Loughborough Lightning Badminton kept their Championship Final hopes alive thanks to a thrilling 3-2 home victory against newcomers Bristol Jets. Victories for Chloe Birch and Henri Hurskainen left the match hanging in the balance at 2-2 going into the men’s doubles, however alumni Harley Towler and Peter Briggs ensured Loughborough got the result they needed.
London 2012 Olympic silver medallist Mizuki Fujii and her partner Ben Lane proved too good for an untried Lightning mixed doubles partnership of Peter Briggs and Viki Williams in the first event, who despite a valiant attempt at a comeback in the fourth game (where they came from 2-8 down only to lose 8-9) lost out three games to one.
Captain Chloe Birch was on court next, and she brushed aside young England international Kirby Ngan thanks to some phenomenal badminton. A first game score-line of 9-2 set the tone, with Birch taking the next two 9-3, 9-2 in ‘lightning’ quick fashion.
Birch commented post game: “I knew I could use my pace and just go out there and get on top, and thankfully it came off. Sometimes they can be the tricky games as you’re expected to win, but it’s great to show my experience and really dominate.”
After a slightly tentative start Swedish number one and Loughborough fans favourite Henri Hurskainen came from behind to win both the first game and the event. Taking the first 9-8, Hurskainen went on to win the second and third games 9-6 against his compatriot Alex Lane, to put Lightning in front on the night.
Chloe Birch returned to court for the women’s doubles alongside Loughborough University student Jordan Hart. After victory last time out, the new look pairing took the first game 9-7 having trailed early on, but lost an extremely close second game 8-9.
Hart, making her home debut, was really flourishing alongside friend and partner Birch, as they pushed on to take the third game 9-6 but the fourth game went the opposite way with the same scoreline. That sent it to a tiebreaking fifth game, where Bristol came out on top, to level the match night 2-2.
That meant Lightning’s fate was in the hands of alumni Harley Towler and Peter Briggs, who are known for fifth game tiebreakers. Thankfully they started on the front foot, taking the first game convincingly 9-5. From there it was relatively plain sailing, and although the third game was a nail biter at 9-8, the boys in purple took a 3-0 win to secure a 3-2 match night victory for Loughborough Lightning.
Of the victory Lightning Head Coach Andy Wood said: “I’m really pleased with getting three points on the board against a tough Bristol team. The line-up in all five disciplines looked really tight, so for us to come through in three is great and keeps us in a strong position. The NBL is so difficult to plan and prepare for, so we just need to go point for point and compete in all five rubbers against Derby in our final game.”
Tickets for that match against Derby on Monday 6th February, Lightning’s final home game of the season, are available here.
Report courtesy of Loughborough University