Saturday 8 November 2014

Cornwall 2 vs Avon 3

Sunday 26th October saw the start of a new campaign for Cornwall 2nd Team in Division 6 South West of the Senior County Championships. Having narrowly missed out on promotion to the ‘promised land’ (Division 5) for a number of seasons, the team were looking for a winning start to the season against an Avon 3rd team who had achieved a resounding 12-3 victory against Dorset 3rd Team in their first encounter of the season two weeks previously.

As always, proceedings were opened with the Men’s and Ladies’ Singles, with Cornwall represented by the Luke sisters, Hester and Daphne in the Ladies and by Liam Sillifant and Dave Harrington in the Men’s – Liam making his first appearance for a senior county team following a number of excellent performances in pre-season trials and tournaments.

Cornwall were given an fantastic start, with Hester’s power and precision around the net proving too much for Becky Cox, representing Avon in the number one singles slot. Despite a rally from Cox in the second end, Hester won 21-8, 21-18, crucially conserving energy for the doubles games to come.
Meanwhile both Men’s Singles were in progress, with Liam taking on Aiden Gibbons and Dave up against David Bailey. Unfortunately for Dave, the agile Bailey proved to be very mobile which, teamed with his sharp net play, made for a tough match. Despite recovering from a poor start, Dave was unable to string together enough points to take the win and went down 21-14, 21-17 – a creditable effort against a tough opponent. With the match now level at 1-1, Liam’s game was also in the balance. The young Launceston BC player’s opponent (Gibbons) has been selected for the Ireland Under-19 squad and would prove a tough opponent on Liam’s debut appearance. In spite of this, Liam started strongly and took the first game with an array of precise smashes and tumbling net shots. The next two games were a veritable ‘to-and-fro’ affair, with some excellent net play and outstanding recovery shots from both players. Unfortunately for Cornwall, the tournament-hardened Gibbons was able to edge the second game, and a good run of points when locked at 15-15 in the final end saw him take the match 18-21, 21-19, 21-15. Despite the defeat, it was an impressive debut performance from Liam who no doubt has a bright future ahead of him with the county teams.
The second Ladies’ Singles match saw Daphne pitted against the experienced Eve Morgan. In a difficult match with some long rallies and superb retrieval around the net, Morgan’s experience eventually told and, despite Daphne’s best efforts, ran out a 21-13, 21-14 winner.
Facing a 3-1 deficit going into the Level Doubles, some strong performances were needed to turn the tables and the team were confident that they could deliver. Representing Cornwall in the Ladies’ Doubles were the all-Mount’s Bay BC pairing of Hester and Vicki Thomas and the all Callington BC pairing of Lynda Beer and Jan Santillo. The pairings for the Men’s Doubles were Rich Townsend and Dave Harrington, reprising last year’s regular partnership, and Kahoo Tse and Sam Spencer, who also represented the second team together on a couple of occasions last year.

The first round of Ladies Doubles saw two tense matches, both of which went to three ends. Vicki and Hester were pushed all the way in their game against Morgan and partner Becci Scott, their match being one of the longest of the day. In a game which ebbed and flowed throughout, the Cornish ladies did well to recover from the disappointment of losing a close second end to triumph in the third, sealing a 22-20, 23-25, 21-19 victory. Lynda and Jan, resuming their partnership after a season’s break, had a similarly even encounter with Cox and partner Penny Scott. With the power of Scott in particular proving a handful, Lynda and Jan played well and took the first end. The next two ends saw a number of gruelling rallies and some excellent badminton from all concerned, but Lynda and Jan were unfortunately unable to secure the second end needed for the win and the Avon pair ran out 17-21, 21-17, 21-15 winners.

The first Men’s match-ups saw some similarly close and entertaining matches. Dave and Rich took on Will Hollis and Darren Wong in a match which saw Hollis’s powerful smash and Wong’s dogged defence provide an interesting contrast to Dave’s fast, flat game and Rich’s touch around the net. Several long runs of points on serve were had by both pairings and although Dave and Rich did their best to squander an 8 point lead in the final end with some shaky serving, their determination and ‘Lleyton Hewitt like’ tenacity (and shouting) sealed a 21-16, 19-21, 21-18 win for the Cornish team. Kahoo and Sam, meanwhile, were taking on the youthful Gibbons and Bailey. Although the Cornish pair, with Kahoo’s attacking power and excellent defence acting as an effective foil to Sam’s deft drop shots and deception, seemed to form a better partnership than the two singles-orientated players in the Avon pairing, a momentary lapse in concentration allowed the sharp Avon pairing to steal the first end. However, Kahoo and Sam did not allow this setback to affect them and roared back into the contest in the second and third ends and sealed another win in three ends – 20-22, 21-17, 21-17.

The second round of doubles matches did not prove to be as close as the first. Vicki and Hester continued their impressive form against Cox and P. Scott, who seemed intent on playing the shuttle to Vicki for much of the game, despite her consistently solid performance. Vicki and Hester led for most of the first end and, having edged past the Avon pair in setting, asserted their dominance in the second end, having an excellent run of points at the start of the game and taking the overall win 22-20, 21-12. In the final Ladies’ Doubles, Lynda and Jan had a tough match against the experienced Morgan and the attacking net play of B. Scott. Despite a great effort from Lynda and Jan, the Avon pair also played well, making very few unforced errors and took a 21-18, 21-14 win for their team.

The final Men’s Doubles matches were thankfully a little more of a formality than the first round. After an error-strewn first end which Dave and Rich were lucky to win, they produced a far more competent performance in the second, with consistent serving from Rich allowing Dave to pounce on any weak returns at the back and stretch out a good lead in the second game. This improved consistency allowed the Cornish pair to nullify the Avon youngsters’ excellent defence and retrieval and sealed a 24-22, 21-14 win. Kahoo and Sam found their form in similar fashion in their second match, producing a variety of shots which proved very effective against the smash and drive oriented game of Hollis and Wong. Never really troubled in either game, Kahoo and Sam completed a straight two end win, 21-18, 21-15 – a win which also completed an excellent clean sweep in the Men’s Doubles.

With the doubles complete and the match score at 7-5 to Cornwall following a great comeback in the Level Doubles, one rubber was needed from the Mixed Doubles to seal the match win. If the team could take all three Mixed then they would come away from the fixture with the full three points. The Mixed saw Lynda and Rich take on B. Scott and Gibbons, Vicki and Kahoo up against Cox and Wong and Jan and Sam playing P. Scott and Hollis. With both sides needing to take all three matches to gain extra points, all of the matches were very hard-fought. 

Kahoo and Vicki, having formed an effective partnership in pre-season, had the best of their match despite the best efforts of Cox and Wong. With both Kahoo and Vicki displaying great court coverage and retrieval, they took the rubber 21-17 21-18 to give Cornwall an unassailable 8-5 lead in the fixture and secure at least two points from the match. Jan and Sam also put in an admirable performance, especially given their being a scratch pairing with little to no practice together. Up against the powerful P. Scott and Hollis pairing, they controlled the game well, counteracting the power of their opposition by slowing down the play. After a straightforward first end, the second was far closer, with some excellent badminton played by both pairings – thankfully for Cornwall Jan and Sam held their nerve to take the game and the rubber 21-11, 24-22. Hopes of securing three points from the fixture now rested with Lynda and Rich, taking on the strong pairing of B. Scott and Gibbons. In a match reflective of the standard of badminton played across the whole fixture, it was nip and tuck all the way through, with the Callington BC club mates recovering a 3 or 4 point deficit on a number of occasions. Unfortunately for the Cornish team, and despite Lynda and Rich having a number of game points in both ends, the Avon pair triumphed in two agonisingly close ends – 24-22, 25-23.

With the Mixed Doubles over the fixture had been concluded with a final score of 9-6 to Cornwall. The match had seen some excellent badminton from both sides and had proved to be a great showcase of skill and teamwork. Although possibly a little disappointed at not securing all three points, the Cornwall team will be very pleased with a good start to the season against tough opposition and will be looking to carry their form into the next fixture against Dorset 3rd Team on 23rd November.

Thanks of course go to the selectors for their efforts in organising the fixture, to the Avon team for a match played in excellent spirit and to everyone who gave up their time to attend the match and support the team.

Ladies – Lynda Beer, Daphne Luke, Hester Luke, Jan Santillo, Vicki Thomas.
Men – Dave Harrington, Liam Sillifant, Sam Spencer, Rich Townsend, Kahoo Tse.