St George's Day battle

Actually it was played on the night of the 22nd April 2015

The final game for these two contrasting teams from Division Two. High flying Saints, division two winners, divisional handicap winners, going for a grand slam against next to bottom Dragons in their first season in division two. The scene was set with Leigh Miners looking splendid, a crowd assembled and Saints having to try to pull back a handicap of 129 points. A gain of ten to eleven points for each four-match game would see Saints winners. The first match on was league champion Peter Ainsworth against Dragons' captain and LSG supremo, Chris Garfin. A win for Peter by 15 points which was a good enough start for Saints but Dragons were not unhappy with that. Second match Ian Wolstenholme against the Owdmon. Having meticulously worked out a game plan to beat the Owdmon early in the season, Ian has stuck to this plan ever since and it worked again. In a game where some return shots would have been more suited on a badminton court, Ian took seventeen points to keep Dragons on target. Minh Le proved too powerful for Gary and pulled back another twenty-two points so, in three games, the lead had been reduced to 75. Ian's steadiness against Chris's occasional flashes of genius reaped another nineteen points, seemingly no chink in the Saints' armour. Gary against Peter in which Gary, having achieved Dragons' only game win so far, the third set against Minh, now won the fourth against Peter to drop only thirteen points which could have been worse for Dragons. What Dragons desperately needed was a win and this was achieved in the seventh game of the night. Minh Le's style suits the Owdmon down to the ground and the first plus points were won by the Dragons but could have been more as Minh, having lost the first two rallied to take the third. The points difference was now 52 with three games to go so Dragons were looking to drop seventeen per person to take the title. The antepenultimate game was a tense affair between Ian and Gary and was the only game of the night that showed any semblance of the tension which was clearly in the room. Cool hand Ian pushed and hit his way to a thirty points win to put his side clear favourites. Skipper Chris, however dug deep to hold Minh to nine points to give the Owdmon some sort of a chance in the last match of the night and season. Saints number one and League individual winner against the Owdmon. A match which has been repeated many times over the years with, it has to be said, Peter usually having the upper hand, but only just. The first two games showed this, and despite having a lead in both games, the Owdmon contrived to lose them both by 14-12 and 12-10. However, with a lead of thirteen to play with, a similar score in the third set would leave Owdmon only needing to score five in the last. Perhaps he was calculating this too much in his head, or perhaps Peter managed to step up a gear, but the third set went to Peter by a massive 11-2 leaving the whole match exactly level going into the very last game of the night. These two players have each played for many years and have seen it all before so each of them played their natural games. With Owdmon leading at 9-8, the crowd was enthralled. Could the Dragon reverse history? Of course you can't change history! Peter won the last three points to leave Saints winners by two points in a match of a total of 760 points. It doesn't come any closer and shows that handicapping does work sometimes. On a personal note, thanks to my new team mates at Leigh St George and especially to Chris G for the unstinting efforts he has put in to make the Leigh setup one to be proud of. Congratulations to Saints for a magnificent season, one in which they should take great pride and savour it because seasons like this don't come along that often. I am off now to the cricket field to raise the flag of St George.

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