Published 09/04/2019 at 17:00:35 by David Wackrill; edited 3 times, last on 12/04/2019 at 15:42:11 by David Wackrill.

Premier Top 8 Report  (courtesy of Nick Howard)
Howard claims maiden title!
There were a couple of last minute call ups to this year Premier Top 8.
Michael Wilkins coming in to replace Neil Massa, and the ever improving Ollie Horswell replacing number 3 seed Alan Cherry.
With the withdrawal of Alan, top seed Colin Huang become the overwhelming favourite. Having only lost 4 times this year (twice to Alan), he took a rich vein of form into the end of year competition.
In Group 1, you had Colin, Ollie, Craig Brown and Tomek Nowakowski.
Group 2 saw number 2 seed Nick Howard, alongside team mate Guy Sparrow, Mike Wilkins and Dave Allison (who along with Matt Evans, was the only other person to beat Colin in the league - Not even MK Open champion Matt Haynes could manage that.
Group 1 saw Craig and Tomek play out one of the matches of the night. Craig, having been suffering from illness in recent months, fought his way to 2-2 against Tomek who seemed to be auditioning for a role as the Great Wall of China. It was exhibition stuff from the Greenleys player, but ultimately all that defending saw him fall to a 10-5 deficit in the 5th.
10-5 became 10-6, which became 10-7 and Craig was suddenly under pressure. 10-7 became 12-10 to…….. Tomek! A brilliant comeback saw him avenge his 3-0 defeat in the league from last October!
On the other table, Nick and Mike faced off for what seemed like the 100th time in recent months, although they only faced each other once in the league this year (a 3-2 win for Nick).
Howard, whose been sidelined by injury since the end of January lost the first relatively easily, before doing just enough to take the next 3 with not much fuss.
Colin took little time taking care of Ollie in match 2 on table 1, whilst Dave Allison dealt Guy his first loss of the night at the same time on table 2 (neither match sparkled).
Colin then took on Tomek, and it was more 1 way traffic for the number 1 seed. A comfortable 3-0 win.
Nick and teammate Guy enjoyed a hotly anticipated match next door, with Guy having chances, but coming up short to lose 3-1.
Craig took Colin to deuce in one set of their contest, but the overall consistency and power was too hot to handle, as Colin ran out a 3-0 victor again, to seal 9 games from 9 on the night and book his place in the semi finals.
Craig then finished off his night against Ollie, with the memory of his 3-1 loss to the youngster in February, fresh in his mind.
There was nothing he could do to stop the massively improved Mr Horswell from running out victor again - A fine performance from Ollie gave him a fighting chance of making the semi finals.
Dave Allison had already booked his place in the semis on table 2 with a 3-1 victory over Mike, before facing Howard to decide positions 1 and 2.
There was no repeat of the last time they met (a filthy edge at 11-10 in the 5th from an Allison serve to seal victory), and this time Howard dominated throughout to seal a 3-0 victory and 1st place in the group.
Wooden spoon award in group 2 was between Guy and Mike.
A typical gritty contest when absolutely nothing was on the line, saw Mike grind out a 3-2 victory.
Ollie and Tomek fought it out for a place in the semi’s with an enthralling match. More defending from Tomek saw the ball come down with snow on it half the time.
It wasn’t enough to stop the march of Ollie as he ripped up the form book to take the match in 4.
Dave and Colin took the first semi final, and there was to be no upset on the cards this time.
Colin wasting little energy in despatching the Kingpins captain - A stalwart of the MK top 8.
Nick was a few shots away from falling 2-0 down to a rampant Ollie, but divine intervention took over, and after some horrible nets and edges, Howard managed to claim the second and third, before closing out the match comfortably in the 4th.
It could have very easily been Ollie’s match, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing the name “Horswell” in the top 8 for many years to come.
So we had a final between the number 1 and 2 seed.
Colin had beaten Nick 3-1 on two occasions this year, and found himself 2-0 up in a flash against the tiring Kings captain.
Howard somehow found himself 10-8 up in the 3rd, before quickly being championship point down at 11-10.
Not to be for Colin (for now), Howard took the 3rd end 13-11 to force a 4th set.
Some more aggressive play from Howard, with a tactical change up saw him take the 4th set fairly comfortably, which set up a tense finish.
I might be slightly biased, but some of the best rallies of the whole night were to be found in all 5 of these sets, with both players unleashing some absolute bombs in attack, and some cracking counters in defence.
The 5th end was nip and tuck throughout, before Howard stole a 2 point advantage at 8-6.
Colin’s 2 serves didn’t go in his favour, as he found himself 10-6 down.
Nick’s first serve was swatted away by Colin….. 10-7.
Howards second serve was simply to get the ball into play, which he did….. A long attacking rally ensued, with a monster forehand down the line from….. Howard, to claim his first ever MK Top 8 title.
A cracking finishing to a brilliant match.
Thank you to all those who stayed to watch, and thank you to Mike Howard for organising on the night.
Well done to all the other Top 8 winners during the week!

Division 1 

The seedings (determined by order in final averages) neatly split the attackers and defenders into 2 of each sort in the groups, with the more conservative players, bar one, coming out on top to reach the semi-finals. The exception being Alan Bolding, who failed to get out of his group for the second year running. Taking Alan’s place was big hitter Iain Lindsay, who tore up the form book to storm through unbeaten.
Group 1 saw Ioan Constantin and myself winning through at the expense of Bedfordshire golden girls Sarah Hudson and Julie Snowdon. The far more competitive Group 2 had Ian Brown scratching his head, wondering how he managed to play so well and still lose all his sets. Defending champion Andy Smith qualified here alongside Iain.
The semi-finals were surprisingly one-sided affairs with the flexible Andy turning aggressor against a rather lack lustre Ioan, and Iain hitting through me far too easily. A rampant Iain maintained his sensational form, close to his premier League best of yesteryear, to outwit Andy in the final after dropping the opening game, and make a clean sweep of 5 wins from 5 on the night. Congratulations Iain.

Division 2 – Top 8 Report  (courtesy of Mervyn Phillips / edited by Martin Johnson)
Triple Triumph for Merv

The culmination of the season for Division 2 players saw the ‘top 8’ compete for the title on Monday night.  Missing from those who had qualified by being in the top eight of the Final Averages and having played at least 50% of matches, were Bub Burman (2nd in the Final Averages), Charlie Gray (3rd) and Masoud Nassor (8th), being replaced by Martin Lok, Nicholas Wong and Andy Whitehead.

Top seed, Merv Phillips from Mursley Hawks, and coached by supervet, Vic Sutton, was in Group 1, along with Ivor Howard from MK Hit ‘n’ Hope, Dylan Cox from MK Classics and Andy Whitehead from Chackmore Hasbeens.  There was a surprise result along the way, as Ivor headed the Group with three wins, beating Merv in 5 sets, although Merv came through as Group runner-up, as talented youngster, Dylan, and Andy, narrowly missed the cut.

Group 2 was very much a family affair, with Patrick and Charity Wong, both from OU Primes , plus son, Nicholas, from MK Tornadoes, another exceptionally talented young player (who featured in the Challenge Cup winning team - see earlier report), plus Patrick & Charity’s clubmate, Martin Lok.  It was Martin, though, who upset the form book by winning his three matches, with Patrick runner-up.

The semi-finals saw a reversal of fortunes, however, as both Group winners perished to the runners-up from the opposite Groups.  Ivor versus Patrick was close in game 1, but Patrick took that, along with the next two.  Merv beat Martin, also in straight games.

The final between Patrick and Merv was effectively decided in the first game, with Merv just edging it, then taking the next two games to win the match, and thus denying Patrick reclaiming the title he had won two years ago.  It meant that Merv both headed the Final Averages, having lost just three times in the season, and for the 3rd season running, Merv has won the Top 8 event.  He also won the Division 4 event two years ago, then the Division 3 event, last year, to emulate the similar feat achieved two years ago by Jamie Hendy, who consecutively won the Division 4, then Division 3, and then Division 1 Top 8 titles!
Player of the evening goes to Ivor. 
Sportsmanship award goes to Dylan (v Andy), where he was very magnanimous on a let call. 
Match of the evening - Charity v Nicholas.  This went to 5 sets, and Charity was 10-2 up in the fifth, but Nicholas fought back to deuce with some incredible offensive play. However, Charity just prevailed to eventually win - a great match. 

Division 3 (courtesy of Chris Paddon)
Due to lots of absenses, this ended up as a top 19 instead of 8 which is a shame, but all the same a very competitive night of Table Tennis.
In Group A, Ping Lo and Bernie Raffe went through, with Chris Welch managing a solitary victory over teammate John Bradley. In the decider for top spot in the group, Ping managed to win in the fifth set of what looked a close game (I was a little busy on the next table so didn't get to see much of this group, Chris might be able to add more)
In Group B, I started up against Jim Robinson and true to my form all season, the game went to a final set decider (for the 18th time this season...). Jim moved into a 5-0 lead at the turn but some good hitting and then a fortunate net at 9-9 saw me come out on top.
Next up, teammates Paul Hamer and Glenn Barcham squared off with Paul's chopping being too much for Glenn in a one sided 3-0 win. Paul stayed on to face me and after two 5-setters during the season I expected this one to go down to the wire yet again but with a lot of patience and well executed smashes I managed to finish this one early with another 3-0 win.
That left Jim and Glenn facing off in a must win encounter, but the good form Jim had shown in his first match deserted him as he succombed to a comprehensive 3-0 loss leaving it delicately poised at the top.
Having played and lost to Glenn twice this season, this was my chance to secure my spot in the SF but despite taking the first set, a change in style from Glenn saw him take the next two and find himself 10-6 up in the 4th. With nothing to lose, I went aggressive and the change worked to perfection as I rattled off 6 points in a row to somehow take the set 12-10. And so to another five setter, with the table next to us already finished. Once again I found myself down 5-0 down at the turn, once again I turned things around to have match points at 10-8, but a good return of serve and then a serve going long via the net rescued the match points with Glenn taking the next two for a deserved win.
With Glenn and I on two wins apiece, and Paul on one, it set up an interesting final match with Glenn cheering on his teammates opponent to ensure that both he and I qualified. And after a very one sided first set to Paul, it left us trying to work out what the tie breaker was but Jim started hitting more consistently after that and ended up winning comfortably in 4.
And so, as the hour passed 10 we were finally ready for the SFs. On one table, Ping continued his run to beat Glenn in 4, while Bernie and I got into a hitting match on the other. I do enjoy facing Bernie as our styles are quite similar so the score almost becomes secondary as we try to outhit and outwit each other and having faced three defensive minded players so far on the night, it was good to be able to feel some power in the shots coming my way. The first two sets were split before I took the 3rd and 4th to win. During the game Bernie had managed to deflect the ball into his eye which stopped the game for a brief period but thankfully he was OK, proven by him smashing the ball past me on the very next point.
And so to the final. Ping and I had two five setters during the season (there's a theme here...) with each of us having come out on top once so another long match was expected. Having three Team Runners Up trophies and Two Top Eight Runners Up trophies in my cabinet from my time in the league, I was determined to ensure that this time it would be my name on the Winners Trophy. Having had to wait around while Group B finished, and then having finished his SF much quicker than me, Ping started sluggish conceding the first set and finding himself behind early in the second,  but he managed to shake that off to go to deuce in the second. In my mind, I needed to win this set to really stand a chance as he was starting to outplay me and after multiple missed set points, I just about managed to get over the line 16-14 to take a two set lead. Not wanting to disappoint the people who had stuck around to watch, or perhaps not wanting to let them go home early, Ping took the next two with some great play to ensure I would face a deciding set for the 20th time this season. Fortunately, that meant I was very experienced in what to do in this situation (don't be 5-0 down at the turn for one...). Having been a little too passive in losing the 3rd and 4th sets I came out with more aggression and raced into a 4-0 lead, before Ping  grabbed the next four points to draw level. From there, it was very close with only a point or two in it throughout, but I managed to get ahead at the right moment to win the match and finally grab that winners trophy
In the Division Four tournament, Rupert Greyling continued his domination of the division, where he only lost once all season to earn the Trophy for best average across divisions 1-6, to take victory while MK Tornadoes took home the Cup with the youngsters no doubt eying up a spot in the Prem in the next year or two.
Thanks to Dave Bartlett and Mike Howard for organising everything. It's a shame so many of the top players in Div 3 couldn't make it but you won't find me complaining

Division 5 (courtesy of Ed Lock)

In Group A of the Div 5 Top 8 the main competitors were James Leahy, Mike Maunders and Malcolm Whetstone.

In Group B the players were Rod Lock, Ed Lock (no relation to Rod Lock), Sue Marchant and James Massa. Out of these, Ed Lock and James Massa went on to the semi finals. The first match was between Rod and Ed. Rod played a mainly chopping game, with good consistency in his shots. Ed carefully returned Rod's spin and attacked when he could (although Rod got back a number of smashes). In the end Ed prevailed. The encounter between Ed and James went to five sets. James showed good attacking skills. Near the end of the fifth set Ed managed to overtake James. It was match point at 10-8. Ed lost a point, but then James made a fault serve, giving the game to Ed.

In the match between Ed and Sue, Sue won the first two sets. At 10-6 down in the third set, it looked likely she would win. However, Ed managed to claw back the 4 points and won 12-10. Playing a securer game in the following sets, Ed won 3-2.

In the semi-finals, Malcolm Whetstone played Ed Lock while James Massa played James Leahy.

In the match between Malcolm and Ed the points were lengthy, with Malcolm continually chopping it and Ed cautiously returning these shots carefully with his pimples side. Both players also went in for attacks when the opportunity arose. Despite losing the first set, Ed went on to win the match 3-1.

On the other side of the semi-finals, James Massa prevailed against James Leahy.

The final was between James Massa and Ed Lock. In this second encounter between them, Ed this time won the match 3-0, despite James again demonstrating his considerable offensive skills.

Disions 4 & 6

Any more scribes out there willing to write a report?