Edgbaston Priory & Chichester Extend PSL Leads

22 Feb 06

Churchill Edgbaston Priory and Team Chichester extended their leads in the North and South Groups, respectively, after tonight's 7th round ties in the Premier League (PSL) - the Birmingham club defeating West Midlands rivals Wolverhampton 4/1 and the Sussex coast club edging a 3/2 away victory at UniSport Guildford.

The most comprehensive win was achieved by Surrey Health & Racquets Croydon, who celebrated their first outing of the New Year by beating last season's South Group champions Oberthur Strings Tewkesbury 5/0. Meanwhile, 1999 champions Nottingham failed to register their first win of the season, going down 1/4 at home to East Midlands rivals Benz-Bavarian Duffield.

Edgbaston players built up a healthy lead for the hosts against Wolverhampton, with Hadrian Stiff and Peter Barker winning in four games, and England No1 Vicky Botwright playing her first match since sustaining a foot injury in New York at the beginning of the month - and comfortably beating Wolverhampton's Emma Chorley 9-1 9-0 9-2 in 29 minutes. The visitors gained a consolation point after a 74-minute marathon between Adrian Grant and Wolverhampton's Alex Gough. Grant drew level after Gough forged a 2/0 lead, but it was the 35-year-old Welshman Gough who survived the 28-minute fifth game to record a notable 9-3 10-8 6-9 3-9 9-6 upset.

Stewart Boswell, however, was Edgbaston's star performer. The 27-year-old Australian, who spent most of last year fighting back from a long layoff with a mystery back ailment, was playing at top string for the first time this season. He faced compatriot Anthony Ricketts, the in-form Wolverhampton No1 and world No4 who reached last week's Canary Wharf Classic final in London. Boswell was in stunning form, and defeated Ricketts for the first time in almost four years 9-6, 9-3, 5-9, 9-1 in 45 minutes to clinch the home side's 4/1 victory.

Derbyshire club Duffield kept alive their hopes for a place in the end of season semi-final play-offs by moving up to second place in the North Group points table after beating Nottingham. The tie provided the first opportunity for the 1998 champions to show off their two British National champions - and both players duly delivered championship performances: Women's champion Tania Bailey did not allow her opponent a single point as the Lincolnshire lass crushed Nottingham's Sarah Kippax 9-0 9-0 9-0 in just 20 minutes.

After the hosts picked up their sole point when Irish international Arthur Gaskin beat Duffield's Paul Hargrave 9-6, 9-6, 6-9, 9-6, it was left to the visitors' recently-crowned British men's champion Nick Matthew to finish the tie with a flourish - repeating his win over Simon Parke in the Nationals in Manchester by beating his Yorkshire county colleague 10-8 9-7 9-6.

In fourth place in the South Group on the eve of the tie against Strings, Surrey H&RC Croydon leapt up to second place after their 5/0 drubbing of the Gloucestershire club. Part-timer Stephanie Brind scored a significant win for the visitors, beating Pakistan No1 Carla Khan 9-7 1-9 9-4 9-5. Fresh from his triumph in the British Junior U19 Championships at the weekend, Hampshire's Chris Simpson beat Surrey's Philip Nightingale 9-6 9-4 13-11 to extend the Croydon club's lead.

But Croydon star Peter Nicol, the former world No1 and world champion, provided an appropriate climax for the visitors, beating the Tewkesbury club's South African No1 Rodney Durbach 11-9 9-6 5-9 9-2 to ensure maximum points for the league newcomers.

In the other South Group clash, it was neck-and-neck throughout the evening with three matches going to fifth-game deciders before the final match was left to decide the winners of the tie. Hosts UniSport Guildford took an early lead when Londoner Alison Waters beat opponent Suzie Pierrepont after the Team Chichester star suffered a thigh strain midway through the third game which caused her to concede the match at 9-2 9-2 2-2 in Waters' favour.

The University of Surrey squad's 'man-of-the-match' award winner Jesse Engelbrecht put in an impressive performance to beat Chichester's in-form Tim Vail 9-7, 9-7, 6-9, 2-9, 9-7. In the top-string decider, Guildford's Stacey Ross delighted the packed crowd when he took the opening game against the visitors' Surrey champion Ben Garner. But Garner pulled back the deficit, then Ross suffered seven unforced errors in the third game which soon gave his opponent a 2/1 lead. The pair battled in the fourth, but it was Garner who ultimately prevailed 6-9 10-8 9-2 9-7 to give Chichester the 3/2 win which stretched their lead in the points table to 12 points ahead of Croydon and Tewkesbury, both of whom are level on 70 points.