Harborough Rangers have been crowned Division One champions in the Kettering & District Table Tennis League following their 9-1 demolition of fourth-placed Thrapston Kites.
It was the turn of Liam Burnham, Mike Brocklebank and the vastly-improved Sam Burgess to prove their title credentials and they showed exactly why they have emerged victorious in a tightly contested division.
Five of the nine encounters required a deciding end but four of them ended up in Rangers’ safe hands with Kites’ Stewart Williams being the most unlucky player on the night, losing all three of his matches in the decider.
This was Williams’ first blank night of the season and with Pete Briggs recording only his second of the campaign, it was left to Geoff Judd to prevent the whitewash with 12-10 fifth end win over Mike Brocklebank.
It was a fantastic performance from Burnham, Burgess and Brocklebank to claim the title while their team-mates Steve Crook, Ross Campbell and James Allington have all contributed to their success this season.
Burgess was also in action when Harborough Rovers travelled to play second-placed Thrapston Falcons.
He duly recorded another hat-trick, with the highlight being a 3-2 win over Nigel Payne after trailing 2-0.
The Falcons trio of Ian Baldock, Anthony Marray and Payne proved too strong for Burgess’ colleagues Jamie Burgess and Mark Pearson but Rovers are now virtually safe from relegation and Falcons look a good bet to secure the second promotion spot behind champions Rangers.
In the final round of fixtures, Falcons play host to Rangers with third-placed Rothborough Arrows hosting fourth-placed Kites, but with Falcons holding a five-point lead over Arrows, they know they have one hand on the silver medal.
Rothborough Arrows kept themselves in contention to claim that promotion spot with an 8-2 success over Harborough Diamonds, a result that leaves Diamonds clinging to their Division One status by their fingernails.
Julian Marlow and Helen Watts recorded their expected trebles though Phil Dixon went to five ends with both players.
Dixon, along with Vaughan Allington, gained a win over Ivor Jones whose single success came at the expense of David Coombs.
Westfield D were expected to be amongst the promotion contenders but their inconsistent form means they are likely to finish no higher than fifth.
They were in top form however when they hosted sixth placed Burton Baptist C, scoring a 9-1 victory.
Nitin Patel and Scott Dixon both recorded trebles and Chris Alder won twice after losing to Kelvin Marshall.
Baptist’s chances were not helped when Darryl Sutcliffe had to concede his match to Alder after struggling to complete his match with Dixon.
Beth Tyler made a rare appearance as she turned out for Thrapston Harriers in their match against Burton Baptist D.
Sadly for Harriers, her form matched that of the regular players and they succumbed to a 10-0 defeat with Kelvin Marshall’s 11-9 win over Alan Tyler being the pick of the games.
Derek Muggleton and Steve Smith were in fine form dropping just three ends between them.
Results: Thrapston Kites 1 (Judd) Harborough Rangers 9 (Burnham 3, S Burgess 3, Brocklebank 2, Burnham/Brocklebank), Thrapston Falcons 7 (Baldock 2, Marray 2, Payne 2, Baldock/Payne) Harborough Rovers 3 (S Burgess), Harborough Diamonds 2 (Dixon, Allington) Rothborough Arrows 8 (Marlow 3, Watts 3, Jones, Marlow/Watts), Westfield D 9 (Patel 3, Dixon 3, Alder 2, Dixon/Alder) Burton Baptist C 1 (Marshall), Burton Baptist D 10 (Muggleton 3, Smith 3, Marshall 3, Smith/Muggleton) Thrapston Harriers 0.
Player of the Week: Sam Burgess.
Corby Town A were the big winners in the penultimate week of fixtures in the Premier Division. The 10-0 win they recorded over Thrapston Eagles not only confirmed Eagles’ relegation back to Division One, but also edged Corby into second place in the table.
Henry Arthur and Chris Haynes were largely untroubled although both lost the first end to Steve West. Lee O’Boyle was a bit busier with both Ian Donaldson and Mark Stockley taking an end from him.
West proved even more of an obstacle for the Corby number one and led 2-0 before O’Boyle recovered to win through 9-11, 15-17, 11-8, 11-6, 11-4.
Burton Baptist A have long been favourites to take the runners-up position but with player availability being an issue in recent weeks, they now find themselves trailing their Corby rivals by a point.
This week they faced off against the champions Westfield A, who were again without the injured Steve Silk.
Fortunately for both the champions and Corby, Westfield were able to call on the services of their B team’s Nicole Bird and she turned in a performance of the highest quality, becoming only the second person this season to lower the colours of Dawid Przybysz.
She also claimed the scalps of Dariusz Gulbicki and John Aberra on her way to a brilliant treble.
Roumen Stefanov and Kevin Bird each won twice for the champions but they couldn’t match the performance of Miss Bird, both losing to Przybysz.
The two Birds then teamed up to play a rare doubles match together but it was Przybysz and Gulbicki who took the victory for the extra point but the 7-3 defeat for Burton means that second place is no longer in their own hands.
Kettering Town A were also heavily involved in the battle for the runners-up spot but with John Fuller and new recruit Shandor Czuczor both missing from their team to face Corby Town B, veteran Jim Chatburn was promoted from their B team to fill the massive void.
Nigel Metcalfe and Mike Hawes produced top performances in the singles to score six points but the Corby trio of Kyle Murie, Aaron Moore and Guy Sparrow were too strong for Chatburn.
Moore and Sparrow again displayed their doubles skills to defeat Metcalfe and Hawes as Kettering ran out 6-4 winners to leave them sitting in fourth place.
The relegation battle will go down to the final week as both teams involved produced great performances in their penultimate match.
Harborough Athletic were perhaps a bit fortunate to face a Westfield B team short of players. Nicole Bird was back to playing for her own side but, in the same week she would defeat Dawid Przybysz, she surprisingly lost to Nathan Thompson.
Bird did record wins over Barry Thompson and the upgraded Liam Burnham but the only other point that escaped Athletic’s grip came when the two players playing up from Division One, Burnham and Scott Dizon clashed.
Earlier in the evening Dixon had led Nathan Thompson 2-0 before falling away heavily in the decider. Against Burnham, he again lead 2-0 but must have thought the worse as Burnham rallied by taking the fourth end 11-2 to square their encounter. However, Dixon regained his focus to win the clash 11-9, 11-9, 10-12, 2-11, 11-9.
With Westfield being a player short, the three points that Athletic gained by default could prove vital going into the final week of the season.
Burton Baptist B no doubt produced the performance of the week in the Premier Division with a battling 5-5 draw against the division’s form team in Westfield C.
Westfield’s Dan Smalley was on top form with a hat-trick but Matt Horrocks and Sam Wildman both struggled against excellent performances from John Aberra and Jacek Koltuniuk.
It has been said that when Wildman’s backhand and Horrocks’ forehand click, then they are two very dangerous players but when they don’t, the only danger they pose is to themselves.
That was apparent in this match as both players could only record a single win over Asif Manji.
However, this should not distract from the quality of play displayed by Aberra and Koltuniuk and the five wins they shared ensure they go into the final week level on points with Harborough Athletic.
The week’s other fixture saw Arthingworth host Higham with the away team running out 8-2 winners.
Richard Elliott and Richard Bashford shared seven points with Andy Harrison adding the eighth.
Chris Gibbons and Ray Kingston were Arthingworth’s points scorers.
Results: Thrapston Eagles 0 Corby Town A 10 (Arthur 3, Haynes 3, O’Boyle 3, Arthur/Haynes), Burton Baptist A 3 (Przybysz 2, Gulbicki/Przybysz) Westfied A 7 (N Bird 3, K Bird 2, Stefanov 2), Kettering Town A 6 (Metcalfe 3, Hawes 3) Corby Town B 4 (Murie, Moore, Sparrow, Moors/Sparrow), Harborough Athletic 7 (N Thompson 3, B Thompson 2, Burnham, Thompson/Thompson) Westfield B 3 (N Bird 2, Dixon), Westfield C 5 (Smalley 3, Wildman, Horrocks) Burton Baptist B 5 (Aberra 2, Koltuniuk 2, Aberra/Koltuniuk), Arthingworth 2 (Gibbons, Kingston) Higham 8 (Elliott 3, Bashford 3, Harrison, Elliott/Bashford).
Player of the week: Nicole Bird.
There were five of the seven playing members of Burton Baptist E’s team present at their last match and the three they chose did them proud with their biggest win of the Division Two season, an 8-2 victory over a Kettering Town B team that beat them 9-1 last time out, and without their highest-ranked player (Jon Sanders).
This time, the senior Lade – dad Bryan - was the star with his first ever hat-trick, all against higher ranked opponents, and doubling his season’s wins into the bargain.
Ben Freeman matched his best result with a pair of victories over Alan Woolston and Ann Woolston and Jacob Tattersall beat Pete Scrivener and Alan Woolston for his best result of the season.
This sees Kettering Town B finish in fifth place and Burton in seventh.
Rothborough Exocets sealed sixth spot despite Burton’s efforts with their best victory since the opening week, an 8-2 verdict over gallant Imps, who were without their best player David Patmore.
Exocets played their top three players and Helmut Salander secured his fourth - and second consecutive - maximum to secure his status as their number one player, although he had to come from behind to beat young Ben Baker in five.
Sally Taylor finished the season with a good double and was just two points from her first hat-trick until Ron Palfrey took the third 12-10 and then the last two more comfortably.
The division’s busiest player again this year was Tony Yeomans, who played all of Exocets’ matches and four more for other teams, and he was only beaten this time, for the first time in five meetings this year, by Ron Palfrey.
Results: Burton Baptist E 8 (B Lade 3, Freeman 2, Tattersall 2, Freeman/Tattersall) Kettering Town B 2 (Scrivener, An Woolston), Rothborough Exocets 8 (Salander 3, Taylor 2, Yeomans 2, Taylor/Yeomans) Harborough Imps 2 (Palfrey 2).
Player of the week: Bryan Lade.
Kettering & District League team of the week: Harborough Rangers.