Pontefract put first dent in Dunnington’s title charge

Pontefract 1 sent runaway leaders Dunnington crashing to their first Yorkshire Premier League defeat of the season with ex-world No.1 James Willstrop landing the knockout blow.

Willstrop, who won a Commonwealth Games gold medal in April, swept aside fellow England international Chris Simpson at top string to settle a see-saw match against the reigning champions from York.

Alex Hodgetts had started the night in fine style with a straight-games win at No.5 for the hosts, before Dunnington’s Michael Andrews sustained his 100% YPL record for the season with a marathon win over Taminder Gata Aura. Danny Hockborn then made it five wins from five for him this campaign by making quick work of Ponte’s Lewis Doughty.

The top order turned things round for Pontefract though. Debutant Harinder Pal Sandhu, the world No.59 from Chennai, India, was too strong for Dunnington’s No.2 Rob Downer, then Willstrop applied the coup de grace by brushing aside Guernseyman Simpson in three.

It was a vintage night for Pontefract as their second team visited Barnsley and returned with the five winning bonus points to move up to sixth in the table.

Barnsley were without several of their top names, including George Parker, Miles Jenkins and Laura Massaro, and Pontefract 2 exploited their weakened line-up with a 17-7 success in South Yorkshire.

Dominic Pegg, Matt Godson and teenage prodigy Sam Todd ensured the visitors’ victory was safe, despite Adam Taylor’s tight 3/2 defeat to Paul Broadberry at second string. James Pickles, making his first YPL appearance of the season, made the victory margin slightly less damaging for Barnsley by beating Billy Hawes 3/1 in the night’s closing ‘dead rubber’.

Second-placed Hallamshire cut Dunnington’s lead at the top to 21 points, after a tight 16-6 victory over Queens of Halifax. The Sheffield side needed recently-crowned England junior champion Nick Wall to finish off the visitors as the match stood at two apiece going into the top string decider.

Nat Fairhurst stepped up from Hallamshire’s Division One side successfully to topple youngster Finnlay Withington in straight games and the hosts’ Dan Lawrence also won in rapid fashion.

Back came Queens though with England coaching duo David Campion and Josh Taylor using their considerable experience against teenager Oscar Beach and Alex Cutts respectively. That set up a winner-takes-all tussle at the top of the order, which Wall – who has just turned pro – won at a canter by dispatching Charlie Cowie.

It was a big night at Chapel Allerton as the first team faced their seconds, who prop up the league table without a win so far. The derby contest broadly went according to the form book, with team captain and former British champion Simon Parke, Matty Powell and young Ben Merchant all winners in three quick games.

The first team’s No.3 Declan Christie was extended to four games by Cameron Ward in a gritty battle and second team captain Dom Hamilton provided some much needed joy with a tremendous performance to down Kiwi Joe Williams at top string in four hard-fought games.

Wednesday’s other match saw Hull & East Riding bring up 100 points and move into fifth after claiming a 17-7 victory over second-from-bottom Abbeydale,ho have now lost seven of their opening eight fixtures.

Paul Norton and Yusef Forster got the Humberside hosts off to the ideal start and although Phil Scully gave the visitors from Sheffield brief hope by beating Glyn Saunders at third string, the youthful Hull top order of Ben Smith and Ben Sockett wrapped up the win, with 3/2 and 3/1 success respectively over Adam Turner and Nick Wall snr.

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