Dave Snell’s first season as Wiltshire’s Middleton Cup team manager was as steep a learning curve as could be imagined, and he could hardly believe it when the Moonrakers actually reached the final at Worthing.
“What a season we had,” Snell said this week, when he had time to reflect on what his team had achieved.
“Losing in a final is always going to be disappointing, but in my view they were all winners, and the selectors and I were proud to be looking after such a great group of guys.
“We knew it would be tough to get out of the group, as we put together six new rinks, but when we got off to a flier against Dorset, our confidence just grew and grew, and it culminated in a fantastic win over Somerset on their home pitch.
“So we qualified for the quarter-finals against Berkshire who we had lost to the previous year at the same stage, but the team put up a superb performance and won a very tight match on the last end against a very strong side.
“It was a big bonus to get to Worthing, but we had a setback when, at the last minute, we lost our England International Graham Shadwell who was also involved in the semi-finals of the mixed pairs, so we had to reshuffle the team, bringing in Wootton Bassett’s James Nobbs for his Middleton Cup debut.
“We came back from behind to beat Leicestershire, winning the last six ends to turn a three-shot deficit into a brilliant four-shot win to reach the final, where we played Norfolk, who had beaten the holders and favourites Devon, also by four shots.
“Still without Graham, we made a very positive start, leading by 13 shots after four ends, and held the lead until the 13th end when Norfolk drew level and you could sense that this was going to go down to the wire.
“After 17 ends Norfolk were three shots in front, but we were not going to give in, and after 20 ends had been played we were back in front by four shots – but, unfortunately, we lost eight shots over the last end to lose by four, 118-114.”
On a personal note, Snell confessed he was also very proud to be watching his two sons Steve and Mike both skipping in a Middleton Cup final.
In hindsight, although he cannot fault his men for a 100 per cent effort, based on team spirit as well as talent, Snell believes that, if Graham Shadwell had been available, Wiltshire would have won the title for the first time since 1986.
“Bowls England did not make it easy for us, and I am sure Graham (Shadwell) could have made a difference of four shots if he had played,” says Snell. “To make matters worse, Graham Hatherall had to play a 2 wood match between the semi and the final, which was not good.
“This is not sour grapes,” he adds. “I just think that, as Bowls England chief executive Tony Allcock said at the start of the final, the Middleton Cup is the blue riband event, and that all players should be available to play.
“I believe that if you enter Bowls England competitions and reach Worthing in the national finals, you should be able to play in all events you have qualified for,” insists Snell. “Can you imagine Andy Murray being told by the LTA that the mixed pairs clashed with the singles, and that he could only play in one?”
Snell pointed out that Mel Biggs, who has had a great season, reached Worthing in six events this year and added: “That in itself was a great achievement, and I am sure if the scheduling had been better, he would have come away with a title.”
Louis Ridout will be spearheading England’s challenge for the British under 25 team title at the Uddingston club in Glasgow this weekend, when he has been invited to skip a rink for his country for the first time.
Selected at lead last year, Ilminster’s Ridout was promoted to play third in the last game at Worthing, and clearly impressed the selectors, who have given him his own rink for this year’s series.
He will be well served by his lead, Martin Spencer, who recently won the national under 25 singles title, while Bowls International magazine editor Patrick Hulbert slots in at second, and new cap Ben Powell takes his bow at third man.
England should beat Ireland in their opening match on Saturday morning, but will be fully tested after lunch, when they face the hosts and holders of the title, Scotland.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Ridout yesterday. “The Scots are always strong, and will be very difficult to beat on their home soil, but, having lost to them at Worthing last year, it would be fantastic to gain revenge at Uddingston.”
The Gloucester City club broke new ground when they defeated Bristol-based Greenbank, 74-46, in a rather one-sided County Cup final at Bishop’s Cleeve.
It was the first time the City club, which was formed 105 years ago, has lifted the county title, and they did so in style, after disposing of Nailsworth in the semi-finals.
In the final, Dave Godwin, Eddie Doig, Ron Wilks and Paul Morris made the worst of all possible starts, when they dropped a five on the first end – but they recovered bravely to beat Geoff Wilkins’s rink, 27-14.
Dave Bennetts, Shaun Morris, Matt Curtis and Doug Lewis added a 25-11 win over Scott Avery’s quartet, while Vince Wilks, Brett Bennett, Derek Thorpe and Alan Brooker were engaged in a thrilling battle with Gerry Coffield’s Greenbank rink, edging home, 22-21. Nailsworth beat Tewkesbury 61-52 in the battle for third and fourth place.
Greenbank also came off second best in the Bristol & District Knockout Cup, when they suffered a shock 54-41 final defeat at the hands of Third Division Olveston, who have enjoyed a great season, and are looking forward to competing in the Second Division next summer.
Devon won the South Western Counties under 25 league title after Wiltshire defeated a lively Somerset side at Holt, where a 32-9 win for the rink skipped by Paul Stokes was enough to see the hosts home, 65-57.
British under 25 international series at Uddingston (Glasgow, Sept 8-9), England team – Rink 1: A Clipston (Derbys), T Meller (IoW), I Lesley (Devon), S Tolchard (Devon). Rink 2: J Alcock (Leics), J Walker (Northants), D Kelly (Yorks), R Catton (Cambs). Rink 3: M Spencer (Lincs), P Hulbert (Leics), * B Powell (Notts), L Ridout (Som). Rink 4: * S King (Norfolk), * T Millership (Warks), N Voss (Dorset), W Willgress (Norfolk). Rink 5: M Nullmeyers (Essex), + D Forster (Cumbria), M Coppen (Herts), T Morton (Hunts). Rink 6: * D Targar (Northumb), A Southgate (Sussex), * C Yeomans (Northumb), A Walters (Worcs). Reserves: K T Moss (Kent), B Render (Yorks). Captain: Sam Tolchard. Manager: Hedley Bowen.
South Western Counties Under 25 League at Holt – Wilts bt Somerset 65-57 (Wilts names first): O Little, J Townsend, G Jackson, N Revell 14, J Groves, L Townsend, S Steel, R Williams 26; J Moody, C Morphet, J Nobbs, P Stokes 32, R White, B Francis, G Aldridge, D Taylor 9; J Fail, A Bolwell, M Tucker, W Snook 19, V Francis, R Hooper, L Hembrow, S Barnard 22.
Women’s county match at Ardagh – Glamorgan bt Glos 133-82 (Glam skips first): A Smith 14, P Marsh 18; A Dainton 14, L Hamer 18; C Difford 23, V Major 15; E Davies 24, C Magee 13; M Newman 23, M McColl 10; A Brimble 35, I Hart 8.
Men’s county match at Bradford-on-Avon – Herefordshire bt Wilts 115-109 (Herefs skips first): P Rainthorne 29, R Jones 15; C Reading 16, G Annetts 17; D Holloway 13, R Fredericks 15; J Wear 23, B Merritt 17; D Murdoch 11, S Jay 25; G Winiary 23, M Richardson 20.
Under 25 county match – Somerset v Devon at Queen Camel (Sunday September 9), Somerset team – Rink 1: T Chilcott, D Chilcott, L Hembrow (all Taunton Deane), T Shattock (Burnham-on-Sea). Rink 2: J Goodland (Yeovil), E Dando (Prattens), S Trent (Willmott Park), A Poolman (Bristol). Rink 3: O Kemp, C Francis (both Yeovil), E Bruce (Purnell), C Spurrey (Alexandra Park). Rink 4: J Groves, L Townsend (both Watchet), B Francis (Yeovil), G Aldridge (St Andrew’s). Rink 5: S Easterby (Winscombe), R Hooper (Watchet), M Mattravers (Yeovil), S Steel (Watchet). Reserve: T Adams (Taunton Deane)
Bowls Wiltshire women’s county championships finals at Devizes – Saturday, September 8,10am: Champion of Champions singles: L Kingston (Highworth) v M Annetts (Salisbury). Unbadged singles semi finals: J Richman (Wootton Bassett) v M Hartley (Spencer Moulton); J Buckland (Avon) v B Lilley (Devizes). Secretaries/Treasurers pairs: A Fail & P Boyles (Purton) v R Ellis & J Bull (Amesbury). Benevolent triples: Devizes v North Wilts. 2pm – County Top Club: Box v Chippenham Town. Unbadged singles final.
Gloucestershire inter-club championship (County Cup) at Bishops Cleeve – Semi-finals: Gloucester City bt Nailsworth Mills 61-41; Greenbank bt Tewkesbury 58-55. Final: Gloucester City bt Greenbank 74-46 (Glos City skips first): P Morris 27, G Wilkins 14; D Lewis 25, S Avery 11; A Brooker 22, G Coffield 21. Third place play-off: Nailsworth Mills bt Tewkesbury 61-52.
Somerset Bowls League – Premier 1: Banwell A bt Bath A 62-57 (10-2); Ilminster A bt Portishead RBL A 53-52 (9-3); Bloomfield A bt Victoria A 69-54 (10-2); Watchet A bt Taunton A 57-50 (10-2); Clevedon A bt Bristol A 56-48 (10-2). Premier 2: North Petherton A bt Minehead A 67-52 (10-2); Purnell A bt Wyrral Park A 63-46 (12-0); Street A bt Weston Bath A 69-44 (12-0); Knowle A bt Chew Stoke A 62-42 (10-2). East 1: City of Wells bt Keynsham A 58-51 (8-4); Knowle B bt Stothert & Pitt A65-53 (10-2); Frome Park A bt Fosseway 68-51 (10-2); Norwest A bt Alexandra A 72-51 (9-3); Bath B bt Imperial A 69-52 (10-2). East 2: Paulton bt Norwest B 61-51 (12-0); Sydney Gardens bt Frome Park B 71-33 (12-0); Prattens bt Alexandra B 78-38 (12-0); Weston (Bath) B bt Bloomfield B 80-46 (11-1); Bath C bt Bloomfield C 70-51 (10-2); Frome Selwood bt Keynsham B 63-48 (10-2); Sydney Gardens bt Weston (Bath) C 72-28 (12-0). East 3: Norwest C bt Keynsham C 59-53 (10-2); Purnell C bt Knowle C 64-45 (10-2). North 1: Congresbury A bt Portishead RBL B 61-53 (11-1); Burnham-on-Sea A bt Clevedon B 65-47 (10-2); Bristol B bt Banwell B 75-43 (12-0); Clarence A bt Winscombe A 71-47 (10-2). North 2: Victoria B bt Portishead 88-39 (12-0); Chew Stoke B bt Portishead RBL C 57-56 (9-3); Yatton B bt Ashcombe B 70-46 (12-0); Yatton A bt Mark Moor 50-41 (10-2). North 3: Burnham-on-Sea B bt Victoria C 59-53 (8-4); Victoria D bt Ashcombe C 66-46 (10-2). South West 1: Crewkerne bt Taunton Deane B 75-47 (12-0); Taunton Deane A bt Bridgwater B 78-44 (12-0); Ilminster B bt Wellington A 93-52 (10-2); Westland Sports A bt North Petherton B 73-51 (11-1); Bridgwater A bt Ilminster B 68-44 (12-0). South West 2: Taunton B bt Bridgwater Victoria Park 81-40 (10-2); Watchet B bt Minehead B 70-57 (10-2); Ilminster C bt Taunton C 55-46 (10-2); Eastover Park bt Street B 57-41 (11-1); Wyrral Park B bt Westland Sports B 55-45 (10-2).
Bristol & District League Knockout Cup (Lloyds Trophy) – Final at Henleaze: Olveston bt Greenbank 54-41 (Olveston names first): K Tudor, J Drysdale, L Hall, I Curtis 18, C Lowden, M Keating, S Andrews, G Coffield 17; I Copely, I Barton, R Worsley, I Gauld 17, R Glass, B Avery, J Lowden, A Avery 10; J Veasey, G Richards, C Bentley, T Iles 19, P Belsten, J Ind, P Bennett, G Wilkins 14.