North of England Championships
Durham, Saturday/Sunday 25/26th February 2017
With 18 players featuring in each of the singles and doubles draws, the 2017 North of England tournament entry was smaller than in previous years. However, there were many exciting matches to look forward to.
The pick of the matches in the round of 16 was Buchanan vs. Tilston; Hamish edged the first game 11-9, before James fought back to take the second 11-7. Unfortunately, the crowd were denied a third, as a back injury prevented Hamish from continuing. No three-gamers in this round, then, with the other seven seeds all safely through to the quarter-finals.
Here, there was smooth progress for the top three seeds: the familiar trio of Tristao, Ellison and Grant. Sam Russell put in a solid performance against Dan T, giving further weight to Dave Butler’s prediction that he’s on the verge of recording a big win (though maybe not quite the scalp of Tristao, yet). The battle between the fourth and fifth seeds saw two former Durham captains go the distance – Butler taking the first 11-6, Aquilina the second 11-2. The crowd were not to be denied this time, and although Dave built an early lead in the third, Julian clawed his way back from 4-10 down to pinch it 12-10 and upset the seedings.
This seemed to take its toll on the organiser, who then succumbed to Tristao rather quickly. In the other semi-final, Ellison looked very comfortable in game 1, before having to fight hard to shut Grant out of the second: 11-3, 11-9.
So, the final was a repeat of 2015: Tristao vs. Ellison. Eagerly anticipated and, as ever, a crowd of seven gathered on the gallery. In Game 1, Will proved too consistent, easing to 11-6, while Dan Grant tweeted incessantly about the tin. The second game started in much the same way, but Tristao soon steadied himself – the players treating the spectators to high quality and exceptionally long rallies. Eventually, Dan managed to close it out 11-7, taking us into our second deciding set of the day. Will got off to a quick start, going up 4-0, but Dan forced his way back in to level the score, before stringing together another run of points to lead 9-6. Will was not about to give up, though, digging deep to reach 9-9. But it was not quite enough, as Dan closed out the match to take his fourth Ferens trophy: 6-11, 11-7, 11-9.
The singles plate featured two round robins, from which Blackaby and Jourdan each emerged unbeaten. As Christian was then unavailable for the final, Smith stepped up. He put up strong resistance in the second game, but Ben was just too strong in the end, winning 11-2, 11-9.
The doubles tournament all went to seeding, though Blackaby & Russell pushed Buchanan & Murby in game 2 of their quarter-final. An inspired, one-armed McCahon teamed up with the organiser to cause problems for Hanton & Tilston, but the match stopped short after Tilston – dubbed ‘the retirement king’ – took out his regular partner with a shot to the face.
In the final, Butler & Tristao took on Ellison & Grant – the pairs having won this title in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Dave came under heavy pressure from the top seeds, and they wrapped up the first game 11-7. The second game was gruelling, and the momentum moved back and forth. The score crept up and up, and each pair saved multiple game/championship points. But in the end, Will and Dan G were able to clinch it, defending their title: 11-7, 12-11. This was Will’s sixth doubles title at the North, and Dan’s second.
In the doubles plate, Blackaby & Russell won all their games to take the silverware, beating Geere & Jourdan 11-7, 11-7 in the final.
Prelim: A Wordley bt T McCahon 11-6 11-3; D Hutt bt T Wakelam 11-4 11-0
1st round: D Tristao bt Wordley 11-1 11-0; S Russell bt W Hosking 11-3 11-3; J Aquilina bt C Blackaby 11-2 11-3; D Butler bt N Geere 11-0 11-0; D Grant bt J Smith 11-5 11-8; J Tilston bt H Buchanan 9-11 11-7 11-?; P Hanton bt B Jourdan 11-2 11-1; W Ellison bt Hutt 11-1 11-1
Quarter-finals: Tristao bt Russell 11-8 11-5; Aquilina bt Butler 6-11 11-2 12-10; Grant bt Tilston 11-0 11-4; Ellison bt Hanton 11-5 11-2
Semi-finals: Tristao bt Aquilina 11-3 11-2; Ellison bt Grant 11-3 11-9
Final: Tristao bt Ellison 6-11 11-7 11-9
Blackaby bt Wakelam 15-1; bt Smith 15-8; Smith bt Wakelam 15-5
Jourdan bt Hutt 15-4; bt Geere 15-4; bt Wordley 15-4; Hutt bt Geere 15-4; bt Wordley 15-2; Geere bt Wordley 15-9
Final: Jourdan bt Smith 11-2 11-9
Prelim: N Geere & B Jourdan bt T Raikes & A Wordley 11-7 11-2
Quarter-finals: W Ellison & D Grant bt G Marshall & M Pattysonn 11-3 11-2; P Hanton & J Tilston bt J Aquilina & T McCahon 11-9 3-1 ret.; H Buchanan & R Murby bt C Blackaby & S Russell 11-3 12-10; D Butler & D Tristao bt Geere & Jourdan 11-8 11-5
Semi-finals: Ellison & Grant bt Hanton & Tilston 11-1 11-4; Butler & Tristao bt Buchanan & Murby 11-3 11-9
Final: Ellison & Grant bt Butler & Tristao 11-7 12-11
Blackaby & Russell bt Raikes & Wordley 15-9; bt Marshall & Pattysonn 15-5;
Geere & Jourdan bt Raikes & Wordley 15-2; bt Marshall & Pattysonn 15-1
Final: Blackaby & Russell bt Geere & Jourdan 11-7 11-7