Lillington Free Church’s Junior Boys were in action at the Derby Arena, competing in the second and final weekend of the Junior British League for 2017/18 and the triumvirate of Ricardo Bolanos, Jack Green and Nikit Sajiv can be immensely proud of their efforts after hauling back a first weekend deficit to end up Champions of Division 3B.
The Lillington side, who have been sponsored for the event by local IT solutions provider, NS Optimum, began the weekend in second place, two points adrift of leaders, Formby, and three ahead of third placed Ormesby. Lillington would face both on day two of the weekend but would first need to overcome the other three sides to give themselves a chance of taking honours.
First opponents, Pompey, were only able to field two players so immediately conceded two points, leaving Bolanos, Green and Sajiv needing to pick up a further two. Bolanos and Green secured the result with wins against Thomas Poynter and Yaj Vashee respectively, but the team were unable to extend the winning margin and the match finished 4-2.
With the potential for things to be very tight at the top of the table, Lillington went into the match against bottom side, Plymouth, determined to do what they could to improve their games ratio. Sajiv took his first wins of the weekend, beating Jarvis Lee and Oliver Cornish in confident style. Bolanos also beat Cornish, as well as Ben Edmunds, with Green beating both Edmunds and Lee in straight games to complete a 6-0 win for the loss of only three games.
The last match on Saturday was against Wood Green and Green found himself in all sorts of trouble in the opener as he went 2-0 down against Ben McDonald registering just three points in those two games. Green, though, remained calm and adjusted his tactics to complete an excellent comeback and win 3-2. McDonald registered a point for Wood Green with a straight games win over Bolanos but that was all Wood Green could muster. Bolanos beat Luke Gittins 3-0, Sajiv oozed class as he blew away Alex Lee and Gittins, and Green completed a 5-1 win with a comeback win over Lee.
It was mission accomplished on Saturday, with Lillington taking six points from a possible six. Table-topping Formby had dropped a point the previous day when they drew with Ormesby which meant that two wins on Sunday would see Lillington crowned champions.
Green endured a tough start against Ormesby, losing to their number one player, Luke Robinson 3-1. Bolanos then took to the table against Ben Savage who, with Kevin De Bruyne-like accuracy on his blocks, extended the lead with a 3-1 win. Sajiv continued his excellent form by rushing to a 2-0 lead against Chris Edwards before being pegged back to a decider. The youngest member of the Lillington team belied his years, though, holding out under extreme pressure to pull a point back for his team. When Bolanos was unable to make a dent in Robinson, the win was no longer possible and attention turned to avoiding defeat. Sajiv returned to the table and saw off Savage 3-1 before Green showed outstanding composure to beat Edwards 3-2 and salvage a draw for Lillington. The significance of the draw was that, as well as keeping them within touching distance of first, it meant Ormesby could not catch them so second place and promotion was guaranteed.
The final match of the weekend and, indeed, the JBL season, was set up nicely. Formby were two points clear and win for Lillington would see them level on points and having to rely on countback. Lillington number one, Bolanos, had been suffering with illness over the weekend but dug deep when his team needed him the most to first beat Yameen Al-Dahari 3-2 and then the number six ranked cadet in the country, Rhys Davies 3-1. Davies had beaten Green 3-1 and Sajiv had blitzed Joshua Parker to put Lillington 3-1 ahead. Sajiv, though couldn’t quite get over the line against Al-Dahari, losing the deciding game. It was down to Green to make sure of the win and then see what transpired on countback. Knowing that each game for and against mattered, Green secured a 4-2 win for his side with a 3-0 demolition of Parker which left the two teams tied at the top of the table, equal on points. When the results were entered and the final calculations completed, Lillington’s superior record of games won to games lost over the two weekends saw them lift the trophy.
The trio have secured the Division 3B title, promotion to Division 2 for the 2018/19 season and served to enhance the reputation of their club with an excellent display of teamwork, focus and attitude over the two weekends. They will no doubt hope for similar success next year.
Pictured: The Lillington Junior Boys Junior British League team receiving the Division 3B Winners trophy from the Chair of Table Tennis England, Sandra Deaton. (L-R) Nikit Sajiv, Jack Green, Ricardo Bolanos.