Bowls round-up: Somerset left it too late against Essex
An epic fight-back that led to a nail-biting finish was small consolation to Somerset’s bowlers, who lost agonisingly, 108-106, to Essex in the quarter-finals of the national men’s indoor inter-county championship at the Loddon Vale club in Basingstoke on Saturday.
“We were bitterly disappointed with the result,” admitted team manager Don Fowkes. “But, for some reason, we didn’t start playing until we were in danger of going out, and the overall performance was well below the standard we have set over the past three years.”
Finding themselves 21 shots adrift with only 19 ends to play across the green, Somerset’s Green Army suddenly found another gear, and mounted a tremendous recovery that brought them back to within one shot when the last end got underway.
“Once we started to play like I know we can, we were picking up shots all over the green,” said Fowkes. “Andy (Colebrooke) had a chance to trail the jack for a count of six, but missed by a whisker, but with three ends remaining we had narrowed the gap to seven shots.”
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Graham Shadwell’s rink then sneaked a single, and Terry Perkins, who had killed five ends, trailed the jack for a massive count of five shots, so that, after four hours of action, only one shot separated the sides, and it all came down to the last end.
Although Perkins had three ends to play, time had been called, and he was only allowed to complete only one of them – but that last end proved to be a fitting climax, with the jack being moved off-centre, the shot changing hands, and spectators being glued to the action.
When Perkins delivered his last bowl, Essex held two shots, but the Clarrie Dunbar ace expertly removed the enemy bowls to hold the two shots that Somerset needed to clinch an unlikely victory.
Incredibly, it would have been the first time in four hours that Somerset had been in the lead, but Essex skip Neil Jackson kept his head, and, under considerable pressure, drew the shot that took Essex into the semi-finals, where they will meet Surrey.
Andy Colebrooke and Paul Bryant skipped their rinks to wins of 19-13 and 20-15, while Shadwell’s men tied, 17-17, with Andy Squire’s Essex quartet, but there were narrow defeats for the rinks skipped by Perkins, Russell Francis and Chris Keating.
The Cotswold club in Stroud was the venue for Surrey’s quarter-final clash with Devon, who, despite the absence of Exonia’s Rob Paxton, who was in Norfolk competing in the world indoor championships, still had a clutch of star names at skip – though it was Surrey who led from start to finish, and won, 123-107.
A large number of Devon and Somerset players, who tasted defeat on Saturday, had a chance to bounce back on Sunday, when Clarrie Dunbar took on Torquay United for a place in the quarter-finals of the national mixed inter-club championship.
Clarrie had been narrowly pipped by Torquay at the same stage last year, but this time they were never in the hunt, as the star-studded Devonians won on three of the four rinks, and by 93 shots to 61 overall.
Torquay hit the ground running, and were 20 shots in front by the halfway stage, Clarrie’s consolation win coming from the home rink skipped by Russell Francis, who edged home, 19-16 against former professional footballer and bowls international John Evans.
Robert Paxton, the Devon star who lives in Taunton, belongs to the Taunton Deane indoor club, and who intends to make himself available for Somerset’s indoor side next winter, had his first taste of the world indoor pairs championship at the weekend.
Paxton, who has recently established himself in the World Bowls Tour Top Sixteen, was delighted to be asked to partner legendary Scot David Gourlay, but had a rude awakening when the scratch pairing lost their opening set, 10-0, to Mervyn King and Simon Skelton.
Swiftly recovering their poise, Paxton and Gourlay looked all set to win the second set and force a tie-break, but unfortunately dropped a double on the last end, enabling King and Skelton to tie the set, 6-6, and win the match.
The pairs final, which is scheduled to be played next Monday, will be an all-Scottish affair, with the holders, Paul Foster and Alex Marshall, facing a challenge from Stewart Anderson and Darren Burnett.
Foster and Marshall, who are hoping to win the title for the third year on the trot, were pushed hard by King and Skelton, but emerged victors on a tiebreak, 5-7, 8-7, 2-1, while Anderson and Burnett cruised to a 7-5, 9-5 win over City of Ely duo Nicky Brett and Greg Harlow, who have won the England pairs for the past two years.
World number four Burnett, a 36-year-old Tayside policeman, who pounds the beat in Dundee, became the first seed to make an exit from the singles, when he was outplayed yesterday by Irish qualifier Clifford Craig, 12-5, 10-6.
His pairs partner Anderson had to work hard to get the better of English PBA qualifier Mark Dawes, from Blackpool, but, after scoring a last-gasp treble to tie the first set, managed to return an 8-8, 9-5 scorecard.
But it was Merve “The Swerve” King who turned on the best performance of the championships so far: The Norfolk pest controller’s bowls looked radio-controlled as he powered to a 9-6, 12-3 victory over former Cheltenham star Les Gillett.
The Nomads Mixed Bowling Association are staging another special tournament for disabled bowlers – the Invitation Open Pairs – at the Taunton Deane club in Blackbrook Way this Sunday.
Deane club president Mary Hutchings said this week: “We are proud of the way our members have rallied round to give support to this event, and I also want to pay tribute to the way in which Sybil Williams and Dave Nicholls have organised it on behalf of the Nomads.”
This year, the number of visually handicapped entrants is roughly equal to those with other disabilities, so each will compete within his or her own sphere.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines World Bowls Tour world indoor championships at Potters Leisure Resort in Norfolk Singles 1st rd: N Brett (England) bt R Chisholm (Wales) 5-7, 12-6, 2-1; S Anderson (Scotland) bt M Dawes (England) 8-8, 9-5; C Craig (Ireland) bt D Burnett (Scotland) 12-5, 10-6; M King (England) bt L Gillett (England) 9-6, 12-3.
Pairs 1st rd: M Royal & A E Thomson (England) bt L Prince & S Edwards (England) 11-2, 8-6; M King & S Skelton (England) bt G & G Rees (Wales) 9-4, 16-0; J Price (Wales) bt B Jackson (England) bt R Battersby & J McCullough (Ireland) 10-3, 2-8, 2-0; J Greenslade & R Weale (Wales) bt G Donaldson & C Walker (Scotland) 9-4, 11-7. Quarter-finals: P Foster & A Marshall (Scotland) bt Royal & Thomson 6-9, 11-3, 2-1; King & Skelton bt R Paxton (England) & D Gourlay (Scotland) 10-0, 6-6; N Brett & G Harlow (England) bt Price & Jackson 8-2, 8-4; S Anderson & D Burnett (Scotland) bt Greenslade & Weale 8-5, 13-4.
EIBA national men’s inter-county championship (Liberty Trophy) quarter-finals, at Loddon Vale: Essex v Somerset 108-106 – Rink scores (Essex skips first): N Jackson 20, T Perkins 16; A Squire 17, G Shadwell 17; M Nullmeyers 13, A Colebrooke 19; S Pickford 15, P Bryant 20; J Holmes 20, R Francis 18; J Rippey 23, C Keating 16. At Cotswold (Stroud): Devon v Surrey 123-107 – Rink scores (Surrey skips first): I Bond 16, S Tuohy 19; L Ridout 10, B Jenkins 24; J Chestney 24, D Morris 10; S Tolchard 13, P Coleman 26; G Sanders 20, S Clarke 29; J Webber 24, I Jenkins 15. At York: Cumbria bt Cambs 114-68. At South Forest, Nottingham): Durham bt Norfolk 123-102.
EIBA national mixed inter-club championship (Egham Trophy) – Last 16: Torquay United bt Clarrie Dunbar 93-61 – Rink scores (CD names first):- At Standerwick: Thelma Deane, Kim Smith, Dick Discombe, Russell Francis 19, J Evans 16; Kathy Walker, Debbie Shadwell, Terry Perkins, Andy Colebrooke 11, D Denison 27; At Plainmoor: Teresa King, Jeanette Hocking, Craig Doughty, Steve Wiltshire 17, L Ridout 22; Sadie Farrell, Ann Jones, Keith Bailey, Graham Shadwell 14, S Tolchard 28. Quarter-finals: York bt South Forest 74-68; Desborough (Maidenhead) bt City of Ely 83-66; Egham bt Essex County 88-64; Adur v Torquay United (postponed – to be played 27 January).
County match at Taunton Deane: Devon bt Somerset 148-78 – Rink scores (Devon skips first): G Thomas 25, M Beale 16; M Selleck 16, R Scott 20; B Poole 35, R Soper 8; R Kerswell 18, J Capon 16; A Mann 36, C Mitchell 11; A Pressdee 18, R Pitts 7.
Warner Leisure Hotels Wessex League: Rugby bt Nomads 103-60 (14-2).