League champions Netts A got off to a shaky start in the defence of their Braintree Table Tennis League title when they were held to a draw in their first match by Rayne A.

The champions relied as ever on Paul Davison to see them through. He won his three singles and the doubles – restored to the league programme this season – with James Hicks.

Hicks beat Steve Pennell, but Paul Lucas, back in the league after some years’ absence, and Ian Whiteside won two each for Rayne.

Rayne’s B team also drew their first match, Ryan Pitt’s three singles instrumental in securing a share of the points against Black Notley A.

After winning every set in division two last season, Notley B’s Dan Anderson soon discovered that life in the top division was a bit different when he found the unusual style of Mike Johnston too much for him in the match against Liberal B. Johnston also won his other two singles to help Liberal B to a 7-3 win.

Relegated Notley C might have hoped for a better start in division two than a draw against their own D team but they will have known that the Clift brothers always present a stiff test.  In this case Sean won his three singles and Adam two.                      

The Clifts almost nicked a win but were thwarted at 12-10 in the fifth game of the doubles by Neil Freeman and Dave Parker.

Promoted Netts C on the other hand showed that they mean business with a 6-4 win over Rayne C, who finished fourth last season.

Szczepan Ziobro was the only one to lose to Dave Moles but, impressively, he was the only one to beat the redoubtable Dave Marsh.

Liberal C, runners-up for the last four years, had a solid start with a 7-3 win over Notley F. Bryan Speller won twice for Notley but had to give second best to Gareth Davies, who was unbeaten for Liberal.

Dave Moles was also in action for Rayne D and registered good wins over Notley E’s Alan Billing and Stewart Ireland but Peter Pond found a way past him to give his side an 8-2 win.

In division three, Notley G were the only team throughout the three divisions to start with a 10-0 win, but they will face sterner tests than a two-person Rayne G.

More significantly, Oliver Hicks made an impressive return to the league for Rayne E and included Graham Chinnery, who lost only four of 39 sets last season, among his victims in his team’s 8-2 win over Notley H.

Martin Brunker made a return to the game sooner than expected while Alex Morgan continued his good form of last season to mark the team out as the ones to watch.

It is also worth keeping an eye on Sudbury Wanderers, Nomads’ second string making their bow this season. Both Peter Abbott and Geoff Barrett have dropped down from division two and found the environment much more to their liking, winning three and two respectively in the 7-3 win over Netts E.

Rayne F’s tried and test trio of Charles Wilkinson, Alastair Brown and Chris High started with a 7-3 win over Notley I, Wilkinson going one better than his teammates in winning his three singles, although Matt Stephenson, who won his other two singles, stretched him all the way to 3-2 (9-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-9, 11-9).