Suffolk Saxons pull off smash-and-grab raid at Loughborough

LOUGHBOROUGH, GBR  28 November 2016  National Badminton League  Loughborough Lightnings Greg Mairs & Jenny Moore vs Suffolk Saxons Sean Vendy & Fee Teng Liew. Match played in the Loughborough University Netball & Badminton Centre (Photo by David Crawford / www.stillsport.com)

LOUGHBOROUGH, GBR  28 November 2016  National Badminton League  Loughborough Lightnings Greg Mairs & Jenny Moore vs Suffolk Saxons Sean Vendy & Fee Teng Liew. Match played in the Loughborough University Netball & Badminton Centre (Photo by David Crawford / www.stillsport.com)

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Suffolk Saxons added another scalp to their impressive AJ Bell National Badminton League campaign with a magnificent victory at Loughborough University last night.

The match night three fixture has already been heralded on social media as the best ever match the league has staged, as spectators left the arena exhilarated and exhausted, as the Saxons team ramped up the excitement with a 3-2 victory, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

Once again an inspired team spirit and a willingness to compete for every point was on display from Anthony Clark’s outfit.

To claim a first victory at the home fortress of Loughborough Lightning, unbeaten at home all of last season, will send a shockwaves across the very open AJ Bell NBL.

The match opened with the men’s doubles, with Sean Vendy and Andy Ellis taking the cagey match to the fourth set before the more consistent play of Peter Briggs and Harley Towler clinched the first point of the evening for Loughborough.

Next up was Chloe Birch, the Loughborough captain, again protecting a long unbeaten singles record in the AJ Bell NBL, against Saxon’s rising Danish star Julie Finne-Ipsen, who was so impressive in both singles and doubles against Surrey last month.

Finne-Ipsen, who had reached a singles semi-final spot at the Scottish Open on Saturday, took a little while to find her way against an equally resilient opponent.

The Dane is, however, a crowd favourite with Saxons fans, and inspired by the fantastic travelling support of largely University of Suffolk students, she eased into another gear to take the critical fourth set, and take the match to a tie break fifth.

An immediate successful use of the power-play and a powerful final rally saw Finne-Ipsen claim the first of what would be two sudden-death fifth set victories.

The men’s singles that followed was always going to a huge test for Saxons’ developing talent Johnnie Torjussen against highly-ranked Swedish star Henri Hurskainen.

Despite an attacking strategy from the young Saxon, the all-court coverage and power of the Swede provided a 2-1 match lead for Lightning.

From thereon, words do not really come close to truly describing the cut-and-thrust and nerve-jingling excitement of both the women’s doubles and mixed doubles ties.

In truth, Finne-Ipsen and Sarah Walker should have secured a slightly more comfortable win against Viki Williams and Chloe Birch, after letting a second game lead slip, losing 9-8 and finding themselves 2-0 down.

A comfortable third game for the Saxon’s pair was followed by a match point save, and a 9-8 win before clinching a 5-2 tie break.

This was high quality play by all four girls and eventually came down to who could edge across the line first. Walker and Finne-Ipsen stepped up and are a very strong pair in this competition.

And so to the deciding mixed doubles. It was as if Anthony Clark had written the script, as the result could not have come in a more dramatic fashion.

Loughborough Lightning seemed in total control at 2-0 up in the mixed doubles but, after a Clark timeout, England rising stars Vendy and Fee Teng Liew, making her Suffolk debut, produced a stunning comeback to send the travelling Saxons fans home happy.

A special mention to those fans who kept up the Saxons ‘roar’ going all evening.

It was undoubtedly a very happy journey back to Suffolk, courtesy of Suffolk Norse, who provided free transport to fans.

The magnitude of this victory for Saxons should not be underestimated, and sets up beautifully a clash with fellow AJ Bell newcomers Bristol Jets at what is expected to be another full house at the Ipswich Corn Exchange on Monday (December 5).

* Tickets are available from the Ipswich Corn Exchange box office www.apps.ipswich.gov.uk or by calling 01473 433100.

SCORES: Loughborough Lightning 2 Suffolk Saxons 3

Mixed doubles: Peter Briggs/Harley Towler 3-1 Sean Vendy/Andy Ellis (c) 9-7 / 4-9 / 9-2 / 9-3

Women’s Singles: Chloe Birch (c) 2-3 Julie Finne-Ipsen 9-5 / 7-9 / 9-2 / 3-9 / 0-3

Men’s Singles: Henri Hurskainen 3-0 Johnnie Torjussen -9-5 / 9-2 / 9-5

Women’s Doubles: Chloe Birch/Viki Williams 2-3 Sarah Walker/Julie Finne-Ipsen - 9-5 / 9-8 / 3-9 / 8-9 / 2-5

Mixed Doubles: Greg Mairs/Jenny Moore 2-3 Sean Vendy/Fee Teng Liew - 9-6 / 9-1 / 7-9 / 4-9 / 0-3