The match of the week in the Premier Division of the Kettering & District Table Tennis League was the the highly-anticipated clash between Kettering Town A and Burton Baptist A.
And, after a titanic match that had to be completed on two tables, it was Burton who claimed a 6-4 victory to take the lead at the top of the table.
Dawid Przybysz took the man-of-the-match honours with a superb maximum to keep his seasonal unbeaten record intact.
He started with a comfortable 3-0 win over Mike Hawes before edging out Nigel Metcalfe in a five-end thriller, winning 11-9 in the decider.
Finally, he faced off against John Fuller’s defensive mastery but earned a 3-1 win.
Chris Ross aided Burton’s cause with two wins and Alex Aston added a single with Fuller (two wins), Metcalfe and a Fuller/Hawes doubles win completing the scoring for Kettering.
One of Burton’s title rivals, Higham, were also involved in a thrilling match at Westfield C.
Dan Smalley gave Westfield a great start when be defeated Andy Harrison 11-9 in the fifth. Richard Elliott replied for Higham with a 3-1 success against Sam Wildman before Carl Leeson re-established Westfield’s advantage with a brilliant 3-2 win over Richard Bashford.
After this, Higham took control with Harrison beating Wildman, Bashford seeing off Smalley and Elliott defeating Leeson as they moved 4-2 up.
However, Westfield were not going to go down without a fight with Wildman getting the better of Bashford before Leeson picked up his second win of the night, defeating Harrison 3-1.
With the match at 4-4, the final singles rubber between Smalley and Elliott would be crucial.
In a game that swung one way and then another, Smalley led 2-1 and found himself 8-6 up in the fourth.
However, the experienced Elliott took the next five points to level the match at 2-2 before completing his hat-trick with an 11-6 fifth-end verdict. He then teamed up with Bashford to add the match-winning doubles.
Chris Haynes continued his perfect start to the season with another unbeaten display which formed the backbone of Corby Town A’s 6-4 victory over Arthingworth, dropping just one end on the way to his fourth hat-trick.
Henry Arthur won twice, beating Andy Wood 11-9 in the decider and seeing off Gerald Henson in four close ends but was denied his treble when Chris Gibbons edged him 18-16 in the fifth.
Lee O’Boyle was missing from the Corby ranks so Nigel Hunt stepped in and almost added a point but Henson came back from 2-0 down to win in five ends. A Haynes/Arthur doubles success sealed the victory for Corby.
Sam Wildman has struggled for form this season but after his win earlier in the week over Richard Bashford, he picked up his first hat-trick of the season as Westfield B won 6-4 at Corby Town B.
However, his evening could have been very different if Guy Sparrow had managed to close out the match between the two players.
Sparrow led 2-0 but Wildman won the third end 13-11 and then eased through 11-9, 11-8.
Wins in four ends over Aaron Moore and Kyle Murie followed to complete a successful week for the Westfield player.
Sparrow did beat Matt Rushton in five ends and then recorded an excellent 3-0 over Nicole Bird.
Bird (2) and Rushton provided support to Wildman and it was left to Kyle Murie, with his first win of the season, and a Sparrow/Moore doubles victory to narrow the margin of defeat for Corby.
Results: Kettering Town A 4 (Fuller 2, Metcalfe, Fuller/Hawes) Burton Baptist A 6 (Przybysz 3, Ross 2, Aston), Westfield C 4 (Leeson 2, Smalley, Wildman) Higham 6 (Elliott 3, Harrison, Bashford, Elliott/Bashford), Corby Town A 6 (Haynes 3, Arthur 2, Haynes/Arthur) Arthingworrth 4 (Gibbons 2, Henson, Wood), Corby Town B 4 (Sparrow 2, Murie, Sparrow/Moore) Westfield B 6 (Wildman 3, N Bird 2, Rushton).
Player of the week: Dawid Przybysz.
All of the matches were one-sided in Division One as the favourite beat the underdog comfortably in each contest and, as a result, both the promotion and relegation issues remain intriguingly poised.
It couldn’t be any closer at the top with Harborough Rangers and Rothborough Arrows both on 30 points from four matches, Thrapston Kites on 24 from three and Thrapston Falcons 23 from three.
The matches between these teams will go a long way to deciding who finishes first and second at the end of the season and so far there has only been one of these when Rangers beat Arrows 6-4 in week one.
At the bottom of the table the relegation battle seems to be developing into a three-way tussle between Thrapston Harriers (five points from four matches), Harborough Rovers (nine from four) and Harborough Diamonds (eight from three) with two teams destined to go down.
When a team is chasing promotion and the title it helps if their best players play as often as possible but when any of the regular players are unavailable it also helps to have a useful replacement.
Julian Marlow has been Rothborough Arrows’ star player so far and statistically has looked the best player in the division in the early season.
Therefore if he doesn’t play surely they will be significantly handicapped? Not so this time.
Luke Saywood, playing up from Division Two, achieved as much as Marlow or anyone else could have done for his team,which was to earn maximum points against Harborough Rovers.
It wasn’t exactly plain sailing for Saywood, however, as Sam Burgess and Mark Pearson just lost by two and three points in final-leg deciders.
In fact Rovers can count themselves very unfortunate to come away from this match with no points as Burgess also lost 11-9 in the fifth to Helen Jones, who got a treble, as did Ivor Jones before Watts and Saywood also won a tight doubles 11-8 in the fifth.
The result leaves Rovers in a precarious position and they will be hoping to get their first win in their next match against bottom team Thrapston Harriers.
Harborough Rangers are neck and neck with Arrows after a 9-1 drubbing of Corby C.
Ross Campbell and Liam Burnham both recorded trebles and it was up to Stephen Woolston to gain the consolation point for Corby with a 3-0 win over Steve Crook who won his other two singles before helping Burnham to a five-end doubles win.
Both of the stronger Thrapston teams stayed in the hunt with 8-2 victories.
Falcons’ was against Burton Baptist D, whose best player on the night was Derek Muggleton.
He lost 11-5 in the fifth end against Ian Baldock before doing slightly better when losing 11-9 in the fifth to Nigel Payne and slightly better again when winning 11-9 in the fifth against Anthony Marray.
Ten out of the 15 legs that Muggleton played were won by just two points but, despite these three marathon matches, he still had plenty of stamina left for the doubles which, with Kelvin Marshall, they won.
For Thrapston Kites, Peter Briggs cruised to a treble, winning all nine legs and most of them comfortably against Harborough Diamonds.
One of Diamonds wins was by Phil Dixon over Stewart Williams, courtesy of three long legs by scores of 14-12, 12-10 and 12-10, after Williams had won legs one and three 11-5 and 11-3.
The other point was from Vaughan Allington’s 3-0 win over Bob Hickson.
Mid-table Burton Baptist C took on bottom markers Thrapston Harriers and Chris Agg, Davis Simmons and Darryl Sutcliffe all recorded trebles with relative ease.
When Sutcliffe and Agg won the first leg of the doubles 11-1, a 10-0 whitewash looked inevitable. However, Alan Tyler and Mike Burrows fought back admirably to win three out of the next four legs to get the consolation point.
Results: Harborough Rovers 0 Rothborough Arrows 10 (Watts 3, Jones 3, Saywood 3, Watts/Saywood), Harborough Rangers 9 (Burnham 3, Campbell 3, Crook 2, Crook/Burnham) Corby C 1 (Woolston), Thrapston Falcons 8 (Baldock 3, Payne 3, Marray 2) Burton Baptist D 2 (Muggleton, Muggleton/Marshall), Thrapston Kites 8 (Briggs 3, Williams 2, Hickson 2, Briggs/Williams) Harborough Diamonds 2 (Dixon, Allington), Burton Baptist C 9 (Agg 3, Simmons 3, Sutcliffe 3) Thrapston Harriers 1 (Tyler/Burrows).
Player of the week: Luke Saywood.
The early-season bottom two in Division Two - Harborough Imps and Burton Baptist E - met at Church Langton and a tight match finished all-square and went exactly as the rankings would suggest.
Jon Sanders was the star player for Burton remaining unbeaten all night and ensuring the stalemate when teaming up with Jim McNeely in the deciding rubber.
But it was the match with Ron Palfrey which decided the maximum man and Sanders squeezed through in five when Palfrey made a slow start to the final end and turned round 0-5 from which he couldn’t escape.
Palfrey and David Patmore both got doubles and Ian Lauder gained his first win of the season for Imps.
Buccaneers had little trouble against Exocets but the lower-placed team fought to avoid the whitewash in the doubles, which was the closest rubber of the night.
Unfortunately Tony Yeomans and Sally Taylor couldn’t overcome Tom Ravenscroft and Luke Saywood who both were unbeaten all night, Saywood not dropping an end until that doubles.
Ray Harrison is still unbeaten all season and he only dropped one end on this occasion.
Comets are still matching club-mates Buccaneers with an identical record in second place in the table, courtesy of going through the card against Kettering Town B.
Jim Chatburn pushed Martin Watts all the way but ultimately to no avail as Watts, Alan Brisley and Pete Sturges triumphed. Already the fight for the promotion spots looks as if it will be between the three Rothborough clubs.
Ken Murie’s debut for Corby was timely as he registered their only score against Dakotas, although Dan Bottrill was unlucky to go down in four after losing two deuce ends.
Murie’s first game was against Lauren Ainsworth and the lead swapped hands several times before Murie saw it out.
But that was to be it as Pete Rowbotham and Sean Smith grabbed trebles – Smith has only dropped one end all season having played all four matches - and Ainsworth a pair to put Dakotas on top of the table.
Their last two matches of this third of the season are against Comets and Buccaneers so it will be a big challenge to stay there.
Results: Corby D 1 (Murie) Rothborough Dakotas 9 (Rowbotham 3, Smith 3, L Ainsworth 2, Rowbotham/Smith), Harborough Imps 5 (Palfrey 2, Patmore 2, lauder) Burton Baptist E 5 (Sanders 3, Loake, McNeely/Sanders), Rothborough Buccaneers 10 (Harrison 3, Ravenscroft 3, Saywood 3, Ravenscroft/Saywood) Rothborough Exocets 0, Rothborough Comets 10 (Brisley 3, Sturges 3, Watts 3, Sturges/Watts) Kettering Town B 0.
Player of the week: Ken Murie.
Team of the week: Rothborough Arrows.