Thrilling Middleton Cup game goes right to the wire with single shot in it
By Alan Jackson
The Middleton Cup clash between Worcestershire and Warwickshire at the neutral venue of Chipping Norton BC proved to be a thrilling encounter that went down to the wire, it was however Worcestershire that triumphed 108-107, knocking the Bears out of this years tournament.
Andy Prickett (Welford), Darren Ward (Rugby), Richard Brittan and Mark Ireland (Erdington Court) made a very strong start, reaching ten ends with an advantage of eight shots. Worcestershire cut that down to two but Ireland and co went on another run, taking the game 21-9. Graham Box, Neil Hancock (both Little Compton), Dave Fallon (Nuneaton) and Dan Box (Little Compton) had a steady start but were four shots down at the midway point. With fourteen ends played the deficit had been halved, Box and co then restricted their opponents to just one more shot as they took nine shots to seal a 22-12 victory.
Mark Smith (Avenue Leamington), Gary Langford (Sherwood Park), Steve Smith (Nuneaton) and Alan Apsey (Welford) were all square after nine ends but moved three clear with five ends to play. Heading in to the final ends the scores were again level, though Apsey’s rink finished with a flourish, winning 22-18. Ewan Mason, Jordan Ward (both Rugby), Adam Smith (Avenue Leamington) and Craig Carter (Rugby) moved five shots clear after seven ends but trailed by two at the halfway mark. With three ends to go the deficit had increase to five but Carter and co took the remaining ends with singles to lose 17-19.
Luke Horne (Avenue Leamington), Scott Ashby (Nuneaton), Keith Wooding (Avenue Coventry) and Graham Ashby (Nuneaton) were six clear after five ends but all square after eleven ends. The scores were still level after sixteen ends but Worcestershire took eight shots over the next four ends, Ashby’s rink taking a last end single, final score 21-14 to Worcestershire. Andy Manning (Nuneaton), Martin Timms (Welford), Matt Wells and Calvin Wells (both Nuneaton) were eight shots down after ten ends. A five by Worcestershire helped take them to a seventeen shot lead with five ends to go. Five shots were scored in the remaining ends, though only two to Wells and co, Worcestershire winning 29-11.
* A sweltering hot Stoke BC welcomed Somerset as they took on Warwickshire in the latest inter-county friendly. The game was reduced to 18 ends due to heat but Somerset proved too hot to handle winning 110 to 80.
Steve Martin (Grange), Match Secretary Mike Hall, Bruce Truman (Rugby Rail) and Tim Messinger (Wolvey) started well but the visitors kept the lead down to two after ten ends. A five helped the Bears get a good lead, six up with two ends left. Messinger and co doubled their lead with a penultimate end six and sealed victory with a last end double, final score 25-11. Phil Yeoman (Rugby Rail), Ray Harrison (Nuneaton), Brian Beere (Grange) and Senior Vice President Nigel Hewitson were five adrift at the midway point and slipped to nine down with three ends left. Hewitson’s rink cut the deficit to three but dropped a final end three to lose 13-19.
Barry Lines (Rugby), Nigel Malka (Oakfield), Graham Cluff (Whitnash) and Keith Hornsby (Three Spires) reached ten ends eight shots down but went on a five end scoring spree to lead by one. Somerset response was to shutout Hornsby and co, taking the game 21-14. Richard Weaving (Sherwood Park), Chris Vipond (Matrix), Tom Duggins (Executive) and Alan Hockin (Rugby Rail) took the first end but were eight down after the sixth end. They cut the deficit to five on the eleventh end but dropped a four straight after. A pretty even finish saw Hockin and co finish 19-9 down.
Paul Brown (Sherwood Park), Ian Box (Rugby Police), Ted Coupe (Southam) and Past President Geoff Moran were five down after ten ends but pulled back to trail by three with four ends to play. A three and five took Somerset clear leaving Moran’s rink on the wrong side of a 19-9 scoreline. Past President Graham O’Donohue, Barry Sheasby (Oakfield), David Vowles (Avon) and County President Peter Vale Humphries trailed for four early on but reached parity on the sixth end. A six helped the visitors take an eight shot lead with five ends to go and it was Somerset that finished strong, winning 21-10.
With the format of the Junior Pairs changed to 3 woods and 18 ends, and the potential of needing a major shuffle of the County Finals schedule if certain players progressed to the final it was decided to also play the final on Junior Pairs Day at Nuneaton. The watching spectators were treated to an excellent display of bowls by Warwickshire’s juniors.
The quarter finals saw Tom Wheeler and Ewan Mason (Rugby) beat Sam Shuttleworth and Harry Billington (Whitnash) 21-6. Aiden Maries and Dan Ellicott (Avenue Leamington) beat Tom and Jordan Ward (Rugby) 20-8. Mark and Adam Smith (Avenue Leamington) beat William Higham and Jacob Mills 25-3.
In the semi finals Tom Wheeler and Ewan Mason faced Aiden Maries and Dan Ellicott, Mason took an early 6-0 lead but Ellicott went on a six end run, to take an 11-6 lead at the halfway stage. With three ends to play the gap was still five shots, Wheeler & Mason took a couple of singles to trail by three with one end left, they took the final end but only scored two, Maries & Ellicott progressing to the final 14-13. The other semi final saw Mark & Adam Smith take on Harry Smith and Scott Ashby, all four also play for the County’s senior squad, so this was a much anticipated encounter. The scoreline did not reflect the quality of bowls on display, nor how evenly match both sides were. An eight end spell saw Smith & Ashby score eighteen shots, helping them book their place in the final with a 23-9 win.
With the holders knocked out there would be new names on the trophy as Aiden Maries and Dan Ellicott faced Harry Smith and Scott Ashby. Nothing could separate the pairs, the scores level on four all. The final then became the second encounter of the day where the scoreline and performance did not match. The game lasted another eight ends, all went to Maries and Ellicott, four singles and four doubles, though no-one watching could work out how Smith and Ashby did not score, such was the level of competition on display. The 2021 County Junior Pairs winners with a score of 16-4 are Aiden Maries and Dan Ellicott (Avenue Leamington).