Norfolk seal progress to Premiership play-offs

Malcolm LovattNorfolk's first team completed a double with an 8-7 win in their last league match of the season against a strong Leicestershire side, despite having to concede two games due to an injury to Helen Newstead.Malcolm Lovatt

Norfolk's first team completed a double with an 8-7 win in their last league match of the season against a strong Leicestershire side, despite having to concede two games due to an injury to Helen Newstead.

The county got off to their usual good start with singles victories for Ian Murphy, Julie Pike and Katherine Cooper. Cooper and Toni Sturgeon then maintained their season-long unbeaten record with two solid performances while Murphy and Justin Gerrard picked up their two doubles to put Norfolk in the driving seat at 7-5 going into the mixed. Things then came unstuck with Murphy and Cooper and Mike Philpott and Sturgeon losing their games to leave the score level before Gerrard and Pike continued their excellent partnership to win the match for the travellers. In so doing Gerrard maintained his season long unbeaten run and the team won all eight of their matches. They now move on to the Premiership play-offs to be played at the National Badminton Centre, Milton Keynes on May 1 and 2.

Not to be outdone, the Norfolk second team travelled to arch-rivals Suffolk knowing that victory would secure promotion to Division Three of the Regional League. All the team had been playing in the Suffolk Open the day before so there was concern that they might be a tad a jaded. But Alex Wyett led the way in the singles with a strong two-set victory while Charlotte Crosby battled hard in three sets to win her game and maintain her season long singles win. Lucy Curran's unbeaten run came to an end, however.

Wyett maintained his strong performance by teaming up with Christian Nielsen to win both their doubles games but Andy Piff and partner James Ruthen lost both of theirs in closely fought games.

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Louise Culyer continued her season's unbeaten run, ably assisted by Curran in winning their women's doubles in stylish fashion. Crosby and Katie Price comfortably won their game against the Suffolk second pair, but then narrowly missed out against the first pair in three sets. This put the match score at 7-5 going into the three mixed games, with Norfolk requiring just one game to secure promotion. This win and the league title came by courtesy of Nielsen and Culyer who also maintained her season's unbeaten record with just two matches to play.

With the match won, the other two Norfolk pairs could have relaxed, but both pairings of Wyett and Price and Ruthen and Crosby battled furiously to win their games in three closely contested sets. to produce a 10-5 victory. The team's final matches are both against Lincolnshire, with the home match at Taverham High School on April 11 (noon).

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The Veterans wound up their season with mixed fortunes, the Over-60s beating Lincolnshire 8-4 and the Over-45s finishing up with a 'losing draw' against Leicestershire. For the Over- 45s the men won three of their four level doubles but the women lost all four, leaving Norfolk to take the four mixed doubles to win the match outright. The first three games went Norfolk's way, but they lost the fourth - so the match was decided on 'count back' of sets, ending up 14-13 in Leicestershire's favour.

See tomorrow's Rising Stars pull-out for the latest junior badminton.

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