The annual Haphazard v IRTA fixture at Hardwick House took place in early March against a backdrop of snow and freezing temperatures. The tie was in doubt right up to the previous evening as it became clear that those IRTA members travelling from Dublin would not make it. But, with some re-jigging of the schedule, and a slight thaw on match day, both sides were ready to go.
Hardwick is a beautiful old Bickley court adjoining Hardwick House which is located on the banks of the Thames, near Whitchurch in Oxfordshire. It is also renowned as one of the coldest courts in the country and the Beast from the East meant that the usual fridge-like conditions were more freezer-like. Being a Bickley court, it takes a lot of cut and is best suited to the more traditional style of player. Not best suited then for the IRTA's first protagonist, Dave ‘The Lob’ Lowry, who was up against Johnny Borrell.
David was receiving a generous handicap (15 to owe-15) and took full advantage, winning 6–3, 6–4 without removing his Aran jumper. First blood to the Irish.
By now, the log fire was alight in the club room and all five late-Victorian electric heaters were at their highest settings, but with no discernible change in the temperature.
Nevertheless, Johnny B had removed one of his multiple layers of clothing as he stayed on court to take on the IRTA's Mark Heffernan. Johnny was owing 15 in this match and the first set was very close, except on the scoreboard. The first six games all went to 40–40, game point, and the Haphazard won them all! 6–0. The second set was also tight, but Johnny squeezed home 6–5.
Next up for the IRTA was the hard-hitting debutant Mark McClure facing fellow IRTA man (and Haphazard) Rupert Derham. With Rupert owing 15 the onus was on him to minimise any errors, which is always difficult against a power player. It was close all the way, but Mark won 6–5, 6–4.
2–1 to Ireland and two matches to go.
Time to unleash IRTA's director of fashion, Derek O'Sullivan. Could he close out the fixture in Ireland's favour or would it go down to the final match? Tom Robertson was representing the Haphazards and took an early lead. Derek responded manfully, but to no avail, as Tom took the match 6–4 6–3.
The outcome of the tie now rested on the final match — Guy Robertson (HH) versus David Lowry (Ireland). The tension in the Dedans was mounting as the two well-matched players took to the court. David, having played earlier in the fixture, started as he had left off in the opening tie and took the first set 6–3. Guy fought back in the second to take it 6–4. It was nip and tuck in the final set, with neither player able to dominate. Inevitably, it reached 5–5, and the outcome of the entire fixture came down to the final game.
Guy had the advantage of the service end at the start of the crucial game. It was evident from the off that David had made the decision to concentrate on raw power rather than measured touch to get him across the line. But it was Guy who rushed to a 40–15 lead taking full advantage of some wayward shots by his opponent. Some more targeted power and dedans scored by David levelled the game at 40–40. It all came down to a single point. Guy served a superb bobble that forced David on the defensive, attempting to dig the ball out of the corner, he could only manage to put enough power in the shot to make it precisely as far as the tape of the net — where the ball paused for a half a second before bouncing on the hazard side. Game, set, match and the tie to the Haphazards!
In typical Haphazard style David Lowry joined in the celebration turning his back on the defeated IRTA team.
Many thanks to the organisers of the fixture, David Lowry for the IRTA and Gus Robertson for the Haphazards, and to all players who made the effort to play in spite of the difficult weather conditions.
— Mark Heffernan