2019 National County Championships
Over the weekend of 9 and 10 November the Suffolk team and their
supporters travelled to Potters Leisure Resort, Hopton-on-sea
with the one vision of winning the 2019 National County Championships.
Indeed the Suffolk team were hoping to win the event for the
seventh year in succession
Eight other counties took part,
Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Durham, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk,
Northumberland and Sunderland. Each county were represented by
six rinks (fours), each rink playing one nine end game against
all of the other counties.
The team representing Suffolk
A: Pete Runnacles, John Varden, Mick Watkins,
B: Sue Isles, Steve Isles, Peter Fellingham, Clint Watling
C: Ralph Sadgrove, Adam Hubbard, Andy Gilder, Sam Runnacles
D: Karen Hubbard, Rita Runnacles, Colin Fellingham, Tom
E: Sally Goodrich, Graham Davey, Andy Pooley, Sue Gilder
F: Sue Davey, Ally Hobbs, Ellen Grube, Neil Jolly
Suffolks first opposition
of the competition were Sunderland, the team they had beaten
the night before for the Inter-League title and it was rinks
A, B and C who hoped to get Suffolk off to a winning start. It
was Suffolk B who got the teams campaign off to a flying
start with five shots scored on their very first end. That proved
to be the difference, as they held on to that lead for an 11-8
win. Suffolk A then doubled up that win, a controlled performance
and a relatively comfortable 11-6 win. The game involving Suffolk
C always looked like being the tightest of the session and destined
to be a last end decider. In the end, a 6-6 draw was a fair outcome
and overall Suffolk were happy with that five point opener.
In the next session rinks D,
E and F commenced their weekend, facing Norfolk. None of the
rinks made promising starts, but things improved as the games
progressed. Fs slow start saw them ship four shots on the
first end, but that quickly stirred them into action. They then
didnt lose another end on their way to a one sided 14-4
win. That wasnt the only turnaround of the session though,
as D were staring defeat in the face at 4-6 behind. They saved
the best for last though, scoring four late shots for an 8-6
win. Unfortunately E were unable to make it another unbeaten
session, always chasing their game and eventually losing 2-10.
The third session saw rinks
A, B and C returning to the carpets to play Hertfordshire, who
had also made a strong start to the competition. It was a session
full of high quality bowls from both sides. This time it was
A who made the better start and they duly returned their second
consecutive win, by 12-5. The other two games were lower scoring
and tighter, with the outcomes in doubt until the final ends.
By the end, those games were shared which was a fair reflection.
C went one better than their first game draw, with a 7-4 win,
but B were just edged out by 4-6.
It was Eastern Counties opposition
again in the fourth session, with Bedfordshire the opponents.
D set the standard on their first end with an amazing seven shot
count and then continued relentlessly scoring shots, a procession,
on their way to an incredible 25-3 win. Whilst the other two
Suffolk rinks couldnt compete with that, two further wins
were duly delivered. E with a comfortable 10-3 win and F with
a convincing 13-1 win. Suffolks first maximum six point
session of the weekend and hopefully not their last, had taken
them into top spot overall, a single point ahead of Cambridgeshire.
It was Durham who Suffolk faced
next, in a session of bowls that was very much a repeat of the
session that had gone before. Three decent performances which
resulted in another three wins. B led the way in a near unblemished
game, bouncing back from their last game loss and cruising to
a 20-1 victory. A werent too far behind them, untroubled
on their way to a 14-3 win. Cs game was far tighter, but
a win always looked on the cards and so it proved to be, by 8-3.
Another six point session maintained Suffolks top spot
Essex were next for D, E and
F and mid way through the session it wasnt looking great,
with all three Suffolk rinks behind on the scoreboards. However
this Suffolk team do not know when they are beaten and they just
had to hang on in there until performances slowly and steadily
picked up and the picture started to look more promising. Indeed
by the end of the session, it was the perfect picture of another
three Suffolk wins. In three battling displays, D won 11-7, E
won 7-4 and F won 9-7, wins that increased Suffolks overall
lead to three points over Cambridgeshire.
With an odd number of counties,
Suffolk sat out the next session and Cambridgeshire took full
advantage by scoring six points and leapfrogging Suffolk into
top spot. The next session saw the top two play each other in
three crucial games. F quickly settled into their rhythm, opening
up a comfortable lead that they were never going to relinquish,
racing away to a convincing 16-2 win. The news wasnt as
good on the other carpets though, particularly for E who struggled
in their game and were always behind, finishing with a disappointing
4-13 defeat. Lastly, whilst D had a tight game, they couldnt
do enough to get over the line, another loss by a slim 7-9. A
far from ideal session result meant that Suffolk were now five
points behind Cambridgeshire overall, albeit with three games
Could Suffolk make those additional
games count in the final session against Northumberland and finish
the day off in style? Well not quite, two wins and a narrow defeat.
The wins were secured by B (14-7), helped by a six shot end which
took them into the lead, and C (12-5) in a game which they were
always ahead in. A lost by the odd shot (8-9), despite a valiant
effort on the last end to score a four, which wouldve earned
them a draw.
Looking back at the first day,
there had been some very good bowls played and some erratic stuff
too, particularly towards the end of the day. But the show must
go on and consistency would need to improve on the Sunday, if
the National title was to be retained by Suffolk. Overall, it
was a three horse race and a close one at that. Cambridgeshire
sat in top spot on thirty eight points, Suffolk were just a point
behind and the dangerous looking Hertfordshire a further point
back in third.
Sunderland again provided the
first opposition of the day on Sunday morning. Despite an inconsistent
Saturday, it was E who pleasingly made the best start of the
Suffolk rinks, earning an early advantage and sustaining it,
on their way to a confidence boosting 12-5 win. F had a similar
result, but they needed a game breaking six shot end in the middle
of their game to be sure of the win, by 12-6. D were involved
in the closest game of the session, indeed it was a nervy last
end decider, with the score at 6-6. Unfortunately for D, they
couldnt quite move the jack to their back bowls, a lost
opportunity and a 6-7 defeat.
Could rinks A, B and C go one
win better in their first games of the day against Norfolk? Part
way through the session, it looked like the answer was no
following a slow start. But then performances started to improve,
consistent bowls started to apply pressure and the games turned.
Both A and B ended as comfortable winners by 12-4 and 15-6 respectively.
However the excitement came from the game involving C, a tight
affair which they were never in control of and they were 6-7
down with an end to play. Indeed with one bowl left, the game
was lost until the miracle bowl from skip Sam Runnacles, an incredibly
precise drawing bowl tipped out the holding Norfolk shot, moved
the jack a fraction to take three shots and a 9-7 win. An important
six point session, but Suffolk still trailed Cambridgeshire by
a point overall.
The next session saw second versus third, with Hertfordshire
the opponents in three crucial games, where neither county could
afford to lose them all. It was D who made the better start of
the Suffolk rinks, securing an early 4-0 lead. However that was
as good as it got, with their lead disappearing and not being
able to do quite enough on the last end to avoid defeat, losing
7-8. There was better news from E though, who despite falling
behind early on, recovered well to dominate the latter ends and
ease away to a 13-7 win. So who would get the session win, well
when F were 1-6 down and not playing well, things looked bleak
for Suffolk. However they edged their way back into the game
with single shot ends and then doubled up on the final end to
sneak an unlikely but important 7-6 win. Suffolk were relieved
with the 4-2 return against one of their closest rivals.
Staying with local opposition,
Bedfordshire were next up and the Suffolk rinks didnt make
great starts. However it is not how you start, but how you finish,
and by the end three important wins and a maximum six point session
had been secured. B were made to work very hard for their tight
11-8 win, whereas the others eased away to comfortable wins from
the middle ends onwards. Good performances from both, C winning
17-7 and A by 13-3.
So with four playing sessions
left, Suffolks were finally back in top spot overall, but
Cambridgeshire were only a point behind and Hertfordshire were
still lurking dangerously in third, a further five points back,
but not out of the running. Who would have the staying power
to take the title?
It was Durham who were up next
for D, E and F. After scoring a fantastic seven shots on the
first end, F never looked like losing their game. Indeed they
continued to pile on the shots, recording a big 18-3 win. It
wasnt quite so simple for the others though, particularly
when E were 0-4 down early on. They stayed calm and recovered
well though, dropping only one more shot in a low scoring 8-5
win. It was just as low scoring for D, but they had an early
4-0 lead to protect. They did just that, winning a tactical game
by 9-3. A second consecutive six point session and suddenly Suffolk
had an overall three point lead.
A, B and C faced Essex next,
knowing that three wins could prove crucial. The Essex session
on the Saturday had been a tricky one, but this one turned out
to be less of a test. It was only the game involving A that was
in doubt towards the latter ends, but they held their nerve well
for an important 8-5 win. It was more straightforward for the
other two rinks though, who were in complete control from early
on in their games. B ran out very convincing winners with a massive
19-2 victory and C were nearly as comfortable in their 12-2 win.
That was Suffolks third
consecutive six point session, but still they only held a three
point lead, with Cambridgeshire matching them. Suffolk sat out
the next session but there was good news, when Cambridgeshire
lost a game. However those four points took them back into top
spot, albeit only by a point. The top two now played each other,
if Cambridgeshire took all the points, they would be champions
with a session to spare. Similarly, if Suffolk could win the
session, they would be champions with a session to spare. Any
other outcome and Suffolk would have to get something in the
final session, which Cambridgeshire would be sitting out.
A, B and C took to the mats,
knowing exactly what was on the line. If there were nerves, their
body language didnt show it, as all of the Suffolk rinks
made positive starts. Indeed the tone of the session was set
early on, with B skip Clint Watling playing a fantastic running
bowl, to take out an opposition bowl to score a six. B didnt
look back from there and eased away to a 15-6 win, thereby stopping
Cambridgeshire from winning the title in that session. Meanwhile
both A and C were calmly and steadily increasing their early
advantages and taking the games away from the opposition. With
a few ends to go in both games, performances were dictating only
one outcome, two more Suffolk wins, A and C winning 10-4 and
9-3 respectively. Three near bowl perfect performances under
immense pressure and another maximum point session had taken
Suffolk to the National title with a session to spare.
With all the pressure finally
off and knowing that we are the champions, it was a very relaxed
D, E and F who took to the mats to face Northumberland in the
final session of the competition. This was reflected in the performances
and shot making, as all three rinks secured early leads and comfortably
held on to them. Yet another maximum three win session, D (11-5),
E (13-4) and F (21-2).
Overall the finishing positions
Suffolk were National champions
for the seventh consecutive year, but for most of the event it
had been a very competitive three horse race, with the overall
outcome always in doubt.
Looking back over the weekend,
Saturday had been a mixed day of bowling, albeit a decent points
return, which had kept Suffolk near the top. However Sunday had
been an amazing day, losing only two games from twenty four played
and finishing the competition with five consecutive maximum point
sessions. The second day performances under pressure, in particular
those against Cambridgeshire, were Suffolks best ever at
Potters. To win the event against very competitive Cambridgeshire
and Hertfordshire teams is arguably Suffolks greatest ever
achievement and one of which, the team should be extremely proud
Across the weekend, every rink
contributed good points to the team effort. Particular mentions
should go to Suffolk F who had a fantastic weekend winning all
eight games and to Suffolk C, who were also unbeaten with seven
wins and a draw.
The weekend finished off an
impeccable 2018/19 season for the Suffolk squad, winning everything
available to them, ECCBA league, Six Counties and Teambowl titles,
the ECBA Inter-League title and National Championships. It is
one thing being successful, but this team also play the game
in the right manner and with a smile on their faces.
During the weekend, the Webber
Award (chosen by the captain and selectors) was deservedly won
by Adam Hubbard, reflecting his consistent performances across
the season and how quickly he had settled into the Suffolk team.
The Suffolk team would like
to thank everyone who has supported them during this successful
season and particularly to those that travelled to Potters for
the National Championships, for their good company, unwavering
encouragement and support over two long days of bowling, which
was greatly appreciated.
Neil Jolly (County Captain)
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