Our 2023 finals took place at Wellington Health & Fitness on Thursday 6th July and there were some amazing matches to be seen.
The main event couldn’t have been closer. After three matches, Maidenhead 1 were leading Wellington 1, by 2 strings to 1. So, up stepped first strings Andy Long and Jack Waldron to ‘do battle’. This was a fair description – the rallies were brutal and left the crowd in awe at the retrieving and winners on display. To everyone’s surprise, Jack managed to claw back a 2/1 deficit, to take it to a 5th game decider. In the final game, Jack then saved 2 match balls, before scraping the sudden-death tie-breaker, to win 15/14!
At the same time, the number 2 strings were playing on the adjacent court. Wellington’s Jay Morris was beating Paul Clough 2/0 and Paul looked a beaten man, not reading Jay’s disguise and winners. With Jay 13/8 up, it looked to all the home crowd that Wellington were on their way to their first win for many years. However, at this point, the match ‘turned on its head’ and Paul won a long and hard rally. Lifted by this, he then saved his first match ball to win 15/14 and I’m sure I heard him say “it’s not over til the fat lady starts to sing”. As if this wasn’t enough, Paul then saved match balls in the 4th game to again win 15/14 against a tired Jay. The 5th game looked like there was only going to be one clear winner, as Paul took 10 points in a row at the start, to claw back the handicap deficit and take the lead. At this point, I’m sure he thought the fat lady was clearing her throat! However, this time it was Jay’s turn to dig deep and claw back a big deficit to take it to the 3rd tie-break decider in a row. Amazingly, after another hard fought rally, Paul was triumphant and again won by a single point, to take the match 12/15, 1/15, 15/14, 15/14, 15/14 !!!
This tightest of victories for Maidenhead 1 saw them win their 3rd title in a row, so they will be difficult to beat next year.
The Plate Final was a tad more one-sided, but still had some close matches and an upset. Temple 1 were victorious 4/1 against Maidenhead 2. However, at first string, Temple’s Adam Pyne lost 3/0 to Ashton Brown and at second string, Manu Sidhu also had a close encounter with Steve Turner, wining in the 5th. The other 3 strings were also closely contested, but Temple managed to sneak the big points. Having lost their first round match to giant killers Aldermaston 2, this victory was some reprise for Temple and I am sure they will look to improve further in 2024.
All that remains is for the committee to thank Wellington Health & Fitness for hosting the finals and to all the players who took part for making it a great tournament. This competition was a trial event for 2023, but the handicapping seemed to work well in most cases and is likely to be back for 2024.