Devon win the Johns Trophy after defeating competition favourites Surrey.
Surrey reached the final after securing victory over Cambridgeshire in this morning’s semi-final, with Devon defeating 2016 champions Lincolnshire.
Devon were targeting their first success in the competition since 2013, with Surrey aiming for their fifth triumph in seven years.
Devon last met Surrey in the final of the Johns Trophy in 2014, but it was this year that saw them victorious through a closely fought battle to beat Surrey 113 – 111.
The battle of the south saw six players from Devon make their Johns debut, with the youngest member of the team being 20-year-old Ella Crouch. Team manager, Kay Page credits the mix of ages as being a key to their success.
Surrey ran the match incredibly well but it was Devon’s perseverance which saw them battle onto victory. Page said they work incredibly well as a team “despite being ten shots down at one point in the match, they didn’t let that affect them, they really pulled together as a team today.”
A final decided on the last end finally saw victory for a strong Devon side. The team credited their opponents for ‘giving it a right good go’.
One of the oldest and most hotly contested titles in English lawn bowls was decided this afternoon on the greens of Victoria Park, Royal Leamington Spa. The Middleton Cup pits 24-man teams against each other with play filling the green.
Starting at the semi-final stage, 2019 title holders Devon took on Kent in the battle of the south whilst Cumbria represented the north as they took on Northamptonshire.
Devon hoped to secure their sixth victory in seven years, but it was not meant to be as they lost out in the semi-finals to a strong Kent side.
In a thrilling final two ends Northamptonshire managed to edge out opponents Cumbria on a last end measure to secure their first Middleton Cup final since 1980.
Perhaps it was the vocal Kent support that carried the county to victory, beating Northamptonshire in the final 121 – 111.
With lively play, the Northamptonshire side didn’t make the victory for Kent easy. A boost to Kent’s triumph came on the 16th end when Gordon Charlton doubled his score picking up a five against Northamptonshire’s David Walker. Kent team manager commented: “It was a great game this afternoon, very close! We thoroughly enjoyed it and we hope the spectators did to”.
After losing out in recent years lifting the Middleton Cup, this victory meant so much to the county: “I think you can see from the celebration at the end that it means everything to the bowlers […] they deserve it after the last five or six years”.
It was one of the most atmospheric days at the Bowls England National Finals with 5 finals playing out to their conclusion: Mixed Pairs, White Rose, Amy Rose, Balcomb and the Walker Cup. Over 180 players took to the greens to play out the fitting finale for our festival of top-class sport. The past 18 days have seen friendships reunited and rivalries rekindled as 29 trophies have been won.
It was Scott Walton of Cambridgeshire who lifted the first trophy of this year’s finals and he was hoping to close it with a victory in the Mixed Fours with his Cambridgeshire teammates. However, in a hard fought match in sweltering conditions, the foursome from Kent lifted the trophy for the very first time.
Victories in the inter-county competitions were claimed by Buckinghamshire, Somerset, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire.
Buckinghamshire’s first win in the White Rose tournament was secured in spectacular fashion, with a triumphant display resulting in a 42 – 30 score against Northamptonshire, who were finalists in the last campaign.
Northamptonshire secured victory in the Balcomb Trophy with a 40-34 shot victory against Hampshire, the 2013 winners. The county has never won the trophy only making it as far as runner up in 2003 and 2015.
It was meant-to-be for Somerset’s Amy Rose team as they earned glory having placed as runner up in 2019. The team secured a 48 – 33 victory against Hertfordshire.
In the Walker Cup, defending champions Lincolnshire returned to claim glory with a 47 – 29 win against Kent.
There’s still more national competitions to go with the Middleton and Johns happening next weekend and the inter-club competitions the following weekend, concluding the national competition season on 19th September.
No event infrastructure will be in place, but the club house and café will be open with refreshments for people attending the event.
Men’s Senior Pairs & Women’s Senior Pairs
The Men’s Senior Pairs trophy will be returning once again to the South. Dorset has won their first Men’s Senior Pairs trophy – with Stuart Stephens & James Garner becoming the latest names to be added to the trophy following a closely fought victory in the final today beating Oxfordshire’s Howard Watts & Raymond Gaskins 17 – 10.
Garner praised the sport for “keeping a competitive edge” within him and is looking forward to continuing his partnership with Stephens.
“We clicked right away, we get on well with each other and know each other’s game and have been very successful today.”
On winning, Garner said: “I’m going to try and put it into words, I’ve bowled for the past 15 – 16 years and I’ve won a few trophies but this means the world to both of us, it’s such a fantastic opportunity.”
In the Women’s Senior Pairs Kirsty Cox & Caroline Cullum were hoping to repeat their success after claiming victory in the Women’s Senior Fours last week. Trailing by four heading into the last end, Lincolnshire skip, Cullum was holding three but narrowly failed to count with her last bowl enabling Julie Spice & Moira Self of Suffolk to claim victory 17 – 16.
No stranger to playing on the greens at Victoria Park, Self won the National Senior Singles in 2013. Partnering together for the first time, Julie and Moira proved that they are in fact a perfect pairing.
A delighted Self said: “We had a really good run and have enjoyed playing together. I think this proves that we can play with the rest of them and age is no barrier.”
After a difficult 18 months, both Self and Spice said it meant so much to both of them to be able to come to Leamington and play on a national stage, and not only have they enjoyed the competitive aspect of the tournament they have also enjoyed spending time with old friends.
When asked what’s next, they can’t wait for next season and hope to repeat their success.
The Mixed Fours competition is down to the final eight after a packed day’s play at Victoria Park today. Tomorrow’s quarter-finals throw up some mouth-watering ties, with the Northamptonshire v Suffolk clash promising to be the ‘match of the round’.
Ed Morris & Elaine Score were truly untouchable today, as they made unstoppable progress and eventually triumphed in the Mixed Pairs Finals. Live on Facebook & YouTube, the Essex pair secured a comprehensive 23-5 win over the likeable Yorkshire pair of Sue Allen & Mark Walton.
The leads of Score and Allen enjoyed a tight contest throughout the Final, but Walton came up against a man in supreme form. Morris, who has played 19 matches over the Finals and reached the final of the Two Bowl Singles, as well as winning the Men’s Triples, is in the form of his life.
Some of his shots were truly mesmerizing, and were reminiscent of Wayne Wilgress’ performance in the Men’s Pairs, which was also in front of the cameras.
Time and again, Morris would produce something from nothing, and by the end his wily opposite number Walton was visibly impressed by his opponents performance. Walton, himself a winner earlier in the tournament in the Family Pairs, and someone who has enjoyed a number of great performances over the Finals, did not play badly. Morris simply produced an incredible display.
Morris & Score have been playing together for 7 years, and rarely will they have gelled more superbly than this. There was a previous final defeat, back in 2017, but in truth they never looked like losing this one.
“I’ve carried him today! I badgered him to play with me back in 2014, and he eventually gave in and said yes, and it’s got to the point where he can’t dump me now!”
“We’ve gone out in just about every round possible before. I’m so delighted and happy.”
Morris echoed his teammates delight.
“We’ve been to the Semi Finals four times in the last 6 or 7 years, and today it went really well. Elaine seems to really trust me now – often she’ll let me play the shot I want; we’ve had arguments in the past!”
“The scheduling has helped me. I was up here for the first 6 days, then got to go home for a break, and then I’ve come back strongly.”
Morris praised the fact that, due to the streaming of the event introduced this year, he will always be able to look back on the day’s events. “It’s nice to have a video to look back on in future years as someone who has won it.”
Women’s Senior Pairs
The penultimate day will see the Senior Pairs trophies for both men and women handed out, and the Women’s competition looks intriguingly poised. Teams from Sussex, Suffolk, Berkshire, Middlesex, Lincolnshire, Northants, Devon and Hampshire will compete to get the name on the trophy, with Linda Stanley & Gillian Hill hoping to secure consecutive titles for their county – Lorraine Hume & Rachel Mackriell having won in 2019.
Men’s Senior Pairs
The Men’s competition is also hard to call. Herefordshire, Dorset, Hertfordshire, Devon, and Oxfordshire give the Quarter Finals a southern feel – it’ll be up to Warwickshire, Durham & Northumberland to take the trophy to the north for the first time since 2016.
You can buy tickets for Day 17, the penultimate day of the National Finals, here.
Men’s Senior Singles
Grant Burgess secured a second Men’s Senior Singles title today, defeating his name sake Grant Osbourne in a superb final on A Green. Worcestershire’s Burgess was champion in 2016, and 5 years on he is celebrating once again following the close fought 21-17 finale.
It was Osbourne’s first time in the Senior Singles final, but he showed no nerves and was level after 5 ends. The Worcestershire man began to pull away from his Bedfordshire based opponent, opening up a lead he never surrendered. Until the 22nd end.
Osbourne went into a 17-16 win, but this seemed to spur the former champion on. Scores of 3 and then 2 saw Burgess home.
“It’s brilliant,” Burgess said after being presented with the trophy again. “I’ve had a great time, I’ve really enjoyed it. To win it again… I thought ‘I’ve got a chance’ but this is good.”
He also paid tribute to his opponent. “It was a tough game. On this rink, you had to bowl the right lines, the right lengths – he seemed to be able to find it on a shorter jack, or when the jack wasn’t quite up. I was finding a better line when it was on a longer length and it was difficult. He bowled really, really well and he was a really tough opponent.”
And next year? “Every year I go for it! As long as I can, I will do. And I still play county competitions too.”
A worthy champion.
Women’s Senior Singles
Meanwhile just along the green, it was a truly remarkable Women’s Senior Singles final. 2003 winner Sandra Maguire won, but that doesn’t even begin to tell the story of one of the most stunning finals of the National Finals.
The Forest Oaks, Nottinghamshire bowler raced into an early lead, and at 15-3 after 9 ends, Janet Williamson, from Hyde Abbey, Hants, looked unlikely to stage a come back.
But she proved everyone wrong with a display of real grit and determination. As Sandra commented after “all of a sudden, Janet shortened the jack, and I lost it. She played very, very well.”
The Semi Finals the pair progressed through couldn’t have been more markedly different. Williamson secured an unbelievably tense win; a two shot end stole victory from 2019 winner Rachel Mackriell’s grasp. Maguire’s progress, meanwhile, was altogether more serene – a 21-7 win.
Williamson channelled that energy into her comeback. 15-3 became 17-9, then 17-13, then 19-16, then, incredibly, 19-18.
Two one-shot ends, however, saw Maguire win the title for the second time – she previously lifted the trophy in 2003.
Afterwards, Maguire was delighted. “It feels fantastic. This win feels a little more upmarket, if you get what I mean [in comparison to 2003], because there were only the ladies at Coventry. It was good, but this seemed a bit harder. I was doing fine! I was on 17 for ages but I kept myself together.”
“Every one of the ladies has played well. It’s just been brilliant.”
It was truly an incredible advert for bowls, and will live long in the memory of those here today.
The Mixed Pairs Quarter Finals, Semi Finals and Finals will see one match from each round streamed tomorrow from Leamington Spa via the Bowls England Facebook & YouTube channels.
The Quarter Final line-up has a few familiar names in it – Edward Morris amongst them. Mark & Scott Walton, winners of the Family Pairs back on August 19th, will face off against each other in the last 8.
Men’s Senior Pairs
There were a number of preliminary matches in the Men’s Senior Pairs, as the competition heats up. You can find the results on our live scores page here.
You can buy tickets for Day Sixteen here.
Men’s Champion of Champions
Jamie Chestney (Culm Vale, Devon) bt Mark Royal (Rookery, Suffolk) 21-11.
Jamie Chestney won the Champion of Champions this afternoon, clinching the fourth men’s title for Devon this season. The Culm Vale player defeated Suffolk’s Mark Royal in the final, 21-11.
Despite Chestney achieving such an impressive score, the game was close the whole way through with heads changing after most bowls were delivered. The Devon player was 13-7 up, before dropping a one and a four, leaving Royal just two shots behind. But Chestney then flew away with it, picking up the necessary eight shots over the following five ends.
The high performance player said he was thrilled to take the trophy this afternoon, and praised his opponent for such a high quality game. Chestney said: “Tough game against Mark, the scoreline is probably a bit flattering to me but it was a good game and I really enjoyed it.”
Chestney has never won one of the main singles title outdoors, other than the Junior Singles in 2009. The Devon player, married to fellow elite bowler Natalie Chestney, has competed in two Commonwealth Games, winning a bronze medal on the Gold Coast in 2018 and a silver medal in Glasgow in 2014. He said he was keeping his fingers crossed for selection for next year’s Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Royal, who won the competition in 2003 when he beat Northamptonshire’s Mick Sharpe 21-7, only narrowly defeated Kent’s Sean Coyle by two shots in the semi-final. Chestney also had a tight game, beating Hampshire’s Daniel Taylor 21-20, having been 20-18 down.
Women’s Champion of Champions
Ellen Falkner MBE (Littleport, Cambridgeshire) bt Stef Branfield (Clevedon, Somerset) 21-8.
Ellen Falkner MBE has defended her title in the Women’s Champion of Champions, defeating Somerset’s Stef Branfield in the final 21-8. Both players were keen to lift the trophy, with Falkner having won the competition in 2019, while Branfield was vying for her third singles title this year having already won the Women’s Singles and the Women’s Two Bowl Singles.
Falkner triumphed over elite teammate Amy Gowshall in the semi-final, a match that repeated the 2019 final of the competition. The Littleport player got off to a fine start and lead 18-8. Gowshall tried to make a comeback, having pulled back against Lorraine Kuhler in the quarter-final, but Faulkner was keen to book her place into the final and won the game 21-16.
She continued her form into the final, consistently drawing to the jack every end. This left little room for Branfield to respond and saw Faulkner pull away for an impressive victory against the successful player.
Falkner was over the moon to clinch the Champion of Champion title again. She said: “Absolutely delighted to get the win, but absolutely full credit to Stef who has been the female player of the season. She’s done a marathon and has put a sterling performance in so far and still has one more to play.”
She added: “I am thrilled to defend it and even more thrilled to be back on the green and bowling again. Just really enjoying playing.”
Men’s Senior Singles
2016’s winner Grant Burgess remains in the Men’s Senior Singles competition as well as former international Andrew Squire. Other players battling out for a place in the semi final’s include Steve Kilford, Amjad Rana, Terry Priddle, Attilio Ciampini, Chris Daniels and Grant Osborne.
Women’s Senior Singles
2019 winner Rachel Mackriell remains in the Women’s Senior Singles and will face Oxfordshire’s Carol Gaskins at 9.30am tomorrow. The 2018 winner Sue Allen also remains in the competition and will play Sue Cooke from Wiltshire in the morning.
You can buy tickets for an exciting Day Fifteen here.
Men’s Junior Singles
Lincolnshire’s Jordan Philpott lifted the Junior Singles trophy for the first time this afternoon after beating international teammate Harry Goodwin in a tense final. The 24-year-old from Royal Mail Cart triumphed after being down 14-16 against the Devon player who won the Junior Pairs title with partner Kieron Kniveton on Sunday. Philpott, who celebrated his birthday only yesterday, picked up two three’s and a single shot on the last end to take the title.
The two junior international players, who are friends both on and off the green, battled it out on one of A green’s show rinks in front of a shivering crowd. Goodwin, 23, was unperturbed by the cold weather however, and started 8-3 having had two high scoring ends. But Philpott soon upped his game and picked up on the next four ends to edge just in front with a total of nine shots. The two players were then nip and tuck over the middle of the match, with Goodwin managing to claw back and lead 16-14.
Philpott left little room for error over the next three ends however, picking up two three’s on the bounce. But the King’s player was not giving up without a fight, and facing game down he killed the end with his final bowl. During the replayed end, Philpott returned to his form and drew shot bowl within inches of the jack. Goodwin narrowly missed drawing the shot.
Speaking after the game, the Lincolnshire player said the jack difference appeared to make all the difference in the final. He noted that he was favouring the shorter length, while Goodwin was opting for longer jacks.
Philpott said he was “buzzing” to have won his first national title this afternoon and looked forward to celebrating his win in the pub tonight. He said: “Considering how good he is and just coming from the county Devon and everyone is afraid of Devon, they’re just really good. I battled hard the last couple of days, I’ve had no easy game here. The hardest game was definitely the final and yeah, I’m really happy.”
Understandably Goodwin was disappointed to not win the double in the junior competitions this year but congratulated his opponent on winning the competition. Both players will have one more shot at the competition next year before being over the age limit.
Men’s Two Bowl Singles
Sam Tolchard has become the first man to ever win both the Two Bowl Singles and the Four Bowl Singles in the same year after a late final. The Commonwealth Games medalist from Kings, Devon, triumphed over elite teammate Ed Morris to win the double this evening having won all six of his games.
Tolchard got off to a quick start, with an early 13-5 but the Essex County player fought his way back into the game. Morris clawed back to within two, winning five ends on the bounce. But the Kings player wasn’t going to let victory slip through his fingers, drawing some quality bowls to secure the win 17-13.
The Devon player said he didn’t realise he had made history by winning both of the singles titles in the same year. He said: “It’s fantastic, I’m over the moon. It has been a long day but I have enjoyed it. I don’t mind playing that many games in a day. When I won the two wood last time in 2016, me and Lew (Louis Ridout) were playing pairs so I ended up playing six games in a day. So it is quite similar to last time.”
Morris was downcast over losing in the final, despite beating Tolchard in the semi final of the triples last week. He said: “I’m always disappointed to lose, but I was pleased to make him work in the end. As it was getting darker I played better and was putting Sam through his paces. When he was 15-13 up I held two but he ended up drawing shot with his last bowl.”
Women’s Two Bowl Singles
Somerset’s Stef Branfield repeated Tolchard’s double win on the next-door rink, securing her second singles title just days after lifting the Women’s Singles trophy. The Clevedon bowler continued her fine form throughout the day and showed no sign of wavering in the final against fellow England player Katherine Hawes.
It was almost a repeat of the Four Bowl Singles final, as Wiltshire’s Chris Mitchell reached the semi-final stage, only narrowly losing to Oxfordshire’s Hawes. But the Oxford City and County player booked her place into the final with a 14-11 victory.
Branfield was on the jack from the start, leaving Hawes with little room for error. She managed to fly in front with 14 shots to Oxfordshire’s five and finished on 16-8. The Somerset player was lost for words after winning the double title and emotionally hugged both parents as soon as she came off the green. She said: “I am speechless, to win one was a dream well to do the double, no words.”
Ellen Faulkner MBE has previously won both singles competitions in 2011, alongside Edna Bessell MBE in 2008.
Women’s Champion of Champions
The opening stages of the Women’s Champion of Champions started off superbly with a high quality game between Commonwealth Games gold medalists Amy Gowshall and Sophie Tolchard. The two elite players drew a large crowd as spectators applauded the exceptional standard of bowls. Nine-time winner Gowshall was able to just edge over the line with a 21-19 victory. Other games saw elite players Ellen Faulkner MBE and Lorraine Kuhler comfortably beat their opponents 21-4 and 21-7 respectively. Stef Branfield’s first game against Northumberland’s Victoria Symons has been postponed to tomorrow morning, due to the Singles Champion reaching the final of the Two Wood Singles.
Men’s Champion of Champions
The quarter finals of the competition will commence on Wednesday morning after some close matches today. Devon’s Jamie Chestney beat B.J. Byles 21-17, with Suffolk’s Mark Royal and Kent’s Sean Coyle also winning by the same score line.
Devon were denied in another Final as a brilliant performance by Huntingdonshire’s Rebecca Moorbey and Chloe Brett saw them secure the Women’s Junior Pairs title. Despite a fightback in the middle ends by Emma Cooper and Nicole Rogers, it was the Huntingdonshire team who were celebrating at the end.
They had been in imperious form in their Semi Final victory over Surrey, and they appeared unstoppable as they raced into a 6-0 lead after three ends.
But Devon, with Junior international Rogers and Triples champion Cooper, weren’t going down without a fight, and by the 11th end had cut the deficit to one.
But Moorbey, herself a Junior international, and Brett kept on accumulating shots, and a count of 2 on the 16th all but secured the win.
Women’s Senior Fours
And in the Women’s Senior Fours, it was another eastern county celebrating! Cleethorpes, Lincs, secured a great win over the Alton Social, Hants who contained three of the four players who won the competition in 2018. Kirsty Cox, Anne Burchell, Caroline Cullum and Glenys Bolt ran out 17-12 winners over a spirited Lesley Johnson, Alice Atwell, Hazel Marke and Margaret Holden.
Both had secured passage to the final after tight Semi Finals – scores of 14-13 and 14-12 told the story of hard fought victories.
In the final match, Cleethorpes started strongly and never really took their feet off the gas, 17-6 up by the 12th end. Some late scoring brought the score line closer for the previous champions, but the trophy was heading to Lincolnshire for the first time.
Men’s Junior Singles
The last 8 of the Men’s Junior Singles was decided.
Mac May, Joshua Phillips, Callum Riddleston, Jordan Philpott, Harry Goodwin, Ryan Claxton, Scott Ashby and Jack Groves will return to Victoria Park tomorrow to battle it out for the prestigious title, previously won by luminaries such as Jamie Walker, Nick Brett, John Rednall and Tony Allcock.
Disability Bowls England
Once again it was an absolute pleasure to host Disability Bowls England at the National Finals, as a number of competitions reached their denouement. You can find out more by visiting the DBE Facebook page.
The Men’s Junior Pairs title was won by Devon for the second time in its four-year history – and it was a second title for Harry Goodwin, this time with partner Kieron Kniveton. Kniveton, who has been playing with Harry since taking up the sport a few years ago, had previously appeared at Leamington in the Singles in 2019 – but it was in the Pairs that he has now tasted success.
A great final, the pair overcame tough opposition. Adam Pitfield and Nathan Betts, from Northants, put up stiff opposition, coming back from 10-3 down to 13-10 by the 15th end. But the Devonian pair pushed on, claiming an eventual 15-11 victory.
With plenty of success for the Devon juggernaut this week, the future also looks bright for the southern county. Kniveton and Goodwin, however, were just enjoying themselves.
“We’re good mates too!” Goodwin said after the victory. Names to watch out for in the future, for definite.
Men’s Senior Fours
It was the other end of the country, however, who were celebrating success in the other competition that ended today, the Men’s Senior Fours. Dunston’s Brett Arkley, Tony Humphires, Alex Bryden and Alan Theobold secured victory over a pirited East Leake, Nottinghamshire side of Howard Else, Paul Williamson, Leonard Hale and Irvine Powdrill to take the trophy north. It was the first time the Men’s Senior Fours had gone to a county from north of Leamington since its inception – and it was thoroughly deserved.
Dunston had been the standout team of the day, comfortably winning their Semi Final against Bolton Flat Green, Lancashire, which gave them great impetus heading into the final. The scoreline was 16-11 at the end of proceedings.
Women’s Junior Pairs
We could be in for a cracker tomorrow as the Women’s Junior Pairs competition reaches the Semi Final stage. Notable victories included a win for a Devon side featuring Women’s Triples winner Emma Cooper, as well as success for Chloe Brett’s Huntingdonshire – the daughter of elite squad member Nick.
Women’s Senior Fours
The Women’s Senior Fours competition was also progressing on the Victoria Park Greens today, but there was disappointment for Women’s Singles runner-up Chris Mitchell, from Wiltshire, who went out early on in proceedings. This competitions will continue tomorrow.
And finally, we were absolutely delighted to host a number of Disability Bowls England’s Finals today. You can find out more by heading to the Disability Bowls England website.
Bank Holiday is all set up for another mammoth day of action at the National Finals – you can buy tickets here.
Kat Bowman secured Leicestershire’s first trophy of the National Finals with a comprehensive display against Hampshire’s Alice Lovett. Displaying a great deal of skill, control and solid temperament, the young bowler from Thringstone had too much for the Oakley player.
“It hasn’t really sunk in! I can’t believe it.” said an emotional Bowman after the trophy presentation. “I lost to Emma Cooper in the Quarter Finals last time we were here and I came today just wanting to get one further. Then I played against Ruby and played okay, got the result. I went with it – and now we’re here!”
Bowman, from a bowling family, was a runner-up in the Sutton Winson Trophy, the U18 National Open Singles, in 2019. This latest victory came after a series of strong performances on the day, when she knocked out Huntingdonshire’s Chloe Brett and Lincolnshire’s Ruby Hill in the Quarters & Semis respectively.
“It ‘s not real! To be fair, going into the Final I realised that I had got a trophy either way, so I thought ‘calm down, keep it together and just bowl my natural game’. I can’t control what Alice does. In the end, I got there!”
Kat was relieved that she secured the victory in one go, going from 18-10 to 21-10 in one end. “Those last 3, I am glad I did it in one end, because if I was trying to get one from 20, its absolutely lethal – that last one is the hardest!” It was an emotional victory for the youngster, but well deserved and the future looks bright for her.
Men’s Senior Fours
There’ll be a new name written into the Men’s Senior Fours history tomorrow, as Nottinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Durham and Lancashire will contest the Semi Finals from 12.30pm.
Bolton Flat Green (John Muldoon, Lyndon Noon, Peter Rogers & Gordon Niven) Luton Town (David Whelan, David Taylor, David Frost & Eddie Swann), East Leake (Howard Else, Paul Williamson, Leonard Hale & Irvine Powdrill) and Dunston (Brett Arkley, Tony Humphries, Alex Bryden & Alan Theobald) will compete for the title.
Men’s Junior Pairs
Two previous winners of the Men’s Junior Pairs could get their name on the trophy for a second time tomorrow. Devon’s Harry Goodwin & Cambridgeshire’s Jamie Barker will be gunning for glory once again, and could meet each other in a tantalising Semi Final. Barker is playing with brother Adam, whom he lost with (to Goodwin) in 2018.
Women’s Senior Fours
Wiltshire, Lancashire & Devon were the successful counties in the preliminary round of the Women’s Senior Fours today, with the tournament continuing tomorrow before culminating on Monday.
Cumbria won the first-ever Men’s Fours back in 1905 – and they are now the latest name on the famous trophy following a comfortable victory in the final today. The foursome, from Workington, overcame 2019’s champions, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, 20-5 in front of a number of supporters on A Green. They are the first team from the county to win this title since 2007, and it’s the seventh time they have taken the Men’s Fours.
As with many of the final matches so far at the National Finals, the victorious four got ahead earlier. 4 shots on the 5th end took them into a 10-1 lead, which soon became a 15-2 advantage to the team from the North.
It was a perfect team performance, with every single member of the side producing the goods in the final. They had been in great form all day, and they brought that into the showpiece. It was a showing based on no silly errors and a fair deal of percentage play, which proved mightily effective – particularly after they stormed into that early lead.
Buckinghamshire’s victory in 2019 had been secured in spectacular fashion, with a 3 on the final end taking them to a 23-22 triumph. There would be no heroics from skip John McGuinness this time; the comeback was very brief, 15-5 still a long way behind.
A count of two, followed by a three, saw Cumbria home, and the vanquished Bucks team were magnanimous in defeat.
The Cumbrians were joyous, and you can see a full interview with them here.
Women’s Junior Singles
The light was fading as Chloe Brett, daughter of Nick, secured a tight 21-20 victory over Women’s Triples champion Emma Cooper. Other notable results in the Second Round saw Katy Smith saw 2021’s Women’s Pairs winner Katy Smith continue her quest for a double, whilst Emily Ferguson, fresh from her commentary stint on the Bowls England stream earlier this week, has got through to the next round too.
Men’s Senior Fours
There will be a new name on the Men’s Senior Fours trophy in a couple of days time, with the race for this title wide open after the First Round of matches today.
Gordon Charlton, 20 years on from winning the Men’s Singles, will be hopeful of another title with Sandwich, Kent.
Men’s Junior Pairs
Two preliminary matches took place in this competition today, and it was comfortable wins for Surrey & Somerset. They won 17-8 and 23-5, against Kent & Warwickshire respectively.
You can buy tickets for Day Ten here.
Women’s Singles Final
Somerset’s Stef Branfield clawed back against her opponent Chris Mitchell this evening to win the Women’s Singles Championship for the first time. The international, from Cleveden, had reached the Semi Final stage in the competition three times before and has finally climbed the final hurdle to win the flagship trophy.
Branfield overcame a nine shot deficit as her opponent, over twice her age, secured 11 shots early on to the Somerset player’s two. But the international soon upped her game significantly, playing a perfect drive to take the jack back three yards and pick up two shots and double her score. Branfield continued to fight back, picking up nine shots over the following seven ends to get within just one shot of her opponent.
The two players continued their tight tussle, with the heads changing hands after each bowl played. But as the score lay 15-14 to Mitchell, Branfield found fine form to pick up four shots with all of her bowls laying within two feet of the jack. The Somerset player was able to continue her comeback, leaving her just one shot away from victory.
Mitchell was not giving up without a fight however, and drew shot the following end. However, Branfield was determined to edge over the line, drawing a toucher with her second bowl to hold game. Mitchell tried to win back the shot but missed slightly under the head.
Branfield, who has been on the international scene since 2005, said winning the National Singles was a “dream come true”. The 31-year-old said: “I was hoping that I would get past the semi final stage as that has been my nemesis over the past few years and to get to the final was a massive bonus.”
Branfield said she was determined not to let Mitchell’s fine start get to her and told herself to aim to pick up a few more shots. She added: “Once I got within touching distance I knew I just needed to keep going.” She still has the Two Wood singles, Champion of Champions and Walker Cup left to go, and hopes not to be knocked out the first round in the first two after securing such a great win this afternoon.
The Wiltshire player is also a regular at Leamington, winning the National Triples team mates Alison Fail and Julie Jones-Witcomb. They also completed the win by lifting the British Isles Triples trophy the following year. Mitchell has had a particularly successful season this year, qualifying in six competitions. She still has the Two Wood singles, Over 55 Fours and Mixed Pairs left to play next week. Speaking about her run in the singles over the past two days, Mitchell said she was thrilled to have reached the final of the flagship event. She said: “I’m pleased with the way I have played in the whole competition and well done to Stef, she played really well.”
Mitchell also revealed that she is 70-years-old and one of her biggest regrets was not taking up the sport at a younger age. Having competed against lots of younger bowlers throughout the competition however, the Purton bowler said the ages of her opponents do not phase her.
Men’s Fours Opening Stages
The Men’s Fours competition whittled down to the quarter finals today, after an impressive day of bowling. 2019’s winners, skipped by Performance Director John McGuinness, are continuing their fine 2019 form and will face a Hertfordshire four skipped by junior international Tom Muir in the quarter final. A Kent team were fortunate to reach the final stages of the competition, despite dropping two 6’s throughout their last 16 match. They will face a local team from Avenue bowls club in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire at 9.30am tomorrow. The remaining four teams will all be looking to book their place into the semi finals later in the day.
You can be here to see the competition unfold tomorrow – tickets are available here or on the gate tomorrow morning.
Ed Morris skipped his team to victory this evening, beating a Devon triple captained by Lee Phillips from Topsham 18-11. The final started off incredibly tight and saw the players tie seven shots after 10 ends. But the Essex County trio soon found their form, picking nine shots up over the next five ends.
Speaking at the conclusion of the final, Morris said his team were able to find the green quickly and capitalise early on. He said: “We had a few more bowls in the head than they did, which meant they were having to play quality bowls to win the end.”
Lead Chris Muir said the atmosphere throughout the competition had been amazing, and thanked his county for supporting them throughout. He added: “It has been fantastic, a great experience.”
Morris will be hoping his win on the green this afternoon will help his bid to become one of the five players selected for the men’s Commonwealth Team later this year. The Essex player is currently one of six men vying for a spot. He said he hopes today’s win will help his chances and added: “The Commonwealth Games is about performing under pressure and I would like to think that’s what I did today. This is one of the games that is closest to the situation seen in the Games.”
The Essex players only just overcame Devon’s trio skipped by Sam Tolchard in the semi final, winning the game on a ditch measure. The close-fought match saw the game go right down to the wire, with Essex two Steve Gunnell driving the jack into the ditch and his toucher finishing under two feet away in the ditch. Harry Goodwin replied with an excellent draw to the ditch that held the shot until Morris played the bowl away. Tolchard responded with another accurate draw, which narrowly lost the measure by half an inch.
Phillips’s rink also secured their place in the final after a tight final against Huntingdonshire, skipped by elite member Nick Brett. Their opponents started off with a great start, leading 12 shots to 4 after nine ends. But the Devon trio soon upped their game, picking up a three, four and a give to take them into the lead. They won the game 21-16.
The opening stages of the women’s singles saw a few upsets, with 2017 winner Kirsty Richards (Whitnash, Warwickshire) losing in the prelim against Nottinghamshire’s Victoria Pancott. Commonwealth Bronze medalist Katherine Rednall also bowed out to Cambridgeshire’s Val Hughes. Devon’s Sophie Tolchard, who lead the winning Women’s Triples earlier this week, lost in the last 16 to 19-year-old Ellie Last (Felixstowe and Suffolk, Suffolk). The Quarter Finals will commence tomorrow morning at 9.30am, with Leicestershire’s Jamie Lee Winch hoping to retain her title, having won the coveted trophy in 2019. Other players competing for a place in the semi finals include elite player Natalie Chestney (Kings, Devon), Somerset’s Stef Bradfield and first-time qualifier Alison King (Queenborough, Kent).
You can be here to see the competition unfold tomorrow – tickets are available here or on the gate tomorrow morning.
Sister’s Lucy and Katy Smith lifted the Women’s Pairs Trophy this afternoon following a scintillating final end that saw the Wiltshire duo overcome a three shot deficit and win 17-16. Experienced players Shamista Patel and Margaret Smith looked close to victory as they entered the last end, having secured six shots in the previous three ends to edge in front after a tight tussle early on.
The two leads finished in style, leaving the skips with an exceptionally close head. Surrey lead Shamista played three perfect bowls, leaving Margaret with two close seconds and a well placed back bowl. Katy, 24, also left her older sister in a promising position, with a front toucher and her other two bowls lying firmly in the head.
With six bowls left to play, Lucy had a shot on to turn the game around and a chance to secure the three to force an extra end. Having missed with her first bowl and edging one of Shamista’s bowls out of the head, Lucy opted to switch her hand and go for gold – hoping to turn out the remaining Surrey bowl and clinch an extra end or even the win. With no nerves appearing on the surface, the 26-year-old played it absolutely perfectly, turning out Shamista’s second bowl and managing to stay in the count to hold the winning four. After a tense deliberation, the Surrey player decided to play a runner on the backhand, narrowly missing turning out any of the four Wiltshire bowls, much to the delight of the Smith sister’s.
Katy and Lucy looked close to tears as they hugged in the centre of the green and took in what had just happened. Friends and family shortly ran on to the rink to join in the celebrations. They later walked on to the green hand-in-hand to collect the highly-coveted trophy.
Speaking after the trophies had been presented, Lucy described the win as being “what dreams are made of”. She said: “We are actually current indoor pairs champions too so to win this on top of it, I’m absolutely over the moon and to win with Katy as well is just the best feeling ever.”
Margaret and Shamista will be back on the greens later in the season, as Surrey looks to defend its title in the John’s trophy. The Sutton skip was lost for words after she left the green, devastated to have lost a national final by one shot. But Margaret was full of praise for the Smith sister’s and fully congratulated them on their win. She said: “It was a very good game played in very good spirit and it could have gone either way. We look forward to coming to play the John’s on the 12th September.”
The early round of the Men’s Triples were taking place elsewhere in Victoria Park, and it is intriguingly poised heading into the Quarter Final stage.
Ed Morris, who has had a frustrating Finals to date, will be looking to help his Essex County side to victory. There’s a potential blockbuster at the Semi Final stage, versus Louis Ridout & Sam Tolchard’s Devon, but both teams face difficult Quarter Finals at 9.30am tomorrow morning – the focus will be initially on navigating through them.
You can get your tickets for Day Seven of the National Finals here.
Words can’t quite do justice to what was a fantastic Men’s Pairs final on A Green today, which saw Wayne Willgress and John Tufts run out victors over the heavily fancied Devon team of Sam Tolchard & Louis Ridout. In front of live streaming cameras for the first time at the National Finals at Leamington Spa, Willgress produced a virtuoso performance to lead him and Norfolk teammate Tufts to a stunning win, 15-6.
Tolchard was gunning to become the first man since 1987 to win both the Men’s Singles and Pairs event in the same year, and along with 2018 Singles Champion Ridout, would have fancied his chances given their form heading into the Final.
In a nip-and-tuck affair, Norfolk scored consistently early on. They took control of the Jack in the first end and only once let it go until they had built a 9-2 lead. Their short game was well honed, and with Willgress in truly inspired form, the game seemed to be Norfolk’s for the taking.
But Tolchard and Ridout are made of stern stuff and they began chipping away at the Norwich pair. But they just never could get enough of a foothold in the game, as Willgress’ third bowls consistently got him and Tufts out of trouble.
By end 15, things were getting desperate and, despite Tolchard pulling out a great end, Willgress hit back. However, the Singles champion’s third was right out of the top drawer and had his England colleague Morris in the commentary box purring – but was still only worth a solitary one.
It could have been a turning point – but Norfolk poured cold water on that, taking three on the very next end. Then, with Devon on the verge of a 3 or better in the 17th end, Willgress did what he’d done all game – produced another truly inspired shot to knock the Jack into the ditch. They shook hands – the title was heading to Norfolk.
There were emotional scenes as the pair reflected on their first National title as a pair. “[It means] everything” a tearful Willgress began,” he [Tufts] is my best mate. My dad’s been struggling with cancer, and just to win it for him was good.”
Tufts paid tribute to his teammate. “I leave him to it quite a lot! He’s quite handy to bowl with – if I spread them out, he’ll sort them out fairly well. He goes last so the buck stops with him!”
Willgress also acknowledged the vanquished Devonians.
“Beating Sam & Louis, probably the two best players in England, makes the triumph even sweeter.”
An incredible day of bowls came to a close with a new set of names on the National Pairs trophy, and it was a truly well deserved victory.
Meanwhile, the other Greens saw some incredible action as 8 teams fought to qualify for the Quarter Finals of the Women’s Pairs and a chance to claim glory on A Green tomorrow.
It already looks hard to pick a winner, though following their narrow defeat in the Semi Finals of the Triples, could Lorraine Kuhler and Katherine Hawes go better tomorrow? They face a tough test first up against Amy Gowshall & Caroline Cullum.
We’ll be streaming again tomorrow, so you can follow the action on our Facebook & YouTube pages.
You can also buy tickets here for what is shaping up to be one of the busiest days yet – as the Men’s Triples also gets underway.
Two trophies in two days for Devon and the Tolchard family saw A Green erupt in cheers in a sunny Leamington. The Triples team of Harriet Stevens, Sophie Tolchard and Emma Cooper secured a comprehensive victory over the Surrey team of Charlotte Emanuel, Kat Hornbrook and Zoe Hollins. Emanuel was magnanimous in defeat; and the delight of the team from Milford at just reaching the Final was evident at the end of the game.
The team from Kings, Devon had started the match in truly imperious fashion. Inspired some by some outstanding bowling, they stormed into a 14-2 lead after 6 ends, and the Surrey Women were always struggling to make up the ground from that moment on.
The two finalists had enjoyed slightly contrasting Semi Final matches. Surrey, basking in the underdog tag earned over the previous rounds, secured a victory over Worcestershire 15-12. Devon, on the other hand, had to endure an extra end in their win over Oxfordshire, with Lorraine Kuhler’s team pushing her friend’s Sophie Tolchard’s Triples all the way.
Surrey were no match for Devon in the Final, however, and Stevens was pleased to secure the title. “It’s fantastic. I couldn’t have done it without these girls! We just love playing together.”
The Quarter Final line-up is set and could Devon secure a hattrick of titles?
Sam Tolchard, and best mate Louis Ridout, will be going for glory in the Men’s Pairs. They face a number of stern tests, with Poole Park, Dorset lying in wait in the last 8.
We will be streaming one rink per session tomorrow as the Men’s Pairs plays out, which you can watch on our Facebook and YouTube channels.
You can still buy tickets for tomorrow here.
It was glory for Sam Tolchard and Devon in the Men’s Singles Final. The two-time Commonwealth Games Bronze medalist secured the title with victory over former England teammate David Bolt 21-12 in the showpiece event in Victoria Park, Royal Leamington Spa. In a thrilling final, it took all Tolchard’s skill and ingenuity to overcome the combative Bolt in front of a vocal audience in the stands.
“I’m delighted to win this one. I’m so happy to have held on to win. It’s a real buzz to do it again.”
Tolchard, the 2008 Men’s Singles champion at the event, went into the day as the favourite, and Quarter Final & Semi Final victories over Martin Spencer and Joe Dawson augured well. Bolt started the day in blistering form, winning his Quarter Final against Ryan Atkins 21-12, before triumphing over Mark Walton in the Semi Final in stunning fashion, 21-5.
The Final did not get off to the most auspicious of starts for the Durham man, however. Tolchard was able to open up a considerable early lead, which grew to 9-2, leaving Bolt a considerable hill to climb.
But the 2011 Men’s Singles champion, also a medalist from the Gold Coast, did not give up without a fight. But Tolchard proved too strong, and saw off the fightback in comprehensive fashion.
Tolchard was quick to praise his opponent. “Up against a quality player like Bolty, you just have to concentrate on your own game. I got off to a strong start, but knew he’d come back at me, which he did.”
Sam, who is part of the provisional Team England squad for the Commonwealth Games next year which will be hosted in the same venue as the National Finals, is taking things one step at a time.
“The next target is the Pairs tomorrow! Then of course I am really excited about the Commonwealth Games next year – and it’s great to see Victoria Park looking so good this week.
The atmosphere makes the win even sweeter!”
The early stages of the Women’s Triples also took place today – and the Quarter Final line-up for tomorrow looks tantalising.
England Performance squad members Lorraine Kuhler, Jamie-Lea Winch, Amy Gowshall and sister of the newly crowned Men’s Singles champion, Sophie Tolchard, will all be eyeing up the trophy when play resumes on Sunday morning.
It’s not too late to get your tickets for tomorrow; you can click here or buy on the gate.
Tickets for the remaining days of #BENFinals21 are also available here.
Essex completed an incredible comeback in the final of the Women’s Fours, coming from behind to triumph over Cornwall in a thrilling match on A Green.
After 9 ends, the team from the East were trailing 7-13, but some inspired play saw them inch ahead after 13 ends, and they dominated the closing stages. Victory was achieved, 20-13 the final score.
“Fantastic!” was the reaction of a shell-shocked Essex team following the end of proceedings. They had not done it the easy way – squeezing past Surrey by one shot in the Semi Final.
Cornwall had contributed much to the tournament on the whole, securing comfortable wins over Northants an Herts as they made serene progress to the Final.
But, backed by a vociferous travelling support, Essex achieved the win, which was greeted by tears and cheers.
A Quarter Final line-up for the ages will take to the green tomorrow, as a number of favourites reach the final stages.
Mark Walton, John McGuinness, Ryan Atkins, David Bolt, Graham Shadwell, Joe Dawson, Martin Spencer and Sam Tolchard will battle it out for the coveted crown after some great action today.
With so much quality likely to be on display, it’s well worth making the trip to Royal Leamington Spa tomorrow to see the Single’s reach its finale.
Tickets for tomorrow are available here.
Tickets for the remaining days of #BENFinals are also available here.
Father and son duo Scott and Mark Walton had plenty of reasons to celebrate on Day One of the Bowls England National Finals in Royal Leamington Spa.
The pair, officially representing Cambridgeshire after Scott’s recent relocation although Mark still plies his trade in Yorkshire, came from behind to beat rivals (and another father/son combo) Scott and Graham Ashby from Warwickshire to claim the National Family Pairs title.
Progress had not been straightforward for the Walton’s.
They dispatched Wiltshire (20-13) in the Quarter Finals, before a tighter victory in the Semis against Sussex, where at one stage they were 10-1 down and an exit seemed inevitable. Warwickshire’s Ashby’s had seemed in imperious form – wins over Dorset (17-4) and Yorkshire (19-7) were achieved with minimal fuss and augured well for the Final.
However, Scott and Mark were quick out of the blocks, opening up a comfortable lead in the early exchanges. It wasn’t until the 12th end where 4 shots saw Warwickshire take the lead.
Going into the 15th end, the Warwickshire duo held a slender advantage 12-11, but two shots later it was the Walton’s who had the upper hand. They never relinquished their grip, running out 15-13 victors.
Scott was full of praise for his dad’s display. “His shoulders must hurt!” he joked following the trophy presentation. “I was awful for the first 10 ends, but he was pretty good today!”
Mark said “We struggled a bit in the Final there, but we hung in there – like we did earlier,” referring to the Semi Final. “We motivate each other; we get on well; we just have fun and enjoy it.”
“I’ve known Graham (Ashby) a long time, quality bowlers and it could have gone either way.”
Dad Mark has tasted success at the National Finals before, claiming the Men’s Singles title in 2004 and 2006, as well as the World Champion of Champions gong in 2005. It’s not hard to think, however, that this one with son Scott will likely mean even more.
The other rinks played host to the early exchanges in the Women’s Fours competition ahead of the closing stages on A Green tomorrow, and there was some excellent action on offer for the crowd.
Tomorrow’s Quarter Finals will be the showpiece event on Day Two, with the 2015 winners Margaret Watts, Jeannie Flippance, Katie Smith and Rebecca Wigfield from Desborough (Northamptonshire) seeking to claim the title for the second time.
They will now face Cornwall’s Louise Williams, Brenda Benney, Nicola Ellis and Frances Phillips from Helston in the last eight.
Natalie Chestney, England star and Commonwealth Games medallist, suffered defeat at the hands of the quartet from Parkway (Hunts), whilst York RI were the team to come up short against the Desborough Foursome.
You can still buy tickets to see the Women’s Fours reach an exciting climax tomorrow, and the Men’s Singles competitors begin their quest for glory, here.
Tickets for the remaining days of #BENFinals are also available here.
We look forward to seeing you tomorrow!
Photos from each day will be available by clicking here.
Check back here daily for a round-up of the action after the close of play at the home of English bowls.
You can also subscribe to our newsletter here to receive a round-up from Royal Leamington Spa each evening throughout the course of the tournament direct to you inbox.
We will also be positing regular updates on our social channels using #BENFinals21, and on Monday 23rd & Tuesday 24th August we will be streaming a rink per session from Victoria Park.