Our Junior International squad made the trip to Belfast, Ireland to play in the Home Nations Junior International Series. There they faced Scotland, Ireland and Wales in a combined Men’s and Women’s competition that also included separate competition for the Men and Women. Managers Nicola Bowe and Stuart Thomas were hopeful that their squads could deliver as Emily Ferguson reports.
Day 1 – Saturday 17th September
England got off to a flying start against Scotland in the inaugural joint Men’s and Women’s Junior International Series. They won on five out of six rinks, with the men securing a clean sweep and a shot difference of 15. Captain Tom McGuinness’s rink saw some particularly impressive bowling, finishing 20-14, and Jordan Philpott’s four won 20-12. Harry Goodwin skipped his team to a one-shot victory, after battling some interesting lines on the end rink.
The women’s team also got off to an excellent start, with Katherine Rednall’s rink recording a cricket score of 34-4. Captain Harriet Steven’s rink wasn’t far behind, winning 22-11. Playing on a tricky end rink, Rachel Tremlett’s team lost 19-13. But the loss didn’t matter as their overall score was 72-36, putting the women’s team into an impressive lead at the top of the tables.
After the first game, England led the combined team effort with a shot difference of 51.
The second game saw some bitter Irish weather take hold as the England team faced the home team. But Women’s manager Nicola Bowe came prepared and ensured both teams fought off the chill with hand warmers. Selector Sandy Hazell fetched players teas and coffees too – much to the amusement of spectators as the women’s team clung to their mugs mid game.
The three women’s rink got off to a flying start, with Tremlett’s rink – which saw a team change as reserve Izzie White came in at two for Imogen Jenner – taking an early 14-3 lead and finishing 35-8.
Rednall’s rink continued to build on their earlier success, winning 23-14 against a strong side, with skip Shauna O’Neill appearing in Northern Ireland’s 2022 Commonwealth team.
On the end rink, Stevens’s team got off to a good start and saw themselves 7-2 up after seven ends. But their opposition fought back and took the lead at 15 ends 12-13 after Stevens dropped a four. The captain wasn’t prepared to lose however, and the rink scored the next four ends and finished 20-15.
The strong results against Ireland meant that the women’s team led with two wins and a shot difference of 77. Both Scotland and Wales had recorded one win each, with a shot difference of 62 and -18 respectively.
Unfortunately, the men’s side were unable to match their excellent win against Scotland. A slow start saw the team fall behind the Irish team by more than a dozen shots but captain McGuinness upped the anti and shouted words of encouragement across all three rinks to help get themselves back in the game.
Goodwin’s rink saw themselves in a 13 shot deficit, with Phillpott’s four recording a similar negative scoreline of 14-4 down.
But both skips managed to mount an impressive comeback, with Goodwin finishing just five shots behind and Phillpott losing 26-20.
McGuinness’s rink continued to dominate and recorded a win of 24-16.
The last-minute comeback saw the men lose by just three shots, which put them in with a fighting chance for their final game against Wales on Sunday morning. They still sat at the top of the table with a shot difference of 12 even though all four nations won one match each. Wales trailed them on +7 which made the final game all to play for.
England also topped the combined tables on Saturday evening, with an 89 shot difference – strides ahead of second place Wales on -11. Scotland place third on -28 and Ireland trail on -50.
Day 2 – Sunday 18th September
The final game of the series was an extremely noisy affair and saw residents in the surrounding houses peer out from their curtains to see what all the commotion was as the roar from the players appeared to have woken them up. The two teams shouted across the rinks, with the women cheering the men and vice versa – showing how the simple change of combining the two series can make a big difference to the atmosphere.
It was the Welsh team who got off to a strong start, leading both the women’s and men’s teams. The men struggled to fight back, as their opposition played some impressive bowls much to the delight of the large number of supporters that they had brought with them.
McGuinness’s rink, the only one that saw no changes on Sunday morning, recorded a third win, finishing 22-18.
The remaining two rinks were shaken up. Goodwin’s rink saw Tom Holmes go up to three and reserve Harvey Griffiths come in as two. Kieran Kniveton stayed as lead. On the next rink Alasdair Williams was moved from Goodwin’s rink to play lead.
Unfortunately, the changes weren’t enough to secure a win, with Philpott losing 21-10 and Goodwin losing 21-14. But the two skips did manage to improve their scorelines as both rinks saw themselves fall far behind at the start of the game.
On the next three rinks, the women faced a very tight battle. Rednall’s rink fell 12-5 down at the start of the match but managed to pick up a five to take them to 10-12 at the halfway point. But Wales went in front once more and were 20-13 up after 14 ends. Rednall’s rink continued to fight for the win, however and pulled back to 20-all and went in front for the first time on the 19th end to lead 22-20. The final two ends were not meant to be however, and the rink finished 22-22.
Captain Stevens was up against it on the end rink but took an early 6-3 lead – despite some intense confusion over the score cards. They picked up a five on the ninth end to lead 11-3 but dropped the next four ends to fall 12-11 behind. The tight tussle continued until the penultimate end when Stevens played an absolute worldie by playing the shot bowl, that rested just inches from the ditch, off the green. The captain erupted in noise and ran down the green with her arms in the air – a big change from her normal quiet and reserved demeanour. The team picked up a three to take them 19-17 up and dropped a single shot on the final end to win the match 19-18.
Tremlett’s rink also enjoyed a close game. The four quickly found the green and were holding counts end after end, but much to their frustration the opposition skip often converted the heads with her final bowl. The rink was the last off the green but cheered on from the teammates and the men, the four picked up two single shots to finish just two shots behind, 16-18.
The loss meant that the women’s team lost to Wales by a single shot – but due to their strong efforts on Saturday, they had already done enough to ensure they lifted the trophy. The Junior Women’s team won the series, picking up four points and a shot difference of +76. Wales trailed on four points (+7), followed by Scotland with four points (-18) and Ireland with no points (-65).
Wales won the Men’s Junior Series, with four points and 21 shots. Scotland came in second with four points (-5), England in third two points (-2) and Ireland came last with two points (-14).
But England secured the overall competition. They tied with England, Wales and Scotland on points but their impressive shot difference of 74 shots saw them take the trophy home. Wales came in second with +3, Scotland in third with +2 and Ireland came fourth on -79.
By Emily Ferguson