It is some years since Dave Punt played regularly in the first division but he proved that much of the old skill is still there when he produced the performance of the week in the Braintree Table Tennis League.
Punt, one of the league’s longest serving players with more than 40 years under his belt, was playing up as a reserve for Rayne C. Not only did he beat an out-of-form Steve Elmes, but he also overcame Steve Pennell, a regular in the division’s top ten.
Punt beat the former men’s singles champion 11-8, 6-11, 11-8, 6-11, 11-7.
Richard Whiteside and Simon Fleming also got the better of Elmes but three wins for Jon Hill helped Rayne A to a 6-4 win.
It was a memorable week too for the division’s youngest player, 17-year-old Ashley Butler.
For the first time in division one, he won his team’s only set. It was also the first time in the top division that he had bettered his father’s performance.
Whereas Ian Butler lost 11-7, 11-6, 11-4 to Liberal B’s Frank Neill, Butler junior found a way past him at 11-4 in the fifth game.
In a rearranged match, Liberal A picked up eight points against a Black Notley side including Steve Kerns. The three-times men’s singles champion topped the individual averages as recently as 2013 and never gives in easily, but he was bettered by Simon Webber at 13-11 in the fifth game.
League leaders Netts A dropped only one set – a good win for Andrew Huckson over Andy Holmes – against Notley A while the club’s B side had their toughest test for some time.
Having conceded only two sets out of the last 40, Netts B were taken to 6-4 by Rayne B. Peter Hance and Ryan Pitt won twice for Rayne, but James Hicks’ three singles led his team over the line.
Netts B also had a 10-0 win over Felsted A.
After being nudged down to second place in division two the previous week, Notley B jumped back above Liberal C by beating them 7-3.
Gordon Fairchild held them together with his three wins.
Leaders Sible Hedingham again had only two players but dropped only one set – Paul Wellington’s win over Roy Hooper – in beating Rayne E 6-4.
Fourth-placed Nomads had a 9-1 win over Hedingham Lions but Notley C, the team just below them, lost to their own D team 6-4.
None of the C team could penetrate Sean Clift’s defences.
Rayne F were indebted to an unbeaten Dave Marsh, as they often are, for their draw with Notley E. But he was stretched to 11-9 in the fifth by David Razzell.
The surprise result in division three was leaders Rayne G’s inability to beat second-from-bottom Notley I.
It was only the second time this season that Rayne have failed to win when turning out their full team of Tony Stredder, Charles Wilkinson and Tim Gowers.
Steve Baines won twice for Notley. Declan Baines and Alan Cook won one each and combined to take the doubles to force a draw.
Felsted B closed the gap to seven points, with a match in hand, after their 8-2 win over their own C team. Arthur Geen won two for the C team and only missed out against Andy Laws at 12-10 in the fifth.
Nick Hasler’s return to the game has been a successful one so far, but it hit a stumbling block in the shape of Paul Lombardi in Rayne H’s 7-3 defeat by Rayne I. Lombardi, beaten only twice this season, won 11-3, 11-9, 11-4.
Netts C’s Slim Hardy had an excellent evening against Notley F but his three singles could not ward off a 6-4 defeat.
Notley’s H and G teams both found themselves a player short in their match. Adam Clift won both his singles and shared in a doubles win with Paul Martin to give the G team a 5-4 win.