Stowmarket’s Mark Royal safely through in World Indoor Singles Bowls Championships

Indoor bowls tournament at Ipswich Indoor Bowling Club. Mark Royal in action.

Indoor bowls tournament at Ipswich Indoor Bowling Club. Mark Royal in action. - Credit: Archant

With eight of the 16 matches completed at Potters Resort, we are exactly half way through the first round of the Just Retirement WBT World Indoor Singles Championship and, so far, the seeded players have all survived intact.

Bruised a little, maybe, and confidence dented a tad, but unbeaten.

Last night saw Stowmarket’s Mark Royal, the No14 seed, come through an epic battle of two Marks in which the Mid Suffolk man edged home, 4-9, 10-4, 2-1, against Irish PBA qualifier Mark McPeak.

The first two sets were full of skill, but everyone present will remember a remarkable shot played by McPeak on the second end of the tie-break, after Royal seemed to have sewn things up by drawing the shot then placing what looked like a perfect blocker halfway down the rink.

Boldly giving his last bowl a wide line, McPeak missed the blocker by a fraction of an inch, and rolled on unerringly to take the shot and save the match.

Royal still had a chance to win the end and the match by ditching the jack, but, after he legitimately called ‘time-out’, the shot clock mis-fired, and the hooter sounded to record an illegal delivery as he prepared to bowl.

Admitting it was a technical fault with the shot clock equipment, officials allowed Royal to complete his delivery, but his drive missed the jack by an inch or so, and another, sudden death end was required.

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McPeak played it well, but left Royal with an open draw to the jack, and the Suffolk man came up trumps with a superb delivery to which the thoughtful Irish star had no answer.

Over the past few days Greg Harlow, Stewart Anderson, Alex Marshall and Andy Thomson have been run close and were taken to a tie-break by young challengers.

Yesterday, it was the turn of Rob Paxton, the number three seed, to feel the pressure, as Craig Newton, a 37-year-old crown green specialist from York, made him sweat buckets before he got home, 5-7, 12-2, 2-1.

“I played reasonably well in the second set, but it was too close for comfort, and I was relieved to get home in the end,” said Paxton, from Taunton.

“It sounds crazy, but the rink speeded up as the game went on, but the lines to the jack straightened.”

The day started with a surprisingly straightforward 8-5, 11-5 victory for the No13 seed Jonathan Ross, from Scotland, over wildcard invitee Billy Jackson, from Lincoln, who is hungry to get back into the top 16 after slipping out of the Tour elite.

And it continued with a comfortable 12-5, 11-7 win for the number four seed Nick Brett, from the City of Ely, over New Zealander Andy McLean, from Dunedin.

Ross and Brett were far from satisfied with the level of their performance, Ross saying: “If it was a school report, it would say, ‘Could do better,’ and I know I will have to improve if I am to make further progress.”

In fact, Jackson, who won this title in 2009, scored the first four shots before Ross got going – but a scoring sequence of 1-1-1-2-3 put the Irish-born Scottish international 8-4 in front with one end left to play.

Jackson was in with a shout of a tie-break when he trailed 5-7 in the second set, but Ross again stamped his authority on proceedings with a single and a double, and the ninth end of the set was not required in this game.

Kiwi McLean set Brett back on his heels when he opened the scoring with a treble, but the City of Ely star bounced back with a full house of four shots on the second end, and raced into an 11-3 lead before dropping a double on the penultimate end.

New Zealanders find playing on carpet in the northern hemisphere a different proposition to playing on grass – or even cotula weed – at home, with the sun on their backs, but they are doggedly methodical, and McLean started to find his touch in the second set.

Brett was beginning to think he might have a problem when McLean led 3-2 after four ends, but a brace of trebles saw him leap ahead at 8-3, before the Kiwi struck back with a count of four that closed the gap to just one shot.

Again the number four seed had the answer, three shots on the eighth ends putting him four shots in front. With only one end left to play, not even a maximum count could save McLean, and the ninth end was surplus to requirements.