The 2021 Bowls England National Finals saw summer draw to a close as the eyes of the bowls world fell on Royal Leamington Spa.
This festival of sport saw the best players in the country coming together to represent their counties and compete for glory. Held across 18 days, 932 matches were played and 29 national titles decided.
A-green was the beating heart of the competition with tiered seating wrapping round three sides of the green. It was here an enthusiastic crowd witnessed history play out with Sam Tolchard (Devon) becoming the first man to even win both the Two Bowl and the Four Bowl Singles in the same year.
Somerset’s Stef Branfield matched Tolchard’s achievements by winning the Women’s Four Bowl and Two Wood singles titles, a feat achieved only twice before. She almost went one further but narrowly lost out to defending champion Ellen Falkner MBE in the Women’s Champion of Champions. Falkner later credited Branfield as being the “female player of the season”.
For the first time, Bowls England professionally live-streamed part of the event across Facebook and YouTube. With over 10,000 views (from as far away as New Zealand) during the first two days, a third chance to catch the action was added into the closing week of the finals. It was in front of these cameras that we saw sisters Lucy and Katy Smith (Wiltshire) lift the Women’s Pairs trophy. Following a scintillating final end that saw the duo overcome a three shot deficit and win 17-16.
We were delighted to once again host Disability Bowls England at the National Finals. New to this year was the Mixed Ability Triples competition. Each team must consist of one player with a physical disability, one player with a visual impairment and one player with a learning disability. After a keenly contested competition, it was Khalila Hussain, Chris Gray and Allan Lyne who won their match 17 – 5 and the inaugural salver.
Score and reports from all days of the competition can be found here.
Success at this year’s National Finals would not have been possible without over 50 hardworking and enthusiastic volunteers, officials and green-staff supporting vital aspects of the event programme and helping to deliver a very successful event.
Jon Cockcroft, Chief Executive of Bowls England, was absolutely delighted that the organisation was able to host the finals in Leamington this year after missing 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, “given all the uncertainty surrounding this summer, it’s been brilliant to bring the bowls’ community together and showcase the best of our sport. We have learned a lot from this year and will be exploring ways to take the National Finals to the next level in 2022 with the backdrop of a home Commonwealth Games. I’d like to thank the Bowls England staff team for all their hard work and enthusiasm.”