ENGLISH CARPET BOWLS ASSOCIATION


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ECBA Carpet Bowls Festival 2018
Monday 14th to Friday 18th May 2018

This year saw a record entry, with nearly 250 bowlers competing across the week for the three titles on offer. That included a contingent once again from Norway, who have given up on their national holiday to visit us, and an exceptionally strong team from New Zealand who were not about to make a trip half way around the world a wasted journey.

RINKS

There were 58 teams playing across 12 groups with the winners and 4 best runners-up making it through to the knockout games.

The last 8 saw representation from Suffolk (in 4 of the 8 teams), along with Northumberland, Bedfordshire, Norfolk and two from New Zealand.

Quarter Finals
Cutts/Hook/Kemp (Northumberland/Bedfordshire) v Anderson/Compton/l'Ami/Low (New Zealand)
The Cutts team were were first off the mark with one but the Kiwis were nicely in the lead two ends later, following a two and a four, 6-1 up. Over the next couple of ends they were pegged back to 6-4 but one more on the 6th end saw them go into the last with 3 shots in hand, enough to allow them to drop one and progress with a 7-5 victory.

Diamond/Holmes/Mackie/Wright (New Zealand) v Daniels/Walker (Suffolk/Bedfordshire)
The New Zealanders found themselves down all of 4 shots on the first end, and with one wood to go on the next might have dropped another 3 but for their last wood which took shot. Two ends later they took with lead with a four themselves to go 6-4 up, the next two ends were shared to make it 7-5 going into the last. With 2 woods to go there was a 3-way measure with the home team in with a chance of two, but an attempted blocker hung out too wide and the Kiwis were into the head, took 1 and took the game 8-5.

Cousins/Drane/Vaughan (Suffolk) v Hathaway/Hurley/West (Suffolk/Norfolk)
The Cousins team picked up one on the first but ends 2, 3 and 4 were all about the West team as they picked up a 4 and then another 4 and then yet another 4 to lead 12-1. That was enough that they were able to drop the final 3 ends and still come home comfortable winners. It was still technically possible for the opposition to force an extra end, but they were only able to pick up half of the 8 shots they needed. The game finished 12-8 to Hathaway/Hurley/West.

Painter/Savage/Speake (Bedfordshire) v Goodrich/Hobbs/Jolly (Suffolk)
It was 1-1 after 2 ends, but it didn't stay close for long as the Suffolk team picked up a massive 6 shots on the 3rd end. They compounded this with a couple of twos to lead 10-1 with 2 ends to go. Two back to the Beds team on the 6th at least meant that the final end had to be played, but the opposition were never going to allow them to get close. The game ended 12-3.

Semi-Finals
Anderson/Compton/l'Ami/Low v Diamond/Holmes/Mackie/Wright
Unfortunately for New Zealanders the draw removed the possibility of an all-Kiwi final. The only surprise was that the game was not as close as one might have imagined. The Diamond team won the first end with 2 with the l'Ami team gaining one back on the next as the pattern was set for the game. They alternated winning ends but crucially that meant that the Diamond team would win 4 of the 7, even more significantly they were getting multiples while the opposition were only getting ones. It was 7-2 after 5 ends and that was always likely to be enough. The game finished 8-3 to Diamond/Holmes/Mackie/Wright.

Hathaway/Hurley/West v Goodrich/Hobbs/Jolly
It was a similar story in this match with the two teams alternating winning ends, this time though it was one end which would make all the difference. Six of the ends produced just one shot either way, but the third saw a score of 3 which was going to be the difference at the end of the match and that end went to the Jolly team who subsequently always had at least 2 shots in hand and came home to a 6-3 win.

Final
Ashley Diamond, Sheree Holmes, Suzanne Mackie & Paul Wright (New Zealand) v Neil Jolly, Ally Hobbs, Jim Goodrich & Sally Goodrich (Suffolk)
In what was pretty much a replay of one of the International matches the game was bound to be close and that it turned out to be, even if halfway through it looked to heading in only one direction.

The Kiwis opened with two on the first but the Suffolk team opened their account on the second with one, went into the lead with a 3 on the next and repeated that on the 4th end to make it 7-2 with 3 to go. It was a nice lead, but the game wasn't over yet.

Ashley's team picked up a two on end 5 and on the 6th they forced the jack to the back of the carpet and with a big barrier in front and lying 2 shots and a measure down Neil couldn't find a way through, all he could do was to remove the necessity of a measure on that 3rd wood and all of a sudden the scores were level at 7-7 with one end to go, just as it should be for a final.

And things looked to be going the Kiwi way on the last, again the jack was forced back and the front was starting to fill in, until Jim found a way in. In truth the result was fortunate, but they all count, he punched one of his won team's woods in to finish perfectly on the jack. After that it was a case of stopping the opposition from getting there themselves, blockers were applied and Ashley was forced to play a draw which was perfectly weighted but just a touch too wide and Neil's team had the victory, 8-7, to regain the title which they had last won in 2015.

PAIRS

118 Pairs were competing across 24 groups with the winners and 8 best runners-up qualifying for Thursday's knockout stages.

By the time we were down to the last 8 we had one team each from West Sussex and New Zealand, six from Suffolk and a Suffolk/Durham team.

Quarter Finals
Rita & Pete Runnacles (Suffolk) v Sylvia Ballinger & Annette Iskett (West Sussex)
It was a strong start from the Suffolk team who picked up a couple each on the first 2 ends and one more on the third, Sylvia & Annette were off the mark with one on the 4th, but the Runnacles got that back on the next to lead 6-1. However 2 ends later that lead was all gone and the teams were level. But the Runnacles held their nerve, picked up one on the 8th end and then one more on the final end to win 8-6.

Paul & Sue Cousins (Suffolk) v Carl Pearson & Sam Runnacles (Durham/Suffolk)
This one swung back and forth, after Paul & Sue scored one on the first Carl & Sam picked up 3 over the next 2 ends. Then it was the Cousins' turn with one, one, two to lead 5-3 with three to go, but Carl and Sam leveled up over the next 2 ends to go into the last all square. And with the Cousins having the advantage of last wood they took one to win 6-5.

Sue & Steve Isles (Suffolk) v Grant I'Ami & Suzanne Mackie (New Zealand)
Grant and Suzanne were off to a flier with 3 on the first end and 4 ends in they were 7-1 up. However the Isles pulled it back over the next 3 ends to 7-6. But their momentum was halted as the Kiwis picked up a 2 and finished the game off with another 2 on the last to win 11-6.

Andy & Sue Gilder (Suffolk) v Sue & Graham Davey (Suffolk)
Graham & Sue opened well and were 3 ahead after two. The Gilders chipped back to one behind after another 2 ends but the Daveys were still 4-3 up after 6 ends. The killer though was end 7 as Andy & Sue picked up a vital 3 shots to put them into the lead for the first time. And although Sue & Graham leveled the scores on the next end, that luxury of having the final wood saw the Gilders home, taking the one shot they needed for a 7-6 win.

Semi-Finals
Grant I'Ami & Suzanne Mackie v Paul & Sue Cousins
After the Cousins picked up 1 each on the first 2 ends the next 3 went to Grant & Suzanne to put them 4-2 up. However that momentum was arrested in no uncertain terms by Paul & Sue. They were ahead with a 3, extended the lead to 7-4 with a 2 and finished the game off with another 3 to win 10-4 with an end to spare.

Rita & Pete Runnacles v Andy & Sue Gilder
While the other game was all turned about at the end, this one was all about the opening of the game. The Runnacles' could hardly have made a better start, 3 on the first, followed by two twos had them 7-0 up after 3. But Andy & Sue hit back with a 3 and a 1 to make it 7-4. The Runnacles' needed to stop the rot and they did just that with a one which the Gilders matched on the next, 8-5 with 2 ends to go. Turning the game around was still possible but the Runnacles' weren't going to let that happen, winning the last 2 ends for a 10-5 victory.

Final
Paul & Sue Cousins v Rita & Pete Runnacles
With two very strong wins against tough opposition there would be every reason to believe that this was going to be a closely fought final, but sometimes things don't work out the way you expect and sometimes one team can do no wrong and the other can't catch a break. And that's how this one went.

Rita & Pete picked up one on the first, a close start, but in hindsight the writing was on the wall on the next as they got a full house, 4 shots gave them a 5-0 lead and sadly the Cousins' never got a look in, it was all one way traffic and nearly all over by the 6th end as the Runnacles' led 11-0. One more on the 7th end put the Cousins' out of their misery and the game was all over, 12-0 with 2 ends to spare.

Well though Rita and Pete played, the final result could not be said to be representative of the relative abilities of the two teams, but sometimes things just don't go your way. It's sad when that has to happen in the final when all eyes are on you, but the Runnacles certainly deserved their win.

SINGLES

In contrast to the Pairs and Rinks this event is played on a straight knockout basis.

We began with 158 players who were whittled down on Tuesday afternoon to 64 who then played down to the last 4 over Wednesday afternoon.

By the time we had reached the Quarter Finals we had 3 players representing Suffolk, one each from Norfolk, Bedfordshire and Sunderland and two from New Zealand.

Quarter Finals
Phyllis Sutton (Norfolk) v Sam Runnacles (Suffolk)
Sam started well with 2 on the first end but Phyllis, last year's runner-up, fired back to go level on the next end and then took ends 3 and 4 to move into a 4-2 lead. However Sam edged back to level over the next 2 ends, only for Phyllis to grab back a 2 shot lead on the penultimate end. With the jack driven back Sam was holding one and Phyllis was filling in the front, trying to make it hard for her opposition to find a way in. But with his final wood Sam came in with a counter which nudged the jack to take 3 and snatch a last gasp win, 7-6.

Paul Wright (New Zealand) v Sue Isles (Suffolk)
In truth this game was over before it had barely started, Paul picked up all 4 on the first end and did exactly the same on the next. There seemed to be little that Sue could do to stop Paul, as he took a single followed by twos on each of the next two ends, taking it to 13-0. With only 3 ends to go and only 12 shots on offer it was officially all over, but Sue played on regardless and on the 7th end finally got what she wanted and broke her duck with a single. They played through to the end with Paul picking up another 3 on the last to take an emphatic 19-1 victory.

Andy Gilder (Suffolk) v Daniel Walker (Bedfordshire)
This was the closest game of the round with the clock running out and only 7 ends played and with a total of 7 shots scored between the two players. After each opened their account on the first 2 ends Daniel pulled a little bit ahead with one on each of the following 3 ends to lead 4-1 after five. Andy brought it back to 4-2 on the next and made the most of what was going to be the final end as he came in to hold 3 with his last, finding himself in a winning position. However Daniel held his nerve with his final wood, drawing in to cut Andy down to just one and winning the game 4-3.

Michael Laydon (Sunderland) v Grant I'Ami (New Zealand)
This game produced perhaps the best bowls of the round. Grant opened with 2 which Michael pulled back over the next 2 ends. However Grant was relentlessly finding the jack and Michael was having to work hard to get it free of his opponents woods, but he wasn't quite able to do so. Grant took the lead again on end 4 with a single, took 2 more on the next to lead 5-2 and time and again put Michael under pressure with his opening woods. He had one more on the 6th and Michael unable to prevent him from scoring on the next it was all over with an end to go, 7-2 to Grant.

Semi-Finals
Daniel Walker v Grant l'Ami
Daniel started off with a shot on the first to take the lead, but Grant was level on the next end and bit by bit edged away, taking the next three ends, but crucially it was only with one shot on each. Nevertheless he led 4-1 with three ends to go. However it wasn't going to take much for Daniel to get back into the game and he did just that on the next, picking up 2 to bring him within a shot. Unfortunately the whistle went with the 7th end being played so it would be the last. Grant held, but Daniel managed to get the jack out of the head for match lie. Grant had one wood left to save the game, a relatively straightforward draw, if that can be said about any shot which will win or lose a game. But Grant did exactly what was required, drew in fro shot and took the game 5-3.

Sam Runnacles v Paul Wright
Much the same as the other semi-final it was tied 1-1 after 2 ends but one person pulled slowly away from the other, and again it was the Kiwi. Paul took 2 on the second to take the lead and then pulled away. There was never much in it but Sam was not quite there as Paul took one each on the next 3 ends to lead 6-1. Again he whistle intervened to bring the game to an finish one end short and although Sam won it, his task was impossible, he took 1 and Paul finished the 6-2 winner.

Final
Paul Wright v Grant l'Ami
An all Kiwi final showed what a formidable team New Zealand had sent over for the Festival and the final produced some outstandingly accurate bowls, showing that it was no fluke that the pair had ended up here.

It was Paul who took the initiative, picking up one each on the first two ends, although Grant brought it back to level with a pair on the next end. Once again though Paul was back in front, cancelling out Grant's score from the previous end to go two back in front at 4-2 after 4 ends.

However it was at this point that Grant began to turn the screw. One on the fifth end and then one more on the next saw him level with 2 ends to go, but it was the penultimate end that really set the seal on the game. Paul was not far away but just couldn't find a way into the head as Grant took a huge 3. With one end to go grant could defend while Paul had to chase and realistically, with the way Grant was bowling it was an all but impossible task. And so it proved to be, Grant took one more to take the title with an 8-4 win.

You can view the entire week's results here.

Photographs

Trevor Rayner from New Zealand spent a great deal of time shooting loads of videos all of which you can view here.

And here is the Norwegian report.

Many thanks to all those who joined us for the week, especially our overseas visitors. The Norwegian players continue to improve and were unlucky not to have any teams progress to the knockout stages, but they came tantalisingly close. And massively outnumbered though they were the New Zealand players were extremely impressive, all the more so when you consider the differences between our game and theirs, they were represented in the semi-finals of each discipline, two finals, and locked out the Singles.

Norway, and we hope more Scandinavian players, will be back next year and although the plan is for the full New Zealand team to return in 4 years time, some of the team are planning to be back next year, which is a tribute to everyone who attended the event and who have made all of our overseas visitors feel so welcome.