South Wonston players and head coach were in action at the recent Winchester League Finals' Night. Thanks to Martin Healey for the following reports:
Sandpaper Bat: Paddy Shephard beat Cameron Brealey in 2 15-up sets
This competition was played through to a conclusion at the Heats on Sunday 23rd April, mainly to avoid the problem of players possibly having to play with two different kinds of bat on the same night, and also to save time at Finals Night.
Paddy eased his way through the rounds, beating John McBeath and never looking in any serious difficulty against Cameron in the Final. He dominated throughout, hitting strongly on both wings.
Under 13 Singles: Blake Sanderson beat Harry Birch 7-11, 13-11, 10-12, 11-7, 11-7
Blake has been playing in Division 1 and getting some encouraging results. Anyone who saw him hitting strongly against Ed Slot in the Handicap heats will know he's got a good temperament as well as a deadly forehand. Harry will be less familiar to most, though he has been impressive at Paddy Shephard's coaching sessions for a couple of years now. He can handle topspin well, not just blocking but returning aggressively. Two well-matched players gave the crowd a great introduction to the style of play that Paddy encourages - firm, positive, determined - and the result was always in doubt until the end.
Under 15 Singles: Ed Robertson beat Dom Goddard 6-11, 12-10, 11-8, 15-13
Another close match - it could so easily have been a 5-setter. Both players are easy, fluent hitters of a table tennis ball who've registered good wins in the League this season. Ed proved marginally stronger, but they provided an entertaining match with exciting rallies.
Handicap Singles: Blake Sanderson (+13) beat Morgan Smith (+0) 21-17, 21-18
It often seems there's a bigger proportion of nets and edges in handicapped matches than in matches played off scratch, especially when one player is given a big start. The luck was shared pretty evenly between the two, but when one player has to score twice as many as the other then the chaser is hurt twice as much by the unlucky bits that the Handicapping Committee couldn't possibly have foreseen. Having said that, the match was played in a great spirit with both players taking the outrageous incidents very cheerfully. Not that they weren't trying hard, but the Handicap match is designed to be a toss-up, and no matter how calmly or boldly you play, the gods are likely to have the last laugh. Morgan showed in the Heats that he's approaching Ed Slot's skill levels nowadays, so the handicapping was reasonable and both players showed impressive skills.
Under 18 Singles: Jared Schaller beat Hugo Gregan 10-12, 11-8, 11-6, 11-9
This was Hugo's first appearance at Finals Night, though he's been performing well in Division 1 for a couple of seasons. Jared, as the current Holder, had to start as favourite, but perhaps the weight of his own expectations caused him to take a while to get settled. Meanwhile Hugo attacked powerfully and accurately, and snatched the first set. Jared found his composure at last and proved to be just that little bit more consistent and controlled, though every bit as able to lay on the spectacular winner to keep the crowd purring and entertained.