same time were the awards for the previous season, which had only just been bought; and, thanks to the trophy shop’s confusion at trying to supply a prize suitable for a lady, this meant Alex Steel’s reward for her Most Competitive Player award was a unique memento: a black towel with her name embroidered on it.
Surely, every bit as classy as the club that provided it!
At long last, the Executioners’ dreams of Fives world domination are coming closer to reality. We are now delighted to claim a national champion in our midst – and not one of the usual suspects. In fact, the club player with that honour is Alex Steel, a relatively new member who (with occasional Executioner Anita Ganguly) won the Ladies National Winchester Fives doubles title in March.
While we’re about it, we must also commend the same pair for finishing runners-up in the National Rugby Fives Ladies doubles championship, while Alex was also runner-up in the Ladies Winchester Fives singles.
We’re also delighted to report that other club members have been doing well around the country. Andy Pringle (with Tom Dean) was runner-up in the London Open Doubles, Dick Warner picked up both the singles and doubles plates at the Vintage Championships, and last year’s Young Player of the Year, Richard Dyke, lived up to his promise with a sterling performance in the President’s Cup.
As is now almost customary, our first side lost in the semi-finals of the club championship to the Manchester Y Club, but they put up a good performance. Our second side, meanwhile, lost in an away match at Derby, but they also deserve great credit, not just for the manner of their defeat, but for enduring several hours in the same car as Guy Matthews en route.
Last, but not least, we confirmed our position as London’s friendliest Fives club, playing host to many pilgrims from Alleyn’s while the Dulwich courts were being refurbished over the winter.
Several more new ‘friends’ were also made at our two annual social events – first in a Clapham pizza restaurant at Christmas and then in the Sun Inn in Barnes in July, where Guy attempted to end the season with the club’s usual prizegiving.
Andy Pringle won the club’s singles ladder, while Ed Hatton and new Executioner Tafara Golding won our doubles title, with Alex Steel picking up the coveted ‘Most Competitive Player’ award.
We would have included pictures of the winners gurning with their silverware, but for one slight problem. Even as I write, Guy is yet to buy the prizes to give out…
It says all you need to know about the Executioners that, despite the temptation of a football World Cup, some decent weather and, well, staying in bed(!), no less than 18 members (including, for the first time, a lady!) turned out for the club’s end of season tournament on a sunny Saturday in mid-June.
After a day’s fierce competition, the quality of which was matched only by the quantity of food in the all-day buffet, the winners were Guy Matthews and Ben Brookes, who edged out Tom Maconie and Charles Lamb in three games. Given that Guy had organised the event, there were naturally accusations of a fix, but at least his efforts on court during the day had tired him so much that he gave a mercifully short speech in The Sun Inn afterwards.
Here, the season’s top prizes were awarded. Tom Dean won the singles ladder tankard, Riaz Dharamshi received the coveted Most Competitive Player award, and Richard Dyke picked up this year’s special prize: Young Player of the Year.
Away from Barnes, plenty of club members put up strong performances on- and off-court. As ever, several club members made the pilgrimage to Edinburgh for the Akerman Travel Jesters Tour, while in competition, we established a reputation as Plate specialists. Andy Pringle alone reckons he has won six plate competitions this year – alone, as well as part of a pair or in a team – while Tom Dean is in the remarkable position of having won both the National Singles and (with Andy) the National Doubles Plates. Marcus Bate even had the cunning to use his win in the North of England singles plate to spur him on to victory in the doubles competition.
In the Club Championship, we again reached the semi-finals, only losing to the Old Paulines in a superb match by seven points. After so many near misses in recent years, we are determined to fulfil our promise and reach the final next year.
The Plate final, obviously…
As the dust settles on another year of Fives, the Executioners can look back on a fine 12 months. We’ve had success on and off the court, welcomed new players and enjoyed the camaraderie this great game offers.
Perhaps the greatest indication of our stength came with the fact that, for the first in years, we fielded two teams in the Club Knockout. Our second team, led by Guy Matthews, was unfortunate to be drawn away to Derby Moor, where they came up with some impressive excuses for not recording a win – the most notable being that the ball bounced oddly because each of the four walls on each of Derby’s courts was made of a different material…
Our first team, meanwhile, put in its best performance for many years. After coming through a ridiculously tough Prelim against the Wessex Club, they faced the RFA Club in the quarter-final – a team with three current or former national champions. It’s to the Executioners’ credit that they came through even this challenge, recording a comprehensive win – by, err, two points!
The RFA might point to the fact that their captain had a streaming cold, but the fact remains: again, ERFC was into the semi-finals of the Club Knockout, and again we faced the defending champions. Again, the Y Club beat us, but we did at least score more points off them than the eventual runners-up.
Our team was led by Will Ellison and Marcus Bate, who have had a superb season, culminating in their appearance in the final of the National Doubles Championship. Each of the two has also won championships in their own right: Marcus the West of England Doubles championship, and Will both the Under 25s and Winchester Fives doubles championships.
Both players also reached the last 16 of the national singles, where they were joined by Tom Maconie. He is another long-term supporter of the club, so it seems only right that he should end the season on top of the club’s singles ladder.
His closest challenger was James Bristow, making a welcome return to the game after his horrific skiing accident. He may have finished second in the singles, but his consolation was a win in the club’s President’s Cup-style doubles tournament. Teaming up with fellow new Executioner Toby Brook, they had a narrow win over Adam Tong and Jez Sinton.
What’s most pleasing is that, despite the competing attractions of the T20 World Cup, Andy Murray at the Queen’s Club and a rare appearance by some good weather on the same Saturday, no less than 18 players took part in the tournament.
There was fierce competition, unrepeatable banter in the pub afterwards and a curry to finish the day off. Isn’t that what sport is all about?
The Executioners can look back on 2007/008 as the year success and silverware started really coming back to the club. We had our best performance in the Club Championship for several years and plenty of players returned from tournaments with trophies.
Again, our star player was Will Ellison. Beginning with a strong performance at the London Open, he then went on to claim the notable scalp of former national champion Phil Bishop at the West of England Open. He also reached the semi-finals of the BUSA championships and (with fellow Executioner Marcus Bate) the semi-finals of the National Doubles championship. However, perhaps his best performance was at the Under 25 Championships, where he reached the semi-final of the singles, before teaming up with Steve Korris to take the doubles title.
However, Will wasn’t the only Executioner to write his name in the record books this season: we’re also proud to have the winner of the President’s Cup within our ranks. Indeed, this was a very successful tournament for the club, with three of the four semi-final pairs containing an Executioner. On one court, Alex Smith (with partner Bruce Hanton) lost by the narrowest of margins, while on the other, Andy Pringle (with Matt Hanney) lost out to Jon Abecassis (partnered by Phil Atkinson). Alex went to on to claim the Mate’s Plate in a three-game final, while Jon won the President’s Cup itself.
On top of these successes, we’ve also seen Charles Lamb (partnered by Dave Hebden) finish as runner-up in the Doubles and Andy Pringle win the singles Plate at the Scottish Open, while club stalwart Dick Warner claimed a double at the National Vintage championships, winning both the singles and doubles plates. We also had three players – Tom Maconie, Will Ellison and Marcus Bate – qualify for the last 16 of the National Singles.
Little wonder, then, that with these three joined by Andy Pringle, the club had its best run in the Club Championship for some time. We scored a good win in our local derby against the Bank of England to reach the quarter-final, where another good showing took us past the White Rose Club and into the semi-finals. It was here our run came to an end, but we only lost to the eventual champions – Manchester’s Y Club – by a little over a dozen points.
Overall, though, what we can perhaps be most happy about is that we’re still seeing strong turnouts every Wednesday evening on club nights. We had the best part of 20 players enter the club’s singles ladder, and expected 14 to take part in the now-traditional end-of-season doubles tournament. A few more friendly matches might have been nice, but you can’t have everything.
Well, maybe next year…
As the Executioners close in on their 20th anniversary in 2008 (we think!), we can look back on 2006/7 as one of the most successful years in our recent history.
For a start, we had loads of people playing. Even with six courts at St Paul’s, it wasn’t unknown for people to have to wait for their turn on court. The reason was simply that a good crop of keen new players joined the club’s regulars.
Richard Mitchell and Riaz Dharamshi pulled on their gloves again after a few years away, and we must thank Guy Matthews for bringing along so many new faces. Indeed, thanks to him, we again have some former Exeter University players in the club – and an occasionally high level of political debate. Well, high in terms of volume, anyway…
It was particularly heart-warming to see two of these rookies reach the final of the club’s end of season doubles tournament (in which no less than seven pairs took part). Paul A’Hern carried his ageing and ailing partner, Andy Pringle, to the coveted title, while runner-up Paul Gregory (partnered by Marcus Bate) also picked up some silverware – for the club’s most improved player.
Also receiving trophies this year were the top two players in the club’s singles ladder. Tom Maconie deservedly finished in top spot after being cruelly denied it last year, while second-placed Will Ellison (who seems to be fitting his degree around fives matches) won the club’s Player of the Season trophy.
Mind you, that was no more than he deserved after a year in which his game has gone from strength. He has been a regular on the tournament circuit and capped a fine season by reaching the semi-finals of the National Doubles with Marcus Bate.
We’re also delighted that many Executioners have been strutting their stuff up and down the country in the name of fives – and, sometimes, on court. Seven of us joined the Jesters tour to Edinburgh, Alex Smith and Jez Sinton won the doubles Plate at the London Open, and Alex also picked up the Mate’s Plate at the President’s Cup. Andy Pringle reached a couple of doubles semi-finals, while UCL’s Dan Grant was runner-up in both the BUSA and the Under 25 tournaments.
Quite how we’ll celebrate our 20th anniversary next year we don’t know – come to think of it, we’re not entirely sure it is our 20th anniversary next year – but one of the suggestions is a Past versus Present match. So, if there any ex-Executioners out there who want to remind themselves of just how hot the courts are at St Paul’s, and how good the beer tastes at The Sun afterwards, please get in touch with me.
Lord knows how we’ll celebrate our 21st the year afterwards, though…
Last year, Saddam Hussein disrupted our season; this year, it was bicycles. And, at the risk of encouraging Dubya to launch a strike against Raleigh, we have to say the bikes caused more damage.
First, Alex Smith broke a scaphoid (the fives player’s equivalent of a footballer’s metatarsal), and ended up with his right hand in plaster for almost six months.
Alex being Alex, though, this didn’t actually stop him playing, and despite his apparently crucial handicap, he still won a singles match on the Jesters’ tour to Scotland. Little wonder he also won the Executioners’ Most Competitve Player award.
The second bike accident, however, effectively cost Tom Maconie a trophy. After sitting in top spot on the club’s singles ladder for several months, a sudden puncture sent him crashing to the ground and into Casualty (the place, not the TV show!) in the last week of the season. As a result, he was unable to defend his position, and Andy Pringle finished in first place by default.
Tom’s injury also excluded him from the traditional season-ending doubles tournament, with the unusual result that one “pairing” included three players. Even more unusually, Chris Saltmarsh didn’t win. Instead, after three and a half hours’ fierce competition, the trophies deservedly went to Angus Boyd and Will Pleming.
Will is one of several students to have joined the club’s regular Wednesday night sessions at St Paul’s, raising the numbers, and the quality of play, on court. Fellow student Dan Grant has had a particularly fine season, performing well in the Under 25s tournament and being selected for the BUSA representative team. Elsewhere, there have been Plate trophies for Chris Thomas, Jez Sinton and Richard Kemp, while Andy Pringle was runner-up in both the Owers Trophy and West of England doubles tournament.
We look forward to more of the same next season. Hopefully without the bike accidents, though…
The Executioners 2005 report should perhaps be subtitled, “Saddam – our part in his downfall.”
Never mind the fives, this year has seen the club play its part in world events, when the committee kindly allowed Paddy Lord to forego his duties as fixtures secretary to serve with the TA in Iraq.
However, Paddy’s a man dedicated to the cause and he returned safe and sound from Basra, just in time to enter the club’s now traditional end-of-season doubles tournament which, as is now also traditional, was won by Chris Saltmarsh – this time partnered by Richard Baty.
The five pairs who played in that competition provided a fittingly competitive end to a season that has seen the club go from strength to strength. On more than one occasion, we have had all six of St Pauls’ courts in use at once on our Wednesday evening sessions, and more than 20 players signed up for the singles ladder.
We welcomed several new members, and it was one of them – Gareth Rees – who deservedly finished in first position. Indeed, he has had a very successful year on his return to fives, qualifying for the last 16 in the National Singles and reaching the semi-finals of the National Doubles.
He was one of eight Executioners in that competition, and just one of the growing number of club members making their mark in tournaments around the country. In Alex Smith and Andy Pringle, for example, we had two of the quarter finalists in the Scottish Open singles, while Ben Brookes was a beaten finalist in the President’s Cup.
We’re fast becoming plate specialists, too, with Richard Baty, Richard Kemp and new boy George McGairl all picking up silverware this year.
We’ll be looking for continued success next season. And, of course, if you know of any oil-rich despots in the Middle East who need, err, “taking care of”, you know there’s only one fives club to call.
Sometimes, dear reader, your wishes do come true…
Last year’s report said that, after a successful 2002-3, all the Executioners wanted in 2003-4 was more of the same. And, that’s exactly what happened!
We welcomed a few new members, regularly had at least a dozen players on court at our Wednesday sessions and expanded our fixture list. Our website, http://www.executioners.org.uk, went from strength to strength and we even had our own club T-shirts made up.
The second season of our singles ladder was every bit as keenly contested as the first. Some 20 players took part, and no less than half a dozen different players held the top spot at one stage or another.
Sadly, injury prevented Jez Fabes from defending his title, but it was only fitting that last year’s runner up, Tom Maconie, went one better this year, deservedly ending the season at number one.
As is now traditional, the end of the season was celebrated with a round-robin doubles tournament. And, as is now also traditional, Paddy Lord and Chris Saltmarsh won!
However, it’s testament to the organisational skills of Alex Smith and the depth of ability within the club that after six hours’ play, just 20 or so points separated all five pairs. And, it took an 11-5 win over Ben Brookes and Andy Pringle by Paddy and Chris in the last game of the day to secure them overall victory – by just two points.
Best of all, various Executioners used the skills perfected in the heat of St Paul’s to great effect in tournaments around the country.
Again, Jez Fabes deserves special mention, winning the under 25s doubles and finishing runner up in the singles. But, Tom Maconie, Chris Saltmarsh, Andy Pringle, Alex Smith, Nick Geere and Paddy and Simon Lord all picked up some silverware.
At the risk of repeating myself, all we want from next season is even more of the same. We always welcome new players and new fixtures. So, if you’re in or around London and fancy a game, do get in touch.
It’s been a year of firsts for the Executioners: our first singles ladder, our first club doubles tournament and the launch of our own website.
Scan the record books and they’ll show that, after some titanic battles with Tom Maconie, Jez Fabes emerged as our first ever Singles Ladder Champion. However, in true Executioners fashion, the season-closing doubles tournament was won by not two, but three players!
After Paddy Lord had to leave before the end of play to pack for his holiday (or something!), an injured Richard Baty gallantly stepped in to partner Chris Saltmarsh to victory. Congratulations to them and thanks to Alex Smith for his sterling work in organising both the tournament and, equally importantly, the dinner that followed.
Such strong competition and the club’s friendly welcome have seen regular high attendances St Pauls every Wednesday, and no less than 22 players signed up for the ladder. To make matters easier, the ladder has been held “virtually” on the ‘net and, thanks to webmaster Martin Gee, players can even issue challenges via email from the website.
Executioners have also been every bit as competitive away from St Pauls. Special mention goes to Jez Fabes, winner of the plate in the National Singles and runner up in both the singles and doubles at the Under 25 championships. But, Alex Smith, Nick Geere and Andy Pringle have also picked up some trophies during the season.
Next year, our simple hope is for more of the same – of everything! We’re always keen for more players and, above all, we’d like to expand our fixture list.
Plenty of club members regularly turn out for the likes of the RFA and Jesters, but we’d like a lot more genuine Executioners matches. So, if anyone is interested in organising a fixture, please get in touch with us through the website, or call club President Andy Pringle.
The idea of a South West tour has even been mooted. So, pubs of Bristol and Exeter, you have been warned!