Esclusham take Super Cup title

The 2016 Arthur Land Super Cup title was claimed in dramatic style by Wrexham’s Esclusham Bowling Club. In it’s 83rd year the club has already claimed the Welsh title and they claimed the Super Cup title by beating Thongsbridge, the 2015 World Club Champions, who are from just south of Huddersfield in Yorkshire. The finals were played at Bellingham Bowling Club in Wigan.

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Arthur Land Super Cup finals day at Bellingham Bowling Club

The day started off with the sad news that Kings Heath Park could not raise a team and this meant that Esclusham had a walk-over into the Semi-finals. In the same half of the draw Newport had a fairly comfortable win over St Georges to claim the Shropshire bragging rights. Peter Farmer was in stunning form to win 31-06 and although Peter Grimston replied with a 31-19 the damage was done.

The other half of the draw was a different matter!

Thongsbridge had a fair old battle against Staffordshire’s Dudley Dell. Andy Cairns started off in splendid form to run out a 31-19 winner but Craig Cartwright sent the Black Country men into a 3 point lead with 31-16 win. Andy Sorsky put the Yorkshire back in front with a 31-16 and Chris Kelly got a the better of a proper game with Simon Homer to claim a 31-27 win.

The Dudley roared back with Pete Withey (31-20) and Martin Ashton (31-26) bringing the game back level. However that was a good as it got as the 2015 World Club Champions turned the screw. Richard Atkins and James Davison proved to be a formidable last pair and both claimed a 31-15 win to ease to a comfortable win. This was a quiet game compared with other game on this green.

Penn Bowling Club and reigning champions King George V were having a bit of a classic.

Ryan Prosser just got home in a marathon game against Tom Roden (31-30) but James Duce (31-27) beat Paul Lamb to put Penn just ahead. The lead changed hands as Russ Prosser (31-26) put the champions ahead but then Rob Perry (31-27) gave Penn back into the lead by 5 points.

Ben Dixon extended the lead to 12 points before Jason Galvin and Tom Pritchard battled their way to victory and brought KGV back to within 6 points. This left the game between Martin Gaut and Phil Clinton to decide the match. Martin was too good on the day and swept into a dominating lead early in the game before eventually winning 31-14 and a 23 point win for the Staffs men.

This meant that Esclusham played Newport and Thongsbridge played Penn in the Semi-finals.

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Dave ‘Rocky’ Jones (Esclusham) and Dave Rhodes (Newport)

Esclusham were quick to get to get going after not having a game in the semi-finals. Leighton Roberts was in absolutely superb form winning 31-09 in what would be his only game of the day. Kevin Keary kept the Shropshire in touch with a 31-19 win. The Wrexham men led by 17 with half the game played. Chris Grocutt then put the cat firmly amongst the pigeons with a sensational 31-13 for Newport and they had the lead. However this was as good as it got for the Shropshire men as Simon Tyler eased the Welsh nerves with a 31-19 and this meant Kieron Roberts and Carl Roberts could relax a little with a healthy lead. Esclusham eased to a 22 point win.

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Chris Kelly (Thongsbridge) playing Tom Roden (Penn)

Penn were fresh from a proper battle in the last 8. However they found the 2015 World Club Champions in fairly sensational form and were up against from the start. Thongsbridge’s Andy Cairns was in imperious form and was giving Jame Duce all kinds of problems. Andy had answers to every question posed by the Staffs man and won 31-14. Mark Booth swiftly followed with a 31-19 win and control of the game was firmly in Yorkshire hands. The game of the match was the battle between Chris Kelly and Tom Roden. Neither player gave anything away and it was a pleasure to watch.

By the time Richard Atkins won 31-15 the game was effectively over and the end of the game soon arrived with a 63 point win for the Yorskhire men.

The Esclusham team had a quick team meeting to decide the order for the final as Kelsey Rowlands came into the team.

Waiting for Kelsey was Chris Kelly, and Chris was in exceptional form. I doubt whether this green has seen anyone lead so consistently well as Chris did and he was soon claiming a 31-08 win.

Andy Cairns and Paul Hallett were engaged in something of a marathon game. Andy seemed to have the advantage on a couple of occasions. A 12-7 lead and then a 22-15 lead were both soon pegged back by the Welsh man. Paul was particularly impressive playing three-quarter corners just under the crown as he eventually led out 30-28. Andy used all his skill and experience to look like he could claim the win but Paul played a stunning bowl to claim victory 31-30.

With such a good start for the Yorkshiremen what was overlooked was a very solid performance by Eslcushams Darren Lacey. He led Andy Sorsby all the way and looked he would claim a victory half-way up. Andy had others things in mind and kept the gap as narrow as he could and was almost back in the game at 21-27. Darren soon claimed the victory 31-24.

The final game in the first block was another battle. Thongsbridge’s Mark Booth and Esclusham’s Dave ‘Rocky’ Jones were engaged in a proper battle. Dave was a couple in from for most of the game but couldn’t pull further clear till winning 4 of 5 ends put him 19-13 in front. He kept this lead till Mark launched a determined push for the winning post and led 27-26. A 31-29 win for Mark was largely down to him claiming 10 of his last 14 points with two-shots.

This meant that at the half-way stage Thongsbridge led by a healthy 17 points.

As the sun set the match became a fantastic battle. The green rewarded attacking bowls with good lead bowls not certain to count. Esclusham needed to put Thongsbridge under pressure and this they did.

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Esclusham’s Craig Griffith playing Thongsbridge’s Nicky White

Craig Griffiths never let Nicky White settle and kept control of the jack. Nicky tried like the class player he is but Craig had 24 of his score with 2’s and he was in awesome form. On most ends Nicky had almost no other last bowl to play but a reacher and Craig was a 31-18 winner and the gap was down to 4 points.

Kieron Roberts knew he needed to keep up this pressure but he had a tough opponent in Ryan Clark. Ryan was in from till the half-way stage but then Kieron found his length. From 16-15 Kieron only let Ryan score 4 more. I choose these words carefully as Kieron was in awesome form at this stage of the game and there was little Ryan could do to prevent it.

From being 23 behind early on the Welshmen now led by 6! The last two games left on green would decide the winners of this seasons Arthur Land Super Cup.

James Davison was in fantastic form early in his game against Esclusham’s Simon Tyler. James swept into a 14-2 lead and wasn’t giving Simon much room at all. However Carl Roberts was in similar form for Esclusham in his game against Richard Atkin. Carl would let Richard keep hold of the jack and led 17-12. Then both games changed….

Simon won 16 of 20 ends to lead James 22-18, Richard won 9 of 12 ends to lead Carl 23-20. This was now classic floodlit bowls with the player leading the jack having a huge advantage.

Simon was playing exceptionally well and lay two great bowls to go 27-21 in front. James, with his white bowls glistening in the floodlights, produced one of the bowls of the day to play a toucher under extreme pressure. The eyes were on the other game tough as Richard Atkin was playing sensationally well. A stunning 6 break, giving Carl no chance, saw him lead out at 30-22. If he could claim the next end he would leave Thongsbridge 3 in front and 3 behind in the other game but with block in hand.

Richard played a finger peg mark just off a ridge and was leading exceptionally well. His lead at 30 was the same, he followed it all the way to it finishing a side toucher. Carl had to be up and played the perfect bowl. With a miss he was a yard past but he hit Richards bowl and stayed in contact with the jack. With all eyes watching Richard didn’t get his bowl away well and left a yard short. Carl had the chance to turn the screw but could not beat it.

On the next end Carl led very well but gave Richard sight of the jack and he came so close to a winning the game but grazed the jack with his last bowl. The pressure was now on and it is so tricky to get a length across the green in these conditions. Carl kept just finding enough to win the ends and crept closer and closer.

James couldn’t find his leads and Simon was soon 28-22 in front. Then James found his length and won 5 of 6 ends to have the jack in hands at 30-29. Richard finally found the clinching point to win 31-27 and the lead was down to 2 points.

All the eyes were on the lead of James Davison who put his lead a yard past. Simon put his first bowl to within a foot and James had to be there, he was but was always fractionally narrow and this meant that the game was over. Esclusham had enough points to claim the victory! When the pressure was at its most intense these Welshmen did not yield!

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The winning Esclusham team. Back from left: Craig Griffiths, Kieron Roberts, Simon Tyler. Front from left: David (Rocky) Jones, Darren Lacey, Paul Hallett, Carl Roberts.

A fantastic day of bowling ended with the Welsh Champions claiming the £800 winners cheque and the tile of the Arthur Land Super Cup winners. The finals day was sensationally good and a fitting way to end the season.

A huge thanks to all the teams who entered the competition this season. Details for the 2017 Arthur Land Super Cup will be released next month.

 

Steve Davies

Throughout his bowling career Steve has always supported the admin side of the game. As a club secretary, association secretary, county delegate on the BCGBA (National Governing Body) Management Committee, Merseyside champion in 2002 and Merseyside County President (2014-15) Steve has always been keen to promote the game especially through the broadcast of the game on TV or Internet. Steve set up the LIVE BOWLS YouTube channel and, through the LDBA, runs national competitions. Seeing an avenue to report and promote the game Steve set up the Bowls Observer on-line magazine after consulting with respected figures in the game and journalism.