Defeat for Worksop table-tennis ace Sam Walker in the final set of the deciding match ended England’s quest for team gold at the Commonwealth Games.
However, Walker erased the pain by consoling himself with a bronze medal as England bounced back from a semi-final defeat by Nigeria to defeat Singapore in the third place play-off.
Walker said: “I don’t think we were shocked by Nigeria, but they definitely played some of the best table tennis they’ve ever played.
“We were ready, but they took us a little bit by surprise with how well they played. We had our chances still and we just didn’t take them. That’s something that obviously hurt a lot.
“However, we did a great job to come back from that and win the bronze, which is a good consolation.”
The England squad went into the Games on the Gold Coast in Australia with high hopes of gold, and sailed into the last four with routine 3-0 group victories over Ghana and Guyana, followed by another 3-0 success, against Northern Ireland, in the quarter-finals.
But they found Nigeria in top form, even though Paul Drinkhall gave Walker’s troops an ideal start with a 3-2 (12-14, 11-9, 11-7, 11-13, 11-7) victory over Segun Toriola.
Bode Abiodun levelled when hitting back from 2-0 down to beat Liam Pitchford 3-2 (8-11, 9-11, 11-4, 13-11, 11-5), and Nigeria moved ahead when Toriola and Olajide Omotayo beat Drinkhall and Walker 3-1 (2-11, 11-7, 12-10, 11-7).
Pitchford revived England’s hopes with a 3-2 (9-11, 11-4, 11-8, 9-11, 11-5) defeat of Omotayo, but Abiodun was the hero as he sank Walker 3-2 (8-11, 11-9, 11-9, 6-11, 11-8) in another dramatic match.
Nigeria went on to lose the gold-medal match to India 3-0, while England had to play Singapore for bronze.
Walker sat out that contest as Drinkhall again provided the perfect start by beating the individual champion at the Glasgow Games in 2014, Gao Ning, 3-0 (13-11, 11-5, 11-9).
This time, England kicked on, with Pitchford defeating Poh Shao Feng Ethan 3-1 (11-9, 11-7, 7-11, 11-3) and then Drinkhall and David McBeath sealing the podium finish with a thrilling 3-2 (6-11, 11-13, 11-4, 11-9, 13-11) comeback win over Poh and Pang Xue Jie.
The individual table tennis events are to begin tomorrow (Tuesday), with Walker featuring in singles and doubles.