Table Tennis Spring 2021 Week 5

Mount gambier Table Tennis’ Spring season rolled on this week, week 5 producing more high quality and hotly contested encounters as teams jostle for prime position with season’s end approaching.

Patriots and Cowboys locked horns in the first Division 1 battle of the night, the former’s Ben Newman, David Harris-Jones, and Felix Owusu all shining for the Patriots to guide them to guide them to a comfortable 11-7 victory. Undoubtedly the highlight of the bout was Harris-Jones’ marathon rubber against Cowboys player Justin Hutchesson. Hutchesson claimed the first and third games with relative ease and seemed to be in control of the situation, before Harris-Jones appeared to find an extra gear, dragging himself off the canvas with a comeback that had to be witnessed to be believed. Nothing separated the combatants in the fourth game, until finally Hutchesson cracked under the pressure of needing to break Harris-Jones serve to stay in the game. He was unable to control his return, sending the ball wide off the table, and sending the rubber into a deciding fifth game with both players showing significant signs of fatigue. Once again neither player was able to gain a decisive break in the decider, points remaining on serve until the death. With scores locked away at 11-all the tension mounted, teammates gathering on the sidelines with bated breath. Harris-Jones pounced on an uncharacteristically placid backhand prod over the net from Hutchesson, his forehand return smash proving unplayable and setting up match point on his own serve. After drawing a nervous breath, Harris-Jones served the ball swiftly over to Hutchesson’s forehand. The fierce backspin forced Hutchesson to lunge forward and gingerly prod it back, enabling Harris-Jones to put away the comfortable passing shot and taking the game and the rubber.

In the other Division 1 match-up, Raiders got off to a flyer against Giants, Caitlin Fartch, Rayelene Hutchesson and Sarah Thompson all taking care of business in their opening singles rubbers to give their team a healthy lead. The ultra-consistent Leigh Barry led his Giants to a spirited fightback, but they were unable to bridge the gap, the Raiders ultimately holding on for a 10-8 win. Fartch’s battle with her Giants opponent Rob Halleday was one for the ages, Halleday appearing to have the contest in his keeping with a two-game lead before a miraculously invigorated Fartch staged a truly special display of never-say-die grit and determination, clawing her way back to win the next two games and force a decider. If onlookers thought they had seen it all until that point, they could not possibly have imagined what was about to unfold. Running on sheer adrenalin at this point, their arms and legs feeling like they had 20kg weights tied to them, both Fartch and Halleday refused to give the other the satisfaction of knowing they were tired and hurting. Halleday skipped out to an early lead in the crucial decider but Fartch would not go away, pegging back the advantage to ensure the scores were locked up at 11-11 and entering a sudden-death shootout. With the result critical to the overall outcome of the night, neither player wanted to give in to the pressure and pain and let their side down. Fartch served first, a topspin skidder that jammed Halleday up and forced him to swat his return down into the net. Halleday’s serve then spun off the side of Fartch’s bat, leveling the scores again. Another quick serve from Fartch restored her one-point advantage, followed by a lengthy rally ending with a lucky forehand from Halleday catching the side of the table. With scores tied at a staggering 15-all, Fartch pushed the ball across the court beyond Halleday’s reach to set up a match point with her serve to come. As Halleday stood back expecting a fast-paced serve, Fartch cunningly served the ball gently just over the net, Halleday desperately lunging forward just to reach it. With the advantage of having Halleday out of position, Fartch smacked the ball down the line past her opponent before he had time to react, to the raucous cheers of her team mates watching on, the final score 17-15.

Division 2’s first contest between the Warriors and the Titans was also a close one. Jedda Hardcastle, Marga Steele and Mark Devaney continued their strong form for the Titans, all keeping their singles sheets clean on the night, however this proved futile against a well-rounded team performance from the Warriors led by Kylie Boston, ably supported by Nick Sweet, Nudee Cook and others. Devaney, Steele and Emina Leamey gave the Titans the perfect opening, all winning their respective opening singles rubbers. Cook then kick-started the Warriors’ campaign with a win over Nat Harris-Jones. Sweet backed it up with victory over Titans number 1 player Anneliese Holtz. Hardcastle returned serve with strong performance against Warriors number 1 Boston. Cook’s battle with Steele at the tail-end of the match was key to the overall result, and this was reflected in the tightness of the encounter. Steele drew first blood, taking the first game comfortable, Cook taking a while to settle in and find her rhythm. When she did however, it looked like there was no stopping her as she raced through the next two games. Steele stepped up again however, storming back to take the fourth game as Cook appeared to tighten up under the pressure, sending the contest to a fitting decider. As with so many other rubbers played on the night, both combatants refused to lower their colours, battling it out to the very last. Testament to the skill and fight of both players, rallies were tense and lengthy, an absorbing mixture of topspin power and deft sidespin placement. With the scores locked away at 10 apiece, both players knew the stakes all too well. Steele served, and a critical errant forehand from Cook gifted her the point and a chance to close it out. Cook’s serve evidenced her awareness of the situation, a fierce skidder that had Steele lunging to retrieve it and lob it high just over the net. Cook’s eyes lit up with the opportunity of an easy put away, alas her judgement deserted her at exactly the wrong time again, sending the ball square into the net and gifting Steele the game and the rubber. Luckily for Cook this result had no baring on the overall outcome of the match, her Warriors team holding on for the 10-8 win.

The Buccaneers continued their dismal season, this time at the hands of Ethan Ransom’s Vikings. Ransom, Richard Horrigan and Tracey Rawlings continued their rich form, all keeping clean sheets, whilst Chris Turner also went undefeated on the night for the Buccaneers. Angus Billing finally broke his duck for the season with an improved performance, breaking through for his first singles win against Vikings player Chris Mulraney. The story looked to be an all too familiar one for Billing early on as Mulraney took the first game comfortably, before Billing bounced back to take the second. Mulraney claimed the third and appeared to have broken her opponent, but Billing refused to lie down, beginning to wear his opponent down with his trademark topspin skidders bouncing up off the table and forcing errors. Billing claimed the fourth, and tensions grew as both players tired. Persistence and determination were the order of the day in the deciding fifth game, both adversaries running on empty but no less driven to win. Midway through the game, a lucky forehand drive down the line clipped the side of the table, flying off at right angles as Mulraney could only look on forlornly. This proved to be a decisive moment in the game, Billing scooting away to claim the game and the rubber, lifting his and his teammates’ spirits in what was otherwise yet another gloomy night, the Vikings claiming victory by 12 rubbers to 6.

2 rubber winners:

Division 1 – Ben Newman, David Harris-Jones, Felix Owusu (Patriots), Leigh Barry (Giants), Sarah Thompson, Caitlin Fartch (Raiders)

Division 2 – Jedda Hardcastle, Marga Steele, Mark Devaney (Titans), Ethan Ransom, Richard Horrigan, Tracey Rawlings (Vikings), Chris Turner (Buccaneers).

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