The Strawson Memorial Match: RFA v The Jesters
St. Paul’s School, Barnes
Tuesday, 8th October 2019
Dick Warner reports: This is a thoroughly enjoyable and much sought-after fixture in the Jesters and Rugby Fives Association calendar, perhaps because there is a huge dinner afterwards.
This year we attracted 14 players, as well as the half dozen who found they could not tear themselves from their desks to play, but found time to wine and dine. Among the diners were our president, David Bawtree, Jesters’ Rugby Fives reps James Tilston and Charlie Brooks, plus Julian Aquilina and Dave Butler.
This event is the highlight of the Jesters’ year, this club being the Mecca for players of court games, boasting 3000 plus members, founded by Jock Burnet while still at school at St Paul’s. It has no premises, but has a very active fixture list. All court (with walls) games are represented – Rugby Fives (Jock’s first love), Eton Fives, Racquets, Real Tennis, Squash – the largest group – and now Padel Tennis.
Each sport’s national association puts out a team to play the Jesters and most matches end very close affairs. For Rugby Fives, it’s always a tie, as time for the match is all too short, and traffic unpredictable, so players are allocated to teams as they arrive, breathless, at the St Paul’s courts, and sides are switched at the end of each match.
Management is made all the harder by the closure to vehicles of Hammersmith Bridge and restrictive safeguarding rules at the school.
Notwithstanding, we got 14 players on court — three games of doubles and one singles, all simultaneous, and as soon as one 2-game match ended, fresh players took over, so we had 90 minutes of speed-fives. All this hectic activity meant that scores were never settled, as it were, and a tie was the inevitable result.
The teams comprised five Oxford students, two Cambridge alumni, and other parties, ranging in age from early twenties to late sixties, but it was hard to know which was which of those who played: Caspar Kengeter, Dan Whitham, Johnny Longden, Sid Bhushan, Nick Whitney, Charlie Rogers, Jeremy Manger, Tom Owen, Ben Hale, Alex Hopkins, Guy Matthews, Laurence Cook, Edd Horder and Dick Warner.