The Jets however, took this match to the very brink, and despite their second loss, look like being a real handful as the season progresses. Their contribution to an amazing match was top class, and would have been enough against less resilient and courageous teams.
As ever the format of the AJ Bell NBL always produces drama, and a number of heroes for the Saxons. It seems to be that across the team they find someone who is able to step up a level at the right time, and captain Andy Ellis stood out with a classy display in the deciding tie break of the deciding men’s doubles.
The evening commenced with a new Saxon hero in the form of debutant Tine Baun. The Dane exuded class as she dominated her game with young England player Kirby Ngan. Although pushed hard by her opponent Baun had all the weapons, time and precision to deliver a straight sets win and give Saxons a 1-0 lead in good time. Sadly, Baun injured her calf in the last set, and could not compete in the women’s doubles later, adding another twist to the balance of the match.
The mixed double saw heroes from the Loughborough victory Sean Vendy and Fee Teng Liew take on the talented Jets pair Ben Lane and Emily Westwood. There was an ebb and flow to the match that made a winner hard to pick with the Jets pair claiming a tight opening game. An inspired Vendy powered the Saxons to a 9-7 second game but Jets excellent serving gave them the edge in game 3 to peg back the Saxon pair and then a controversial line call seemed to upset Vendy’s concentration and momentum. The Jets pair did just enough in a very tight finish to win the fourth game 9-8 amongst a flurry of power plays and level the matchnight score overall.
A thrilling men’s singles followed and saw Joel Douse defeated in a fifth set tie break against Jets rising star David Jones. Douse had clawed his way back into a match where he struggled to find consistency. These matches are won and lost on fine margins and in the end the width of the net tape was enough to give Jones a 5-3 tie break win and Jets a 2-1 lead on the night.
With Suffolk Saxons staring down the barrel of a first home defeat Sarah Walker and Fee Teng Liew had to find a way past the experience of top ranking Japanese international Mizuki Fujii and Jess Hopton. Teng Liew was a late replacement for Tine Baun, and provided a top class performance under the circumstances. The Saxons pair started well and seemed to have a firm grip on the game before letting a second game slip from an 8-2 lead. Credit here to the Jets pair who played tough badminton. It takes some resolve to recover from a game loss of that type, and although both players raised their game, it was Walker who when she was presented with an opportunity to use her power, rarely failed to smash and advance to a successful conclusion of the rally. Deep breaths, gasps, and a lot of roars from the home crowd helped edge the Saxons pair to a fine victory courtesy of a dramatic 9-8 finale in the fourth game.
If Saxons fans were hoping for a more comfortable route to victory through the men’s doubles, they were never going to get it. Captain Andy Ellis, in particular, and Sean Vendy were on their game, but couldn’t quite shake off a very tight and precise game plan from Jets Chris Coles and Richard Eidestedt. The Jet pair took the game to a fifth set tie break by coming back from 2-0 games deficit and clinching a fourth set 9-8, and immediately took the power play shuttle in the hope of a decisive tie break lead. It was however not to be for the Jets, as a combination of a defiant and forceful forecourt play from Ellis, and the sheer noise of the Saxons home crowd delivered a 3-0 tie break scoreline, with the game and a matchnight 3-2 victory alongside. The crowd erupted, with joy and some relief, after another classic Suffolk Saxons victory.
The Saxon’s rise to the summit of the AJ Bell NBL may only be temporary with Loughborough Lightning and Birmingham in action later this week. For now though, the team and coach Anthony Clark should take the applause for another big step in the development of Suffolk Saxons.
Suffolk Saxons, sponsored by the University of Suffolk, now have a few weeks of the Christmas break to gather themselves for their two remaining fixtures in the New Year, starting with a tough fixture at high flying Team Derby (23 January), and a final home game (on 6 February) against University of Nottingham, where the final league placings look likely to be up for grabs.
Tim Greenacre, Registrar and Secretary at the University of Suffolk, said “We would like to congratulate the Saxons on yet another home win, a fantastic result and great atmosphere in the Ipswich Corn Exchange. We are looking forward to their next home fixture in February.” Saxon’s fans should look out for updates on travel arrangements to Derby on Monday 23 January, and book tickets early for the final AJ Bell NBL home game of the season from the Ipswich Corn Exchange box office www.apps.ipswich.gov.uk or call 01473 433100.
Match night 4 result: Suffolk Saxons 3 Bristol Jets 2
Women’s singles: Tine Baun beat Kirby Ngan 9-4 / 9-5 / 9-8
Mixed Doubles: Sean Vendy & Fee Teng Liew lost to Ben Lane & Emily Westwood 6-9 / 9-7 / 4-9 / 8-9
Men’s Singles: Joel Douse lost to David Jones 7-9 / 9-7 / 2-9 / 9-8 / 3-5
Women’s Doubles: Sarah Walker & Fee Teng Liew beat Jess Hopton and Mizuki Fujii 9-8 / 8-9 / 9-3 / 9-8
Men’s Doubles: Andy Ellis & Sean Vendy beat Chris Coles & Richard Eidestedt 9-5 / 9-6 / 3-9 / 8-9 / 3-0