Over the Moon

John Rednall reporting from Worthing on the EBA National Championships.The climax to a well organised and very enjoyable first week of competitive play saw Banbury Borough take the Yoplait National Triples championship, resisting the challenge of Nottinghamshire in the final.

John Rednall reporting from Worthing on the EBA National Championships.

The climax to a well organised and very enjoyable first week of competitive play saw Banbury Borough take the Yoplait National Triples championship, resisting the challenge of Nottinghamshire in the final.

Gary Lucas, Alan Prew and England lead Greg Moon, who earlier in the week had beaten Suffolk's Steve Mayes, Colin Long and John Roper had looked more and more likely to take the title as the tournament progressed, producing the all-important, match-winning bowls towards the culmination of the latter ends in the quarters, semi-final and final.

Moon's form was an inspirational backbone in the final as his team-mates preferred one direction to the other, piling on the pressure towards the stands but struggling the other way. In fact, a relieved Greg joked that he was pleased the match had not gone to an extra-end because they would not have won it.

Moon was responsible for rescuing a number of heads in the middle part of the game and can be thankful that when his team did score, they usually managed to pick up high scores. It is an interesting statistic then, that the championship winners only scored on seven of the eighteen ends, picking up a five, two fours, two threes and two twos to amass their 23 shots.

The game was evenly contested at thirteen ends but it was noticeable that Michael Bowley, David Baird and Phil Dickens' body language looked less confident over the last few ends when the noise level and enthusiasm of the Oxfordshire men reached a crescendo. The international experience of Prew and Moon was beneficial and they also will have benefited from having won the national fours in 1999 and the Two Fours last year.

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Nottinghamshire had won their place in the final thanks to an extra-end win against Matthew Burchell, Con Fairbrother and Arthur Burchell. The humorous antics of the Berkshire skip who had appeared to take every eventuality in his stride against Simon Skelton and Mark Royal, continued his lighthearted banter with colleagues and supporters even though the stakes were becoming greater. It was tempting to think that the successful run of the underdogs would extend to the silverware. However, on this occasion, with a yard in which to draw the match-winning bowl, Burchell found the last shot elusive.

The EBA Top Four competition gave Kent's quartet of Paul Barnicott, Duncan Hanmore, Gordon Charlton and Andy Thomson a chance to make up for the disappointment of being runners up last year to a certain Suffolk side! In the semi-final, they led from start to finish, overpowering Northamptonshire to a 22-18 victory. Meanwhile, Paul Ging, Stephen Birdsey and Stan Lant, the 2000 national and British Isles triples champions from Northumberland teamed up with lead, Craig Cooper to ease into the final with a 25-17 victory over Cornwall.

The early stages of the final saw a rampaging run from Kent as they led by twelve shots to nil before rain interrupted play. On their return, however, Northumberland staged a revival of sorts, edging back to 12-18 behind and threatening to continue the fightback as they built an opportunity for Stan Lant to remove a Kent bowl for five. Had this opportunity been fulfilled the match would have sprung to life in the final stages. As it was, Kent held on to take the title. 

In the National Under 25s Two Fours, Cumbria overcame Surrey thanks to 39-35 semi-final victory, while Devon saw off Essex by 43 shots to 36. The final saw the Devon youngsters become champions.

The early rounds of the Yoplait EBA Pairs took place yesterday afternoon with eastern counties interest in the form of past winners John Ottaway and Roger Guy. In an awkward preliminary match they encountered junior international Neil Hope who has qualified in four events including the under 25s, and his partner Ian Jefferies. The Wiltshire pair appeared slow starters as Ottaway demonstrated the form that won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, winning the first two ends to lead 4-0. However, there was a dramatic change in form and fortune as the Westlecot duo unbelievably scored on fourteen of the next sixteen ends to run out comfortable 28-10 winners.

A few rinks away, international skip from Acton Bridge, Lancashire, David Holt and his lead, Alan Mayne had better luck as they disposed of their Hampshire opponents Steve Feilder and Dave Fairall by 24 shots to 10.

Two of the triumphant EBA Fours winners, Nick Cammack and Michael Owen of Nottinghamshire were in good form again as they overturned Northumberland's Barrie Nicol and John Taylor, 31-11.

The legend of bowls, David Bryant takes his place on the Worthing greens today as he competes in the national championships for the first time since 1989. I was lucky enough to talk to the great man yesterday. He told me that this is the first time for ten years that he has entered county and national competitions and he has only played about fifteen games this season. He is partnered in the pairs by Somerset teacher Mike Langley.

David told me that this visit to Worthing makes his total for qualification for national championships at Paddington, Mortlake and Worthing a massive forty-nine occasions. And he will be trying to make it fifty next year!

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