Loughborough turn the tables on reigning NBL champions Team Derby

Loughborough Sport kept their 100 percent record going in the 2015/16 AJ Bell National Badminton League (NBL) with a fantastic 4-1 victory over Team Derby at the Sir David Wallace Sports Hall on campus.

The result was an important one for the Loughborough team, having lost out to Team Derby in last year’s final in a close fought encounter. Not only that, but it sees Loughborough go top of the NBL table for the first time ever, with a very much home grown team consisting of four current students and two graduates.

On the front foot from the off, Andy Smith was a class above his young Derby counterpart Alex Dunn, racing into 6-0 lead before taking the first game 9-4. The Beijing Olympian was in impressive form as he dispatched his opponent in straight games on his second appearance in a Loughborough shirt.

I’ve got more experience in singles than mixed. Mixed last time we didn’t play particularly well as a first game together – it just takes a bit of getting used to. Tonight we wanted to get some good momentum, so it’s a really good start.

Up next were Jenny Wallwork and Viki Williams, and the newly paired duo also got off to a flying start, taking the first game against Kate Robertshaw and Gail Emms 9-3. The Derby duo pegged back captain Wallwork and debutant Williams though and continued their momentum to go 2-1 up.

The pressure was on the Loughborough girls in the fourth game, and with the Derby duo just two points from victory they rallied, but couldn’t quite save the match, succumbing 1-3. Post-match Jenny Wallwork commented:

We were really happy with how we started the game. We did come out quick. But unfortunately somewhere along the way we lost our momentum. We made a few mistakes and we lost a bit of confidence and I think that sort of showed throughout the rest of the match and we never really regained that confidence in trying different shots. It was tough.

The positive starts continued as Chloe Birch took to court in the women’s singles against 15 year old talent Grace King. Birch was in a business-like mood though, winning the first game 9-3. A Team Derby time-out at 5-1 in the second game wasn’t enough to throw Birch off her rhythm though, as she won the game 9-4.

Starting the third and final game with a Power Play, Birch was immediately two points to the good and quickly ran out a 9-1 winner to secure the match.

I think everyone has taken confidence from every game and everyone is playing really well. It’s a lot better start than last year and I think everyone is getting used to the NBL and really enjoying it this year, instead of being a bit nervous like last year.

It was great to see Harley Towler back in action after an almost year long layoff due to wrist surgery and he played his first match back alongside Peter Briggs in the men’s doubles. They faced perhaps the toughest task of everyone in purple, as they took on the unbeaten pairing of Andy Ellis and Chris Coles.

It was first blood Derby, and the second game looked to be going the same way at 7-8. However a tactical use of their Power Play saw the Loughborough lads bag two points, and with it the game, taking it to 1-1.

The third game was equally ferocious with both pairs exchanging a series of smashes but Briggs and Towler were on top. At that point the Derby duo’s frustration bubbled over, Coles yellow carded for descent. It didn’t distract the Loughborough men though as they took the third game to take the lead.

In the fourth of five thrilling games, the momentum swung yet again, Derby squaring the match. That meant it went to the shorter fifth and final game, where the home pair squandered two match points. It was third time lucky though, much to the delight of the extremely vocal home crowd, as the pair wrapped up victory 5-4.

The support is fantastic. It didn’t just give us a boost, it was throwing off the opposition a bit on some critical points,

said Briggs.

On his return to action, Towler added:

For me it’s really good to get back on the court and it’s great to be back in the NBL. I missed the last league match and the play-offs last year, so this atmosphere is brilliant and you only get to do it 5 or 6 times a year. It’s brilliant to finally win a 5-4 in front of a home crowd as well!

With match-night victory already assured it was left to Greg Mairs and Jenny Moore to put on a show for both the crowd and the Sky Sports cameras. That they did, playing some strong badminton to overcome Ben Stawski and Tiara Samuels in straight sets.

Naturally they were thrilled with the 4-1 event night victory and Moore surmised:

Tonight was really good, especially after the NBL final last year where it was so close at 3-2. We all wanted to prove that we could beat them tonight and we showed exactly that, so I am really happy for everyone in the team.

After the Christmas break Loughborough Sport make the journey south to take on Surrey Smashers on 11th January 2016. 

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2020 QS World University Rankings and top in the country for its student experience in the 2018 THE Student Experience Survey.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 4th in the Guardian University League Table 2020, 5th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020 and 8th in The UK Complete University Guide 2020.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Specialising exclusively in postgraduate-level study, Loughborough University London is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers cutting-edge master’s and PhD degrees, as well as business collaboration, research and enterprise opportunities.

The seven specialist institutes at Loughborough University London include: Design Innovation, Digital Technologies, Diplomacy and International Governance, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, International Management, Media and Creative Industries, and Sport Business. Close industry partnerships with a wealth of leading businesses and creative organisations means teaching and learning is informed by real-life challenges and driven by true industry pressures.