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National Championships 2012
The 2012 National Championships were held at the Potters Leisure Resort, over the weekend of 5th - 7th October.

The weekend started well for Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Essex who all started with 3 wins out of 3 in the first session, while South Tyneside and Bedfordshire both won 2 and lost 1.

The second session saw Cambridgeshire and Suffolk record another 3 wins, while Essex recorded their first loss to drop 2 points off the lead. Bedfordshire took another 2 wins and were now fourth.

While Cambridgeshire maintained their perfect record through the third session Suffolk lost theirs, giving Cambridgeshire a clear 2 point lead. Essex were a further 2 points back, although they were fully 5 points clear of the next team, South Tyneside, who headed a pack of seven teams who themselves were covered by just 5 points. That included Sunderland who picked up 6 points in the session after having picked up just 2 in the previous 6 games, and Durham who took a couple of wins to finally get themselves off the mark.

Twelve games and 4 sessions in and Cambridgeshire had still not dropped a point. They now led by 3 points as Suffolk beat Essex 5-1, leaving Essex 6 points adrift of second place. Sunderland were now picking up the pace, another maximum points haul brought them up to fourth place, just a point behind Essex, while South Tyneside were maintaining their solid run and were lying fifth.

It took all the way up until the fifth session for Cambridgeshire to finally drop a point, but even then they extended their lead as a bad session for Suffolk dropped them to 6 points behind. However they themselves were still 4 points clear of 3rd which was now a tie between South Tyneside and Essex.

The next session saw the top 2 teams playing one another, giving Suffolk an opportunity to catch up with Cambridgeshire, if not at least close some ground on them. But Cambridgeshire came out on top, taking 5 of the 6 points from the encounter. And with Essex taking 6 points from the session they now moved up into second place, nine points behind the leaders, while Suffolk dropped to third, only one point ahead of South Tyneside, with Sunderland a further 2 points back.

The seventh session of the day saw Cambridgeshire record their first loss. Suffolk took 3 wins which moved them back into second, cutting the lead very slightly. Meanwhile Sunderland and Essex were tied for third, 3 points off second place and 11 points behind the leaders. South Tyneside were next, followed by Hertfordshire who were in a solid 6th place. But behind those teams there was a huge struggle amongst the last four teams who were covered by just 2 points. Durham, Norfolk and Northumberland were all on 12 points, while Bedfordshire had faltered after a strong start and were in last place on 10 points.

The penultimate session saw Cambridgeshire take another maximum to extend their lead back up to 10 points as Suffolk dropped a game. A further five points back Sunderland and Essex were still locked together in 3rd place.

Saturday's final games saw Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Essex all record 3 wins to secure themselves safely into the top 3 positions. Cambridgeshire had had a tremendous day with only one loss and 2 draws from 27 games, to finish the first day on 50 points. Suffolk were all of 10 points adrift of the leaders, while Essex were a further 5 points back on 35 points. Sunderland were safely in fourth place with 31 points, but the bottom 6 teams were all much closer. The surpise package so far, South Tyneside led the pack on 23 points, Hertfordshire were just 2 points behind, while they had Durham just a point behind them on 20 points. Norfolk and Northumberland were only just behind on 18 points while in last place, slightly adrift on 14 points, after having made a promising start in the first couple of sessions.

Cambridgeshire started off the day with a dropped point, allowing Suffolk to close the gap slightly, to 9 points. Meanwhile Sunderland failed to score which left the now 8 points behind third placed Essex.

Cambridgeshire lost only their second game of the weekend in the day's second session, but Suffolk also dropped a game, missing out on the opportunity to get any closer to the leaders. Essex took all three wins to close the gap to the top slightly, while Sunderland again failed to score. They now had Hertfordshire only 2 points behind them.

The top two teams took maximum points for the first time on Sunday in the third session of the day, while Essex were only able to score one win and were falling further behind.

Halfway through the final day and Cambridgeshire had their lead back up to 10 points. They were now on 69, Suffolk were on 59 and Essex on 50. Sunderland had re-established themselves in fourth place on 42 points, nicely ahead of Hertfordshire who led a closely packed group. Herts were on 34 points, Durham were 2 behind and South Tyneside were a further one point beind on 31 points. Norfolk were on 29, Northumberland had 26 and at the tail of the field Bedfordshire were now 8 points adrift on 18 points.

Cambridgeshire extended that lead to 12 points over Suffolk with another 3 wins in the next session, with Essex closing the gap to second spot by a couple of points. Durham moved up to 5th, shuffling Hertfordshire down one place in the standings.

Suffolk's only chance of making a run at Cambridgeshire would be in the next session, as the two teams played one another. As it was Cambridgeshire had the better of it, taking 2 of the 3 games and further extending their lead to 14 points.

With a 14 point lead Cambridgeshire knew that if they won all of their games in the next session they would be sure of retaining the title. And they did just exactly that. As it was Suffolk lost one of their games which meant that they were now 16 points behind with fully 2 sessions and half a dozen games still to be played.

The penultimate session saw the top two teams once again achieve maximum points and by now all top three positions were settled.

Final Standings
After a promising start Bedfordshire had dropped to the bottom of the standings during Saturday's play and had stayed there all through Sunday, despite a better second day.

Hertfordshire had sat as high as 5th place up until the middle of Sunday's play, but a a disappointing afternoon which saw the unable to take a single point from their last 15 games saw them fall to 9th place by the end.

South Tyneside were another team who had started strongly and were up to fourth place during Saturday's play, but Sunday went less well for them and they eventually slid down to finish 8th, albeit an improvement on the previous year.

Following on from an impressive 3rd place showing last year Norfolk might have expected better than their eventual 7th place, but it was at least something of a recovery from a poor start to the weekend which had seen them as low as 9th early on Sunday.

It was, though, a better year for Northumberland. Last year they finished 9th, this year they moved up to 6th, although they were just one point ahead of both Norfolk and South Tyneside.

Well into Saturday afternoon Durham had been languishing at the bottom of the standings, a surprisingly poor start had seen them yield just 6 points from their first 18 games. However they earned 50 points in their final 36 games, pulling them up to a respectable 5th place, only 2 points behind the best placed Northern team.

And it was Sunderland held that honour. They also started slowly, but were up to third by Saturday afternoon. However Sunday say them fall away from the top three teams, although they were able to hang on to 4th spot despite a rapidly closing Durham team.

Essex achieved their best showing in the Championships with an impressive 3rd place finish, a position which they held from pretty much the entire weekend, repelling the challenge of Sunderland to finish 12 points clear of the 4th placed team.

Once again the fight for the top spot was between Cambridgeshire and Suffolk. In past years Suffolk's tally of 81 points might well have been enough to take the title, but this year it was not even close. They finished all of 16 points behind a hugely impressive Cambridgeshire team who finished with 97 points from a maximum possible 108 points, having recorded an unprecedented 47 wins from 54 games. They led from the very start and were never headed and thoroughly deserved to take the title yet again.

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You can download a full copy of the results here.

Updated 8th October 2012