Day four at the Co-operative funeralcare International Open at Blackpool Newton hall had thrills and spills throughout. Starting first thing in the morning when the morning saw two of the bookies favorites for the title felled by their opponents. Mark Royal faced David Gourlay in the opening game of the day and Gourlay looked to be firing on all cylinders when he took the first set 10-2 in impressive form. Royal didn’t play badly in the set but Gourlay played several runners and got the perfect results. Set two and after two ends we had a scoreline of 1-1. End three Royal holding three was glad to see Gourlay make his first mistake of the game and leave his last delivery short. End four Gourlay was looking down the barrel again of three down but played one of his famous runners and managed to score a shot. At the next end Gourlay looked to be back in charge and with one delivery to come from Royal he held two shots. Royal played a runner and picked the jack up perfectly for a count of two. Royal now has a 6-2 lead. End six and Gourlay faces one down again and plays a runner through the head. This time he gets a bad result and leaves Royal counting two shots. Two singles, one each on the next two ends and we are into a tie break with Royal WINNING the second set 9-3.First end of tie break is tense and both players’ concentration levels are up to maximum. Royal takes opening end.
Second end the jack is sent flying by Gourlay into the ditch right on the rink marker with the player’s one bowl each. Royal urges his bowl close and finishes about a yard away. Gourlay plays his bowl perfect line just to see it drop off the edge of the rink and Royal takes the first place in the quarter finals. “Apart from the opening end of the first set I felt I played some good bowls but David played really well,” said Royal, “In the second set I got my first two bowls closer and put pressure on David to run at things and he started to miss. In the tie break it’s anybody’s game but I felt confident and I’m pleased to get through to the quarter finals. We had a good bit of banter out there which the crowd enjoyed as well. Which is always good.”
In the quarter finals Royal faces Jonathan Ross. “I’m looking forward to the game, if I play as well as I have been doing and put my first two bowls in close put him under a bit of pressure and who knows,” added Royal.
But for crowd pleasing games it didn’t stop there as next game up was a shell shocker for those liking a bet. One of the favorites to take the title and odds on the WIN the game Mervyn King faced Jason Greenslade. From the off there were fireworks and end after end of conversion shots and neat draw bowls saw us into the second tie break of the day and again it was the underdog for the game Greenslade who took his REWARD and moved into the quarter finals with a 9-8 1-9 2-0 scoreline.
Moving into the afternoons games and we had a repeat of the 2015 World Championship final line up when Alex Marshall MBE took to the rink to play Andy Thomson MBE. It turned into virtually a rerun of that final with Marshall in top form and Thomson being forced into weighted shots. Marshall showed superb form throughout the game putting Thomson under pressure at every end and it was the current World Champion Marshall who took his place in the quarter finals with a 10-5 9-4 score. In the quarters he will face Mervyn King’s slayer Jason Greenslade.
Second game of the afternoon and Scottish International Open champion and World No3 Nick Brett took to the stage to face his pair’s partner and club mate Greg Harlow. The early game exchanges were nip and tuck and after six ends of the first set the score was tied at 4-4. Then the world No3 made his mark on the set and going into the last end held a four shot lead, after the dust settled Brett took the first set 8-5. It was Harlow that got out of the blocks quickly in the second set taking a 4-0 lead. But then the pattern changed again and after seven ends the scores were all tied at 5-5. End eight and Harlow plays a great bowl with his third to draw shot to within an inch, Brett plays a superb tuck for two with his last and Harlow runs at the head but is unlucky just to take only of Brett’s bowls out so Brett goes into the last end of the second set one shot ahead 6-5. Harlow leads a great first bowl but Brett closes the end down so Harlow only picks a one up to finish the set tied 6-6 and it’s the World No 3 Nick Brett who takes his place in the quarter finals tomorrow.
The first of the evenings matches provided similar excitement when Paul Foster MBE, World ranked No1 took on Jonathan Ross and in the first set Foster had it mostly all his own way with Ross only managing to take two singles away from Foster. Into the second set and it was a totally different story with Ross suddenly finding his form and putting the World No 1 under all sorts of pressure. It was Ross’s timed bowls that did the damage to Foster as in end 3 Ross was 3-1 down and then stole a four away from Foster to go 5-3 up and that seemed then to be the turn for Ross who finished the set 8,5 up. Ross then took both the first two ends of the tie-break to come out the WINNER.
Last match of the evening saw local favourite Mark Dawes take on Wayne Hogg, with both players needing TO WIN this match to see them into the start of the World’s top 16 – it was a match of much anticipation – to be truthful it looked as if Dawes had lost his form when in the first set he did not live up to expectations and missed many an opportunity allowing a determined Hogg to take the first set. It was a different story in the second set when it was Dawes who turned on the pressure and upped several gears to take the second set 10,4 and force a much needed tie break. Dawes took the first end with precision bowls and then Hogg returned the compliment to take the second end, into the third end and with Dawes holding game Hogg played a perfect runner to strike out the bowls of Dawes – lady luck then deserted Hogg totally as to his dismay he saw the jack take a small bounce and then SPIN forwards to rest against Dawes front bowl. The rest was history as Dawes moves through to the quarter finals and one more match to seal his space in the Worlds top 16.
Todays results: Mark Royal 2-10 9-3 2-0 David Gourlay: Mervyn King 8-9 9-1 0-2 Jason Greenslade: Andy Thomson 5-10 4-9 Alex Marshall: Nick Brett 8-5 6-6 Greg Harlow: Paul Foster 11-2 5-8 0-2 Jon Ross: Wayne Hogg 9-7 4-10 1-2Mark Dawes.
Tomorrows games: 9.45 – Les Gillett v Simon Skelton: Daniel Patterson v Robert Paxton: 1.45pm – Jonathan Ross v Mark Royal: Jason Greenslade v Alex Marshall: 6pm – Nick Brett v Mark Dawes: Gillett or Simon Skelton v Daniel Patterson or Robert Paxton