AS MAJOR AND MINOR UNIT CHAMPIONSHIPS: 13 – 15 MAR 18
by Lt Col (Retd) Mike Thornley, AS Secretary
Following the arrival (and departure) of the ‘Beast from the East’ and a little bother with the Russians in Salisbury, the final event in the AS calendar took place from Tuesday 13 to Thursday 15 March 18. Teams from far and wide (and in this case we really do mean far, with one intrepid group travelling from Brunei) gathered at the Aldershot Garrison Sports Centre for the AS Major and Minor Unit Cup competitions. Even the sports centre itself seemed willing to play a part in providing a great competition. Previous problems with temperature and humidity seemed like a bad dream as the on-court temperatures rose from “mild” through to “toasty warm” over the 3 days.
The Minor Unit event saw 5 teams playing each other in a round robin format which produced some hard-fought matches. The MPS managed to field not one but 2 teams, which makes you wonder who was actually looking after the inmates at MCTC Colchester during this week? Despite being led by the Captain of the Army U25’s, Lt Jonno Griffiths, ATR Winchester were unable to mount a serious challenge and, in the end, it was the MPS ‘A’ Team that finished as runners up in the table. The winning team was the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas who played some excellent squash but surely missed a trick by failing to entertain the watching crowds with their musical talents between matches – something to consider for next year perhaps?
In the Major Unit competition, 18 teams battled through 2 gruelling days of qualification rounds before 8 teams emerged like phenoxies from the ashes to reach the quarter final stages. Many peoples’ favourites for the title were Army HQ who, as reigning champions, once again fielded a team that was full of both ‘experience’ and AS Committee Members. This confidence seemed well placed as they crushed 5 Rifles (a team that deserves special mention because not only did they pay their entry fee on time they also paid it twice – something to note for those teams seeking a favourable draw next year) in the quarter finals with a blistering 20 – 1 victory. The other quarter finals were also fairly one-sided with 36 Engr Regt overcoming 27 Regt RLC by 20 -3, 5 Regt AAC beating ATC(P) 20 -2 and 2 RGR triumphing over 47 Regt RA by 20 -3. The semi-finals were marginally closer but AHQ and 2 RGR ran out as fairly comfortable winners over 36 Engr Regt and 5 Regt AAC respectively.
The scene was now set for the Final. Would the ‘experience’, guile and the fact that their Captain had ownership of the seeding and draw for the entire competition, triumph over the (relative) youth, fitness and enthusiasm of the ‘Boys from Brunei.’ It is fair to say that the majority of neutrals were rooting for the underdogs (particularly since they had apparently spent 30% of the entire T&S budget for Defence in travelling to the UK for the competition). In a fitting climax to the event, the Final proved to be the closest, and hardest fought, match of the week. The result was difficult to predict as games and then results oscillated between the 2 teams. The determined grunting of the RGR team was matched in volume by the creaking of joints from their ‘more experienced’ opponents. After 4 rubbers the match was tied at 2 all and the title of Major Unit Champions hung delicately in the balance. Cometh the hour, cometh the man from Army HQ, and it fell to Major Russ Bothwick to hold his nerve and triumph in the 5th and final rubber to ensure that Army HQ retained their title for another year.