With Harborough Rangers having already wrapped up the Kettering & District Table Tennis League Division One title, the focus switched to who would finish as runners-up in the final week.
Just eight points separated Thrapston Falcons, Rothborough Arrows and Thrapston Kites going into the matches.
Falcons had to face the champions and Rangers built up a 7-1 lead thanks to a treble from Mike Brocklebank.
Liam Burnham won his first two against Antony Marray and Nigel Payne and Steve Crook claimed two out of three against Ian Baldock and Marray while Rangers’ dominance was only interrupted by Payne’s 3-0 win over Crook.
Baldock had not had a blank all season and maintained this proud record by beating Burnham in the last singles of the evening thus denying him his treble.
Then Falcons’ two singles winners Payne and Baldock teamed up for the doubles against Burnham and Brocklebank and added a third point.
That left Arrows needing eight points from their clash with Kites to claim second spot. And they did it in style by securing a 9-1 success.
Helen Watts, her brother Martin and Ivor Jones all played exceptionally well to get the result they needed.
At 7-0 up, Arrows only needed one more win but Peter Briggs kept their celebrations on hold when he beat Jones 3-1.
But it was was Martin Watts who scored the final point that they needed in a 3-0 win over Stewart Williams.
The doubles were less important now but Arrows maintained their fine record as the Watts combination teamed up to win in five.
At the other end of the table Thrapston Harriers had long known that they were going to finish bottom but the other relegation place still had to be settled, although Harborough Diamonds chances were extremely slim as they had to beat Harriers 10-0 and then hope that Westfield D beat Harborough Rovers 10-0.
Harriers played Diamonds a week early and the latter’s fate was sealed in the first set of the match when Alan Tyler beat Steve Crook 3-1.
Tyler went on to record a treble but unfortunately for Harriers he is often the only player that wins any sets and this was the case again as Crook, Phil Dixon and Dave Coombs all beat Beth Tyler and Mike Burrows.
An easy doubles win for Crook and Dixon over Tyler and Burrows made it 7-3 to Diamonds.
Sam Burgess’ improved as the season went on and he recorded his fifth consecutive treble, this time for Harborough Rovers against Westfield D.
The only other win for Rovers was by Mark Pearson, a 12-10 decider over Nitin Patel.
The 6-4 win for Westfield keeps them in fifth place but only one point from fourth.
As a result of a misunderstanding on the part of Burton Baptist C, they turned up with four players which was twice as many as their opponents Corby C.
Player of the match was Corby’s Rob Warrender who beat Paul Goodman, Steve Smith and Kelvin Marshall.
That trio all beat Stephen Woolston despite Woolston being 1-0 up on Smith and 2-0 up on Marshall and Goodman.
David Simmons came in for the doubles and, along with Goodman, beat Warrender and Woolston 12-10 in the fifth to make it 7-3 to Burton C.
Results: Harborough Rangers 7 (Brocklebank 3, Burnham 2, Crook 2) Thrapston Falcons 3 (Baldock, Payne, Baldock/Payne), Rothborough Arrows 9 (H Watts 3, M Watts 3, Jones 2, H.Watts/M.Watts) Thrapston Kites 1 (Briggs), Thrapston Harriers 3 (Tyler 3) Harborough Diamonds 7 (Crook 2, Dixon 2, Coombs 2, Crook/Dixon), Harborough Rovers 4 (S.Burgess 3, Pearson) Westfield D 6 (Dixon 2, Alder 2, Patal, Dixon/Alder), Burton Baptist C 7 (Goodman 2, Smith 2, Marshall 2, Goodman/Simmons) Corby C 3 (Warrender 3).
Player of the week: Martin Watts.
With Westfield A already crowned as champions of the Premier Division, all eyes were focused on who would come out on top of the three-way battle for second place.
Corby Town A, Burton Baptist A and Kettering Town A were all hoping that they could produce the quality performance required to gain that prize.
Coming into the last week of fixtures, Baptists found themselves in third place, one point behind Corby and five ahead of Kettering.
With Dawid Przybysz absent and captain Alex Aston not playing, the team of Chris Ross, Dariusz Gulbicki and John Aberra would have expected a tough night as they faced off against fifth-placed Higham.
And when Richard Bashford defeated Ross in straight games in the night’s first encounter, Burton may have thought that second place could be slipping out of their grasp.
But they were in no mood to go down without a fight and the upgraded Aberra produced a stunning upset to defeat an out of form Richard Elliott 3-1 to level the match.
Gulbicki then gave Burton the lead with victory over Andy Harrison only for Elliott to display some of his usual quality to defeat Ross over five ends and level the match at 2-2.
Gulbicki returned to the table to defeat Bashford and with Aberra seeing off Harrison 3-0, Burton found themselves gaining momentum.
Gulbicki duly completed a fantastic hat-trick with victory over Elliott, Ross beat Harrison 3-0 before Aberra proved Aston’s decision to drop himself for the the game was the correct one as he completed his own stunning treble with a tremendously close 10-12, 15-13, 10-12, 11-9, 11-9 victory over Bashford.
A dispirited Harrison and Elliott fell to a quick defeat to Ross and Gulbicki which meant that Burton had pulled out all the stops to pick up a resounding 8-2 victory.
This result meant that Kettering could no longer finish second and Corby would need to beat Kettering 8-2 to clinch the runners-up spot.
The previous meeting between the two teams had finished as a 5-5 draw but Kettering have recently strengthened their team with new signing Shandor Czuczor making his debut in February.
This match proved to be an enthralling affair and with five games going to a decider, it would be 11.30pm before the final league positions were confirmed.
Kettering got off to a flyer and quickly found themselves 4-0 ahead thanks to wins for John Fuller over Henry Arthur (3-1), Czuczor over Lee O’Boyle (3-2), Nigel Metcalfe over Chris Haynes (3-2) and Fuller over O’Boyle (3-0).
Of these games, Metcalfe’s win over Haynes was the most notable as he came from 2-0 down to gain a first-ever win over his Corby rival.
By now, Corby knew that their runners-up dreams had been dashed and were now in a battle to prevent Kettering overtaking them and stealing third place.
Arthur belatedly got Corby onto the scorecard, fighting off another Metcalfe comeback from 2-0 down to claim an 11-9 fifth-end success.
Corby’s respite was shortlived, however, as Czuczor made light work of Haynes before Metcalfe endured yet another five-end battle before coming out on top against O’Boyle.
When Fuller beat Haynes 3-0 to put Kettering 7-1 up, his team knew that they only needed to win one of the remaining two matches to claim third place whereas Corby required both points to seal it for themselves.
Arthur and Czuzcor paired off in match nine and an enthralling encounter ensued.
In a lengthy encounter, Arthur produced his best form to claim a fluctuating 15-13, 2-11, 20-18, 4-11, 13-11 success to keep his team’s chances alive as the fight for third went down to the final doubles of the season.
Arthur and Haynes gave Corby the perfect start but in the end, the combination of Fuller and Metcalfe’s defences with occasional attacking play proved too much and the Kettering pair claimed a 3-1 win to take the match 8-2.
This meant both teams finished level on points but with Kettering’s win/loss record being superior, Corby found themselves pushed down into fourth.
Thrapston Eagles knew they were destined to finish bottom of the division but the question remained as to who would join them in Division One next season.
Burton Baptist B and Harborough Athletic went into the final round of fixtures level on points but Harborough knew the odds were against them as their final match was against the champions of Westfield A, whereas Burton, playing 24 hours later, concluded their season with a game against mid-table Arthingworth.
Harborough found the champions in an unforgiving mood and managed to win just three ends as Kevin Bird, Steve Silk and Roumen Stefanov completed yet another 10-0 whitewash victory as they rounded off an unbeaten season with a record of 20 wins, two draws and no defeats.
This result meant that Burton knew one point from their final fixture would be enough for them to maintain their top flight status for another season and Jacek Koltuniuk ensured that they would not be in for a long nervous night.
His 3-1 success over Gerald Henson in the first match of the evening confirmed their survival and Harborough’s demotion.
After moving to the area recently, Aberra initially struggled for form but he now seems to have settled and his good form continued in this match with wins over Henson and Chris Gibbons but Andy Wood edged him out in five ends as he recorded his own treble.
Henson also fell to defeat against Asif Manji as both teams ended the season on a positive note. as Arthingworth picked up the 6-4 win and Burton Baptist B survivied relegation.
Westfield C completed their campaign with a crushing 9-1 win over Corby Town B.
Aaron Moore scored Corby’s only point with a win over Matt Horrocks.
Carl Leeson and Dan Smalley were both on the treble trail, with Smalley having to recover from 2-0 down to Moore to complete his treble.
Westfield B finished off their season in style with a 9-1 victory over Thrapston Eagles.
Nicole Bird scored another maximum and this time she was joined by Antonio Jariaces.
Matt Rushton couldn’t quite complete the clean sweep as Mark Stockley overturned a 2-0 deficit to record Thrapston’s solitary success.
Results: Higham 2 (Elliott, Bashford) Burton Baptist A 8 (Gulbicki 3, Aberra 3,Ross, Gulbicki/Ross), Corby Town A 2 (Arthur 2) Kettering Town A 8 (Fuller 3, Czuczor 2, Metcalfe 2, Fuller/Metcalfe), Westfield A 10 (K Bird 3, Silk 3, Stefanov 3, Bird/Silk) Harborough Athletic 0, Burton Baptist B 4 (Aberra 2, Koltuniuk, Manji) Arthingworth 6 (Wood 3, Gibbons 2, Henson/Wood), Corby Town B 1 (Moore) Westfield C (Leeson 3, Smalley 3, Horrocks 2, Leeson/Smalley), Westfield B 9 (N Bird 3, Jaraices 3, Rushton 2) Thrapston Eagles 1 (Stockley).
Player of the week: John Aberra.
Rothborough Buccaneers secured their place at the top of Division Two in style with a 10-0 victory over club-mates Dakotas.
Gareth Lewis, Tom Ravenscroft and Luke Saywood saw them home but not without resistance from Dakotas, despite their best player Sean Smith being absent.
Cathy Fleming, in particular, won four ends in her three games.
Buccaneers have used eight players this season, more than any other team, but it has paid off in that they never played a man short and some of their replacements have scored maximums. Lewis shared the highest aggregate score of the season, 20-22 against Lauren Ainsworth in week 14.
Ravenscroft has only lost once all season – to Martin Watts – and has the best averages of all the players in the league and Buccaneers have only lost two doubles all season – both times to the Watts/Alan Brisley combination of Comets.
Dakotas finished third as the Montsaye club had a very successful season.
Comets beat Corby D 6-4 to eventually finish seven points adrift as runners up, despite only losing one doubles all season and having an identical win, draw, loss ratio as Buccaneers.
Their top man Watts (ranked 70) was unable to force a hat-trick as that honour went to Corby’s Dan Bottrill (89) in beating Watts, Alan Brisley and Kelvin Linnett, having only won one in each of their previous meetings.
Bottrill is one of only two players to play all of the matches for their team this season, with Tony Yeomans.
In contrast to Buccaneers, Comets only used four players all season and completed all matches with the full complement.
In fact, only Corby played with two men this season, on four occasions.
That potentially could have affected their ability to finish third as they were nine points behind Dakotas.
Results: Corby D 4 (Bottrill 3, Cardwell) Rothborough Comets 6 (Brisley 2, Watts 2, Linnett, Linnett/Watts), Rothborough Dakotas 0 Rothborough Buccaneers 10 (Lewis 3, Ravenscroft 3, Saywood 3, Lewis/Ravenscroft).
Player of the week: Dan Bottrill
Kettering & District Table Tennis League team of the week: Rothborough Arrows.