County teams from around the country returned to Milton Keynes Table Tennis club over the weekend of March 11-12 for the second of this season’s two O-60s Premier Division Weekends. Kent emerged victorious, winning all their four matches over the weekend to retain their title.
At the end of the previous session, when all teams had played three matches, it was clear that there was all to play for at both the top and bottom of the division. Kent topped the table but Sussex and Hertfordshire were in hot pursuit. At the bottom, Lancashire were still to get off the mark and trailed Lincolnshire on two points, with Warwickshire and Bedfordshire not clear of relegation worries. Cheshire were comfortably placed in the middle of the table.
But with four matches still to play over the second weekend, nothing had been decided by the end of the first weekend.
The Saturday morning session saw Kent beat Lincolnshire to keep a grip on top spot. A much strengthened Lancashire team beat Bedfordshire to give them hope of avoiding the drop. Cheshire’s win over Lincolnshire saw them rise up the table.
By the end of the afternoon session, wins for Bedfordshire, Kent, Sussex and Cheshire gave the table an interesting shape. Any of the top three teams (Kent, Sussex and Cheshire) could win the division, and any of the bottom five teams (Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Warwickshire, Lancashire and Lincolnshire) could be relegated.
In the Sunday morning matches, Lancashire secured a point against a strong Sussex side. This match was remarkable in that Lancashire only won two singles, yet secured a draw as a result of a clean sweep of the doubles matches, emphasising once again the importance of doubles in O-60s and Veterans’ matches.
Lincolnshire vs Warwickshire resulted in a hard-fought draw – which probably suited neither team. Cheshire continued their move up the table with a comprehensive victory over Hertfordshire, whilst Kent maintained their grip on top spot with a 7-3 victory over Bedfordshire.
So once again, as we came to the final round, a full range of options were possible both at the top and bottom. Kent, Sussex and Cheshire were fighting to sort out the top three places, whereas Hertfordshire, Warwickshire, Lancashire and Lincolnshire were all involved in a relegation battle. Bedfordshire looked safe in a mid-table position – but if results went against them, they could find themselves in a relegation slot.
At the top of the table, the key match was Kent vs Sussex – with the winner likely to take the title. Kent stormed into an 6-1 lead to secure top spot, with the final result being 8-2 in favour of Kent. The heavy defeat ruined Sussex’s chances of the runners-up slot as, although rivals Cheshire lost 6-4 to Lancashire, they had a better sets difference.
Lancashire’s win over neighbours Cheshire put an end to Lancashire’s relegation woes, whilst Warwickshire’s defeat by Hertfordshire and Lincolnshire’s loss to Bedfordshire meant Warwickshire and Lincolnshire finished in the relegation slots.
The Warwickshire vs Hertfordshire match was a real cliff-hanger. Because of their superior sets difference Warwickshire only needed a draw to avoid the drop, whereas Hertfordshire needed a win. Warwickshire went 4-2 up but Hertfordshire took three on the bounce to secure a 5-4 advantage. Fittingly, the final mixed doubles went to five, with Hertfordshire winning the final game 11-8 to secure their Premier Division status and send Warwickshire into Division One. Bedfordshire made sure of their continued Premier Division status by beating Lincolnshire 6-4.
Lincolnshire were in the unfortunate position of only having two men players on the Sunday and performed admirably in securing a draw against Warwickshire and a narrow defeat to Bedfordshire. But sadly for them, it was not enough to avoid the drop.
From there, can click on the tabs above the table to navigate to the full results list, player averages, individual scorecards and team and player stats.
In the averages, the standout performances by individual players were by Diccon Gray (Kent) and Diane St Ledger (Warwickshire). Diccon won 13 of his 14 singles matches, and Diane won all seven of her singles matches.