The second and final weekend of the 2018/19 Junior British League competition took place at the Derby Arena, with the two Lillington sides hoping to build on the experience gained from a tough first-weekend campaign.
The NS Optimum Lillington Boys team, with the continued kind sponsorship of the local IT solutions provider, started the weekend in 5th place of Division 2A, level on points with bottom placed Sussex Blades.
The first match for the boys’ team of Ricardo Bolanos, Jack Green and Nikit Sajiv was against London-based Greenhouse Sports. Greenhouse, looking to break into the top two of the division, were highly focused and although three of the six games went the distance, Green’s win over Josh Amanor was all the reward they got, losing the match 1-5.
Things weren’t likely to get any easier when the second opponents of the weekend arrived in the guise of Ormesby B. The Middlesbrough based club are traditionally strong and their second string were clear at the top of the division. Bolanos pushed Ben Piggott all the way but couldn’t quite get over the line, leaving it to Sajiv to save the whitewash with a fine win over Adam Webster. Another 1-5 defeat for Lillington.
Saturday’s last match brought some relief, with Lillington securing a 3-3 draw against St Mary’s Tigers. The outfit from Hull had Ché Goulbourne in imperious form, not conceding a single set, but Bolanos, Green and Sajiv all contributed to secure the point. Bolanos beat Rowan Jones 3-1, with Green and Sajiv both putting paid to Eshan Jawadi.
Sunday brought with it two matches to finish the season. The first was Cardiff City and an incredibly sharp trio of Joseph Roberts, Martin Johnson and Benedict Watson steamrollered through to a 6-0 win.
The curtain came down for Lillington with a fixture against Sussex Blades, one which would determine which team would finish above the other. The Blades held the advantage, being 1 point ahead, which meant Lillington would need a win. Green got them off to a great start with a five set win over Owen Brown, including a stunning comeback in the fifth and deciding set. Bolanos was unable to find a way past the tricky long-pimpled Charlie Graham-Adams, but Sajiv restored the lead by taking out Will Mitchell.
Bolanos fought hard against Brown, but lost a tight game in the fifth, after which Green stepped up to comfortably defeat Mitchell 3-0. This left Sajiv needing to beat Graham-Adams to secure the win but, alas, he was unable to find an answer to the unorthodox opponent and the match ended in a draw.
Ormesby B were clear winners of the division, with Cardiff City trailing them by four points. Lillington finished in last place, just a single point behind Sussex Blades.
The Lillington Girls started their second weekend at this level of competition at the foot of Division 3, a point behind Byng Hall and were seeking to improve on their first weekend results which had yielded two draws.
Wensum were the first opponents for Emily Beasley, Milly Green and Ciara Hancox and Green almost got them off to a perfect start against the deceptively effective Victoria Coll, pushing her all the way before just missing out in the deciding set. Beasley then stepped up for her own five-setter, showing good determination to beat Natasha Johnson 3-2. Beasley completed a fine double when she beat Coll 3-2 and Hancox added one of her own in yet another five set game to secure an opening draw for the girls.
Woodfield were the second team on the roster and the first weekend’s experience suggested they would be right up there competing for honours. Beasley and Hancox were on the wrong end of a couple of matches which went all the way, with Beasley managing to take out Ruby Bennett for the sole point in a 1-5 defeat.
Mid-table Bishop’s Auckland also handed out a 1-5 loss for the girls with their number 1, Pravesha Ravi, cruising through her games. Hancox missed out in five against Amy Mold, but Green picked up a fine win against Ebony Hempsell to avoid a pointless return for Lillington.
The crunch match against Byng Hall came first thing on Sunday morning and the girls raised their game for the occasion, triumphing 4-2 in a match where half of the games went the distance. All three showed they had good mental strength to back up their play with Beasley, Green and Hancox all coming through deciding sets. Beasley beat Nicola Dawson and Green and Hancox put paid to Isabel Webb. The fourth point was taken by Hancox, beating Dawson.
The JBL season concluded with a match against Ormesby, which the northern side won 4-2. Green took one of the points with a great win against Reem Raseem and Beasley the other, also against Raseem.
Wensum topped the Divison 3 table, two points clear of Woodfield. Lillington, despite an excellent draw against the eventual winners, were unable to overhaul Byng Hall and finished a point behind them.
After the Boys 3A title winning season of 2017/18, 2018/19 proved to be a far more difficult affair for the club. The boys, having gained promotion, found themselves in a very strong division and can be pleased with their efforts against the high quality opposition, even if the results weren’t always as they would have wanted. The girls, too, can be proud of their play over the two weekends. Their first exposure to the top team competition in the country was always going to be hard, but they fought well and improved with every match. The sides will doubtless be back next season, looking to continue to raise the bar.