Somerset, who have been runners-up in the national inter-county championship, and Wiltshire, who last won the Liberty Trophy in 1996, will meet in the first round of their winter knockout campaign on Saturday, November 10.
A battle royal is predicted, but the team managers of both counties are struggling to enthuse their squads – and have expressed their disappointment at the response of some of their top players.
Somerset supremo Don Fowkes, who is in his last year at the helm, was hoping that his team would emulate their achievements of 2011 and 2012, but was dismayed when a number of players made themselves unavailable for last week’s trial.
“Some even dropped out at the last minute – and I am feeling very frustrated at their attitude,” Fowkes said. “The county president stepped in to play and I deputised on Chris Keating’s rink, so the game was not the sort of test that we had hoped for.”
Wiltshire’s new team manager Neil Smith was hoping to re-invigorate some of the county’s stars, who have lost their enthusiasm in the last few season.
“After our success in the Middleton Cup in August, I was hoping that some of the old guard would agree to play again – but I was disappointed with the negative response, even from some of the guys who are actually playing indoors,” Smith said.
“However, I still believe we have a team capable of competing with Somerset, because we have a lot of talented youngsters in the squad, and, together with a few experienced heads, we will give them a run for their money,” he added.
Fowkes is holding an internal trial this weekend, while Smith intends to name his team next Tuesday.
The very same Neil Smith is involved in a new project circuit called Planetbowls, which has grown out of the East Midlands Premier League – and which seems to be capturing the imagination of players on the World Bowls Tour as well as those on the fringe.
“The list of one-day tournaments has grown,” says Smith. “We now have 13 of them in or around the Midlands and the aim of every player who competes in them is to get into the top 32 to qualify for the Grand Final.”
In the latest manifestation of Planetbowls, at the Erewash club in Long Eaton, Smith landed a special prize as Bounty Hunter after defeating his namesake, last year’s number one, Graham Smith, in the last 16.
Later, the Westlecot star almost took the scalp of world number one Greg Harlow, but lost on the third end of a nail-biting tie-break, in which both players successfully opted to kill the last end to force a replay – something that can be done only on the sudden-death decider.
“We both killed the end to save game, and, at the third attempt to complete the last end, I was holding shot about five inches from the jack, when Greg drew the winner with his final delivery,” Smith said.
Former Cheltenham star Les Gillett, who has dropped out of the WBT rankings, but is currently enjoying a fine run of form, crowned a busy day by beating Harlow 5-5, 9-6 in the final.
In his victory speech, Gillett thanks sponsors Willows Building & Maintenance, the host club and Planetbowls, and added: “I hope everyone gets behind Planetbowls – it’s the future!”
The next tournament will be staged at the Tye Green Club in Harlow, where another star-studded field has been assembled. Details are available on www.planetbowls.com .
Smith, who had an England trial 11 years ago, has been selected as reserve for the trial at Melton Mowbray on Sunday, November 11, while his daughter Lucy has been named as reserve for the national women’s under-25 trial at Rugby on Saturday, November 3.
Mike Davies, a retired butcher, from Burnham-on-Sea, is in Cyprus this week, officiating at the World Champion of Champions singles tournament in which England’s hopes rest with Commonwealth Games gold medallist Ellen Falkner, from Cambridgeshire, and Durham’s David Bolt.
“I enjoy umpiring, but still prefer playing if I’m honest, though it’s really satisfying to be working at an international event like this one,” Davies said, after a busy day on the rinks at the Athena Beach Hotel in Paphos.
Clarrie Dunbar launched their Denny Cup campaign in style on Saturday, when they demolished Clevedon’s hopes with a crushing 101-41 first round victory, in which new skip Steve Wiltshire returned Clarrie’s best card.
Racing into a 30-9 lead after only five ends, the Clarrie crusaders never looked back, with Keith Bailey and Andrew Colebrooke skipping their rinks to wins of 27-9 and 25-16.
Graham Shadwell’s quartet won 19-11, while Wiltshire, who transferred his allegiance from Bristol at the beginning of this winter season, weighed in with an impressive 30-5 card.
Clevedon pulled themselves together the following day and, bolstered by their high-flying ladies, recorded a convincing 95-70 win over Thornbury in the Egham Trophy.
A young Somerset trio has won the opportunity to impress at the highest level in the finals stages of the English Bowls Youth Development Scheme’s School of Excellence in Melton Melton on Sunday.
Watchet’s Jack Groves and Liam White, from Bristol, are among the 16 players who have qualified in the under-15 age group, while Taunton’s Barnaby ‘Barney’ Green will roll up in the 15-18-year-old group.
The participants, who caught the eye at a series of county and regional qualifying events over the last 12 months, will be put through a series of matches and skills tests before the ultimate winners will be announced.
“Many previous winners of the event have gone on to represent England at international level,” said EBYDS chairman Bernard Millard yesterday. “One of them was Sian Gordon, who is heading off to the World Championships in New Zealand next month.
Somerset, who had a bye in the first round, were expecting to play Devon in the second round of the national under-25 Double Rink championship, but were surprised to learn that the favourites had been humbled by Dorset.
Sam Tolchard’s away rink, with Ilminster outdoor star Louis Ridout at third man, were held to a 22-22 tie by Martin Puckett’s Dorset team at Moonfleet, while Ryan Whitlock’s quartet suffered a 20-16 home defeat at Exmouth Madeira.
“I can’t understand why Devon played their home leg at Exmouth, because they didn’t have a single Madeira player in their side, which was bristling with Torquay United players,” said Somerset team manager Don Fowkes. “It’s a bit of a surprise, but, make no mistake, Dorset will be hard to beat.”
National men’s indoor inter-club championship (Denny Cup) First round – Group A: Wymondham Dell bt Gallow 79-73; Lakeside bt Roundwood 89-61; Pinewood Park bt Dereham 102-60; Norfolk bt County Arts 74-73; Acle bt Beccles 79-78; Sole Bay bt Shotford 68-62; Browston Hall bt Lowestoft Railway 91-67; Diss bt North Walsham 106-64; Clacton bt Mid Suffolk 81-79; Falcon bt Jacks Centre 86-80; Ipswich bt West Mersea 89-80; Colchester bt Sudbury 85-51; Tye Green bt Cheshunt 100-60; Essex County bt Stonyhill 99-69; Ilford bt Tilbury71-69; Barking bt Havering 98-66; Ross Peers bt Haverhill 101-71; Lynnsport bt Wisbech 92-63; City of Ely bt Peterborough 93-56; Pentney bt Lakenheath 81-78; Risbygate bt Turpins 77-70; Leominster bt Solihull 77-73; Bromsgrove bt Banbury 91-65; Avon Valley bt Welford-on-Avon 77-76; Birmingham bt Shrewsbury walkover; Desborough Northants bt Bletchley 88-60; Wellingborough bt Kettering Lodge 110-46; Kingsthorpe bt Daventry 98-58; Northampton bt Rushden 86-55.
Group B: The Parks bt West Denton 82-79; Stanley bt Gateshead 95-52; Sunderland bt Houghton 95-64; Redcar bt Shildon 107-61; Great Aycliffe bt Thornaby 89-66; New Earswick bt Leeds 82-78; York bt Ryedale 104-65; Featherstone bt Huddersfield 83-63; Scarborough bt Hornsea 92-77; Skegness bt Horncastle 80-77; North Cave bt Selby 98-76; Lincoln bt Scunthorpe 90-56; Stamford bt Long Sutton 82-65; Boston bt Sleaford 78-57; Newark bt Melton 77-73; Spalding bt Grantham 102-58; Alfreton bt Gedling 96-53; Nottingham bt Ashfield 99-40; Bassetlaw bt South Forest 75-71; Erewash bt Rushcliffe walkover; Church Gresley bt Tamworth 91-57; Rugby Thornfield bt Barwell 92-61; Charnwood bt Coventry 79-77; Leicester bt Carlton 112-62.
Group C: Desborough bt Handy Cross 104-41; West Berks bt Rivermead 84-54; Oxford C & C bt Oxford & Dist 86-75; Whiteknights bt Foxhill 85-62; Riverain bt Hatfield 117-47; Bedford Borough bt Watford 73-72; Luton bt Harpenden 74-67; Bristol bt St Andrews 97-50; Nailsea bt Yate walkover; Clarrie Dunbar bt Clevedon 101-41; Purnell bt Victoria walkover; Malvern Hills bt MidGlos 78-66; Gloucester bt Christie Miller 73-72; Westlecot bt Thornbury 90-61; Cotswold bt North Wilts 91-67; Donyatt bt Taunton Deane 85-75; Watchet bt Victoria (Street) 79-74; Taunton bt Ilminster 82-76; Minehead bt Isle of Wedmore walkover; Wellworthy bt Bridport 80-59; Torquay United bt Exonia 77-64; Madeira bt Isca 83-82; Mid Devon bt Sidmouth 98-63; South Hams bt Dawlish 107-48; North Devon bt Kingsley 83-68; Newquay bt Veryan 110-68; Bodmin bt Carnmoggas 89-80; Plymouth bt Caradon 109-58.
Group D: Picketts Lock bt Herga 86-85; Mansfield bt Century 83-71; The Lawns bt Bounds Green 72-65; Cambridge Park bt Crystal Palace 91-81; Croydon bt Temple 108-62; Donyngs bt Rushmoor 105-50; Grattons bt Sutton 82-69; Wey Valley bt Horsham 95-74; Camberley bt Old Coulsdon 100-76; White Oak bt Royal Tunbridge Wells 90-56; Cyphers bt Bromley 97-61; Mote Park bt Thanet 71-65; Folkestone bt Deangate 82-68; Oyster bt Swale 81-74; Prince Arthur bt Ashford 81-78; Falaise bt Preston 89-64; Denton Island bt Langney Sports 84-61; Eastbourne bt Wealden 98-53; King Alfred bt Egerton Park 82-78; Arun bt Palmerston 81-65; Victory bt Worthing 87-70; Adur bt Isle of Wight 81-74; Worthing Pavilion bt Chawton Park 87-80; Dolphin bt Loddon Vale 81-59; Banister Park bt East Dorset 94-46; Atherley bt Riverside 104-46; Bournemouth bt Five Rivers 93-53
National mixed inter-club championship (Egham Trophy) – First round: Westlecot bt Gloucester 105-56; Cotswold bye; Weston St Andrew’s bt Minehead 101-62; Ilminster bt Taunton 112-49; Donyatt w/o, Victoria (Street) conc; Taunton Deane w/o, Isle of Wedmore conc; N Wilts bt Bristol 95-71; Clevedon bt Thornbury 95-70; Clarrie Dunbar bye; Purnell bye.
National men’s inter-county championship (Liberty Trophy) – Somerset trial at Taunton Deane (10am, October 25) Red team, Rink 1: R Billington (Taunton Deane), B Smith (Taunton Deane), A Colebrooke (Clarrie Dunbar). Rink 2: P Denslow (Donyatt, M Denslow (Ilminster), A Rendell (Watchet). Rink 3: R Williams (Street), S Barnard (Taunton), S Hooper (Watchet), N Pearce (Clavedon). Green team, Rink 1: S Withers (Clevedon), P Birmingham (Bristol), J Sparkes (Bristol). Rink 2: A Poolman (Bristol), C Doughty (Clarrie Dunbar), C Keating (Bristol). Rink 3: M Woods (Clevedon), M Hamilton (Ilminster), J Amery (Taunton), P Bryant (Bristol). Other squad members (not available for trial): J Groves (Watchet), S Smith (Bristol), K Bailey, T Perkins, R Francis, S Wilyshire, G Shadwell (all Clarrie Dunbar),
National men’s under 25 inter-county championship – Dorset bt Devon 42-38 (Dorset names first) – At Moonfleet: M Smith, C Cook, R Stone, M Puckett 22, D Tuckett, M Bass, L Ridout, S Tolchard 22; At Exmouth: R Ward, G Sprackling, D Curtis, N Voss 20, Z Kidd, H Goodwin, A Southgate, R Whitlock 16.
Somerset v Dorset on November 4 – Home rink (at Taunton Deane): Levi Hembrow (Taunton Deane), Alex Shadwell (Clarrie Dunbar), Reece Williams (Street), Dale Taylor (Clarrie Dunbar). Away rink (At Moonfleet): Jack Groves (Watchet), Sam Steel (Watchet), Steve Smith (Bristol), Aaron Poolman (Bristol). Res: Barney Green (Taunton Deane), Tom Adams (Taunton Deane).