NORTHAMPTONSHIRE’S all-conquering men began the new Anglian League season in impressive fashion as the first and second teams began the defence of their respective titles with wins against Norfolk.
Playing at Wellingborough in their first competitive match since beating the same opposition to clinch the 2011 crown, Jim Campbell’s first team made a great start as they won all four morning ties.
Home club man Ryan Evans joined Paul Hodgkiss (Farthingstone) to win 2&1, before fellow Wellingborough member Kyson Lloyd combined with Kettering’s Michael Campbell (4&2) to double the lead.
Peterborough Milton duo Adrian Firman and Jamie Hibbert walked in with a 3&2 victory under their belts.
Debutant Harry Woan (Overstone) rolled in an excellent putt on the 18th hole, in partnership with Cold Ashby’s Graham Bott, to make it the perfect morning for Northants.
Evans (3&2) and Lloyd (6&5) wasted little time in adding two more points in the afternoon singles to put the county on the brink of an easy win.
The hosts, who won the league for the first time in 21 years last term, had to withstand a spirited fightback however as Hodgkiss and Campbell suffered heavy defeats, before Bott and Woan lost tight matches.
Any fears Northants might have to settle for only a draw were soon ended as Hibbert took the penultimate game on the 17th, before Firman halved the final tie to complete a 7½-4½ success.
The county second team were involved in a similar contest in the reverse fixture as they kept their nerve late on to secure a 6½-5½ victory at Royal West Norfolk.
Northants were in control of the opening two pairs games when the match took an unusual twist as two Norfolk players picked up neck and back injuries and had to pull out.
Both those foursomes matches went to the county, but the contest remained evenly poised at lunch as the home side grabbed the other two points.
Norfolk were granted permission to call-up two late substitutes but the change in personnel didn’t affect Northants as Fraser Carnihan, Lewis White and Jamie Powell pocketed three early singles points.
Although Sam Buss and Gavin Cope let leads slip, both players secured halves to guarantee at least a draw for last year’s second division champions.
Jon Handyside and debutante Matt Hodgkiss lost their games but James Barker, who stepped in as a replacement for Jack Brown earlier in the week, used his experience to grab the winning half.
In the other Anglian League matches, Suffolk’s first team beat Cambridgeshire by three points at home, while Lincolnshire won at Leicestershire by a single point.
By contrast, Leicestershire’s second team recorded a convincing 8-4 away victory in their Anglian League match at Lincoln, while Cambridgeshire beat Suffolk 7½-4½ at home.