Time can be a cruel mistress and it was the Newcastle University Table Tennis team that found this out in the hardest way imaginable against their bitter rivals, Northumbria. Going in to the final game of the day the sides were level with eight games won apiece, but as the venue’s time allocation ran out, so did Newcastle’s hope of stealing a derby win.
The home side started the better of the two teams, taking a 2-0 lead almost immediately. Team captain, Chun Yin Yu kicked off the match by comprehensively beating Northumbria’s Jimmy Mayne in straight sets with some truly outstanding offensive shots. The performance of Chun was then quickly followed by another straight sets victory for Newcastle as Matthew Stephens swept away Jonny Giles to extend the lead.
Despite a positive early start from Newcastle, Northumbria soon found their way back to level terms. George Falcus was unlucky to lose 3-1 against Anth Barella after storming away in a great first set and Howran Wang also lost 3-1 in a close match with Sam Hitchen.
The first round of games showed just how high the level of concentration has to be to compete in the sport. The games were very fast and one poor move could see a point or even a set slip away. After quick break, the second round of games began with the script following a very similar pattern.
“The matches were unbelievably competitive with both sides showing a lot of skill and a lot of fight on the table.”
Newcastle once again created a two game advantage before Northumbria closed up the gap in the next two games. Chun Yin Yu won his second game of the match with a strong 3-1 win over Jonny Giles before Matt Stephens followed suit, gaining his second win of the match, with a 3-1 victory over Jimmy Mayne.
The Northumbrian team fought back strongly with two straight sets victories to level up the scores once again. Sam Hitchens brought it back to 4-3, defeating George Falcus before Anth Barella mopped up a quick win over Howran Wang. The matches were unbelievably competitive with both sides showing a lot of skill and a lot of fight on the table.
You could feel the tension in the room with just how tight the match was and mistakes were a rarity. As the match entered its second-half, you could sense that both teams had stepped up their attempts to get ahead in the game. Yet it appeared that the level pegging was to continue for the longevity of the afternoon.
Chun Yin Yu took on Anth Barella in the ninth game and with both players already having two wins under their belts, it was set up to be a very interesting game. It was Newcastle again that stormed into the lead with a quick 2-0 lead established by Chun, but as the match had already shown, Northumbria were always going to draw back level.
So with a straight sets victory in sight, Anth Barella fought back and levelled the game at 2-2, which set up a tense final game. With both players fighting for a superb victory, the extensive rallies made for a supreme spectacle. Yet it was Chun who finally overcame Barella in emphatic style, to really spur on his side.
Scores were once again level as Sam Hitchens picked up his third game win for Northumbria, defeating the equally impressive Matthew Stephens. George Falcus then restored Newcastle’s lead with a straight sets victory over Jimmy Mayne to gain his first victory of the match. Though as the previous script would have suggested, Northumbria were set to get level and so they did.
Jonny Giles repeated Falcus’ feat and secured a straight sets victory over Howran Wang to level the scores at 6-6, before the final round of games. Team Newcastle were constantly taking the lead but struggled to maintain it as Northumbria were showing such stubborn persistence to keep tabs on their rivals.
Round four began with what surely seemed the crunch match – Chun Yin Yu versus Sam Hitchens. Both players went in to the game undefeated and with only 5 sets dropped across the match between them.
It started brightly again for Chun who performed extremely well against an equally matched opponent, as he opened a 2-0 lead. This was cut though and then levelled by Hitchens, who showed some superb smash shots in the 3rd set.
But it was to be Chun’s day; the Newcastle’s captain kept his unbeaten record and pulled out an impressive clean sweep. Anth Barella was close behind however to level the scores for Northumbria, as he secured a straight sets victory over Matthew Stephens. Barella had been impressing throughout the match and made up for his loss against Chun to win his third game out of four.
With two games left to play and the clock running down, the tension was on a knife’sW edge. Newcastle once again took the lead making it 8-7 in the penultimate game. George Falcus once again recorded an impressive result with a straight sets victory over Jonny Giles.
“it was to be Chun’s day; the Newcastle’s captain kept his unbeaten record and pulled out an impressive clean sweep.”
Northumbria however had not given up and nor had Jimmy Mayne who thrashed out a 3-1 victory, his first of the match, over Howran Wang, to level the scores at 8-8. With all games played and the scores level, the game would have been decided on doubles, however there was not the time to play the match so the game ended in a tie.
After the game, Newcastle’s Matthew Stephens said: “It was very even. We’ve got one good player; they’ve got a couple, even teams really. As a team we played well, it was always 50-50. Matthew was playing really well, we normally rely on him to be fair, but as a team we’ve done really well.”