Thursday, February 29, 2024

Devon dominate at Racketball inter-counties

Nottingham host 19 teams on tough weekend

Much as the team at Squash Mad detest the ridiculous name thrust on racketball by a drunken think-tank committee, we salute the efforts being made to repair the damage. This culminated in the introduction of the first combined inter-county finals competition at Nottingham SRC, with 19 teams representing 12 counties.

The event was played over two days, with a total of 29 fixtures throughout the weekend, with the teams and spectators being treated to some top-class racketball with the likes of Tim Vail, Mike Harris, Fiona Moverley and Zoe Fennell all competing. 

Fiona (pictured in action) deserves a special T-shirt for her efforts for Yorkshire. It was great to see her playing in the Open event as Yorkshire upset top seeds Sussex with a 3-2 win.

However, with Yorkshire unable to convert their earlier match against Oxfordshire, it saw them finish as the eventual losers of Group A.

A notable match in this tie was between Fiona and Ben Hedger which turned into a gruelling five-setter. Hedger was the eventual winner with two tins from Moverley at 10-10. Not sure what wording should go on that T-shirt…

Group B, the ‘group of death’, saw some great battles, in particular between Buckinghamshire and Dorset. However it was Warwickshire who proved too strong and too consistent for their opponents and they qualified with Dorset into the semi-finals. Group C again saw a very strong Devon side take their group by storm, followed by Essex and then Wiltshire.

The Women’s event was a simple round robin competition between Essex, Devon and Yorkshire and took place on the Saturday. Despite some quality play for Essex by Zoe Fennell, it was Yorkshire and Devn who contested the final, with the Yorkshire trio of Elspeth Edwards, Paula Arrowsmith and Rosie Connell triumphing 3-0 against Karen Bealey, Caroline Wright and Jo Perriam.

The triumphant Yorkshire women’s team

The Over 50s event saw six counties competing in a format that had three singles and one doubles match.

Group A top seeds Essex were too strong for Norfolk and Kent, and were able to bypass the quarter finals stage to go straight through to the semi-finals. A notebale result here was an upset caused by Rob Hanbrook of Norfolk, who performed out his skin to overcome Essex’s Fred Cooke in three games.

Group B was fiercely contested, with 3/4 seeds Buckingahmshire beating No.2 seeds Devon to automatically qualify for the semi-finals. Yorkshire and Devon battled it out and were the first fixture to draw their match and triggered the games countback rule, which thanks to Adrian Henley and Pete Doman taking the first game 11/6 in the doubles, they became eventual overall winners of the tie, 7-6 on games count back.

In the final, Fred Cooke continued his good run of form from Essex’s semi final victory over Devon defeating Simon Martin 2-1. Pascual Dibattista then extended Essex’s lead with a straight forward 2-0 over a tired looking Dave Evans who had yet to recover from his 11/9 in the 5th match in the semi final.

With Essex 2-0 up going into the final two it was still theoretically possible that Buckinghamshire could finish with a win. If the match score was 2-2 then it would go on countback.

The number ones and doubles were on at the same time. After Fernandez went 1-0 up at one and MacDonald and Townsend, after a tough start, fought back level in the doubles ,it looked like the big comeback might just be on the cards.

It was not to be, however. Marc Thornley played a tremendous second game winning it 11-1 and continued his form into the third taking the game 11-7 and deciding the match. With the doubles teams unaware of what had already transpired on the other court it remained tremendously competitive right to the end with Osborn and Fennell finally closing off the weekends Racketball with an 11-9 victory in the decider.

Essex celebrate their Over 50s title

In Sunday’s Open play-offs, Paul Norton’s Yorkshire side, having come into the competition with very few expectations, almost took fifth place but in the end narrowly lost out to Oxfordshire. Two matches went all the way to deciding tiebreaks with Fiona Moverley narrowly defeating Mike Edwards and Glynn Saunders beating Darren Rix 2-1, 13-11.​

The Open final was kicked off with a battle between Luke Bishop and Marc James of Devon and Dorset. Despite some close rallies, Bishop came out on top with a 3-0 win to get the ball rolling for the favourites.

The No.1 seeds then followed on the show court, which saw current racketball National Champion, Mike Harris, take on Gus Bell. The underdog Bell played some accomplished rallies and his finishing was lethal as he surprised Harris to take the first game 11-6.

Harris was eventually able to take control with superior length and width as he clawed his way back into the match and showed us why he is the current champ. His victory gave Devon a 2-0 lead.

Meanwhile Christian Turner on the back courts took a tight 3-1 against David Lobo, to secure Devon their first Racketball/Squash57 National Title. Convincing wins from James Snell and Mike Gregory cemented Devon’s status as the National Champions by making the tie an emphatic 5-0 victory.

Harris, the Devon captain, told us: “We are very happy to be county champions and it’s been great to play everyone over the same weekend. The atmosphere has been good, the venue has been good, and this is a great start for what will hopefully be a long standing event that will continue to grow.”

UK Racketball-England Squash National Racketball and Squash 57 Inter-County Finals, Nottingham.

Open Final, Devon 5-0 Dorset:
Mike Harris 3-1 Gus Bell 6/11 11/8 11/2 11/7
James Snell 3-0 Neil Chambers 11/5 11/5 11/3
Luke Bishop 3-0 Marc James 11/6, 11/3, 11/4
Mike Gregory 3-0 Andy Metcalfe 11/7, 11/3, 11/6
Christian Turner 3-1 David Lobo 11/6 12/10 9/11 11/5

Over 50s Semi Finals:
Buckinghamshire 2-2 (9-6) Norfolk (Buckinghamshire win on games count back)
Simon Martin 1-3 John Cordeaux 13/11 7/11 10/12 9/11
Dave Evans 2-3 Rob Hanbrook 11/6 4/11 11/9 5/11 9/11
Andy MacDonald 3-1 Robin Chipperfield 12/10 11/9 8/11 11/8
Dan Fernandez & S Townsend 3-0 Mark Campbell & James Murphy 11/7 11/4 11/8

Essex 3-1 Devon:
Mark Thornley 3-0 Bruce MacDonald 11/3 11/6 11/6
Fred Cooke 3-0 Tim Gillingham 11/7 11/4 14/12
Pascual Dibattista 2-3 Martin Glover 11/8 11/8 5/11 8/11 10/12
Patrick Osborn & Paul Fennell 3-0 Andy Henley & Pete Doman 11/4 11/9 11/7

Final, Buckinghamshire 0-4 Essex:
Dan Fernandez 1-2 Mark Thornley 11/8 1/11 7/11
Simon Martin 1-2 Fred Cooke 9/11 11/5 7/11
Dave Evans 0-2 Pascual Dibattista 8/11, 7/11
Andy MacDonald & S Townsend 1-2 Patrick Osborn & Paul Fennell 5/11 11/6 9/11

Full results and report here 

Next up is the HEAD National Championships at Edgbaston Priory. Preview here

Pictures courtesy of  UK Racketball


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