For a fourth year running, a member of the younger generation tasted success in the Clacton & District League’s Handicap Singles Tournament,24-year-old Matt Sage taking the Gordon Denton Trophy, following in the footsteps of James Denyer, Jason Gale and Russell Hillier.

In a quality final, Division Three Sage (+1), in his first season of League table tennis, defeated another surprise finalist, Sharon Gowlett (-1) from Division Two side Windsor Penguins, 13-11, 11-7, 11-8, employing a series of attacking shots which edged each set by the narrowest of margins. Sage and Gowlett are pictured above.

It was a well-deserved victory for Sage who had impressed throughout with his aggressive play, his only defeat of the day occurring during the Group stage, Sage (-3) surprisingly going down 11-8 in the fifth to his Nomads Bobcats’ team-mate Jack Riddleston (+1).

In Round One of the knockout stage, Sage’s handicap advantage (+3) and uninhibited play was enough to defeat Daniel Young (-15), one of the top-ranked players, 11-6, 11-4 in a match played over two sets.

And Sage followed this with another fine win in the quarter-finals, (on +2) defeating the 2019 champion John Barton (-8) in three-straight.

His semi-final opponent was yet another Division One player, John Hobson, but Sage (+1) displayed a degree of maturity in out-pointing the stylish and vastly experienced Hobson (-6) 12-14, 11-6, 11-8, 11-9.

Sharon Gowlett had also experienced a demanding day’s table tennis, like Sage qualifying for the knockout stage by virtue of finishing runner-up in her Group.

In Round One, Gowlett (+2) eliminated defending champion Russell Hillier (-8) 11-0, 7-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-0 before, in the quarter-final, defeating fellow-Division Two player John Gallagher in one of the encounters of the day.

With both players being equally matched, their tie went to the wire, Gowlett (+1) edging past Gallagher (-1) 12-10, 13-11, 12-14, 8-11, 13-11, a match as close as the scoreline suggests.

And Gowlett made it to the final by defeating Gerry Widnell (+2), another player in his first League season and a player who had surprised everyone, not least himself, in reaching the last four, but eventually succumbing to Gowlett (-8) 11-8, 16-14, 11-9.

Main results – Final : Matt Sage (+1) beat Sharon Gowlett (-1) 13-11, 11-7, 11-8; Semi-finals : Sage (+1) beat John Hobson (-6) 12-14, 11-6, 11-8, 11-9; Gowlett (-8) beat Gerry Widnell (+2) 11-6, 16-14, 11-9; Quarter-finals : Sage (+2) beat John Barton (-8) 11-0, 11-9, 11-0; Gowlett (+1) beat John Gallagher (-1) 12-10, 13-11, 12-14, 8-11, 13-11; Hobson (0) beat Barry Allen (0) 11-6, 11-6, 11-7; Widnell (+1) beat Tom Bryden (-5) 12-10, 6-11, 11-9, 11-1.

Of the 16 qualifiers from the Groups, eight came from the Third Division, including three juniors, Joe Sherwin, Lucy Carvell and Tom Bryden, and four of the up-and-coming younger generation, JJ Barry, Alex Baldock, Jack Riddleston and, of course, Sage who took pride of place with the victor’s crown.

And the Handicap Singles event once again showed its ability to produce surprise winners, Sage becoming the 32nd different winner in the Tournament’s 40-year history.

* It was a good week for Mark Gale and Walton C in Division One of the League, the Walton team recording their first win of the season against Walton A, and repeating the 8-2 scoreline the following day against Windsor Buzzards.

Gale and Mark Ratcliffe took trebles in the first match, and Paul Meikle a couple, with Gale again unbeaten against the Buzzards, Ratcliffe and Meikle taking a pair apiece.

Walton B were 6-4 winners against Windsor Hawks, Peter Burrows undefeated and Gavin Price taking two. Felipe Rodriguez won two for the Hawks and, with John Barton in the doubles, shared an 11-8 in the decider win against Burrows and John Marshall.

Leaders Nomads Panthers were 9-1 victors against Windsor Eagles, a repeat of their early season score. James Denyer and Gracie Edwards stayed undefeated, with Mel Rampton beating Gill Locke 11-6 in the fifth for the Eagles’ consolation point.

But second-placed Brotherhood A are still hanging on to the Panthers’ coat-tails, this week beating Nomads Lions 7-3, Kevin Gowlett and Gary Young taking maximum points.

In Division Two, Brotherhood D’s relentless push towards the title continued with another success, Sam Plummer and Joe Plummer unbeaten in their 9-1 win over Nomads Jaguars.

Nomads Tigers defeated Brotherhood B 6-4, Denes Somodi winning three and Dave Miller two. The doubles proved unbearably close, Mark Salter and Barry Allen edging home 3-2 (12-10, 5-11, 11-9, 3-11, 21-19) against Somodi and Miller.

Windsor Penguins beat Walton D 7-3 for a second time this season. Neil Chegwidden was unbeaten while Scott Campbell was denied his hat-trick by Andy Foster who won their individual encounter 11-9 in the fifth.

James Tindle was Lawford’s unbeaten hero in his team’s 6-4 win against Brotherhood C, but the score could so easily have been 9-1, Brotherhood winning three of the last four matches deuce in the fifth, the closest Paul Metcalf’s 15-13 in the decider victory over Ian Sherwood.

And in a match that’s spanned 10 weeks, Windsor Kestrels and Brotherhood C resumed their encounter which had been prematurely ended in November by the illness to Peter Aumord, the final score ending 9-1 to Brotherhood.

In Division Three, leaders Brotherhood E stayed on top after beating Windsor Magpies 7-3, Fred Gallone and Duncan Dunne taking maximum points, whilst their nearest challengers, Windsor Harriers, were pushed all the way before defeating Nomads Bobcats 10-0.

Ruby Gallagher won her three as Brotherhood F defeated Nomads Lynx 8-2, with Lucy Carvell taking a couple but losing out 11-9 in the fifth to Dave Wright. Wright took the two Lynx points.

Brotherhood G recorded two wins to lift them to fourth place in the table. Firstly, in a match where no player stayed unbeaten, they defeated Nomads Leopards 7-3, Danny Still, Dan Grindrod and Gary Simpson all winning two. And they followed this with a 7-3 success against Nomads Ocelots, this time the Grindrod, Still and Simpson trio all winning three.

And the unfortunate Ocelots suffered another 10-0 defeat, Walton E’s Maggie Earle, Adrian Sexton and Deborah Pallett all taking trebles, a debut League hat-trick for Pallett.

* There will be at least one Division Three side in the semi-finals of the Knock-Out Cup, with Nomads Bobcats and Brotherhood E drawn to play each other in the quarter-finals. The third Division Three side, Brotherhood F, will play top-flight Walton C. The full draw is Brotherhood F v Walton C; Nomads Bobcats v Brotherhood E; Nomads Panthers v Windsor Penguins; Brotherhood D v Windsor Hawks. The matches are to be played during w/c 19th February.

Division 1

Nomads Lions 3 Brotherhood A 7
Walton C 8 Walton A 2
Windsor Buzzards 2 Walton C 8
Windsor Hawks 4 Walton B 6
Windsor Eagles 1 Nomads Panthers 9
Division 2
Brotherhood D 9 Nomads Jaguars 1
Brotherhood B 4 Nomads Tigers 6
Windsor Kestrels 1 Brotherhood C 9
Walton D 3 Windsor Penguins 7
Lawford 6 Brotherhood C 4
Division 3
Brotherhood G 10 Nomads Ocelots 0
Windsor Harriers 10 Nomads Bobcats 0
Brotherhood G 7 Nomads Leopards 3
Brotherhood E 7 Windsor Magpies 3
Nomads Ocelots 0 Walton E 10
Nomads Lynx 2 Brotherhood F 8