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Star Paving Services North Norfolk Table Tennis LeagueWith three weeks to go in the first division, it is advantage to Sidewinders.The defending league champions defeated Alpha 8-2, while their nearest challengers, Outlaws, could only manage a draw with Sharks.

Star Paving Services North Norfolk Table Tennis League

With three weeks to go in the first division, it is advantage to Sidewinders.

The defending league champions defeated Alpha 8-2, while their nearest challengers, Outlaws, could only manage a draw with Sharks.

In the latter match, both teams included those playing up, with Poacher Andy Woods joining Outlaw's Colin Humphries and John Hancock junior, and Shark's Keith Register and Phil Baker joined by Terry Copland - returned after serious illness.

The first five battles were all won in straight sets, with Register and Copland comfortable over Woods, Copland also defeating Humphries 16-14, 11-8, 11-4 and Hancock in control against Baker before upping his game to prove his all-round ability with an 11-0, 11-4, 11-4 thumping against Register.

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Baker put Sharks 4-2 up with a win in four over Humphries, before Copland was undone by Hancock's sheer speed, with the Outlaw winning 11-8, 11-4, 11-9. Baker was too strong for Woods, although the Poacher had his moments, and then Register just missed out on sealing the match for the Sharks as Humphries won an excellent battle 16-14 in the fifth. The two regular Outlaws then pulled out all the stops to win the doubles in five to secure the draw.

The same Hancock and Humphries duo were also in action against Dolphins where they were joined by Stubby Dams, who was playing up for the fourth time and hence under league rules has now been automatically transferred to the Outlaws team. Outlaws won 9-1.

Alpha's Mary Sawyer, Dennis Elliott and Dave Johns hosted Sidewinders John Paul, John Batchford and Martin Lawes, with Paul winning the opener against Sawyer 11-4, 12-10, 11-1 before Batchford came from behind in each set of his 12-10, 14-12, 13-11 victory over Elliott. Lawes levelled at 8-8 from 1-5 down in the second against Johns, before serving long at 10-11.

However, the Sidewinder still won in four and then Paul recovered from a set down against Elliott. An 8-1 start in the second helped Sawyer take the second set from Lawes, but a 7-0 start in the third helped the Sidewinder to another win in four, and Batchford made it 6-0 to Sidewinders with a win in three over Johns.

Elliott didn't look confident of closing out his win against Lawes before luck intervened at the tail end of his 8-11, 11-7, 15-13, 9-11, 11-8 victory that saw him take Alpha's first point.

Sawyer received plenty in her fifth set with Batchford. The Alpha had been two sets up, but had begun running out of steam and the Sidewinder stood at match-point at 10-9 in the decider when Sawyer was then on the right end of two flukes. That meant match-point to the Alpha at 11-10, when Batchford took the very unusual step of removing the T from the scoreboard, placing it on the table and taking a time out. Play resumed for one more point only, as Sawyer secured victory. Two more wins in straight - one for Paul over Johns and the doubles for Paul and Lawes against the Alpha males gave Sidewinders an 8-2 victory and they are now nine points clear of Sidewinders in the league table.

Meanwhile at the bottom of the first division, Backhanders continued to struggle. Eric Dolden was playing up for them in this one (alongside Teucer Wilson and Murray Shanahan) but couldn't prevent them from losing 9-1 to Specials' Hugh Rout, Ray Howe and John Short.

Wilson took Backhanders only point with a win in three over Howe.

In the Second Division, there were no shock results, with the three top teams all winning comfortably, as an Eric Dolden brace prevented Pirates whitewashing Aces, Andy Woods defeated Mike Toye in five to take Poachers' only point against Seals, and Beta won 10-0 against a two-man Crosscourters duo. Will De Neve took a set from both Philip Stone and Matt Robinson, while Peter Triston was unable to take one of his four set-points against Stone. Jay Gardner was impressive in both singles and doubles action alongside Robinson, the Betas winning nine straight points from 2-7 in the first before running out comfortable winners in straight.

Players of the week: Terry Copland, John Hancock junior, Colin Humphries, Mary Sawyer, Hugh Rout, John Hancock senior and Jay Gardner.