A mild evening on Thursday night made for lovely conditions as Winter League champions Rufforth played Starbeck. Rufforth have decided to withdraw their top stars this term and so a number of new faces will be representing them this time around. They also have a new captain in Philippa Page and she teamed up with her regular mixed partner Dan Russell whilst Carole Withers and Jack Benson made up the quartet and likewise are often seen together turning out for Rufforth 3 in Division Seven of the York mixed summer leagues. Both pairs were in that sections top three leading couples last term but tonight represented a slight jump in class.
Lining up for Starbeck were regulars Chris and Ali White whilst Kevin Lodge made a rare start after helping Stabeck C to the Division five title in the Harrogate summer league. He was joined by Morvern McPartland who played in the Starbeck B team that secured safety in Harrogate Division three alongside the Whites.
So Starbeck began as favourites once the teams were announced although the match promised to be tight. Chris and Ali are a standing dish in the Winter league and played Philippa and Dan over on court five. This quickly developed into a cat and mouse affair with little between the pairs. Chris is a useful left hander and is able to serve with power and great angles whilst all action Dan displayed good court coverage and some killer winners. Ali and Philippa were both proving useful with some dogged defending and busy court awareness. However the Starbeck husband and wife combination held the upper hand and trumped 8-4.
On court four Jack Benson and Carole Withers were looking to bring their excellent summer form into tonight’s clash as they took on Kevin and Morvern. Lodge looked a man used to winning after helping Starbeck romp to the summer crown and it was easy to see why as he was extremely consistent throughout and appeared very calm. With the classy touches from Morvern the pair started well and took a useful lead. However Benson is a big server and used this weapon to begin a fightback as he hit some tremendous winners from deep. Carole was battling away defending the net and finally Starbeck did run out winners but only narrowly at 7-5 to mean they held a six point cushion after the opening round.
Chris and Kevin teamed up against Dan and Jack and in keeping with a number of close contests this was no different. Some competitive and eye catching tennis on display meant the outcome was going to be tough to call as both teams gave it all. Finally Starbeck ran out 7-5 winners after a titanic battle. The ladies rubber proved even closer with every point hard fought and no one giving an inch. Fittingly a 6-6 draw meant four happy faces.
So as the final round began Starbeck had increased their advantage to eight and were confident of holding on. Kevin and Morvern knew a consistent and error free round was needed to keep them ahead and this pair proved perfect for the task. Both played well and were content to keep the ball flowing. Opponents Philippa and Dan played aggressively trying to reduce the deficit but despite a big effort had to finally settle for a hard fought 6-6 tie.
This left the Whites to close out victory as they were getting on top against Carole and Jack. Very little in reality between both pairs but Chris and Ali showed some clever touches and why they play a little bit higher as they ran out cosy 8-4 winners to help Starbeck to a 42-30 winning margin.
Nice to see some new faces on show who all appeared to thoroughly enjoy the evening and another fairly close game which makes for a good and intriguing Winter League season ahead. Thanks to all on show and nice to catch up with old and new faces alike tonight.
Congratulations to Starbeck who lined up from left to right with captain Chris White, Ali White, Morvern McPartland and Kevin Lodge.
Gallant runners up from Rufforth left to right saw Jack Benson, Carole Withers, captain Philippa Page and Dan Russell.