The Leeds Men’s First team were in action at Castlegarth this afternoon as they entertained St Chads B. Wetherby had suffered an 8-0 opening day loss at a very impressive Alwoodley who are strong title favourites this season and followed up with a 7-1 thrashing of Dacre in their second game. With only five teams in Leeds Division Five it means two will be promoted and two go down leaving just the middle team safe. After promotion last season Wetherby knew victory was essential today in their hopes for survival. Both teams were limited on resources with the visitors only managing to name a four at the eleventh hour although they did manage to bring in Brent Horner and Stephen French from their A team who play in Division Two. Wetherby were indebted to Tom Warburton and Joe Cawcutt who both kindly volunteered to play after their coaching session earlier.
It was indeed the battle of the big guns that took centre stage on court four. Conditions were roasting and oven like with the sun burning down on the players. It was easy to see why Horner and French play higher as showing great understanding they were confident around court and looked calm and composed. Horner is a decent server and volleyed strongly and anything on his forehand is despatched with venom. French is a wily character who has great consistency and runs everything down and the pair were enjoying themselves in this battle. Warburton has a strong all round game with a lethal backhand whilst youngster Cawcutt is a promising talent and for one so slight hits with real ferocity and often with deadly accuracy. Wetherby were counting on their top seeds and they didn’t disappoint as they took the opener 6-3. There was no let up in the second and the home pair were now starting to move through the gears showing a touch of class they ran out 6-3 winners again in a very good advert for Leeds men’s tennis.
Over on court five David Stephenson and captain Mike Triffitt were in action as they played Richard Brown and Justin Carveley. Stephenson made his debut at Alwoodley but undeterred he was back on court eager for action. Brown has over 40 years of experience and is a very astute player with a great touch whilst Carveley is a relative newcomer but produced real moments of magic despite his inexperience. Triffitt was as dogged as always and playing a consistent game with a various mixture of shots he and Stephenson built up a useful 4-1 lead. However the visitors refused to go away and with Brown the best player on view he inspired the Leeds side to a good comeback which meant the rubber would go to a tie break. The hosts knew they needed to take at least a share of the spoils here and looked determined in the tie break. Stephenson was serving with real power and hitting some superb cross court forehands and with Triffitt keeping the ball in play and tempting St Chads into errors the hosts managed to grind out a narrow 7-4 success for a 7-6 victory which ultimately proved decisive. The exertions of the tie break seemed to have drained the Wetherby men however as St Chads roared out of the traps in the second set to open up a 0-4 advantage. The Wetherby men tried to reduce the arrears and at 5-6 they had given themselves hope but the poor start came back to haunt them as some more magic from Brown ensured it was St Chads who levelled the tie at 1-1 after a well earned 5-7 success.
Wetherby led 3-1 at the break needing two for victory and second seeds Stephenson and Triffitt knew their match with Horner and French would need a monumental effort to secure any points. Horner and French were well rested following a much quicker opening round encounter and the increase in pace was making the going tough for the hosts. With error free tennis Horner and French were playing some eye catching tennis with some lovely short play from both players they really dominated the net. Wetherby had moments of satisfaction but ultimatley they were no match for their higher rated opponents and fell 2-6 as St Chads closed the gap overall to 3-2.
Over on Court Four Brown and Carveley had taken a surprise early 1-2 lead but that only served to kick start Warburton and Cawcutt who resumed normal service with some flashy play. More ferocious hitting and some well executed volleys saw the hosts take the opener 6-2 for a 4-2 Wetherby lead.
Back over on court five Stephenson and Triffitt were starting to wilt in the sun and despite a big effort had no answer to the impressive visitors who quickly opened up a 0-5 advantage. Thankfully for Wetherby Warburton and Cawcutt were on fire and displaying a real high standard and some quality finishes they never gave Brown or Carveley a sniff as they ran out impressive 6-0 winners as Wetherby reached the magical 5-2 mark. A relieved Triffitt and Stephenson now knew victory was assured but dug deep one last time to take the sixth game and although losing the last they at least avoided a whitewash as the visitors were 1-6 winners for a 0-2 success.
So a Wetherby winning margin of 5-3 was certainly well received and gives the team hope of competing at this level. St Chads proved excellent opposition and in a game played in great spirits with former work colleagues Horner and Triffitt exchanging good banter, it proved a really enjoyable afternoon. Thanks to all on show for playing through such high temperatures today. Wetherby next go to last season’s Division Six champions Pudsey whilst St Chads face a crucial home match with Dacre next Tuesday.
Todays winning quartet from left to right was David Stephenson, Mike Triffitt, Joe Cawcutt and Tom Warburton.
Gallant runners up from left to right from St Chads were Justin Carveley, Richard Brown, Brent Horner and Steve French.