184 players fielded on the Jesters Tour to Edinburgh!

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The Jesters Tour to Edinburgh
Sat/Sun 18-19 January 2020

Co-organiser Ben Hale reports: First of all, let it be recorded that, while the RFA recently registered its first known Mixed Doubles club match at Alleyn’s, the Jesters have certainly staged such matches in the past on their annual tour to Scotland. Last year, for example, Sinton & Thornhill alongside Mathieu & Lee took on Hale & Laakkonen with Lebon & Crinnion.
This year’s tour started as they always do with late withdrawals and injuries but mainly lunch in The Cumberland.  Unfortunately one of the losses was use of the Loretto courts, but we look forward to playing on the renovated floors and under the refurbished roof next year.
After a slight rejig of the fixture list some of us headed to The Edinburgh Academy to take on their Junior Boys and Girls teams.  Fives was the winner here, but the Academy certainly had numerical supremacy — a wonderful sight!  Meanwhile over at Fettes the Jesters took on Edinburgh University.  In a bad start to the tour for the Jesters, but not for Dave Butler, the University secured a comfortable victory.  Over at the Academy the crack team of Jesters were now on to the third set of opposition: the U16 Boys.  An opening round wobble saw two Jesters losses before the ship was steadied.  The Academy squad rotation system kicked in once again with the U16 Girls turning up for a “quick” game before the Select tournaments got under way.
A massive thank you to the Jesters; Dan Murray, Ian Mettam, Dom Shepherd, Martin Patterson and Anna Laakkenon, who spent the best part of four hours playing against twenty-six children with only occasional assistance from this organiser and brief stints at the beginning or end from Jez Sinton, Giles Constantine and Laurence Cook.
Two Jesters teams also headed to Merchiston to take on their Junior Colts and Colts teams — which gave two victories for the Jesters, but there were some wins in there for some promising young pairs.  Whilst there was no Fives played at Musselburgh I’m delighted to report that there was Jesters success at the races!
This year’s Select Tournaments were a further departure from the norm.  Once again six schoolboys each paired with a Jester but this year at the Academy.  Congratulations to Ben from Merchiston, who won alongside Laurence Cook, and to Nathan from Loretto, who came second partnering James Birch.  The girls’ tournament was a bumper affair at Fettes.  A midweek mishap meant that new tourist Savanna was a non playing member but fortunately the Academy were, once again, able to provide an additional player and we had a ten-pair, two-pool tournament.  The group stage was a hectic and closely fought affair with a number of 9-8 and 9-7 victories but eventually, when it was already gone dinner time, two pairs emerged undefeated to contest the final.  Naturally this went to seven-all before Sophie from the Academy and her Jesters partner India Blaksley triumphed.  Hard luck to the beaten finalists Cecily, also of the Academy, and Phoebe Thornhill.  We rapidly decamped to the glorious Fettes curry reception, hoping there would still be some food left ……  This truly is a wonderful event and our thanks, as always, go to the Fettes staff, who provided a delicious meal for a hundred odd Jesters, schoolchildren, parents and guests including teachers and headmasters.  Once the prizes had been given the Jesters drifted to bed via various old haunts on Rose Street, some showing more stamina than others.
This year’s touring party was 53 strong with the Jesters providing 184 players in 25 fixtures across the weekend.  Much of this takes place on Saturday, with the morning especially busy.  At Merchiston we played an eight-a-side match against the Caledonian club, which resulted in a good win for the Jesters despite the dominant performance of the Cali’s first pair, Boyd & Murby.  Fettes played host to a match between the Jesters and London’s Executioners club followed by a mixed doubles match with the RFA.  This was an incredibly close affair which the RFA edged by six points.  The Academy was the University venue for the morning.  To start, the present Cambridge team combined with some of our recently past tourists to produce a completely incomprehensible scorecard that Matt Shaw tells me means, “On a crisp morning in Edinburgh Academy the Cambridge Past, consisting of members of Cambridge Past and Present, took on the Cambridge Present, consisting of Present and Past, in both a team match of Past vs. Present and a round robin tournament for each of the pairs. The Present triumphed and the winning pair was Sarthak & Emrys.”  Attempting to follow this was a Jesters IV taking on Durham University.  The Jesters edged the first round by six points but then lost the second by twelve, to go down by six points — the Durham alumni pairing of Cranstoun and Patterson Jnr not quite matching the current vintage… Well played, Durham!  The final match of the morning session saw the Jesters taking on a IV representing Hampshire’s Wessex club — a win for the Jesters!
Lunch was taken at The Antiquary, a fantastic find in recent years — our thanks to them for their continued hospitality.  The fives continued with Russell, Tristao and Shaw putting on a coaching session up at Fettes for their U13s in the traditional James Pinder slot before a fixture with their U16 girls.  Saturday afternoon at Academy is one of rivalries.  The traditional appetiser being the clash between Christ’s Hospital and Bradfield for the Sinton-Matthews Cup(s).  The fives was complicated as Birch of Bradfield appeared to be playing alongside three Old Blues and similarly Peterson of Christ’s Hospital was teamed up with three from Bradfield.  Matthews did report on the result at Saturday’s dinner but I have to confess to not being quite as engaged with his speech as I ought to have been…  Following this was our third annual game with the Edinburgh Academy Old Boys — hard to call this a rivalry, they’ve won both of the previous two matches for the silver tea pot we purchased last year.  However, a Jesters VI, including our dynamic coaching trio from earlier, pulled off an eighteen point victory by 118-100.  The final set of fixtures had a young vs old feel to it.  In the Six Jester Rotation up at Merchiston I hear there was even some singles played with a more senior victor?  This was followed by matches against the combined students teams at both Fettes and Merchiston.  The students edged it by four at Fettes and by five at Merchiston — an exceptionally close afternoon of Fives.
We returned to La P’tite Folie for Saturday’s dinner and speeches.  Also returning this year after a couple of year’s absence was former organiser Frank Akerman.  His name having been spotted on the guest list there was much excitement among the staff and owner.  Following a fashionably late entry accompanied by further Fives glitterati, in particular David Barnes, we enjoyed a fantastic meal and heard some speeches.
Sunday saw the conclusion of our fixtures with the Fettes and Academy schoolchildren.  Games with the Fettes Junior Colts, Colts and 1st IV resulted in some tight games and a lot of excitement on the balcony as well as on court.  Over at the Academy we started with the Jesters Ladies against their Senior Girls VIII.  In an epic fixture the Jesters eventually succumbed 122 to 111.  Well played to the Academy!  This was followed by the Senior Boys VI which this time produced a victory for the Jesters.  Over at Merchiston we finished off the weekend with a triple threat match between the Merchistonians, the Executioners and Wessex.  All Alex Cranstoun can tell me is that Fives was the winner — I assume this means that Merchiston were not ……
Our thanks as ever to the schools for hosting us, the teachers and coaches for their work throughout the year and over the weekend, and of course to all our tourists, especially the long suffering drivers — just the one parking ticket this year!
And for the fans of stats: We had 54 tourists (including Frank and David). Played 30 matches, providing 184 Jesters across the weekend; 60 at dinner on Saturday; 10 girls on tour; 27 tourists under the age of 30; about 75 pupils played against the Jesters over the weekend.
Until next year,
Ben and Dave

The victorious Jez

Sam with eye on the ball

Andy P. in action

The Grandees – Duncan and Rupert

Frank and Harry – legends in their lifetime

The Merchiston Gallery

The Academy Gallery

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