In the most exciting race for years, Netts A have emerged as Braintree Table Tennis League champions after finishing level on points with reigning champions Liberal A.
By a curious quirk, the title hinged on the outcome of two rearranged matches that took place on adjacent tables at the club’s headquarters in Earls Colne.
Both teams were level on points going into the evening, which meant that Netts needed only to equal Liberal’s result to take the title on matches won.
And that is how it panned out. But not until the evening had produced a series of seesaws and unexpected twists.
Netts’ task was not made an easier by the presence of men’s singles champion Steve Kerns in Black Notley A’s ranks, but neither were Liberal’s opponents, Netts’ B team, an easy touch with both Maria Boulton and James Hicks on duty.
Kerns duly won his three sets and it was effectively a superb display from Boulton that gave the A team their first title since 2012.
Her record against both Scott Dowsett and Simon Webber was one-each this season, but this time she got the better of both of them after immense tussles.
Dowsett was downed 12-10, 6-11, 12-10, 9-11, 11-8 and Webber 12-10, 14-12, 11-13, 5-11, 11-6.
She came desperately close to claiming a hat-trick when she had an almighty battle with the formidable Peter Hayden, beaten only once this season, in which all five games were decided by two points, Hayden eventually triumphing 11-9, 10-12, 10-12, 13-11, 11-9.
The final nail in Liberal’s coffin was delivered by Hicks, who repeated his early season victory over Webber, again in three games, 11-9, 11-6, 11-5.
On the other table, Netts A were tackling Notley without five-times men’s singles champion Paul Davison but two singles each from Kevin Gowlett, Patrick Gilbert and Andy Holmes and a doubles win for Gowlett and Gilbert were enough to give them the title.
But their success was not without its alarms.
Gilbert was two games to one down against Chris Parr before edging home 11-9, 11-8 in the final two.
And even closer was the doubles in which Gowlett and Gilbert, Braintree men’s doubles champions in 2013, just squeezed home 12-10 in the fifth game against Kerns and Andrew Huckson.
The two teams thus finished level on 216 points but Netts take the title as they won 26 matches against Liberal’s 23.
In earlier matches, Netts and Liberal had set up the season’s climax with wins of 9-1 and 10-0 respectively over Rayne C and Notley A.
Elsewhere in division one, Netts B finished third despite losing all three matches against Rayne A, who finished six points behind them.
In their latest encounter, Rayne’s John Andrews was the only one to lose to Hicks, but the only one to beat Boulton.
Rayne D just pipped their own B team to fifth place after an 8-2 win in their final match against Felsted RBL A, while the B team were held to a draw by Liberal B.
Adrian Pitt was unbeaten for Liberal B.
Finally, apologies to Clare Johnson. It was she and not Steve Willis who won two sets against Nomads, as reported last week.