Darenth B and Cleeve Park B were level on 36 points apiece at the top of the table before the start of Day 5.   Amherst B were sitting comfortably on 22 in third place and whilst getting into the top two places wasn’t feasible, throwing a spanner in the works was definitely on the cards.   Cleeve Park C had 10, Amherst C nine and South Croydon B seven.

Round 9

Cleeve Park B (Mark Yin/Jed Baulch) had the easier match here against Amherst C (Leo Hickey/Charlie Helmer) and recorded a straight forward 5-0 without the loss of a game though Helmer gave Yin some trouble in the first game of their set.

Darenth B (Matthew James/Ben Forrester) took on Amherst B (Ben McKay/Felipe Fujimori) with some trepidation.   It was an extraordinarily long match with four sets going the distance.   While James and McKay fought out the opening set, Cleeve Park had already played and won three sets.   The left-handed James was down 1-2 but he adapted very well, got back some neatly placed shots and turned it around in five.   Forrester also had a long set with Fujimori where he battled his way into a 2-1 lead.   Fujimori wasn’t giving in inch, eventually took the fourth 13-11 and ultimately the fifth 11-8 to level the match.   The doubles was tight too.   Darenth could have nailed it in four but the Amherst pair combined nicely and only gave best at 11-13 in the fifth.   The other matches having finished, the last two sets were played on separate tables – James beat Fujimori in straight games but Forrester had another battle on his hands before finally nailing his set with McKay 11-8 in the fifth.   It was a 4-1 victory which would bring pressure on the next round.

In the meantime, South Croydon B’s girls, Caron Charles and Aniskha Vijay were giving Cleeve Park C (Mark Russell/Jake Murrison-Waller) a run for their money.   Charles beat Russell in the opening set and Murrison-Waller only just survived a five game tussle with Vijay 13-11 in the decider.   Cleeve Park won the doubles in four and Murrison-Waller needed a fourth game to close it out against Charles.   Vijay lost her way a bit with Russell so it finished as a 4-1 to Cleeve Park C.

Cleeve Park B had thus inched into the lead on 41 with Darenth B on 40.   Amherst B had 23, Cleeve Park C 14, Amherst C nine and South Croydon B eight.   So, it was the classic Sevenoaks League finish with the top two teams to play each other for the new Sennocke Trophy.

Round 10

Cleeve Park C (Russell/Murrison-Waller) faced a changed Amherst C line up of Xavier Chau and Harry Lewis.   It was a well fought and very close match.   The opening sets both sent to five and were shared – Chau coming back from 1-2 down to Russell and Murrison-Waller likewise against Lewis.   Amherst combined well to take the doubles, but Cleeve Park C roared back taking both the reverse singles in four games for a 3-2 victory.

There was another keenly contested match between South Croydon B (Charles/Vijay) and Amherst B who had a complete change in line up – Daniel Henderson and Oliver Ames replacing McKay and Fujimori.   Charles loves to attack and Henderson to run around everywhere retrieving shots, so it was no surprise that the opening set between these two was a cracker.   Charles was 1-2 behind but got back on terms by taking the fourth.   Henderson got the upper hand early in the fifth and held her off to take it 11-6.   Ames followed suit, doing well to beat Vijay in four for a 2-0 lead.   The girls worked as a team and won the doubles in five which was followed by a win for Charles over Ames in four so it was down to Vijay and Henderson to decide the outcome.   After a shaky start only taking the first 12-10, Henderson got into his stride and took it in straight games for a 3-2 victory.

The Match of The Day between Darenth B where Tommy Cowling replaced James and Cleeve Park B (Yin/Baulch) was a very good one.   Only one set went to five games but all the others needed a fourth.   The opening sets were shared with Yin beating Forrester and Cowling defeating Baulch after dropping the first.   Cleeve Park won the doubles, a left-right pair is a big asset to any team, and went on to take both the reverse singles.   Baulch led Forrester 2-1 but it could so easily have been a four game loss as he dropped the first game 11-13.   Forrester got back on terms but Baulch held him of 11-8 in the fifth.   Cowling, always strong on the backhand, gave Yin a run for his money and so nearly took it to a decider.   It therefore finished as a 4-1 victory to Cleeve Park B.

In the final analysis, the new Sennocke Trophy is in the hands of Cleeve Park B.   They finished on 45, four ahead of Darenth B on 41 and there has been so little to choose between them until the very end.   Amherst B ended with a very creditable 26 points, Cleeve Park C had 17, Amherst C 11 and South Croydon B 10.   There were runners up trophies for Darenth B and, in traditional Sevenoaks Development League style, medals for all the youngsters who participated in the teams finishing in positions 3 to 6.

It is truly astonishing to those who do not follow table tennis just how much the youngsters improve during the course of the season.   The first two meetings finished quite early but as the season progresses the finishes have got much later – the last one not being completed until nearly 6 pm.


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