Honeybell look good

THERE is what should be a fascinating Knockout Singles Cup final in the North Norfolk Table Tennis League as Sidewinders meet debutants Hunnybell for the first time.

THERE is what should be a fascinating Knockout Singles Cup final in the North Norfolk Table Tennis League as Sidewinders meet debutants Hunnybell for the first time.

It could be a big year for the newcomers, whose players may also be strong contenders for the championships in April and could be the ones to end John Paul's dominance.

But the year started in style for the team of Colin Humphreys, Ian Darricott and John Hancock (junior) as they defeated Sharks, their nearest rivals in the second division, 10-0.

The closest contest came first as Humphreys was taken the distance by Terry Copland. Keith Register was the only player to take a set from Hancock, who was at his best later during an 11-8, 11-5, 11-1 win over Phil Baker and also an 11-5, 11-3, 11-8 defeat of Copland.

Darricott gained revenge for a recent cup defeat to register in style with an 11-5, 11-4, 11-3 win, while Humphreys' forehand was on song all night.

Hunnybell now lead Sharks by 10 points with a game in hand and are over 40 points ahead of third-placed Seals - they have only dropped 10 points so far this season.

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The Specials trio of Hugh Rout, John Short and Ray Howe visited Dolphins for their first division fixture. Matthew Hudson led 7-2 in the first and had a set-point in the second as Rout won through 11-9, 15-13, 11-2.

Steve Hudson took a maximum for the Dolphins, including a symmetrical 12-10, 7-11, 12-10, 7-11, 12-10 win over Short, but it was the Special who was the only player to defeat Steve Nicholls (in five) as Specials came back from 2-4 and 3-5 down to end the night as only the second drawn match of the season.

Cobra James Baldock-Yaxley had to find a replacement bat when his was broken during the warm-up in his team's derby match with Alpha, where he was involved in three battles that went the distance.

Mary Sawyer pulled back from 1-7 in the fifth to lead 9-8, but Baldock-Yaxley then took the last three points to win. After dropping the first set to the Cobra, Dennis Elliott took the next 10 points en route to the second.

Baldock-Yalxey took his fourth set-point to take the third, a 4-0 lead helped Elliott to level once more. The players were locked at 5-5 in the decider, but Elliott got to 9-6 which was crucial in the end as a strange victory saw him win 11 points in each and every set - the Alpha coming through 11-13, 11-1, 11-13, 11-5, 11-7.

Dave Johns then recovered from two sets down to Baldock-Yaxley while Adam Brown took a set from Elliott. The Cobra's recent good form in the doubles continued - Brown and Alex Spragg taking an excellent win in four over Elliott and Johns - but the match went to the Alphas 8-2.

There was another Walsham derby as Deltas John Vaughan, Phil Mole and Jamie Carter took on Betas Simon Halliday, Matt Robinson, Philip Stone and Chris Johnson.

Halliday started with an 11-7, 11-7, 11-7 win over Carter, before Stone squandered a match-point as Mole levelled in five. Halliday defeated Mole in four, before Mole persevered for another five-set victory over Robinson. Stone had a glimmer of hope tied at one set all and 10-10 with Vaughan, but the president won though in four on his way to a maximum.

The match came down to the doubles with Deltas leading 5-4 - a win for Vaughan and Carter to seal the match, Johnson and Halliday looking for a draw.

Carter, who had put up a brave fight but lost his three singles, could have been thought of as the weak link, but he was far from that as he hit a fine run of form, particularly in the second set, and became too hot for the Betas to handle.

Vaughan stayed in the background playing a steady solid role as Carter was the influential player in the Delta's 11-7, 11-7, 11-7 win - the exact mirror image of his loss from the opening singles and all the more important as it meant the Deltas won the night 6-4.

The players of the week are Colin Humphreys (terrific first season, still gets better), Steve Hudson (maximum), James Baldock-Yaxley (played very well - even if he was using the wrong bat!) and Jamie Carter (strong performance in key doubles).