Despite both losing away from home in Tuesday’s 10th and final round of the Premier Squash League, Exeter Diamonds and Oxford Health & Racquets clinched places in the semi-final play-offs of the world’s most prestigious squash league – Exeter for the first time at their tenth attempt.
Oxford finished in second place in Group A, behind former champions Benz-Bavarian Duffield, while Exeter claimed runners-up position in Group B behind title-holders Integrity Surrey Health & Racquets.
Derbyshire club Duffield will host Exeter in the semi-finals on Tuesday 9 April, while Croydon-based Surrey Health will entertain Oxford in the other semi.
Exeter went down 3/2 at Team Chichester – but the 10 points the team claimed were enough to secure the Devon club a semi-final berth for the first time in ten appearances in the league since 1988.
Chichester had a play-off place in their sights, but needed an emphatic win to achieve this. And the home side soon made sure of the tie win when Hannah Wright-Davies, Robbie Temple and Olivier Pett survived their matches against Exeter opponents.
But the visitors’ breakthrough came when Tim Vail beat Chichester’s Alex Gough in his first full-length match win over the former world No5. And in the top string clash, top-ranked Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema consolidated Exeter’s important points haul from the clash by beating the home side’s number one Jonathan Kemp 11-6, 4-11, 11-5, 15-13 to send the team into the play-offs.
“Although it looked easy on paper, I knew that it was not in the bag,” said a delighted Exeter team manager Adam Lingsafterwards. “Robbie Temple has the ability way above his ranking, as does Kempy, so we knew it was going to be tough.
“A gutsy two points from Barrington and Castagnet eased the worries a bit, but even then I didn’t relax. Alex Gough is always capable of a result, so I was a happy camper when Tim won 3/1! Bring on the semis!”
Oxford reached the final for the first time in 2010, but have failed to reach the play-offs since. And it was a tense night at former champions MB Nottingham – especially as the East Midlands club, winners of the title in 1999, won three of their matches in straight games.
But impressive performances by 16-year-old Alison Thomson, the recent English U17 Championship runner-up who beat experienced Scot Senga Macfie 11-3, 4-11, 6-11, 11-6, 11-9, and Kristen Johnson, who saved three match-balls to beat the hosts’ Douglas Leslie Kempsell 6-11, 12-10, 4-11, 11-9, 12-10, gave Oxford the six points they needed to take second place in the group
“We always knew it would be very close tonight and that our best chances were at four and five – but it was so close on the night,” said a relieved Oxford manager Jason Martin. “Kristen is our man of the match, saving three match balls with such incredible retrieving.
“He may be off to Canada soon, but his input this year has been terrific,” Martin added.
Nottingham finished the season just two points behind Oxford – as did Chapel Allerton, the Leeds club that beat Yorkshire rivals AJP Pontefract 5/0 to finish off the season in style.
But elsewhere in Group A, Benz-Bavarian Duffield were already assured of a place in the semis, but needed a strong home win over University of Birmingham to give themselves home advantage in the play-offs.
It was far from plain sailing when the visitors’ Deon Saffery and Chris Tasker-Grindley scored victories and Duffield hero Nick Matthew, the two-time world champion ranked two in the world, was taken the full distance by the Birmingham number one Chris Ryder.
Matthew steadied the ship, however, by winning 12-10, 4-11, 11-5, 9-11, 11-6 – and Aqeel Rehman and Chris Fulleralso came out on top to give Duffield a 3/2 win and a 23-point cushion at the top of the group tables.
It was a similar tale at the top of the Group B table where Surrey Health & Racquets beat Winchester Racquets & Fitness 4/1 away from home to ensure a convincing 17-point lead over rivals Exeter.
TWP St George’s Hill, runners-up for the last two seasons, stormed to a final 5/0 win over UWE Bristol – but the Surrey club had a mountain to climb to make the play-offs again and this season it was just too far out of reach.
RESULTS: Premier Squash League, 10th round, Tuesday 26 March 2013
Benz-Bavarian Duffield 3 University of Birmingham 2
Nick Matthew bt Chris Ryder 12-10, 4-11, 11-5, 9-11, 11-6
Joel Hinds bt Jaymie Haycocks 11-9, 9-11, 11-4, 11-5
Chris Fuller lost to Chris Tasker-Grindley 8-11, 11-4, 8-11, 11-7, 7-11
Aqeel Rehman bt Oliver Mapp 11-6, 13-11, 11-6
Fiona Scott lost to Deon Saffery 3-11, 9-11, 5-11
Chapel Allerton 5 AJP Pontefract 0
Alister Walker bt James Willstrop 11-6, 7-11, 11-5, 11-9
Chris Simpson bt Lee Beachill 11-6, 11-3, 11-3
Shaun le Roux bt Thoboki Mohohlo 11-9, 11-3, 11-7
James Earles bt Adam Taylor 11-6, 8-11, 11-5, 11-4
Carrie Ramsey bt Katie Smith 11-8, 11-4, 11-4
MB Nottingham 3 Oxford Health & Racquets 2
Eddie Charlton bt Scott Handley 11-9, 11-8, 11-9
Lewis Walters bt Mark Cairns 11-8, 11-7, 11-8
Declan James bt Rory Pennell 11-5, 11-5, 11-6
Douglas Leslie Kempsell lost to Kristen Johnson 11-6, 10-12, 11-4, 9-11, 10-12
Senga Macfie lost to Alison Thomson 3-11, 11-4, 11-6, 6-11, 9-11
Team Chichester 3 Exeter Diamonds 2
Jonathan Kemp lost to Laurens Jan Anjema 6-11, 11-4, 5-11, 13-15
Robbie Temple bt Mathieu Castagnet 11-8, 5-11, 12-10, 8-11, 11-8 (76m)
Olivier Pett bt Joey Barrington 11-7, 11-7, 4-11, 7-11, 11-9
Alex Gough lost to Tim Vail 7-11, 9-11, 11-6, 8-11
Hannah Wright-Davies bt Rhianne O’Donnell 11-8, 11-5, 11-8
Winchester Racquets & Fitness 1 Integrity Surrey Health & Racquets 4
Gregory Gaultier bt Peter Barker 12-10, 11-8, 12-14, 11-8
Robert Downer lost to Adrian Grant 11-7, 5-11, 4-11, 6-11
Alex Phillips lost to Adrian Waller 3-11, 10-12, 5-11
Scott Fitzgerald lost to Davide Bianchetti 12-10, 8-11, 6-11, 7-11
Rachel Willmott lost to Georgina Kennedy 7-11, 11-6, 8-11, 6-11
UWE Bristol 0 TWP St George’s Hill 5
Hadrian Stiff lost to Daryl Selby 9-11, 8-11, 6-11 (26m)
Thomas Ford lost to Tom Richards 7-11, 3-11, 11-7, 8-11 (32m)
Sam Ellis lost to Joe Lee 3-11, 3-11, 9-11 (24m)
Peter Joyce lost to Charles Sharpes 6-11, 8-11, 9-11 (21m)
Emma Chorley lost to Dominique Lloyd-Walter 11-8, 6-11, 4-11, 9-11 (30m)
PSL TABLES (after 10th & final round):
|St George’s Hill||10||6||4||31||19||107||69||137|
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