Following an unbeaten group stage Herefordshire progressed to the ICC knockout round as group winners but as is the luck of a random draw, The Bulls were rewarded with a preliminary round match against last year’s “Premier Two” winners Cheshire. Having taken 10 points away at Cheshire and beaten them by one point at the Larruperz Centre in the return game of last year’s group stage, The Bulls entered the match as underdogs but with the hope an upset could be on the cards.
The first session saw Cheshire come out strong with Matty Worden, fresh from his Short Mat Players Tour British Open Title and selection by England in the Singles for the forthcoming World Championships, beating Joe Loveys 18-9 as Tony Vitale also lost 21-4. It was a similar story in the pairs as Claire Herbert & Peter Wright lost 18-9 whilst Dave Watkins & Ian Roe came the closest Herefordshire team to victory with a 14-11 loss.
8-0 down after the first session, The Bulls needed a strong performance by the triples and fours to get them back into the match and that is exactly what they got as Dave Rush. Jill Howells & Jim Knowles took a fantastic 18-5 win whilst Dean Rudman, Merion Attwood & Steve Kite also won 12-7. In the fours, Linda Lewis, Dawn Cox, Sophie Heather-Warner & Becci Cox won 11-8 to give Herefordshire 6 points out of 8 in the session as David Millington Jones, Gary Peachey, Bryan Watkins & John Mills fell to an 11-8 loss, ending their impressive unbeaten streak for the season.
The second session fightback brought The Bulls back into the match, trailing 10-6 and in need of a strong second half. Once again the Cheshire Singles and Pairs came out fighting but Herefordshire did manage to take two points as Joe Loveys won 13-12 whilst Herbert & Wright narrowly lost out 11-10 in addition to defeats for Vitale and Watkins & Roe. This left the score at 20-8 with 12 points available as The Bulls looked to take a clean sweep from the session to bring about a 3 x singles (1 End) tiebreaker. Ultimately this proved too tall a task in spite of a fantastic 24-6 victory for Kite’s team securing the bonus points in the triples as three narrow defeats for Knowles, Mills and Cox’s teams respectively put the final score at 28-12, 218 shots to 169.
Herefordshire Captain Becci Cox praised the team’s resilient performance and noted the considerable improvement in “mat on mat” performance against a strong County side like Cheshire. Whilst The Bulls are now finished for the season, the bar for next season has been set and so has the County trials date. For further information please keep an eye on the County Trials Page on the website or speak to Becci.