Senior British League 4th Weekend - 1-2 April 2023
Despite missing the services through injury of their most successful player, Shae Thakker, the Cippenham first team managed to hold on to top spot in Senior British League National Division B-4 and clinch the title and promotion to the A Division for next season. This was a fitting end to a successful season in which thirteen of the fourteen matches were won, their only loss being to eventual runners-up Somerset Sabres way back in October. Remarkably, all four matches were won by the same scoreline, 5-4, during the final weekend when Cippenham lost not only the services of Thakker, but also Steve Munson was available for only two matches and Martin Gray missed the final match to attend a family emergency.
Cippenham’s first match on Saturday morning was against title rivals Somerset Sabres. Sabres featured the same quartet of players who had defeated Cippenham 8-1 early in the season while Cippenham brought in Jamie Woodford at number four from the second team. Jamie did well the take Marcus Holba to a fifth game in the last set of the match but by that time Cippenham had already established a winning 5-3 lead. The Somerset team were led by the division’s most successful player, Damian Swierczek, and he remained unbeaten just as he did against all opponents all season long. Martin Adams and Robert Hansell both took him to 3-1 but that left Cippenham having to win all the other five individual encounters.
Robert had got Cippenham off to a great start by beating Bertie Kelly and then Martin Gray made it 2-1 to the hosts with a nail-biting 15-13 fifth-game success against Marcus Holba, having saved match points along the way. Robert and Martin Adams, who were defeated only once in doubles all season, won their customary set and put Cippenham into a 3-2 lead. However, after Swierczek had seen off Robert’s challenge it was left to the rest of the team to secure two further sets and the match points. It tuned out to be easier than expected as Martin Gray beat Kelly and Martin Adams beat Marcin Szram, both 3-0 in comfortable fashion.
Results during the morning had confirmed Foresters in second place, at least temporarily, above Somerset Sabres but they were next to face Cippenham. Steve Munson came back into the side for this match but could not assist the scoreline. Martin Adams also lost both his singles matches and so it was left to Robert Hansell and Martin Gray to win all theirs, and for Cippenham to win the doubles, in order to secure the two league points and with them almost certainly the title. This they did, all by 3-1 scorelines, and but for freak results the following day Cippenham would be champions.
Rob Hansell was again the star of the show on Sunday morning as Cippenham clinched the divisional title beating Birmingham Table Tennis Academy 5-4. Robert won his two singles and the doubles in tandem with Martin Adams while Martin Gray and Steve Munson, with the score at 4-4, both beat Joshua Webb. With Steve unavailable for the afternoon match against Portsea, Maciej Dlugozima, unbeaten so far this season in the Maidenhead League, was called up but the task for Cippenham was made even harder as Martin Gray answered a family emergence to leave Cippenham with just three players. However, the challenge was met head-on and, led once again by Robert Hansell, Cippenham raced into a 5-1 lead, with only the conceded set going against them. The final result was 5-4. Robert’s brace and the doubles were supplemented by one each from Martin Adams and Maciej Dlugozima.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the playing hall, the Cippenham second team, having to play without number one William Saint, were having their own battle with second place in National Division C-5 being the possible reward. The weekend started well and, with the experienced Paul Baker being drafted in at number one, they beat Horsham Spinners third team 5-4. Paul won his two singles and the doubles in tandem with Jaiden Caldeira while Jaiden and Rachael Iles also won one match each. For the rest of the weekend, Jamie Woodford returned from first team duty and Paul was released.
Saturday afternoon proved to be a slightly easier assignment for Cippenham against bottom team Generation 2. However, the 7-2 final result belies the closeness of the individual matches with Jamie Woodford and Rachael Iles winning all their encounters by the narrowest of margins in the fifth game. Jaiden Caldeira and Anna Piercey added one each to Cippenham’s tally.
The outcome of the Sunday morning match against Newton Abbot was likely to decide the destiny of the runners-up medals. Cippenham were buoyed by the fact that their opponents were a player short but it was not to be. Led by two of the division’s most successful players in Mike Hugh and Charlie Usher, the team from Devon won 5-4 with Cippenham’s only wins being gained by Jamie Woodford and Jaiden Caldeira, both against Wim Faassen. That result placed Newton Abbot level on points with Cippenham but ahead on sets ratio and all the Devonians need to do was to beat Horsham Spinners in the final round of matches. This then accomplished 5-4 and so Cippenham’s excellent 7-2 win against Haywards Heath was not enough and the hosts were edged into third place on sets ratio. Jamie and Rachael won their four singles matches while Jaiden and Anna, who combined with Rachael to also win the doubles, got one each.