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National Championships 2017
Over the weekend of 10th to 12th November teams representing the nine member counties of the ECBA competed in the 26th Annual National Championships, at Potters.

Each county is represented by 6 Rinks all of whom play against their opposite number in each of the other counties, with an even spread of matches across the Saturday and Sunday.

Session 1
Norfolk were off to a perfect start, winning all 3 games against Cambridgeshire to lead the way. Essex, Herts and Suffolk all started off with 4 points against Durham, Bedfordshire and Sunderland respectively.

Pl

Pts
Norfolk

3

6
Suffolk

3

4
Essex

3

4
Hertfordshire

3

4
Sunderland

3

2
Bedfordshire

3

2
Durham

3

2
Cambridgeshire

3

0
Northumberland

0

0

Session 2
Not such a good session for Norfolk this time around as they lost all 3 games to Suffolk who went top. Another 4 points for Essex moved them into second, Cambridgeshire were off the mark with a couple of wins over Durham and Befordshire got the better of Northumberland.

Pl

Pts
Suffolk

6

10
Essex

6

8
Norfolk

6

6
Bedfordshire

6

6
Cambridgeshire

6

4
Durham

6

4
Sunderland

6

4
Hertfordshire

3

4
Northumberland

3

2

Session 3
Another maximum haul for Suffolk against Bedfordshire saw them take a 6 point lead. Cambridgeshire took 4 points off Essex who nevertheless still sat in second place and Sunderland and Hertfordshire also had winning sessions which saw them sitting amongst a group of 4 teams all on 8 points.

Pl

Pts
Suffolk

9

16
Essex

9

10
Norfolk

9

8
Cambridgeshire

9

8
Sunderland

9

8
Hertfordshire

6

8
Bedfordshire

9

6
Northumberland

6

4
Durham

6

4

Session 4
Suffolk won two of their three games against Cambridgeshire to maintain their lead with Norfolk and Hertfordshire now tied for second as they picked up maximum points in the session and Essex fell back having shared the points with Northumberland.

Pl

Pts
Suffolk

12

20
Norfolk

12

14
Hertfordshire

9

14
Essex

12

13
Cambridgeshire

12

10
Sunderland

12

8
Northumberland

9

7
Bedfordshire

9

6
Durham

9

4

Session 5
Another 3 wins for Suffolk extended their lead as Hertfordshire with two wins over Essex now moved into a clear second place. They had a session in hand over Suffolk who were 8 points ahead and Essex who were 3 behind.

Pl

Pts
Suffolk

15

26
Hertfordshire

12

18
Essex

15

15
Cambridgeshire

15

14
Norfolk

12

14
Sunderland

15

10
Bedfordshire

12

9
Northumberland

12

7
Durham

12

7

Session 6
Sunderland who had been sitting in the middle of the table all day had their best session, getting 5 of the 6 points on offer against Hertfordshire. Herts stayed second but with Suffolk picking up another 3 wins their lead was now up to 13 points. Meanwhile Norfolk and Essex were now just 1 point behind Herts.

Pl

Pts
Suffolk

18

32
Hertfordshire

15

19
Essex

18

18
Norfolk

15

18
Sunderland

18

15
Cambridgeshire

15

14
Bedfordshire

15

12
Northumberland

15

9
Durham

15

7

Session 7
Herfordshire's big chance to catch up came with their session against Suffolk, but they could only win one of the games. That allowed Norfolk (3 points against Durham) and Sunderland (6 points against Bedfordshire) to all come together in second, but the gap to Suffolk had now grown to 15 points.

Pl

Pts
Suffolk

21

36
Sunderland

21

21
Norfolk

18

21
Hertfordshire

18

21
Essex

18

18
Cambridgeshire

18

18
Bedfordshire

18

12
Northumberland

18

11
Durham

18

10

Session 8
Suffolk's final session of the day saw them pick up another 6, against Essex. Norfolk took 5 from Befordshire and Herts took 4 from Cambridgeshire, as Sunderland sat out.

Pl

Pts
Suffolk

21

36
Sunderland

21

21
Norfolk

18

21
Hertfordshire

18

21
Essex

18

18
Cambridgeshire

18

18
Bedfordshire

18

12
Northumberland

18

11
Durham

18

10

Session 9 (Day 1 end of play)
As Suffolk sat out there was a chance for their nearest rivals to do some catching up, which they did. Herts took all 3 wins against Northumberland to go second while Norfolk dropped just one game against Essex to stay withing a point of Hertfordshire.

Cambridgeshire won all 3 against Beds to leapfrog Sunderland who dropped 2 games against Durham who themselves were now level with Essex. While at the foot of the table there were just 2 points between Bedfordshire and Northumberland.

Pl

Pts
Suffolk

24

42
Hertfordshire

24

31
Norfolk

24

30
Cambridgeshire

24

26
Sunderland

24

23
Essex

24

20
Durham

24

20
Bedfordshire

24

13
Northumberland

24

11

Session 10
Suffolk dropped one of their games to Sunderland but managed to extend their lead by one. It was now Norfolk who moved into second with 4 points against Cambridgeshire, with the big surprise being Hertfordshire who lost all of their games to Bedfordshire and fell 3 points behind Norfolk. Meanwhile Essex got a full house against Durham to rise up the table.

Pl

Pts
Suffolk

27

46
Norfolk

27

34
Hertfordshire

27

31
Cambridgeshire

27

28
Essex

27

26
Sunderland

27

25
Durham

27

20
Bedfordshire

27

19
Northumberland

24

11

Session 11
Norfolk had a chance to eat into that Suffolk lead but they could only take one of the points on offer. With Herts sitting out the session Norfolk stayed second but were now 16 points in arrears. Essex moved up again by taking 5 off Sunderland. Cambridgeshire picked up 4 against Durham and moved up to third.

But the crunch match was between Beds and Northumberland. This would either be an opportunity for Northumberland to catch up some lost ground or for Bedfordshire to move further away. And it turned out to be the latter as Beds took 5 points, moving them up abive Durham in the process.

Pl

Pts
Suffolk

30

51
Norfolk

30

35
Cambridgeshire

30

32
Essex

30

31
Hertfordshire

27

31
Sunderland

30

26
Bedfordshire

30

24
Durham

30

22
Northumberland

27

12

Session 12
The leaders only dropped one point to Bedfordshire and with Norfolk dropping 2 to Herts the lead was extended a little further. Cambridgeshire and Essex shared their 6 points evenly which meant that they fell one point further back from Norfolk, while Sunderland's 4 against Northumberland brought them a little closer.

Pl

Pts
Suffolk

33

56
Norfolk

33

39
Cambridgeshire

33

35
Essex

33

34
Hertfordshire

30

33
Sunderland

33

30
Bedfordshire

33

25
Durham

30

22
Northumberland

30

14

Session 13
And Sunderland did themselves and those around them a favour by winning 2 out of 3 against Norfolk. But Norfolk stayed second as Cambridgeshire lost only picked up 2 points against Suffolk and were leapfrogged by Essex who got 5 against Northumberland. Meanwhile Durham and Herts took 3 points each, returning Durham to 7th overall.

Pl

Pts
Suffolk

36

60
Norfolk

36

41
Essex

36

39
Cambridgeshire

36

37
Hertfordshire

33

36
Sunderland

36

34
Durham

33

25
Bedfordshire

33

25
Northumberland

33

15

Session 14
While Norfolk sat out the session Essex moved up to second by sharing the points with Herts and with Cambridgeshire winning 2 out of 3 against Sunderland it mean that second, third and fourth were covered by just one point and there were only 6 points between second and sixth. And the fight for 7th saw Durham move 2 points ahead of Bedfordshire.

However, despite dropped one game to Northumberland Suffolk now moved to the brink of retaining the title, they were now on 64 points, 22 clear at the top and now only Norfolk could beat them.

Pl

Pts
Suffolk

39

64
Essex

39

42
Cambridgeshire

39

41
Norfolk

36

41
Hertfordshire

36

39
Sunderland

39

36
Durham

36

29
Bedfordshire

36

27
Northumberland

36

17

Session 15
Suffolk needed 2 points for the title and playing Durham they picked up 4 to secure the win with 3 sessions still to be played.

Essex continued their good day with 6 against Bedfordshire while Herts did the same against Sunderland, removing any hope that the Northern team might be able to challenge for second place.

The big surprise though was that Norfolk were only able to pick up 2 points against Northumberland, leaving them in fourth and seeming to dent their chances of finishing second.

Pl

Pts
Suffolk

42

68
Essex

42

48
Hertfordshire

39

45
Norfolk

39

43
Cambridgeshire

39

41
Sunderland

42

36
Durham

39

31
Bedfordshire

39

27
Northumberland

39

21

Session 16
However, as Essex sat out Norfolk picked up 5 against Durham, Cambridgeshire got all 6 against Northumberland, but Herts only came away with 1 point from Suffolk which meant that it could hardly be any closer between second, third, fourth and fifth, covered as they were by just 2 points.

Pl

Pts
Suffolk

45

73
Essex

42

48
Norfolk

42

48
Cambridgeshire

42

47
Hertfordshire

42

46
Sunderland

45

39
Durham

42

32
Bedfordshire

42

30
Northumberland

42

21

Session 17
In the fight for second the biggest losers were Hertfordshire as they only won once against Cambridgeshire, although Essex did the same against Suffolk they were still in touch with Norfolk who took 4 points off Bedfordshire.

So it would be all to play for in the final session with Norfolk and Essex playing one another and separated by just 2 points, although perched between the two of them were Cambridgeshire who, playing Bedfordshire were suddenly favourites to finish second given the relative positions between them and their final opponents and the reasonable expectation that Norfolk and Essex would deprive each other of points.

Pl

Pts
Suffolk

48

77
Norfolk

45

52
Cambridgeshire

45

51
Hertfordshire

45

50
Essex

45

48
Sunderland

45

39
Durham

45

34
Bedfordshire

45

32
Northumberland

45

25

Final Session
So it was all eyes on the three teams vying for second.

And it wasn't looking bad for Cambridgeshire, two of the games resulted in good wins while the other one could have gone either way, unfortunately for Cambridgeshire a stubborn Bedfordshire team wouldn't let the game go and ended up taking the win by a single shot.

But with 4 points secured it was far from over as they had to stand by and watch the Norfolk/Essex matches conclude. With the exception of one of the games, which always looked like it was going Norfolk's way, there was no telling how it might finish. But bit by bit Norfolk were edging away.

It had been a good day for Essex up to this point, but this was their worst by far, they weren't completely out of the games by any means but they were up against a Norfolk team who knew exactly what they needed to do and were determined to do it as they won all three to secure the runner-up spot by 3 points over Cambridgeshire.

Although they had a better day on Sunday than they had on Saturday Northumberland finished 9th, a position which looked in little doubt after the lost out to their nearest rivals early in the day.

Despite only finishing 8th Bedfordshire were delighted with that result, finishing off the bottom of the standings for the first time since their debut year in 2011 and outscoring 3 other teams on Sunday.

After a fifth place finish last year Durham will be disappointed with 7th, overnight they were only 3 points behind 5th but Sunday did not go well for them, although they did hold off Bedfordshire having been in danger of finishing next to bottom.

Having finished in second place in 2016 and run Suffolk close for the Inter-County title on Friday night, 6th place for Sunderland was both a surprise and a disappointment for them. Fifth overnight they were only 3 points behind Cambridgeshire at that point and given that Cambs only just fell short of second Sunderland will know that they could have done much better.

Up until the very end Essex had had a very good Sunday but their last 6 games yielded only 2 points leaving them in 5th place. But despite that they still outscored everyone except Suffolk on Sunday. However if that last session had gone their way instead of Norfolk's they are the ones would have finished in second place overall.

There was a faint hope at the very end that Hertfordshire might, if the results had gone exactly right for them, have finished second. They did all they could, but the odds were always against it. While fourth place represented a big improvement on last year's seventh place, they were second overnight and may feel a little disappointed with the final outcome.

After finishing 6th last year Cambridgeshire must be very pleased to have improved to third this year and to have come so close to finishing as runners-up, particularly since they had started off pretty slowly on Saturday. It was a sterling effort to haul themselves up bit by bit across the weekend.

Norfolk were understandably delighted with their second place finish, their best ever showing in the National Championships, so often we see them have a good first day but fade away on the Sunday, but not this time. And with everything to play for the in the final session of the weekend they held their nerve admirably.

But of course the winners by some margin and for the fifth consecutive year were Suffolk. After a very strong Saturday, Sunday was not quite so good, but even so they outscored everyone else on both days and had the title wrapped up with 3 sessions still to go.

This is the tenth time they have taken home the trophy, but even so they still have along way to go before they match Cambridgeshire's tally of 15 wins.

The full set of results can be found here.

Sat

Sun

Total
Suffolk

42

35

77
Norfolk

30

28

58
Cambridgeshire

26

29

55
Hertfordshire

31

23

54
Essex

20

30

50
Sunderland

23

20

43
Durham

20

16

36
Bedfordshire

13

21

34
Northumberland

11

14

25