Westfield A retained their Premier Division title in the Kettering & District Table Tennis League with a week to spare before they had even hit a ball.
It may have been all but a formality, but Kettering Town A’s failure to win 10-0 against Corby B meant the Wellingborough side took the honours for the fourth consecutive year.
Town almost prolonged their faint title hopes and should have gained maximum points, but Henry Arthur fought back superbly against Nigel Metcalfe to win 3-2 in an entertaining game.
Arthur and Chris Robertson took the unbeaten John Fuller and Shandor Czuczor to five in the doubles but that was as good as it got for the away side.
The race for fourth place will go down to the final week after a contrasting set of results for the three teams involved in the tight finish.
Westfield B claimed the most points from the penultimate week with a 9-1 win over Burton Baptist B.
Sam Wildman and Dan Smalley were both unbeaten and paired up to win the doubles as they look to add a glossy finish to the end of an excellent season.
Steve Hobbs, playing up from the club’s C team, beat both Gerry Crasto and Asif Manji but couldn’t quite get the better of Jacek Koltuniuk.
That win draws them level on points with Burton Baptist A, who fielded a weakened side against Higham and lost 8-2.
Alex Aston got the hosts only singles point with a topsy-turvy deciding game win over John Alsop.
The match saw an unusual turn when David Simmons and Richard Elliott both decided to play with hardbats, with Elliott winning convincingly.
All four players elected to use the old-style bats in the doubles, and Richard Bashford’s lack of hardbat experience showed as Burton stole a second point.
Three points behind Burton A and Westfield B are newcomers Corby Smash, who did the double over champions Westfield A with a 7-3 win.
Details of the match aren’t known due to a late scorecard, but Colin Wilson and Tony West both picked up fine maximums once more.
Harborough A leapfrogged Burton Baptist B with a 6-4 win over relegated Rothborough Arrows.
No player in the match remained unbeaten, with Barry Thompson and Mike Brockleback both claiming braces and Steve Crook beating Ivor Jones.
Helen Watts and Julian Marlow accounted for the away side’s four points with two wins apiece.
Results: Westfield B 9 (Wildman 3, Smalley 3, Hobbs 2, Wildman/Smalley), Burton Baptist B 1 (Koltuniuk), Kettering Town A 9 (Fuller 3, Czuczor 3, Metcalfe 2, Fuller/Czuczor) Corby B 1 (Arthur), Burton Baptist A 2 (Aston, Aston/Simmons) Higham 8 (Elliott 3, Bashford 3, Alsop 2), Harborough A 6 (B Thompson 2, Brocklebank 2, Crook, Thompson/Crook) Rothborough Arrows 4 (Watts 2, Marlow 2), Corby Smash 7 Westfield A 3.
Team of the week: Corby Smash
Players of the week: Colin Wilson and Tony West
The race for the Division One title looked close for about two thirds of the season but since then Thrapston Eagles have sprinted to the finish line and won it with one match and three sets to go.
Needing seven points against Burton Baptist C to seal it, that seemed a formality when Burton could only find two players and even without their star player and joint top of the averages Mark Stockley they achieved a 10-0 victory.
For Burton Paul Goodman won one game in four against each of Ian Donaldson, Chris Warliker and Steve West and Kelvin won one game against Donaldson.
The race for second place is going right down to the wire and could not be closer going into the final week when Westfield C host Harborough B in what is a virtual decider.
Westfield are currently ahead by one point meaning a draw will be enough for them whereas a 6-4 win in favour of Harborough will put them one point ahead in the second promotion spot.
Seventh-placed Burton Baptist B were tough opponents for Westfield C with the exception of Steve Hobbs who won his all of his three singles 3-0.
Nitin Patel had to work much harder for his treble beating both Chris Agg and Derek Muggleton in the deciding game.
Both Steve Smith and Agg accounted for Scott Dixon in four and five games respectively but Muggleton had to retire injured with a pulled muscle when he led Dixon 2-1 in games.
Agg and Smith then narrowly won the doubles against Hobbs and Dixon 11-9 in the decider.
Harborough B put in an almost faultless performance against tenth-placed Rothborough Buccaneers, the only blip being Luke Saywood's five game win over Steve Crook.
Apart from that Crook only lost one game to Sean Smith in his brace while Mike Brocklebank and Liam Burnham both got easy trebles, Brocklebank winning nine out of nine games and Burnham losing just one game to Smith.
The pain then completed a satisfactory 9-1 victory by pairing up to beat Lewis and Smith 3-1 in the doubles.
Thrapston have been a strong club in the division with all three of their teams certain to finish in the top five and just like the race for second place, the race for fourth place and club bragging rights is also going down to the wire with Falcons and Kites level on points going into the final week.
Nigel Payne was the man of the match for Falcons helping them to a 6-4 victory over ninth-placed Corby C.
He got his first treble since January 20 while in contrast Ian Baldock lost for the first time since January 28, Stephen Woolston his victor.
Baldock had earlier fought back from 0-2 down in games to Rob Warrender with two 11-9 games and he and Woolston both got a brace while Warrender's only victory was over Alan Tyler who accounted for Stewart Abraham.
Kites caught up level on points with club-mates Falcons after an 8-2 victory over struggling Harborough D.
Peter Briggs completed his twelfth treble of the season from 19 appearances while Geoff Judd scored his first of the season.
Stewart Williams looked on course for his after winning his first seven games, three each against Phil Dixon and Vaughan Allington and the first against David Coombs, only for Coombs to win the next three.
Coombs and Allington then combined to double the team score with an 11-9 in the fifth victory in the doubles.
Buccaneers are now only one point ahead of Harborough D but in the final week Buccaneers play bottom team Comets who are yet to win a match, while Harborough D face the new champions Eagles.
Eagles are yet to lose so barring a couple of huge shock results Harborough D look like finishing second to bottom, but whether or not that means relegation will depend on the league formation for next season.
Rothborough Comets had possibly their best chance of a first victory of the season when Harborough C turned up with only two players and without their leading player Sam Burgess.
But they were denied in the deciding game three times by Jamie Burgess, twice in singles against Kelvin Linnett and Lauren Ainsworth and again in the doubles with Mark Pearson.
Comets only win on the table was by Ainsworth against Pearson by the closest margin 11-9 in the fifth game.
Results: Thrapston Eagles 10 (Donaldson 3, Warliker 3, West 3, Donaldson/Warliker) Burton Baptist C 0, Burton Baptist D 3 (Smith, Agg, Agg/Smith) Westfield C 7 (Hobbs 3, Patel 3, Dixon), Harborough B 9 (Brocklebank 3, Burnham 3, Crook 2, Brocklebank/Burnham) Rothborough Buccaneers 1 (Lewis), Corby C 4 (Woolston 2, Warrender, Warrender/Woolston) Thrapston Falcons 6 (Payne 3, Baldock 2, Tyler), Thrapston Kites 8 (Briggs 3, Judd 3, Williams 2) Harborough D 2 (Coombs, Coombs/Dixon), Rothborough Comets 4 (Ainsworth 2, Brisley, Linnett) Harborough C 6 (J.Burgess 3, Pearson 2, J.Burgess/Pearson)
Team of the week: Thrapston Eagles
Player of the week: Geoff Judd
Burton Baptist Team Jim have done Jim McNeely proud in storming to the Division Two title with a 9-1 defeat of Rothborough Dakotas.
Only a five-end win for Cathy Fleming spoiled the party as, fittingly, the youngsters sealed champion status at home.
Every Team Jim player improved their win averages from last year when they finished bottom but one, with Jacob Tattersall’s development the most impressive at 67 per cent wins this year compared to eight per cent last year.
Bryan Lade and Ben Freeman both more than doubled last year’s averages with more than 50 per cent; Harry Lade and Jon Sanders both improved, Harry Lade being the most successful on 85 per cent.
The team had most wins overall and won 17 out of 21 doubles, the best in the division.
Corby D’s last home match started very well with straight end wins for the first four games against Kettering Town B.
Then Ann Woolston met John Hunt and took it in the fifth, she nearly came from two down against Tom Cardwell two games later and then Jim Chatburn took up the baton and nearly came back from two down against Neil Stone.
The 9-1 win put Corby in the driving seat for second place, needing just a draw against Rothborough Exocets.
In fact Corby beat Exocets 8-2 to finish runners up eight points behind Team Jim and eight ahead of third.
Ken Knott – on 81 per cent wins - and Neil Stone – only one loss all season – were too good, but Lee Mordecai did make sure it wasn’t too comfortable with a defeat of John Hunt and then teamed up with Sally Taylor to win 14-12 in the final end of the only game to go the distance.
This ensured Exocets finished with an impressive 50 per cent win in the doubles games.
Corby’s strong finish – averaging more than 7.5 points a match over the last six matches – forced their promotion, and, of the eight players playing for Corby this year, six of them gained at least 67 per cent win averages.
Harborough finished bottom last year but a very strong showing this year forced a third-placed finish.
John McGowan’s return was a pivotal with 90 per cent wins but the other main players this year both improved, Ron Palfrey up from 29 per cent to 50 per cent and most impressively Ben Baker from seven per cent to 44 per cent.
This week they emphasised this improvement beating Old 9-1 with Baker just losing out to the also improving Richard Bryant.
Bryant also only just lost out to Palfrey in five ends.
Harborough’s doubles was also contributory to their high finish when John McGowan’s nurturing of Baker helped them to 16 wins from 21 matches.
Kettering Town B finished with a good 9-1 victory over Westfield D with their regular players all doing well.
Jim Chatburn and Barry Davis got hat-tricks, but Ann Woolston couldn’t quite make it a hat-trick of hat-tricks as Kaitlin Curt beat her after a deuce in the final end in only her third game of the season.
Bronwen Grigg added her second end of the season over Davis but the lack of a third player hindered an improved score for Westfield.
There is one outstanding match – Exocets V Westfield – delayed from earlier in the season, but it won’t change any positions in the league when it is completed next week.
Results: Burton Baptist Team Jim 9 (H Lade 3, Tattersall 3, Freeman 2, Freeman/Tattersall) Rothborough Dakotas 1 (Fleming), Corby D 9 (Cardwell 3, Stone 3, Hunt 2, Hunt/Stone) Kettering B 1 (An Woolston), Harborough E 9 (McGowan 3, Palfrey 3, Baker 2, Baker/McGowan) Old Village 1 (Bryant), Kettering Town B 9 (Chatburn 3, Davis 3, An Woolston 2, Chatburn/An Woolston) Westfield D 1 (Curt), Rothborough Exocets 2 (Mordecai, Mordecai/Taylor) Corby D 8 (Knott 3, Stone 3, Hunt 2)
Player of the week: Jacob Tattersall
Team of the week: Burton Baptist Team Jim