32 year old Wayne Willgress from nearby Wymondham is no stranger to the magnificent Potters Bowls Arena and the blue carpet which showcases the World Bowls Tour televised events, having reached the semi-final in 2018 only to lose to the eventual champion Rob Paxton.
Earlier today he dug deep into his knowledge base and did the business with a brilliant last bowl draw to a respotted jack with the very last delivery of a sudden death, winner take all shoot out against Mike Stepney from Elgin in the North of Scotland.
After a tightly contested first set a surprising count of three on the penultimate end gave him a commanding 8-5 lead playing the last. However Stepney bounced back from that – rolled in a double but was no doubt kicking himself as he fell short with his last bowl and missed out of a drawn set with Willgress winning 8-7.
Willgress got off to a good start in the second set with a single followed by a double, but a single on the third end gave Stepney control of the jack – which he shortened and he reeled off seven successive shots to win the set 8-2 with an end to spare and take the match to a tie break decider.
In a tension packed decider, Willgress hit the target with his third delivery and then with his last bowl drew the match winner to a respotted jack to take first blood.
In the second end the advantage swung back and forth between the players but this time it was Stepney’s turn to shine, smashing Willgress’s shot bowl out of the head to count the vital shot he needed to stay in contention.
Leaving the match poised on a knife edge – and with game against him, Stepney nominated to the kill the end which he successfully carried out. The advantage alternated on the replay but it was Willgress who raised the victory salute when he drew the vital shot to a respotted jack with his last bowl.
With the event being played ‘behind closed doors’ with only event personnel involved, both players agreed that they are missing the buzz of the familiar capacity crowds who usual fill the Arena.
Willgress said “because I live in the area I usually have an army of fans cheering me on. My game thrives on an adrenalin rush and I missed that today, especially the audience participation.
“There weren’t many attacking bowls played over the two sets but that certainly changed in the tie break with bowls flying all over the place”.
The Scot said “ I gave Wayne too many opportunities and didn’t close out the match. Early on I struggled a bit to the long jacks but found some form when I shortened it to get a tie break”.
“JUST” WORLD OPEN SINGLES
Wayne Willgress (Eng) bt Mike Stepney (Scot) 8-7, 2-8, 2-1