Wetherby C hosted West Tanfield in the semi final of the Autumn Cup at Castlegarth on Thursday. With temperatures rather pleasant for this time of the year conditions started well although the players later had to contend with rain but thankfully the match was completed. Wetherby had beaten David Lloyd C and then received a walkover against Harrogate Racquets to make the semi final but knew they faced a tough task against the tournament favourites. Tanfield arrived with the core of their successful title winning team who had lifted the Harrogate Summer league division three crown and with Wetherby fielding players from Division five this would be a tough gap to bridge.
With captain Richard Franks away on vacation as was Anne Lillywhite, Mike Triffitt and Dawn Steel stepped in this evening as replacements. Dawn teamed up with Katie Barrett in the ladies rubber and they took on Joan Curran and Janet Devlin. Curran had been the top scoring player in the championship winning side when she was also an ever present whilst Devlin had competed in two thirds of those games herself.
It soon became apparent that the Wetherby ladies would have their work cut out as the classy Tanfield pair were straight out of the blocks and playing some very impressive tennis. Both ladies hit hard and low and they soon had the scoreboard ticking over nicely. Steel had dragged herself from her sick bed with the Grim Reaper hanging over her but didn’t let illness stop her from battling away in her usual all action style. She was returning well whilst Barrett gobbled up any chance that came her way at the net. In truth they proved few as the visitors kept the ball wide and exploited the space extremely well. In a thoroughly professional manor the ran out 1-6,1-6 winners.
Over on Court Five Mike and Brad Triffitt were teaming up against Sam Cullen and Robert Hutchinson. That duo had also been ever presents in the title winning squad and were certainly no strangers on court. Funnily enough the father and son pair had played the Tanfield chaps in the Harrogate and District summer competition when they lost 6-3,6-3 in a very enjoyable tie. The Wetherby chaps knew another massive effort would be needed to lower the Tanfield men’s colours but were confident of a good showing. However it was the visitors who started better and although almost every game went to deuce Tanfield led 0-3 and 1-4 before the hosts mounted a comeback. Showing excellent communication and understanding youngster Brad began unleashing some lovely forehand winners whilst dad Mike was content to keep the rallies ticking over and took the opportunity to make some nice winners at the net. Suddenly they were all square at 4-4 and in this roller coaster opener actually had set point at 6-5 which they couldn’t convert. West stormed back to force a tie break which again was ever so close and finally ran out narrow winners 6-8 for a 6-7 success.
The second set was also very keenly fought and despite the disappointment of such a heart breaking first set loss the Triffitts were soon back into stride. They were still well in the tie at 4-4 but unable to hold serve for a 5-4 advantage they lost the final game narrowly to go down 6-7,5-7 after a very long rubber. They can feel pleased to have closed the gap against players who will be competing in Harrogate mixed division two next summer however.
The rain was now making conditions tricky and with the wind increasing Tanfield showed their extra class to take early control in the mixed matches. Brad and Katie had been fantastic in the win at David Lloyd but Sam Cullen and Janet Devlin were a sharp rise in class and the Wetherby pair struggled to contain their opponents. West were far too clinical and took the opener 0-6 and despite a brave fight in the next, where they were far more dangerous, they eventually fell 2-6.
On court five Dawn and Mike had played well in their opening set but again couldn’t quite get over the line as they were defeated 4-6. With the match now over Tanfield quickly ran away with the second set with Joan hitting some lovely and consistent deep forehands and giving few opportunities away at the net. A final score of 4-6,1-6 sealed the win for West who advance to the final against Ripon 0-4. Good luck in that which on paper looks a well matched affair and should provide excellent entertainment.
Thanks to Sam and his troops for making the long journey to Wetherby for a contest that was approaching 10pm before the final ball was hit and for the hosts it was a step too far after a great run. The Wetherby players can take great heart and a repetition of tonight’s display at their usual level should see them challenging for honours next summer.
From left to right winning West Tanfield lined up with captain Sam Cullen, Janet Devlin, Joan Curran and Robert Hutchinson.
Runners up Wetherby were captain Mike Triffitt, Dawn Steel, Katie Barrett and Bradley Triffitt.