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Table Tennis reigns top of the Toon

October 30th, 2017 | by Mark Sleightholm
Table Tennis reigns top of the Toon
Sport
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A comfortable win over Northumbria propelled Newcastle to the top of the league, with complacency the biggest danger facing the team going forwards.

Each member of the four-man team played against all four of their opponents, with Newcastle winning 11 of the 16 matches to claim the overall victory, throwing in a win in the doubles for good measure.

Top seed Bailey Pye powered through the afternoon without dropping a single game to the opposition, and both Pye and his team-mate Jeremy Pock won each match in which they played. Even a surprise lapse in form from the Newcastle captain couldn’t save the Northumbria side as they struggled to make their mark on the match.

Fresh from victories over York and Leeds, the Newcastle seconds were feeling confident against a Northumbria team playing their first match of the season. Newcastle captain Oliver Grant led the charge, winning his first point against Northumbria’s Ben Rimmer before going on to take each of the first three games and claim what turned out to be his solitary victory of the afternoon.

His team-mates Pock and Pye also won their opening matches, with Pye making light work of Northumbria’s fourth seed Joe Hastings. Shot after shot powered over Hastings’ shoulder as Pye stormed to 11-1 victories in both his opening games. Hastings became visibly more frustrated as the games went on, although he managed to save himself from complete domination by taking the third game to 4-10 before Pye could claim victory.

Perhaps lulled into a false sense of security by Pye’s easy win, Grant struggled when it was his turn to take on Hastings. Grant’s tall figure allowed him to stand well behind the table, which benefited him against the powerful shots of Rimmer but worked less effectively against Hastings’ shorter strokes.

Despite winning the first game Grant was unable to capitalise on this advantage, and points he had won effortlessly in his opening match seemed suddenly beyond his capabilities. In a match devoid of long rallies or fast-paced play, Hastings’ persistence paved the way to a rare win for the hosts.

Grant faced similar difficulties in his subsequent matches, losing them both 3-1, but his sluggishness was not enough to help the Northumbria team now well on their way to defeat.

Fourth seed Sam Hansen started the afternoon against Northumbria’s top two second-team players, but despite losing his opening match and the first two games of his second, he was able to take Kem Dogonsoy to a deciding game. Perhaps with a little help from the Northumbria coach, whose shouts of “Come on Kem!” punctuated the afternoon’s play at regular intervals, Dogonsoy was ultimately able to prevail, but Hansen’s determination in this match propelled him to victories against both of Northumbria’s lower seeds.

Each Northumbria player was demolished by a clinical Pye, who never lost more than nine points in any of his games. His final singles match, against rival top seed Adam Hardiman, saw Pye mix skilful drop shots with powerful smashes to force a lot of movement from Hardiman. Northumbria’s finest had beaten two of Newcastle’s players earlier in the afternoon but was unable to overcome the relentless barrage of surprise shots from Pye.

Pye and Hardiman faced each other again in the doubles match, a mere formality given that Newcastle was already 11-5 up in the overall score. Hardiman continued his trademark practice of stomping his foot heavily every time he served, but was unable to translate this into power on top of the table, and Newcastle’s Pye and Pock won three straightforward games against Hardiman and Dogonsoy. This took the final score to 12-5 to Newcastle and put Newcastle in first place in the Northern 3B league, although late withdrawals from the league from Sunderland and Leeds Beckett mean that several teams, including Northumbria, have played fewer matches.

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