Comberton III vs Melbourn II
Tues 15th January
Melbourn won 20-6
In our first game against Comberton back on the opening day of the season, we cruised to a 20-3 win. With two pretty similar line-ups, one might have expected a similar outcome for the return, but that wasn’t how the hosts saw it as they gave us a real run for our money.
That hadn’t looked particularly likely in the first two games Sean (5) played against Colin Walker. Sean was playing tactically cutely, moving Colin around to open gaps for winning drops, which established a 2-0 lead. However, a slow start by Sean to the third, allied by some deadly dropping of Colin’s own meant Sean was suddenly 7-1 down. He mostly clawed that back… mostly but not entirely and it was into a fourth. This time Sean started solidly and ran away with things rather winning 15-10 15-9 12-15 15-6.
Next door, Colm (4) was taking on home skipper Tom Snaith. Tom won the opener as Colm was drawn into too much cross-court play, but Colm then straightened out to win the next two. Was a 3-1 in the offing? Well, the fourth was nip-and-tuck, but mistakes at the crucial moments (a serve out sticks in the mind) and we were into a decider. Things initially didn’t look good in this but having recovered an early 6-2 deficit by mid-game, Colm kept plugging away. A match ball came and went at 14-13 with an outrageous return winner, but then a couple of close but probably correct calls went Colm’s way as, at 14-all, a pick-up of Tom’s was called no good and then, on the very next point, one of Colm’s was deemed acceptable. And that was that, the Melbourn player surviving 10-15 15-9 15-11 12-15 16-14.
Gareth (3) had followed on Sean’s court, taking on Steve Swanton. Steve was clearly hindered by a knee injured that reduced his flexibility and ability to get low to balls, but Gareth was not making the most of this as he repeatedly pinged the tin from good positions. Each game was nip-and-tuck, as was the overall score as this match also went the distance. As game five progressed, Gareth’s chances began to look grim, particularly when he trailed 13-9. However, as Gareth may have remembered*, that isn’t a decisive lead (there was something about a 13-8 fifth game advantage not converted in the Cup a few weeks ago). And that is what paned out, Gareth recovering, forcing the breaker and eventually getting home 13-15 15-12 15-10 12-15 17-15.
Matt (2) took the court after Colm against Neil Stutchbury. This match would be the quickest of the evening, as Matt was in ruthless form, repeatedly taking Neil’s attempts to loft the ball out of the air and killing them stone dead. Quick starts to each game saw the home player’s head begin to drop as Matt came through 15-5 15-6 15-6.
That meant Jan (1) and Ashok Babbar were only playing for pride. Jan started well, building a 5-1 lead in the opening game, but then slipped and promptly lost the entire advantage. The game was then up and down, until Jan had the first game ball at 14-13. He played a volley which wrong-footed Ash… but also found the top of the tin. A few points later, and it was Babbar claiming the opener 18-16. No matter, Jan moved 5-1 ahead in the second, but then saw that evaporate as well. Once again it went to a breaker, which could have been decisive if Ash had won it, but in the end it was Jan, in a mirror-image score of the first. Game three was the third 5-1 lead, this time properly converted and when history repeated with a fourth 5-1 advantage, which became 8-2 Jan was surely on his way. But then he lost focused, and suddenly it was 8-7 and game on. Jan kept his nose in front until the later stages, only for four straight points for Ash turning a 11-9 deficit into a 13-11 lead. However Jan responded with his own four point run, overturning the gap to win 16-18 18-16 15-8 15-13.
Jan, the skipper for the evening, commented “We beat Comberton quite comprehensively in the opening half, but they put in much improved performances here. Baring Matt, who was very clinical, everyone had to work jolly hard to word. But we all did in the end, which was pleasing.”
* - he didn’t remember. In fact, he thought he won that Cup game…