World No3 Nick Brett battled his way through a very tough opening game at the Co-operative funeral care International Open at Blackpool Newton Hall. Brett played against a very confident and COMPETITIVE Damien Doubler from Wales and what a game it was. Damien took 7-1 lead in the first set and forced the World No3 to come up with some big bowls to hang in the set and with four ends to play Brett picked up shots at all four ends and managed to sneak the tie for the first set. Brett said “Damien played well he got off to a good start and at 7-1 down I was looking down the barrel for the first set and to be honest I was pretty relieved to get a draw. You just think to yourself I need to hang in and force all the ends to be played and fortunately it worked.” He added, “I played some good bowls early on in the second set and managed to keep up the pressure on Damien and get through the game,” Brett won the second set 10-5 and was relieved to take his place in the second round. Where he will face his club team mate and playing pairs partner Greg Harlow who beat the USA qualifier Charles Herbert in straight sets 11-2 14-1 earlier in the afternoon. “Greg and I have only played a couple of times on the tour but it’s never easy as we know each other’s games inside out. I expect it will be a top quality game of cat and mouse and I’m looking forward to it,” added Brett.
That game is just one of the exciting games to be seen on Wednesday. Another tasty game is lined up as a repeat of the recent World Championship final as Andy Thomson MBE faces Alex Marshall MBE. Thomson was the first to take to the rink today against Tourcard WINNER Ben Sherwen. Thomson had a game on his hands for sure as Sherwen played some great bowls to put the England skip under pressure. But it was Thomson who finished the game off with a scoreline of 9-6 7-7 and then had to wait to see who his opponent in the next round would be.
Alex Marshall faced two elements on the rink today, a change in bowls manufacturer, and his opponent Robert Weale. Weale is one of the most COMPETITIVE and highly decorated players in the game. Marshall, six times world champion, changed manufacturer loyalties just after his win at the Worlds in January and all eyes were on how this would affect his game. Weale faced the prospect of taking on the world champion and needing to tie a few games together at this event to try and drag himself back into the top sixteen. It was Marshall who came out on top of the challenges put in his way and won the game 9-5 9-1.
The two evening games brought the players into the event who are battling it out for the last two undecided places in next season’s top sixteen.
First up saw Wayne Hogg face Colin Walker, both Scottish Internationals, both highly COMPETITIVE players. And what a game we were treated to. Colin played some outstanding bowls only to see time and time again Hogg pick up the ends with his last bowls. Set one went the way of the current World No16 Hogg with a 7-2 scoreline. But the second set went the way of Walker 8-4 and we went into only the second tie break of the first round game at this event. Nail biting to the last bowl it was Hogg who took the tie break 2-0 and gives himself a chance of hanging on to his top sixteen place.
The last game of the evening featured current Commonwealth games singles gold medal winner and recent Superbowl Pairs champion Darren Burnett against the local hero and current British Isles singles champion Mark Dawes. It was a tense affair with both players playing very well. The first set went the way of the local lad Dawes 10-5 and he looked to be in control of things. But Burnett dug deep and battled his way through the opening ends of the second set. He held a scoreline of 3-2 on the fifth end and was holding shot only to see Dawes urge on a running bowl to see Burnett’s shot go out of the head and pick up a count of two. Dawes then went into cruise control and left Burnett needing a four on the ninth end to go into a tie break. The local crowd held its collective breath when Burnett’s runner just missed its target and Blackpool’s own Mark Dawes became the first non seed TO WINhere, winning the game 10-5 9-5.
Tuesday’s games see some more chances for non seeds as the event moves into day three.
Mondays results: Andy Thomson MBE v Ben Sherwen, Alex Marshall MBE 9-5 9-1 Robert Weale: Greg Harlow 1-2 14-1 Charles Herbert: Nick Brett 7-7 10-5 Damien Doubler: Wayne Hogg 7-2 4-8 2-0 Colin Walker, Darren Burnett 5-10 5-9 Mark Dawes.
Tomorrows games start at 1pm due to SKY TV rigging in the morning. Stewart Anderson v Les Gillett: Simon Skelton v Ian Gallagher: John Price v Daniel Patterson & Robert Paxton v Roy Ben Ami.