Another Positive National Championships For Herefordshire

Thursday 11th-Sunday 14th April played host to the ESMBA National Championships at Melton & District Indoor Bowling Club. Following a strong qualifier entry, Herefordshire had received two places in each of the four disciplines as eleven players from three clubs travelled up to represent The Bulls.

Day One saw Woolhope’s John Mills and Ross’ David Millington Jones competing in the National Singles Championship. After two of the three group games, both players had won one and lost one, knowing that they needed a win from their third to put them through to the knockouts. Sadly for both John and David it was not meant to be as they lost their final games, ending Herefordshire’s first day in the group stages.

Day Two saw John Mills team up with Gorsley Chapel’s Joe Loveys whilst Ross’ Dave Watkins & Ian Roe made up Herefordshire’s other duo. A tough draw (a common theme of Herefordshire’s weekend) saw both pairs battle to losing starts against two of England’s best in Cheshire’s Matty Worden and Dorset’s Alex Kley respectively. A loss in their second game meant that Mills & Loveys required a large victory in their third whilst relying on a slip up from one of the other teams. Meanwhile a win for Roe & Watkins left them knowing a win from their final game would put them through to the knockouts. Whilst Mills & Loveys managed to win their game, they could not garner enough shots to overturn the deficit leaving them in third place in their group. However, an 8-7 win for the Ross duo secured Watkins & Roe second place in their group and the first Herefordshire knockout stage of the weekend. Another tough draw awaited them as they faced Cheshire in a game that was a lot closer than the eventual scoreline suggests. A crucial shot from Cheshire on the seventh end saw them take a 3 having been two shots down before the wood was played to put them in the driving seat and knock the Hereford team out with an 11-3 win.

The third day featured a mix of Gorsley and Woolhope teams as Joe Loveys and Sophie Heather Warner joined Becci Cox and John Mills whilst Dean Rudman and Richard Bemand joined Shirley Cox and Bryan Watkins in the National Fours. A rough start for Loveys and Co saw them lose their first game 21-3 to Dorset before bouncing back with a 17-3 victory over Wiltshire, once again knowing they needed a win from the final game. A similar story with much closer scorelines also saw team Watkins needing a win from their final game following a 7-5 win and subsequent 8-5 loss against Suffolk and Devon respectively. For Heather-Warner, Mills, Cox & Loveys, a very close game against Devon saw them come out on the wrong side of the result in a 10-6 loss, putting them out on shots difference. However, it was a different story for Cox, Bemand, Rudman & Watkins who won 8-5 against Oxford to go through to the round of 32 knockouts as group winners where Hertfordshire awaited. In a nip and tuck game, The Bulls couldn’t quite pull out a lead against their opponents, eventually falling to an 8-7 loss on the final end.

The fourth and final day saw John Mills, Becci Cox & Joe Loveys looking to push on following an up and down weekend until that point whilst Shirley Cox and Bryan Watkins were joined by Ross’ Linda “Sat Nav” Lewis who eventually made her way to the venue following a detour via Hinckley! Initially looking to be a continuation of their previous days form, Loveys & Co fell victim to a Northamptonshire comeback as they dropped a 6-1 lead to lose 8-7, before putting in a strong performance against Norfolk to win 17-4 and once again know they needed a win from the final game to go through. A very close game looked to be following a similar pattern to the previous days defeat to Devon before a fantastic fire from Cox sealed an 8-7 win and the runners up spot in the group. For team Lewis, Cox & Watkins. a 9-3 loss in the first game was followed by hard fought 15-9 and 10-3 defeats respectively as they struggled to put a run of ends together against strong opponents, exiting the competition at the group stage. Meanwhile, a tough test against Hampshire awaited Mills, Cox & Loveys in the round of 32. With The Bulls having raced into a 5-1 lead, Hampshire fought back to go into the final end 8-6 up. As Hampshire attempted to ditch the jack to secure the game, they left The Bulls an opportunity to draw to the line before a fantastic reverse bias from Cox put them two in front as the skips came to play. A draw in from the Hampshire skip looked to cut the Herefordshire down to 1 before a fire from Loveys removed the Hampshire wood and just stayed on the mat to give them a four and an overall 10-8 victory to put Herefordshire through to the Last 16 for the first time in the weekend. In a similarly close contest, Herefordshire unsettled their experienced opponents from Dorset with a combination of accurate drawing and firing. With the Bulls leading 6-5 heading into the final end, Dorset took the jack into the ditch with their first wood, landing almost on top of it to guarantee one from the end. In spite of Herefordshire’s attempts to draw to the line and take the game to an extra end, Dorset were able to take the two they needed and win the game 7-6, eventually going on to win the National Triples title later in the day.

Huge congratulations goes to all of Herefordshire’s representatives across each of the four days. The Bulls continue to prove that they can be extremely competitive against some of the country’s best. The Association now looks forward to the commencement of the Summer League and County Team Trials on 25th May (please speak to your Club Secretary). The HSMBA Diary for next season will also be released in the coming weeks so do keep your eye on the website.