Rufforth went two points clear at the top of the Winter League after beating Wetherby 1 on Tuesday evening. With Starbeck unable to play, Rufforth kindly stepped in at short notice to swop their fixture and were rewarded with two hard fought points following a terrific battle.
Wetherby suffered a blow beforehand with experienced first team player Steve Jones laid low with illness which meant a debut for fourteen year old Ollie Newsome,who the previous day had won the Junior U18 crown at the club. With sixteen year old Josh Bayliss also in the team it gave the home side a very youthful look.
Rufforth travelled with a strong looking squad with Tom Shouksmith and Ed Zieglar part of the Appleton Roebuck men’s team that had just secured back to back promotions after finishing runners up in York Division Three. They also play in the Rufforth mixed first team which, despite relegation last term, competed at the highest local level in York Division One. With ladies Sue Yoward and Kate Lewis members of that squad Wetherby knew they would have to play extremely well to cause a shock.
Josh Bayliss and Rachel Hill renewed the successful partnership they have formed playing for the Harrogate One mixed team last year and faced Shouksmith and Yoward. The Wetherby duo were quickly into their stride and eventually ran out cosy 9-3 winners.
Newsome and Wright, playing their first game together, took a while to gel and were always playing catch up against the impressive Zieglar and Lewis. Zieglar is a strong baseliner with a quick serve and has excellent court coverage. Difficult to pass and with a powerful return he helped guide the visitors to a 3-9 victory helped by the subtle skills of a no nonsense Lewis who quietly and efficiently went about her work.
So after the opening round it was all square at 12-12.
Round Two saw the men and ladies do battle. The Wetherby youngsters had played against each other socially but were teaming up competitively for the first time. Both players are useful and have good careers ahead but on this occasion Zieglar and Shouksmith were a bit too streetwise and ran out 4-8 winners after some excellent tennis with all four men producing some big hitting throughout the contest.
Wright and Hill are certainly no strangers to each other and this classy duo were hopeful of cutting the deficit. However Yoward is an impressive powerful individual who bosses the court and with her excellent baseline dominance and hard hitting she proved too strong for the home ladies. She and Lewis were a formidable partnership and despite the best efforts of the Wetherby ladies it was the visitors who once again prevailed, albeit a narrow 5-7 success.
Entering the last round Rufforth had eased ahead 21-27 and so with a six game lead were now strong favourites to go on and claim victory.
Wright and Newsome playing on court four were certainly starting to develop a partnership and giving the powerful pair of Yoward and Shouksmith something to think about. This rubber proved to be extremely close and despite Shouksmith reigning down a battery of serving missiles he was, by his own admission, a trifle erratic to leave the match in the balance. Eventually after an excellent game honours were even and a 6-6 draw was a fair reflection of this particular encounter.
Over on court five Bayliss and Hill knew they needed to produce miracles to recover a six game deficit and again despite an excellent effort they were unable to. There was some fine recovery tennis on show here and it was easy to see why these four individuals play at such a good level. A draw looked very much on the cards but ultimately the visitors extra class saw them win 5-7 following a great performance.
An excellent evening of tennis played on a dry if somewhat cold October evening with a final winning score line in Rufforths favour of 32-40. Rufforth have certainly set the bench mark following their good start and are the team to beat at present. Wetherby, despite fielding strong teams in both their opening losses, will look to remain competitive and have proved difficult to beat despite those two set backs. The Winter League continues to provide matches of high quality from players at a good level and we look forward to watching events unfold throughout the remaining months.
Well done to all concerned this evening and a special mention for Olli Newsome who at 14 may well have been the youngest competitor in recent seasons in the Winter League.
A big thanks to Rufforth and captain Kate Lewis for organising and playing at relatively short notice and good luck in your quest to secure the title.
Winning Rufforth team from left to right was – Ed Zieglar, captain Kate Lewis, Sue Yoward and Tom Shouksmith.
Gallant runners up Wetherby from left to right – Josh Bayliss, Lucy Wright, Rachel Hill and Olli Newsome.