Repeat success for defending table tennis champions

The Specials team of John Paul, Martin Lawes and Ray Howe have effectively secured their defence of the first division of the Star Paving Services North Norfolk League following a 7-3 win away to Outlaws Colin Humphries, John Hancock and Steve Patterson.

The opening battle saw Paul in control as he beat Humphries in straight, before Hancock and Lawes shared their first two sets. Hancock then controlled both wings to run out an 11-4, 7-11, 11-2, 11-2 winner. Howe's returns saw him to a win in four against Patterson before Hancock controlled throughout and never let Paul settle as he won 11-6, 11-7, 11-9.

Howe won a hard-fought battle against Humphries in five, before Lawes' spin kept the attack of Patterson at bay as the Special won in three. Hancock completed his maximum in straight against Howe before Paul survived some great forehand smashes of Patterson to win in four. Lawes' good control won in straight against Humphries and he teamed up with Howe to take the doubles 14-12, 19-17, 12-10 over Hancock and Humphries.

The win sees Specials move onto 159 points with two matches left to play, meaning that they cannot be caught by NWSCA who have 143 points and just one match left. Outlaws have 128 points with three matches left, so whilst mathematically they could overhaul Specials it is extremely unlikely – and the two teams have to meet once more.

Elsewhere in the first division, NWSCA's Andy Beane, Tom Baldock-Yaxley and John Batchford hosted NWSCD's Charlie Usher, Paul Price and Philip Stone with Beane winning the opener in five against Usher. Price continued his great end to the season with a 9-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-6 defeat of Batchford. Usher fought back from two sets down against Batchford, before leading the deciding fifth set 6-0. Batchford battled back and saved match-point to win that final set 13-11. Baldock-Yaxley took a maximum, although dropping a set to both Usher and Stone and Beane also went on to take a maximum – 16-14, 12-10, 11-9 against Stone and in four sets over Price – and joined Batchford for a doubles win as NWSCA won 9-1.

At Cromer, Backhanders Teucer Wilson, Rod Goffin and Whil De Neve hosted Sharks Keith Register, Matthew Hudson and Sean Grimes (playing up). Register saved four match-points trailing Wilson 6-10 in the fourth, before the Backhander hung on to take the win 12-10 and took a maximum, dropping one more set to Hudson. De Neve's attack won through as he also took a maximum, with a trio of four set wins. Hudson prevented the whitewash as he won from two sets down against Goffin, but Backhanders won 9-1.

There was a late finish at Gimingham in the second division as the battle between Goblins' Hugh Rout, Jonathan Care and John Miller and visiting Poachers Barry Evans, Alan Rutledge and Andy Woods finished just five minutes shy of midnight. The opening battle set the tone as Rout's defence just squeezed past Evans' forehand aggression 11-9 in the fifth. Care then beat Rutledge in five before Woods took the first two sets from Miller 11-4, 12-10.

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Miller fought back strongly to take the next two 11-1, 11-6 and now looked the likely victor, but then completely lost his touch as Woods romped home 11-0 in the fifth.

Care then beat Evans in straight and Rout's four set defeat of Woods meant Goblins led 4-1 at half-time. However Rutledge edged out Miller 15-13 in the fourth before Woods won from two sets down to Care and Evans beat Miller in straight to level the match at 4-4. Rout beat Rutledge in straight and teamed up with Care for a comfortable doubles win to secure a tight 6-4 match win for Goblins.

Finally over at Gresham's the team from the School found themselves a player down, but despite some imaginative play from the visiting NWSCE team the duo of Haken Bennell and Ian Darricott held on for a 7-3 win.