Sunday 12th February 2023 saw one of the Herefordshire County Team’s greatest performances. Due to a combination of circumstances, a much changed Herefordshire arrived at Bristol Indoor Bowling Centre with tempered expectations and without their Captain, as they took on an experienced Surrey side that had topped their group. The Premier 2 Quarter-Final knockout represented the first time the County had reached the knockout stages of the “main” competition since 2017-18, where a 9-31 defeat to Essex saw an early exit in the preliminary knockout rounds.
The first session gave a strong indication of the close match that was to come as the points were shared (4-4), with Herefordshire singles players Joe Loveys and Tony Vitale picking up victories in their games whilst both pairs fell to defeat against strong opposition. The second session saw the triples, skipped by Ian Roe and Jim Knowles, put Herefordshire in command with two convincing wins whilst the points in the fours were split; a strong win for John Mills’ rink keeping Herefordshire ahead in the battle for the bonus points. At the halfway stage, the overall score was 10-6 to Herefordshire, with the Bulls ahead on shots in the Singles, Triples and Fours.
The third session saw Surrey come out fighting and despite two strong performances from the Hereford Pairs, including a comeback from 12-4 to 14-14 going into the final end for Dean Rudman and Merion Attwood, they could not stop Surrey from taking both victories and the bonus. The singles was a close run thing and at one stage looked as though it would go the same way as the pairs but a final end victory for Joe Loveys and some good shot management from Tony Vitale secured the bonus points, leaving the overall score at 14-14 going into the final session.
The Triples and Fours knew that 7 points or more would be required to get the win. It was also known that shared points in the session would lead to a one end shootout of three singles matches, something that everyone was rather keen to avoid! The first few ends saw neither side take a clear lead, with the County Team Whats App group waiting in anticipation for the results to come in and Captain Becci Cox, back at home in bed with illness, being given a live commentary over the phone by Joe Loveys.
The first game to finish was Ian Roe’s triple, who continued their scintillating form to record a 19-5 victory and take the overall score to 16-14. Jim Knowles’ triple was second to finish, recording a 9-14 loss but crucially doing enough to secure the bonus points, leaving the scores at 18-16 with just the Fours left to go. At this stage, things were looking good for Herefordshire with both fours in control and victory was sealed with John Mills’ team taking a 18-5 victory and Steve Kite’s rink putting the morning behind them to produce a fantastic 15-5 win, leaving the final score at 24-16 to Hereford.
Although not at the venue herself, Captain Cox sent her congratulations to the team, declaring herself a very proud captain, with the result not only showing Herefordshire’s recent progress as a County but also the strength in depth that it has, with each of the players who stepped in fitting in seamlessly and performing at a high level. Many members of the team also praised the positive atmosphere in the squad and the strong comradery that was felt across the day, with fantastic support and encouragement given from the sidelines for each session.
Herefordshire are now through to their first Semi-Final since the consolation Semi-Final victory against Wiltshire in the 2015-16 season, where they await the winner of Wiltshire vs Cambridge. If you want to find out more about the County Team, or are interested in trialing for next season, please visit the County Overview page or email Becci Cox (firstname.lastname@example.org).