BDTA | Benalla Lawn falls short in D1 grand final thriller

By Meg Saultry

For the second year in a row, Benalla Lawn’s division one tennis team fell agonisingly short of the premiership flag, beaten by Avenel by five games.

Played in pristine conditions at Benalla Lawn Tennis Club on Saturday, the home side gained an early lead over its rival, winning three of the first four rubbers to yield a three-game advantage.

But Avenel, which finished atop the ladder following a 15-round regular season, was not a team to be put away so easily, nudging ahead with victories in the final men’s and women’s rubbers.

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With the match separated by a single game ahead of the mixed doubles, both teams put in resounding efforts to score wins in the next two rubbers, including a dominant 8-3 victory by Lawn’s Claire Sharp and Peter Jewell.

With the contest set to be decided in the final rubber of the day, Benalla's mother-and-son pairing, Pip and Will O’Donoghue fought hard to topple Avenel’s Ben Bath and Yvonne Maxwell in a tough encounter, though ultimately fell short, 4-8.

Avenel team member Ben Bath said his team was ecstatic to bring home a win in the biggest match of the season.

“The competition is getting harder every year,” Bath said.

“We’re pretty happy. It’s always good to finish the season off with a win.”

With Avenel and Benalla facing off twice this season before the grand final, Avenel came into the clash with an upper hand after winning both clashes.

Fighting for it: Benalla's Xavier Wittingslow lunges for the return forehand. 

With the biggest reward on offer in their latest showdown, Bath said his squad decided not to focus too heavily on game-plans ahead of the match.

“It was more ‘take it as it comes’ and see how the day goes,” he said.

“If we needed to have a talk about something we would, but it rolled along well.”

Though his side failed to bring home the trophy, Jewell said he was proud of the performance Lawn put in.

“It was fairly even, our two teams have been very close (all year),” Jewell said.

“They (Avenel) thoroughly deserved it though.

“But I’m pretty proud of our team, too, we’re not that far off them.”

One player Jewell had plenty of praise for this season was Will O’Donoghue, with the teen fighting hard in all three of his matches.

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“Will’s really progressed throughout the year,” Jewell said.

“He’s always had talent, but now he’s showed a lot of calmness and stability and earned his place particularly well.”

Following the contest, Avenel’s Gen Gordon was awarded ‘Best on Court’ in the final, while Maxwell won the best women's player this season. Jewell picked up the same award in the men’s section.