Team triumphant in trip to university

By Tim Leigh in Racquet Sports

Dartington II had a fine away win against Exeter University students on a bitterly cold night on the campus.

First up was number five John Elford, drafted in to the team at short notice and who last played a team game in 1973, when the Cod Wars were in full swing and the Open University awarded its first degrees.

Despite his opponent Lane being 44 years his junior, John put up an excellent showing, narrowly losing 3-2 in the fifth. His crafty boasts and disguised drives had Lane in all sorts of trouble but in the end the student took the fifth 15/13.

Number one Guy Davies had a trademark 3-1 win over a hard-hitting Kerslake, who must have thought his luck was in. However, the world number two over 70 actually outran the 20-year-old Kers­lake, who left the court a dispirited youth.

Davies played clinging side wall shots on the backhand which kept the pressure on so that Kerslake had no opportunity to shorten the rallies.

With the match score at 1-1 Terry Ridge, the Darts number three, battered his opponent Lightbody into submission after losing the first game. This was a hard, physical encounter but once again the older man ground out a victory with some superb retrieving and well-timed boasts to the front. Ridge took the next three games to put Darts 2-1 up.

Number two Sam Balsdon was below par and lost 3-0, so the match hinged on Helen Paley, playing at number three.

This was an enthralling battle, with Paley winning the first two games against her fist-pumping opponent Williams. She took the first two games, playing excellent volleys down the side wall to length. Her command of the T at this stage was excellent.

However, the tide began to turn and Williams won the next two games, helped by some uncharacteristic errors by Paley, especially on the backhand where she tinned several balls, particularly on the volley.

The final game was a classic. The packed gallery watched in fascination as these two players battled for dominance.

Paley played to width and depth while Williams attempted to blast the ball, relying on power.

At 16-15 Paley had match ball, but with Williams stuck at the back of the court she tinned a simple drop to make the score 16-16.

One would have thought this would have been psychologically damaging to Paley as Williams himself won the next point and had match ball at 17/16.

Paley dug in and fought like an alley cat, clawing her way out her predicament with two particularly tight shots to length and width which Williams was unable to return.

At match ball at 18/17 Paley served from the right which Williams returned down the left. Paley stepped forward and, with a deft crosscourt volley to the front right, delivered the coup de grace, which left Williams a forlorn, sweat-soaked figure at the back of the court.

A superb victory for Paley and one of great importance for the team points total. As a result Darts had 16 points to the Univer­sity’s nine.

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