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Finals Night pictures by Tim Humphrey

Winchester Table Tennis League: Finals Night 2015

Finals Night picture gallery ... 70+ pictures by Tim Humphrey

Report by Martin Healey

A fun evening for everyone, I think, and I hope that goes for the losers as well as the winners!

A 90-year-old gentleman, Mr Ron Ferguson, with no connections with the League, had come across the Tournament by chance via the Web pages, turned up and watched the whole event with evident enjoyment.

At the other end of the age scale, 15-year-old Ben Cawston kept us on the edges of our seats wondering if he was going to arrive before the latest possible finishing time of 11:00 pm. Ben had been very honourably getting to the Quarter Finals of the England Schools Tournament in Tipton, 140 miles away! Maybe we should selfishly be grateful he didn't get to the Semis, because he and Panjun Li played a memorable Open Singles Final, full of thunder and lightning, and unpredictable all the way to the end of the 5th set. The Itchen Abbas & Avington Village Hall finally closed with less than 5 minutes to spare.

Here's the YouTube Video of the Singles Final.

Event Match
Under 13 Singles Sacha Groom beat Will Rollitt 11-3, 5-11, 11-7, 4-11, 11-5
Playing in front of a crowd on Finals Night is a far cry from your average League match, where "the crowd" is what we call the caretaker when he comes in jangling his keys at closing time. Yes, the Finals Night audience can appear a bit intimidating, and this showed in some hasty shot-making by both players. Nevertheless they gave us their best shots, too, with some good hits and determined defence. After 5 sets they both seemed comfortable with being in the limelight!
Under 15 Singles Jared Schaller beat Ollie Kierans 11-7, 11-6, 11-6
The first upset of the evening! It was Ollie Kierans' 3rd season in the League, and he played in Division 1 all of this season; his recent successes have included a win over the vastly experienced Antony Moore! Jared on the other hand has been playing for barely a year, and only started playing in the League in September. He's made great progress and taken the scalps of a few old-timers along the way, mostly in Division 2. He's got a strong attacking style and gave Ollie few opportunities to get his own game going.
Sandpaper Bat Panjun Li beat Paddy Shephard 15-14, 13-15, 15-12
This event, inspired by Sky TV's World Championship of Ping Pong, turned out to be one of the most interesting and entertaining of the whole evening! Paddy played a powerful attacking game, mostly on the backhand, appearing to be at home with the peculiarly lifeless bats, and making few errors. Panjun, an extremely hard-hitting player when he's using the modern type of bat, played conservatively throughout, returning Paddy's greatest hits calmly and consistently from a long way back. Paddy hit enough winners - especially on the forehand - to stay fully in contention, though his attacking onslaught must have been energy-sapping. In the end things just swung Panjun's way.
Doubles Barry Ross and Chris Sabourin beat Paul May and Andy Prince 10-12, 11-7, 11-9, 11-5
Although Chris and Barry haven't played Doubles together a huge number of times, they must have had some advantage over the scratch pairing of Andy and Paul, who each play for different clubs. That's what Andy and Paul told me, anyway! Whatever, the young Turks took control after a slightly unsteady start and nothing seemed likely to faze them.
Division 2 Singles Barry Dobson beat Phil Weatherill 10-12, 11-7, 11-9, 11-5
Phil plays a steady, reliable and determined game, with a strong forehand. Barry is the tireless scrambler, pushing the ball this way and that, always on the move, never thinking about the possibility of defeat, and rarely (in Division 2 at least) having to experience it. Phil took the first game, but that only made Barry jut his jaw out a little further and announce to all and sundry (in effect) that he was not going to concede another inch. Phil still got some good hits in, but his fate was sealed.
Veterans (over 40) Singles Paddy Shephard beat Steve Buckmaster 11-3, 11-5, 4-11, 11-7
Paddy still had some energy left over after that exhausting Sandpaper Bat Final, and used it to good effect against Steve. Steve tried to rally support from a group of ruffians in Row Z, and he even got a few feeble cries of encouragement in return. But it was all to no avail: Paddy switched easily from sandpaper to good old rubber and soon had Steve pleading for mercy, which he didn't get.
Handicap Singles Steve Lawson (+6) beat Cameron Brealey 21-15, 21-16
Steve has returned to table tennis after a lengthy absence - close to 40 years. He must have been pretty good as a teenager. Handicap matches are supposed to get to deuce in the deciding set, but Cameron could make little headway against Steve's +6 start. Steve waited patiently for the hitting opportunity, then hit hard and reliably. That's not supposed to happen when Division 2 plays Division 1, but it did. In Cameron's defence we must say that he had been running the whole evening's entertainment, as well as the preparations for it over the previous days and weeks, and it's not surprising if he was a bit distracted. But how come that wasn't factored into the Handicapping?
Singles Ben Cawston beat Panjun Li 8-11, 10-12, 11-7, 13-11, 11-7
This was a match to savour: Panjun Li, the current Hampshire Closed Singles champion, from China and doing a Business Management degree at Winchester University, playing for the IBM club, versus Ben Cawston of Westgate School and Littleton, just outside Winchester. Ben plays for South Wonston and is ranked 22 as a Junior in England, in his first of three years in that age-group.
Panjun had played earlier in the Sandpaper bat Final, and was now using a high-tech all-spinning, all-hitting version. They're as different as driving a Morris Minor is different from piloting a jet. Ben, as mentioned, had been playing all day at the England Schools tournament in Tipton, the wrong side of Birmingham and had staggered into Itchen Abbas Village Hall well after 10:00 pm. He was entitled to feel a bit jaded.
So excuses were there for the making for both players, but instead they went straight into top gear and we saw a fine match with many fluctuations. Ralleys were mostly short and sharp: short serves offering little opportunity for the receiver to strike quickly, then a sharp hit when the smallest opening appeared. Working with such small margins, errors are bound to occur, and they did; but we also saw some wonderfully powerful ralleys away from the table with both players showing great athleticism and hair-trigger reactions. If you don't believe me, take a look at the Youtube video!.
Panjun shaded the first two sets, then Ben won the final three, concluding the 5th with 5 straight points after Panjun had led at the turn. Panjun had a slight lapse of concentration when 6-4 up, Ben sensed victory, and from then on there was no stopping him.


These were made by Martin Woolf, a Vice-President and long-time player in the League, and still going strong:

Division Awards
Division 1 IBM B IBM A
Division 2 South Wonston C Castle A

Team Competitions
Team Eliminator IBM B Kings A
Hursley Shield ('Division 2 Championship')Hursley Kings D
Conder-Winnall (handicap) Five Tees B Kings B

Individual Awards
Arthur Richards Cup ('outstanding achievement') Paddy Shephard
Paddy, who arrived here from Somerset about 3 years ago, has been focussing on bringing children of all ages into our sport, and has made a tremendous impact. He's worked tirelessly with Winchester City Council, Westgate School, many local Primary schools, and South Wonston TT club, and the result is that we now have table tennis coaching and general sessions, with fine tables, at Westgate School, a Primary Schools League and Primary Schools Tournament, and we have the enthusiastic support of the Mayor, Cllr Eileen Berry. For the League, a great result is that a number of young players coached by Paddy and his helpers are now turning out for the South Wonston club's League teams. Paddy's work has been recognised by two consecutive Winchester Sports Awards in the Guildhall.
Owen Booker Cup (top average in any Division, and played at least 75% of matches) Julian Walton 90% after 48 individual legs
Colin Sly Giantkiller Cup (most surprising win by an underdog) Rob Chapman With a 38% average, beat someone on 88%!

Many people contributed to the smooth and enjoyable running of the evening: Cameron Brealey of course, very ably assisted by joint organiser Barry Ross; Antony Moore (keeping things moving); Allan Bransgrove (organising the trophies etc); Andy and Suzanne Prince behind the Bar; Jill Wilson (for the tasty cup-cakes sold for charity); the Umpires; and all those who stayed behind to clear up before that 11:00 pm deadline.