A muggy but dry night with the forecast thunder and rain never materialising ensured the top of the table clash between Wetherby A and Harrogate Spa took place last night at Castlegarth. Spa arrived with a two year unbeaten record after romping to the Division 6 title last year and look intent on doing the same this term in Division Five. They had won 10-98 at Bedale last time out where top seeds James Lofthouse and Carolyn Rothwell bagged an incredible 35 points from a 36 maximum. The pair were again to prove the difference this evening!
Mike Richards and Fiona Chantry teamed up at seed one for the hosts and were to quickly feel the full force of the visitors top dogs. Despite a spirited performance and some backs to the wall rear guard action, the Wetherby couple couldn’t break down the Spa duo and although the score line was harsh for a considerable effort it was Spa who ran out 1-11 winners. On Court two Greg Vince and Louise Williams faced experienced duo Margaret Jackson and Mark Upton. This wily and crafty pair played some clever tennis and moved the ball around impressively with Upton chasing many lost causes down and switching play with many disguised forehands. Jackson was a rock at the net and mopped up many chances that fell her way. However the home pair were also playing well and with Williams unleashing many excellent forehands deep and Vince the equal of Upton, this proved to be a close competitive and fascinating clash. Eventually honours were even after a 6-6 draw. Mike Triffitt and Dawn Steel made up the team as they stepped out on court three to face Spa captain Martin Yates and the experienced and tough cookie Marie Scrimger. This also had the makings of a tight rubber with many long rallies where the quartet chased everything in determined fashion. The hosts lead 3-1 before Spa forged ahead 3-4 but neither couple could dominate enough to move clear and the tie was finely poised at 5-5. Steel was serving well and with Triffitt finally finding the gaps they took the final two games for a useful 7-5 success.
So as round two began the visitors led 14-22 but the reality was it still looking like a damage liability job for Wetherby. Rothwell and Lofthouse showed no mercy as they clinically disposed of Vince and Williams with another 1-11 success. The Wetherby pair gave everything and forced many close games but the consistency of the Spa two was impressive and they quickly slammed any window of opportunity that fell the Wetherby way firmly shut! Richards and Chantey enjoyed this rubber and it proved a another great fight with Scrimger and Yates. Both pairs battled for every point and a 6-6 tie was a fair reflection of proceedings s the Wetherby couple were able to compeat back at this level. Triffitt and Steel were also enjoying the challenge of trying to unlock the key to victory against Jackson and Upton. This was another close encounter and worthy of a top two clash and again at 5-5 it was anyone’s rubber. Finally Triffitt produced some excellent serving to take the home pair 6-5 ahead and with Steel proving hard to pass and retuning well they managed to record a second successive 7-5 win.
At 28-44 the match was almost won although Richards and Chantrey ensured the visitors couldn’t quite relax as they produced their best tennis of the night in the finale. With Jackson and Upton starting to feel the efforts of a tough night the Wetherby duo turned on the style and started to showcase their wonderful array of shots. They kept the scoreboard ticking along nicely with Chantrey returning everything and Richards dominating at the net with some impressive smashes. They finally ran out 11-1 winners to keep the hosts alive. However on court three Yates and Scrimger were still producing the goods and proving they are more than a match for anyone. They maintained the standards set in the previous two rounds and didn’t allow Vince and Williams any foothold in this tie. Yates showed excellent court awareness and with Scrimger unmoved at the net and happy to produce many returns they slowly began to turn the screw. Vince and Williams battled away manfully but couldn’t find a killer shot and Spa took the rubber 2-10. On court one it was Triffitt and Steels turn to enter the lion’s den as they were the next lambs to the slaughter. However that didn’t stop them producing arguably their best tennis of the night, albeit they too took a 1-11 beating. Both the home duo gave everything in defeat and ensured that despite the score line they had made the Spa pair dig deep. Many close games and deuces meant the top pair for Spa couldn’t ever relax and despite an early game to see them trailing 2-1 Wetherby could not quite get over the line to secure a second game despite forcing 6 break points in one Lofthouse service game!. It was testament to the visitors and easy to see why they score to highly as their clinical mental approach resulted in no mercy once more and with both players complimenting each other well they achieved another impressive 33 points on the evening. For the Wetherby pair they took solace in ensuring this was the last rubber to finish in the round and that they had given their all.
So Spa continue their march to successive titles with this 42-66 success and Wetherby are left still holding off the chasing pack in their bid to secure the runners up berth and second promotion spot. They are two points ahead of Burton Leonard who are the visitors to Scott Lane next week in perhaps the most crucial game of the season for Wetherby who still know they have their destiny firmly in their own hands. They will hope Spa don’t take the foot off the gas and try to achieve another perfect season as they still play teams sat just below Wetherby.
Well played to all tonight and thanks to a another good home crowd who enjoyed the tennis on show.
Tonight’s gallant runners up from left to right were – Captain Barry Johnson who sat out with injury, Mike Triffitt, Louise Williams, Fiona Chantrey, Greg Vince and Mike Richards with Dawn Steel absent after leaving.
Impressive winners for Harrogate Spa from left to right were captain Martin Yates, Orange top of James Lofthouse, Carolyn Rothwell, Mark Upton, Marie Scrimger and Margaret Jackson.