The Handicap Cup finals were played at Rowhedge TTC on Friday 21st April. Thirty teams contested the Handicap with teams initially being put into six groups of 4 with two groups of 3. This was done to give teams as many matches as possible rather than just running the event as a straight knock-out. At the end of the group stage, the winning team goes forward to the knockout phase of the Handicap Cup and the runners-up are put through to the Handicap Doubles Cup, with sixteen teams in total progressing to the knock-out phase.
In the final of the George King Team Handicap Cup were Tollgate A and St James A. Tollgate A had progressed to the final with an unblemished record recording three wins in the group phase, 7-2 against Tollgate C, 5-4 against Rowhedge D and a 9-0 walkover against Gt Horkesley. The walk-over was reviewed to ensure the final league positions were not affected. In the two matches played, doubles were the key to Tollgate's success since they remained unbeaten. Their progress to the final came at the expense of Lawford A and Tollgate D to set up the match with St James A.
St James too had an unbeaten run in the group stage with wins over Rowhedge C (8-1), Gt Horkesley D (7-2) and Pegasus B (8-1). In the knockout phase, they accounted for Gt Horkesley A and Rowhedge H. The final proved to be a very close match, going all the way to the last doubles of the evening. Match Official, Rik James, reported that it was a fantastic match played in the best spirit, enjoyed by both sides. Tollgate perhaps had a secret weapon in the form of Ollie Rampton who has been improving at a great rate throughout the season. His fearless style of play contributing to the win and tellingly he was the only unbeaten player on the night. A name to watch out for we think.
The St Peters Handicap Doubles Cup Final was contested between Rowhedge B and Rowhedge E. Rowhedge B contained the doubles’ experts of John Andrews and David Moss, although Moss would be the first to say he is not a handicap expert! Rowhedge B had been on course for the George King competition with two 8-1 wins against Dedham A and St James D, but came unstuck against the young Tollgate D side of Andy Huang, Toby Deng and Callum Wilkinson. Doubles was the key, although they were without their "doubles experts", Andrews and Moss. Rowhedge E progressed with two 7-2 wins against Lawford D and Pegasus G but fell to Gt Horkesley A by the same score.
Rowhedge B progressed to the final via a series of "Home" matches, knocking out Rowhedge G and Rowhedge F before they came up against Rowhedge E in the final. Rowhedge E had earlier despatched Pegasus B and Pegasus C. The final provided some close matches with Rowhedge F winning the first game in 4 of the 6 matches played but they could not maintain the early momentum and Rowhedge B were able to record a 5-1 win. As in the George King Cup final, a very competitive match, despite the score-line, best highlighted in match four won 27-25 by Rowhedge B. Had the result gone to Rowhedge E, it would left the match finely poised 2-2 and with all to play for.
Congratulations to all teams and thanks to match officials, Rik James and Martyn Green, for umpiring the fixtures.