Another well supported competition of 28 players meant that 2 went through from 7 boxes to the next round and two ‘lucky losers’ would count their lucky stars with a trip to the last 16.
New member Paul Smith armed with a cricketing pedigree, productive lessons with Tom and a South American handicap, caused shock waves in his box matches with three straight wins. He continued his march through bandit territory with a convincing 5/2 win over Steve Watson. Having been third in his group and heading for the tunnel without an end in sight, Tony Branfield was given a lifeline by Bruce Paxton’s family who had failed to inform him of a family party on the Sunday which was a calamitous waste of his three box victories. Bruce’s loss was Tony’s gain who made the most of his good fortune with a 5/2 defeat of Martin Trees who apparently (allegedly) had forgotten about the presence of the back wall behind him. Bernie Spratt who can twizzle his racket better and more consistently than Rob Fahey contrived a defeat 4-5 at the hands of David Prophet, now Samson-like after a visit to the local barber’s shop and a resulting upsurge in strength if not footwork … David Harris had looked ominous in box matches and continued his run against the ever dangerous George Kruszynskyj who nonetheless achieved two more games than vowels in his surname. David Phillips was on a high- this would be his year, his flimsy belief based on defeating the Chairman in a box match. It was a case of hero to zero though as he crashed out to Kevin Higgins 2/5. Gus West brought some youthful vigour to the tournament squeezing past the dangerous Peter Lewis 5/4. Andy Dalton fell foul of John Miller’s serve – not the first and certainly not the last to do so, succumbing 3/5. The Chairman despite losing two box matches snuck into the last 16 courtesy of Tony Branfield’s elevation to 2nd in his group. At least Tom was spared the problem of dealing with their identical game differences. How might it have been resolved? Toss of a coin? Seniority in the Club? Or as per cricket, a super game or a super rest?
In the first quarter-final Paul Smith, now increasingly fluent in Mexican, brushed aside the Chairman, non plussed and reduced to tea pottery after a ten shot rest with a 66 handicapper! For Prophet, the predicted loss, 2/5 at the hands of the improving Branfield, spurred on by his fluorescent shoes which prompted Ted Johnson to turn in his grave in Moreton Morrell churchyard. Kevin Higgins shot into a 4/0 lead over David Harris – it’s happened to most of us – such a lead breeds complacency and lack of concentration and the lead disappeared as quickly as several current politicians’ promises. Every 5/4 score line after a 4/0 lead tells a story of dejection and disbelief. We’ve all been there! Gus West very nearly pipped ever green John Miller whose experience shone through to scrape through to another 5/4 victory.
Would the first semi-final prove a step too far for Paul Smith, for once not receiving a mighty handicap? Tony kept Paul under such pressure that Paul was forced to cry plaintively for Bernie Spratt to come to his aid. I have seen and heard many things in real tennis over 55 years but never a 66 handicapper seeking advice from a 65 handicapper! ‘Play it slow was the advice’. Paul lost 3/5. It brought an end to a great campaign that hopefully will whet his appetite for another tilt at an MMTCC trophy. In the other semi David Harris played some excellent tennis that asked too many questions of John Miller who played to a tee, the part of the Spanish Archer – ‘El Bow’.
So would ‘lucky loser’ Tony Branfield be a lucky winner of the Moreton Shield? The final was a tremendous game of fluctuating fortunes, Tony and his shoes looking constantly under pressure from David Harris’s tidy play. Knowing sages, all of them in the dedans, nodded sagely and uttered the *leedin’ obvious – this has 5?5 40 all written all over it and of course they were right. Either of them could have won that final point as David Coleman, David Vine, et al might have said. And the winner? Who would have thought it – Tony Branfield scooped his first MMTCC tournament off his own racket rather than basking in the glory of others as in the last two National Inter Clubs!