Hird is the Word for NEWBA at the Junior Welsh Nationals

This weekend saw the 2019 Victor Junior Welsh Nationals, where a small contingent of NEWBA players descended on Cardiff to compete against Wales' best.

Day one featured the U11, U15 and U19 age groups, competing in the singles, level doubles and mixed doubles events.

First up was the singles. In the U15 event Matthew Swash, was our only representative in this age group and with being seeded 3, there was a lot of expectation on his shoulders.

Having had a bye in the first round, Matthew had to wait to see who his first opponent was. After a tough first round battle Matthew was to face the very talented Eshaan Patil. After a slow start Matthew went down in the first game 17-21, but followed up strongly winning the match 21-13, 21-14.

This put Matthew into the semi-finals, where he was to meet Harper Leigh [2]. Although ranked lower, Matthew went into the semi-final match with the capability to beat Harper. Matthew again started slowly losing the first game 14-21, but in a second game thriller Matthew came back strong winning 26-24, which meant it came down to the third game. Again it was a close affair til the mid-way point, but Matthew found it to tough after a change of tactics from Harper, which saw Matthew go down 13-21.

In the U19 Girls singles, we were represented by Carys Jones and Jess Ding. Carys started out with a tough first round draw against number 2 seed Aimie Whiteman. On this occasion Aimie showed her strength beating Carys 21-8, 21-9.

Jess had a more comfortable first round, beating Emily Goode 21-10, 21-18. That win put Jess through to the semi-finals, where she would meet Aimie Whiteman [2]. Although this was going to be an extremely tough task for Jess to cause an upset, she started the game positively and kept in the rallies, producing some excellent shots to keep her in them under extreme preasure from Aimie. Unfortunately the score didn't reflect the way Jess played, with her going down 5-21, 6-21.

In the U19 girls doubles, there was a group of 4 pairs competing for the title. One of those pairs were NEWBA's Carys Jones who teamed up with Lily Hird. Having won the Silver last year, they were both raring to go one better. After two wins, they were one step away from taking the Gold, but they had two very tough opponents in Lowri Hart and Aimie Whiteman who had just competed against each other in the girls singles final. Again it wasn't to be this year for the pair as they went down 11-21, 17-21 to the top seeds, but still an excellent result.

In the U19 mixed doubles, after her success in the girls doubles, Lily teamed up with younger brother Liam Hird. Again this event was played in a group and what was to follow made for a very exciting event. After all the games were played the winners of the group were easy to work out. Daniel Clarke and Aimie Whiteman took the title winning all their games. The silver medal position was a lot harder to work out, with three pairs all finishing on the same amount matches won. This meant that the calculators had to come out and fortunately for Liam and Lily, having taken one of their losing matches to three, meant that Silver was theirs.

Day 2 featured the U13 and U17 age groups. and representing us in the singles was Liam Hird and Jess Ding. Liam was first up against Jonathan Ewins. In what was to be one of the closest games of the day, Liam started of really well going point for point with Jonathan up until the very last, where Jonathan battled to win the first game 21-19. Liam came into his own in the second with a dominant performance winning 21-15. So it was all down to the third. Again this went point for point until Jonathan broke through winning 22-20.

Jess had a replay of day one, with her draw exactly as it was the day before. Again she comfortably beat Emily Goode to set up a second meeting with Aimie Whiteman in the semi-finals. And again Jess walked away with the same scoreline as the previous day, losing 5-21, 6-21.

In the mixed doubles Liam teamed up with Jess, again competing in a group to find the winners. This time it was a much simpler affair, with the title going to Daniel Clarke and Aimie Whiteman and the silver going to Liam and Jess who had beat the rest of the field.

Overall it was a successful weekend for NEWBA players, with some strong performances from all who competed, but it was great to see such strength and depth from the players across Wales, with a number of the events having a number of players who could have taken the title.

Roll on next year!!!

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