Three-time world champion Nick Matthew made his first Yorkshire Premier League appearance for over a year and struck what could be a decisive blow in the 2017/18 title race.
Matthew, the current world No.8 who is retiring as a pro after the Commonwealth Games in April, turned out for home club Hallamshire in their clash with Chapel Allerton 1 on Wednesday night.
Although Hallamshire are fifth and out of the running for this year’s YPL title, Leeds club Chapel Allerton 1 were the nearest challengers to leaders Dunnington.
But Matthew’s 3-1 win over Mark Fuller at top string sent Chapel A to only their third defeat of the season and allowed Dunnington to stretch their lead to an ominous-looking 26.
It was a tense night at the Sheffield club as Ben Merchant, the England U19 No.20, thrashed the home side’s fifth string Sam Davey while another talented youngster, Oscar Beach, was putting three points on the board for the hosts on the next door court against Chapel A’s Matty Powell.
Visiting captain Simon Parke, the former US Open champion, beat Alex Cutts in four games while England’s third-ranked junior Nick Wall was beating Chapel A’s experienced second string Owain Taylor.
That tied the match at 2-2 but Matthew’s win over Fuller, after dropping the first game 12/10, put a big dent in Chapel A’s hopes of defending their title.
Leaders Dunnington were without star player Chris Simpson but still conquered seventh-placed Pontefract 2. England junior Ben Cross was a straight-games winner over Katie Smith, before No.4 Matthew Stephenson won 3-0 for the tenth time this season.
Matt Godson got the Ponte crowd cheering by beating Ed Shannon at No.3, but Dunnington wrapped up a 4-1 (18-7) victory courtesy of two gruelling wins for their top two Gareth Lumsdon and Julian Tomlinson, both of whom won 11/9 in the fifth!
Meanwhile, Pontefract’s 1st team were away at Hull & East Riding where they secured an extremely tight 14-11 victory to move into second place.
Strangely, Hull actually won more games but ended up on the losing side. Their lower order of Glyn Saunders and world No.24 Fiona Moverley both won 3-0, but Alex Hodgetts’ marathon victory over Yusef Forster at No.3 ignited a Ponte comeback.
Taminder Gata Aura levelled the match at 2-2 with a four-game win, then Merseysider Patrick Rooney won a five-game tussle with Harry Falconer to clinch the five bonus points.
Fourth-placed Barnsley saw their five-game winning sequence ended by Abbeydale in another tense battle that went down to the night’s final match.
Frenchwoman Coline Aumard and Oli Turner got the Sheffield club off to a fast start, but Barnsley’s No.3 Oli Harris won his fourth YPL match in a row then Miles Jenkins beat Matthew Broadberry 3-1 to record his 10th YPL win in 11 attempts this season.
That left Abbeydale’s Grimsby-born Adam Auckland and world No.63 George Parker to go head-to-head to decide the match and it was Auckland who triumphed 11/4 in the fifth game.
Wednesday night’s final match saw bottom side Chapel Allerton 2 fall to their 13th defeat in 14 games as Queens of Halifax ran out 4-1 victors.
Chapel A 2’s Phil Davis landed an early blow with a five-game win over Danny Bray, but England coaches David Campion and Josh Taylor both won for Queens. The visitors’ Lancastrian teenager Charlie Cowie and Liverpudlian Connor Sheen then triumphed in straight games at the top of the order.