The top two teams in the Winter League were in action this evening with both Rufforth 1 and Collingham having opened their campaigns with four straight wins each. Collingham captain Tony Cutler was without regular playing partner Katie Barrett so Anne Lillywhite stepped in whilst with Louise Beasley and Bradley Triffitt absent, Andy Roberts and Christina Plant took over at seed one.
Rufforth were missing James Edmonds and captain Kate Lewis but still fielded a very strong four with acting captain Sue Yoward partnering Tom Shouksmith and Kathryn Elliott Smith and Ed Ziegler making up the quartet.
Sue and Tom have been the cornerstone of the Rufforth team for many years and they faced Andy and Christina on court one in the opener. This proved a very competative affair with the Collingham duo making a cracking start and leading 5-2 were threatening an upset. With Andy serving quick and hitting well from deep they were forcing Rufforth into early errors and Christina was producing a solid effort with some impressive net play. The power of Tom however loomed large and finally he began to get his eye in as he produced some thunderous returns and unplayable serves. Sue is a good all rounder and showing strong mental strength Rufforth finished the better to record a narrow 7-5 success.
On court two Tony and Anne had enjoyed a great title winning season for Wetherby in Harrogate mixed league division six but facing Kathryn and Ed was a huge rise in class. They looked determined to give everything but the big guns were soon into stride and quickly moved ahead 6-0. The duo were making their competitive debuts together after impressing at social and looked comfortable . Ed has a lovely forehand and quick serve and he moves effortlessly around court. Kathryn is a real battler and with great court coverage she is happy to chase any seemingly lost cause down and often makes the return. She actually covered 5 km this evening she informed me at the conclusion which was certainly a terrific effort. Not looking downhearted Tony and Anne managed to secure their opening game and with some hard hitting from Anne they were certainly causing problems during the second half. Tony’s trickery using his famous spin was seen to good effect and the pair were delighted to close the final margin to 9-3.
Rufforth began round two leading 16-8 and looking every inch the Winter league title favourites. The men’s rubber produced some more hard hitting with Tom and Ed showing the form that had seen them play crucial roles in helping Appleton Roebuck to a mid table finish in the York men’s division three. Tony was enjoying the challenge but left applauding many incredible shots that were whizzing past but he prevailed to produce plenty of memorable moments of his own. With Andy matching Rufforth for pace and power Collingham managed to stay competitive throughout but were on the wrong end of a 9-3 score line.
The ladies rubber on court two promised to be intriguing and so it proved. Anne Lillywhite has a super left handed forehand and when she makes contact the ball certainly flies. Borrowing a racket after breaking a string in the opener, she powered some wonderful winners past the bemused Sue and Kathryn and with Christina remaining strong Collingham led early. Sue is a very calm and clinical competitor and with Kathryn’s amazing energy the Rufforth girls began to take control. An excellent affair resulted in a narrow 7-5 success for the favourites but all four ladies were excellant.
So Rufforth led 32 16 and looking to finish the evening well and regain outright leadership of the table. Sue and Tom were now moving through the gears clinically and with some huge hitting Tom was unplayable. Sue was dominating the net and Tony and Anne were having to give everything to stay in the contest. To their great credit they never stopped trying and were delighted to take a couple of games with Rufforth running out 10-2 winners.
The best rubber of the evening was perhaps reserved for the last match on court one where Andy and Christina looked keen to hand Collingham their only rubber. Andy was playing Harrogate mixed division four at Dacre last season and Leeds men’s division five but he looks better than that and is a player full of promise. He and Christina are already forming a useful partnership in this their second match together and they were always ahead against Ed And Kathryn. Some clever play from Andy had him using the width of the court to place some lovely winners and Rufforth were unable to match the Collingham top seeds. Kathryn continued her amazing all energy display with some backs to the wall defending and I don’t think I have witnessed anyone put in the work this season that she did tonight. With Ed finding gaps the score line remained tight but a 7-5 success was much deserved for the Collingham duo.
At the conclusion Rufforth had run out cosy 47-25 winners and with five straight wins are the team to catch at the summit. Once again a match played in great spirit and thankfully with only light occasional drizzle, conditions were pretty pleasant despite the cold.
Congratulations to Tom Shouksmith, Sue Yoward, Kathryn Elliott Smith and Ed Ziegler who helped Rufforth maintain their 100% record in this seasons Winter League with victory this evening.
A tremendous effort from Tony Cutler, Anne Lillywhite, Christina Plant and Andy Roberts who ensured the match was ever so exciting.