After 12 matches unbeaten, Rayne F have tasted defeat for the first time in division three of the Braintree Table Tennis League.
Black Notley I’s 7-3 victory, together with Netts E’s draw and a 9-1 win for Notley F have further tightened up the top of the division into the closest race for many years.
Rayne F were without Brian How, beaten only three times in 20 sets, and failed to get to grips with their opponents, for whom Peter Pond was unbeaten.
Pond gained revenge for his defeat earlier in the season by Dave Allinson, who was also beaten by Elliot Game.
Mike Smith won two singles to help his side to victory.
The defeat means Rayne F are no longer in a position where a 10-0 win in their match in hand would take them to the top.
Instead, new leaders Notley F are 11 points clear.
They called on Warren Baines for the first time this season in their 9-1 win over Rayne G. He took a set to warm up – he was two games to one down to Tim Townsend – but then showed that most of the old magic was still there.
Steve Willis, who like Baines spent some years in division two, won Rayne’s only set, a narrow 11-9 in the fifth game, against Declan Baines.
Netts E fall from the top after being held to a draw by Notley G, who are by no means out of the promotion race, 15 points off the top with a match in hand.
Jim Davy has been Notley G’s mainstay this season with a superb run of form that had seen him beaten only five times in 28 sets, but this time it was Matt Brooks who took centre stage by winning his three singles while Davy lost 12-10 in the fifth to Tony Smith and 11-7 in the fifth to Peter Lewis.
Jimmy Calisin was unbeaten as Netts F beat Rayne H 6-4.
Netts D have retaken the lead in division two after a 9-1 win over Notley E.
Notley were strengthened by the inclusion of the dangerous Neil Freeman, who won their only set, but Joe Meleschko and Patrick Gilbert both got the better of him.
Liberal C, who were one point ahead, drop to second place after a 7-3 win over Notley C where the absence from the Notley ranks of Dan Anderson, beaten only twice so far, was crucial.
Gareth Davies, Garry Fryatt and Jon Fieldsend won two each for Liberal but perhaps the most noteworthy set was Leon Hewitt’s victory over Davies.
Hewitt, largely still finding his feet in division two, appeared to have run out of steam after winning the first two games but then losing the next two 11-4, 11-1. He rallied, however, to win the final game 11-8.
Rayne D remain on the coattails of the leaders after an 8-2 win over Felsted RBL A while Nomads had a surprisingly hefty 10-0 win over Notley D, a rare blank evening for Sean Clift.
Ashley Butler picked up two wins in Felsted B’s 8-2 defeat to Rayne E.
Netts C’s 10-0 win over Notley B in division one was also something of a surprise, including as it did Hannah Pitt’s first unbeaten evening of the season.
That defeat closed the gap at the bottom after Rayne C picked up two points from Notley A while Netts B and Rayne B fought out one of those curious draws in which no player won all three or lost all three.
Individual averages up to the end of the year (qualification one-third of team’s matches):
Division 1: 1 Paul Davison 12 wins in 12 sets, average 100; 2 Lee McHugh 19-21, 90.5; 3 Adam Buxton 26-30, 86.7; 4 James Hicks 18-21, 85.7; 5 Scott Dowsett 20-24, 83.3; 6 Brandon Crouchman 19-23, 82.6; 7= Peter Hayden 16-20, Steve Kerns 12-15, 80; 9 Maria Boulton 21-27, 77.9; 10 Simon Webber 27-35, 77.1.
Division 2: 1 Ken Lewis 17-18, 95.2; 2= Dan Anderson 28-30, Steve Noble 14-15, 93.3; 4 Dave Marsh 26-29, 89.7; 5 Glen Laing 10-12, 83.3; 6 Jan Fuller 12-15, 80; 7= Roy Hooper 21-27, Jarek Pietraszuk 21-27, Patrick Gilbert 14-18, 77.8; 10 Garry Fryatt 29-39, 74.3.
Division 3: 1 Peter Pond 25-27, 93.3; 2 Peter Taylor 15-17, 88.2; 3 Brian How 17-20, 85; 4 Jim Davy 23-28, 82.1; 5 Declan Baines 24-30, 80; 6 James Gronland 19-24, 79.2; 7 Dave Allinson 18-23, 78.3; 8 Tony Smith 13-17, 76.5; 9 Mel Cooch 25-33, 75.8; 10 Elliot Game 20-27, 74.1.