Noel Bruce 2018
Probably the largest ever entry into the Noel Bruce of 49 pairs was whittled down to just the two top seeds for the final on Thursday 20th September. Cheltenham (Richard Owen and Alex Duncliffe-Vines) had progressed imperviously through the latter stages of the draw, dropping just one game against a spirited Winchester (Mike Bailey and Will Morse). Harrow (Alex Titchener-Barrett and Joe Bone) had survived a dramatic comeback in the semi-final from a feisty Wellington pair (James Coyne and Nick Hopcroft). After Harrow had established a dominant 3-0 lead, Wellington levelled and at 12-all in the final game, either pair could have reached the final. Harrow won through, but it had been close.
Owen started the final with his devastating service, establishing a 6-0 lead without reply. ATB clawed back a couple of point but the early lead was enough to set up a one-love lead from 8-4, with ADV complimenting his partners power with some skilful touches. The second game was the tightest, with Bone playing well under pressure of the Owen serve and seemingly more powerful ground strokes. Against this, it was the Harrow pair which set up the early running, reaching an early 5-2 lead. However, when Owen regained the service, eight straight points reversed the early stages, with ADV ever ready to hit deft angles to back up his partner. Harrow fought back to establish their own, albeit narrow, lead, at 11-10 with both ATB and Bone both playing extremely well. But that was it in terms of points and the Cheltenham pair just keep up the pressure, winning the game in the next two pairs of hands to make the score 2-0.
It was now or never for Harrow and once again they set the early pace in the third, leading 5-0. Cheltenham fought back to 4-5 but then failed to score in their next hand. This opening the door to Cheltenham and they reeled off eleven points to spectacularly take the game 15/5 in a seemingly perfect display of powerful, skilful Rackets. The fourth game started similarly, Harrow into a 2-0 lead, before Owen stepped up to serve. Ten Owen service points, followed by five from ADV sealed the destination of the Noel Bruce Cup. Harrow never returned to the box, fighting every point but always on the back foot. Great credit to ATB and Bone for their persistence and good grace in accepting the inevitable on the night. Also fine sportsmanship from the winning paid, Owen and ADV.
Many thanks to Ed Hyde, the organiser extraordinaire, the marker, Ben Bomford and referee, James Coyne, who kept the match moving along at a good pace. T&RA Chairman, David Watson, presented the prizes at the end of affairs and praised all four players under the new code of respect.
- Cheltenham bt Harrow 15/4 15/11 15/5 15/2
- Cheltenham bt Winchester 15/11 11/15 15/12 15/8 15/4
- Harrow bt Wellington 15/1 15/0 15/5 12/15 9/15 10/15 15/12
- Cheltenham bt Tonbridge 15/5 15/0 15/6
- Winchester bt Eton 15/2 15/12 8/15 15/12
- Harrow bt Haileybury 15/1 15/0 15/5
- Wellington bt Tonbridge II 11/15 16/17 15/11 15/5 15/5
- Tonbridge bt Charterhouse 15/0 15/4 15/7
- Harrow bt Cheltenham III w/o
- Winchester bt Rugby 11/15 15/4 15/3 15/8
- Eton bt Cheltenham II 18/13 15/2 15/7
- Haileybury bt Malvern 12/15 15/9 15/11 15/5
- Wellington bt Winchester II 14/18 15/6 15/4 15/12
- Tonbridge II bt Tonbridge III 15/7 10/15 15/7 15/6
- Cheltenham bt Peter Symonds 15/3 15/3 15/3