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Noel Bruce 2019

Updated Sep 20, 2019 (Winchester win The Noel Bruce 4-1)
Published Jul 24, 2019
Winchester win the Noel Bruce Cup

Noel Bruce 2019

Final When Winchester last won the Noel Bruce Cup, Stanley Baldwin was Prime Minister, Malcolm Campbell had just broken the 300mph land speed record and events in Germany gave a whole different meaning to Brexit. Three years ago, Winchester came close, but in 2019 it was to be their year. Mike Bailey and Christian Portz both played a magnificent match to beat rivals Cheltenham by four games to one. Nick James and Alex Duncliffe-Vines put up stiff resistance, before being swept aside by an imperious Portz in the fourth and fifth games.

The first two games were extraordinarily tight affairs with both pairs playing their part. Rallies were long and generally won with a top-class shot rather than points squandered. All four players covered the court well, covering shots to force a let. Mike Bailey was rock solid, missing little and seemingly covering the court with ease. Partner, Christian Portz, was increasing his awareness and reach with every shot. Nick James consistently played his high overhead backhand volley to spectacular effect, which Alex Duncliffe-Vines showed why he would shortly be challenging for the World Singles crown. Four great players in top form. The games could have gone either way but it was Winchester who steered their cause across the line, taking a two love lead, 15/10 15/10.

The third game saw Winchester relax their grip and Cheltenham took their chance. Great play by all but now Cheltenham were in the ascendency, closing ever nearer to game point and inevitably winning the game 15/4. The challenge was set, the next game would be absolutely critical, and Cheltenham held the momentum.

What happened next was extraordinary. Portz stepped up his game to a new level, serving with deadly accuracy, while partner, Bailey, mopped up anything which reached the ball wall. A deadly combination and the vital fourth saw a seismic shift in the dynamic of the match, and very heavily towards Winchester. The game was won 15/1, a deadly blow to Cheltonian chances, sweeping the Wykehamists into a 3-1 lead. The match was now heading only one-way and the fifth and final set was similar to the fourth as Winchester’s hunger drove them towards their second ever Noel Bruce Cup, also winning the game 15/1. A well-deserved victory for Winchester and payback for the disappointment of 2016.

Charles Hue Williams, T&RA Vice President, presented the prestigious cup along with their winners’ Pol Roger champagne. He noted the ever consistent marking of Queen’s professional Ben Bomford, and the steady hand of referee Paddy Sutton. A special mention to tournament organiser, Ed Hyde, who had mustered 54 pairs for the event, a magnificent effort and vital to retain the interest of the 18-25 year olds. Special mention also to Howard Angus and Steve Tulley who marked virtually all the matches from qualifying through to the semi-finals – a Herculean effort thanks to Ed!

Semi-finals Two competitive semi-finals showcased Rackets to those fortunate enough to be at Queen’s Club. In the first match, Winchester (Mike Bailey and Christian Portz) made the early running leading 6-1. But Eton (Jamie and Rory Giddins) responded well to storm into a 11-6 lead, before Winchester closed the deficit 11-12. At 13-all Eton called set to three, but neither pair could make any inroads, until Eton closed out the first game, 16/13. The second game saw a similar pattern, with Eton making the early progress to lead 8-3 and then 8-5. But Winchester eventually levelled at 9-all, then a point apiece, 10-all. With the game in the balance it was now Winchester who reached game point at 14-12, holding off a couple of Eton hands to win 15/12 at the next opportunity. At one-game all, the match was finely balanced.

With all to play for, the third game started very closely with Eton narrowly ahead 5-4. Focussed play from Winchester gave them a 10-5 advantage, which Eton pulled back to 8-10. But a determined Winchester reached game point 14-8, but failed to capitalise. Eton couldn’t score in the next pair of hands, allowing Winchester to take the all-important third game 15/8, and into a 2-1 lead. Free scoring fourth game saw both pairs playing well, 8-6 Winchester, with Eton fighting back to 10-8. Winchester again reached game point 14-10, dropped serve, but then captured the game at the next opportunity 15/10, and a commanding three games to one lead in the match.

It was now or never for Eton and a further tight game reached 5-all. But Winchester held the momentum and started to ease away; 9-5 became 10-6, then 14-6. A missed match point was swept up at the second time of asking, 15/6, securing their place in the final.

The expectant gallery saw a tentative start by Wellington (James Coyne and Nick Hopcroft) in the second semi-final, but they were soon level with Cheltenham (Nick James and Alex Duncliffe-Vines), 3-all. But now Cheltenham eased away with a mixture of clever serving and good ground shots, sweeping into a 13-3 lead. A further point each, it was 14-4 and Cheltenham soon closed out the first game 15/4. Far more resistance in the second game as Wellington dug deep. But Cheltenham were still calling the shots, leading 4-0 and then 8-1. Both pairs managed three points in their next hands to take the score to 11-4. Wellington pulled out all the stop to level the game 11-all and set up an exciting match. But Cheltenham were working well as a pair, scoring a couple of points to 13-11 and the same again to take the game 15/11, and a two-love lead.

An astonishing display of serving from Cheltenham in the third game saw ADV serve though the entire game 15/0, without reply; three-love Cheltenham. Fortunately for Wellington, the pattern was broken in the fourth game and they slowly eased into a 4-1 lead. But they were unable to break away and slowly, yet surely, Cheltenham started to claim an 8-5 lead. But Wellington weren’t finished and again fought back to lead 12-9. But Cheltenham could see their place in the final and reeled out the six necessary points to decide the game, 15/12. Four-love Cheltenham but an exciting match with a mixture of raw power and exceptional recovery play.




  • Winchester I beat Cheltenham I 15/10 15/0 4/15 15/1 15/1



Round of 16


Group A

  • Rugby II bt Tonbridge VI 15/8 18/13
  • Cheltenham X bt Tonbridge VI 18/13 15/5
  • Eton III bt Rugby II 15/8 15/10
  • Cheltenham X bt Rugby II 15/11 15/10
  • Eton III bt Tonbridge VI 15/8 15/5
  • Eton III bt Cheltenham X 15/5 15/7

Group B

Group C

  • Westgate bt Haileybury II 15/7 15/10
  • Westgate bt Rugby III 15/6 15/7
  • Haileybury II bt Rugby III 15/5 16/14

Group D

  • Tonbridge II bt Clifton II 15/11 8/15 15/6
  • Radley II bt Rugby V 15/5 15/5
  • Tonbridge II bt Rugby V 15/3 15/2
  • Radley II bt Clifton II 15/6 15/9
  • Radley II bt Tonbridge II 15/0 15/8
  • Clifton II bt Rugby V 15/3 15/4

Group E

  • Radley I bt Tonbridge VII 15/0 15/7
  • Tonbridge VII bt Cheltenham IX 11/15 15/2 15/7
  • Radley I bt Eton V 15/4 15/9
  • Tonbridge VII bt Eton V 15/9 11/15 15/9
  • Radley I bt Cheltenham IX 15/4 15/5
  • Eton V bt Cheltenham IX 15/11 15/1

Group F

  • Haileybury I bt Malvern II 15/12 8/15 15/10
  • Tonbridge III bt Winchester IV 15/5 15/6
  • Haileybury I bt Tonbridge III 15/5 15/6
  • Haileybury I bt Winchester IV 15/6 15/10
  • Malvern II bt Winchester IV 15/5 15/7
  • Malvern II bt Tonbridge III 15/2 15/4

Group G

  • Cheltenham VI bt Winchester II 15/2 15/5
  • Cheltenham VI bt Wellington III 15/4 15/5
  • Wellington II bt Winchester II 15/0 15/8
  • Cheltenham VI bt Wellington II 15/4 15/9
  • Wellington III bt Winchester II 15/10 4/15 15/10
  • Wellington III dw Wellington II 15/9 9/15

Group H


Group I

  • Cheltenham II bt Winchester III 15/6 15/8
  • Cheltenham II bt Clifton IV 15/8 15/6
  • Cheltenham II bt Charterhouse 15/10 15/11
  • Charterhouse bt Clifton IV 15/10 2/15 15/1
  • Charterhouse bt Winchester III 15/2 15/3
  • Clifton IV bt Winchester III 15/1 15/2

Group J

  • Cheltenham V bt Rugby IV 11/15 15/7 15/1
  • Cheltenham V bt Clifton III 11/15 15/7 15/12
  • Harrow I dw Rugby IV 15/6 6/15 injury
  • Clifton III bt Harrow I 15/6 15/2
  • Cheltenham V bt Harrow I 17/14 15/7
  • Clifton III bt Rugby IV w/o

Group K

  • Eton IV bt Cheltenham VIII 15/3 15/1
  • Cheltenham XI bt Haileybury IV 15/9 15/5
  • Eton IV bt Haileybury IV 15/1 15/0
  • Cheltenham VIII bt Cheltenham XI 15/9 15/5
  • Eton IV bt Cheltenham XI 15/3 15/3
  • Cheltenham VIII bt Haileybury IV 15/4 15/4


  • Eton IV bt Cheltenham V 15/7 15/8

Group L

  • Clifton I bt St Pauls 2-0
  • Clifton I bt Cheltenham III 2-1
  • Clifton I bt Haileybury III 2-0
  • Cheltenham III bt Haileybury III 15/12 15/1
  • Haileybury III bt St Pauls 15/4 9/15 15/10
  • Cheltenham III bt St Pauls 15/7 15/10
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