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Jennings and Lucas carry West hopes as far as quarter-finals

By This is Bath  |  Posted: March 09, 2011

Richard Jennings

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Spectators rubbed their eyes in disbelief at the national indoor bowls championships in Melton Mowbray, when they saw North Wilts star Richard Jennings being wheeled up and down the rink.

Jennings, who was involved in a road accident ten years ago, bowls from a standing stance but lacks the stamina to walk the length of the green end after end in a match that might last four hours.

"The local club appreciated the problem, and lent me a specially designed wheelchair," said Jennings. "And the umpire Vernon Findell was kind enough to push me up and down the rink."

Jennings, playing in the final stages of the national indoor championships for the first time, partnered clubmate John Lucas through to the quarter-finals of the men's over-60 pairs, before the North Wilts duo lost to Cumbria, 23-17.

"We really didn't think we would get this far," Jennings said. "We felt good when we won our first two games against Cotswold and Cambridge Chesterton, and the whole thing has been a great experience."

Jennings and Lucas opened with an 18-13 win over Cotswold's Tim Webb and John Tombs, then defeated Chesterton duo Roy Smith and Mick Langley 24-17 but were denied a place in the semi-finals by Cumbrians Ron McGie and Rick Gallagher.

Apart from the North Wilts duo's good run, Melton was not a happy hunting ground for the West's stars, most of whom fell at the first hurdle.

Val Osmond's Thornbury quartet lost by two to Mote Park in the first round of the fours, while Mary Sutton's Yeovil trio and a Taunton Deane team skipped by Sue Evans lost to Chigwell and the City of Ely respectively.

In the pairs, Laura Holden and Stef Branfield lost to Lorna Mole and Lorraine Kuhler, from Sussex club Adur, while the 20-year-old Branfield put up a good show in the singles against the vastly experienced Kath Hawes before going down, 21-18.

Richard Turvey, the long-serving secretary of the Whitchurch indoor bowls club, says he is experiencing mixed emotions about the impending closure of the club he has belonged to for more than 30 years.

"It will be a wrench to say goodbye to the old place, and it's sad that many of our members will probably be giving up the sport," Turvey said. "But it will be nice to have a break from all the work involved."

In what is surely a sign of the time, Bristol City Council have decided they can no longer subsidise the bowls section at the Whitchurch Leisure Centre, and it is inevitable that many local pensioners will miss their weekly chance to socialise and enjoy some gentle physical exercise.

Turvey floated the idea that the club might continue to operate from the Bristol indoor club at the end of South Liberty Lane.

"Bristol's new chairman Lewis Toman says that, while our 'homeless' members are welcome to join Bristol, he would not countenance a 'club-within-a-club' scenario," Turvey said.

Mike Stanley, the secretary of the Wessex League, said: "The sad demise of Whitchurch has implications for the League, which will lose another club, and it's a shame they can not keep the name alive."

Next Saturday is a big day for Somerset's men, who are hoping to clinch a place in the final of the national inter-county championship by beating Kent at the Loddon Vale club in Basingstoke.

"We have won the Liberty Trophy twice," said Somerset's inspirational team manager Don Fowkes. "But that was in 1979 and 1994, so it's time we did it again!"

Fowkes has made one change from the side that beat Essex in the quarter-finals, bringing in Weston St Andrews veteran Barrie Forse in place of Clevedon's Steve Withers, who reverts to the reserve bench.

Team manager Edna Bessell, from Yeovil, is hoping to inspire defending champions England to retain the British women's team title at the Stanley club in County Durham at the weekend.

The home internationals will be followed on Monday by the British individual championships, in which North Wilts duo Sue Cooke and Alex Jacobs, the 2010 national pairs champions, are carrying England's hopes.

Cooke and Jacobs have been drawn in the semi-finals, where they will face the winners of a preliminary round clash between Welsh champions Amy Rowan and Wendy Price and Channel Islanders Helen and Lindsey Greechan.

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