Merseyside and Warwick & Worcs win epic semi’s…

The final of this year’s competition will see a repeat of one of last year’s semi-finals as Warwick and Worcester play Merseyside. The final will be played on Sunday 1st September.

Ant Gartside

Merseyside claimed fourteen of the games to run out narrow eleven point winners. This was even more impressive as they had a two and a six loser. Over at the fearsome Pontesbury green the Merseyside men claimed three of the first four games to go into a fourteen point lead.

Added to this were similar results, with top result going to Anthony Gartside, at Clock Face in St Helens and the Merseyside were twenty-four points to the good after four blocks at each green.

The Shropshire men were able to get their noses in front at Pontesbury thanks to a strong performances in the middle blocks but they slipped even further behind at Clock Face as Merseyside led by ten with just the last block to go.

Robbie Fitzpatrick gave the key result at Pontesbury with a win to nine to put the Merseyside at the brink of victory as they now led at home and away. Try as much as they could the Shropshire just had too much to try and claw back and the Kop end, both home and travelling, went wild.

My thanks to Harry Chapman for this report.

Derbyshire vs W&W and Shropshire vs Merseyside. On paper I genuinely thought both would be no contests having seen all four play in the last two years.

I thought Merseyside were actually quite poor at Haunchwood last year despite winning the game and although I’d tell anyone from Shropshire that their selection is shocking there’s clearly thirty or more bowlers playing a high standard who could all do a job if called upon.

If there was going to be an upset anywhere I’d shoot for Stretton No.2, marginally further away for me than the Greville Arms (home of the World Club champions). A crown green bigger and not quite as tricky as the no.1 green but I’m not quite sure I’d agree with some that it’s not a good enough home green and they need somewhere new.

The Derbyshire contingent obviously know it well and for large parts looked like W&W were very beatable on a bowling green. Derbyshire had just come out of a pretty tough group with both 2017 finalists Potteries and North Mids, so although defending champs W&W were favourites maybe it wasn’t a foregone conclusion.

Just the one change to the card at Stretton, Ash Bracken coming in for dad Ant.

Darren Carter 21-16 Ross Dunkley

Darren not favourite to win pre but in this one put them close and never let Ross settle. Always had a small lead in the game and bowled very well to beat on paper definitely one of the better away players.

Adam Hartley 21-19 Ben Harris

I wouldn’t recommend staying out with Chico till 2:00am. But no sore heads here this guy can play and proved it in another game where I’d have definitely picked the W&W man. Probably not Ben’s best game but when you dust out foot bowls only for them to be put back again not a lot you can do.

Adam Stubbs 19-21 Steve Darling

Not a classic, Steve must have been 20-12 up. Adam clawed a few back one at a time and Brian Smith (definitely Daniel Day-Lewis) pops up with “twenty is a very good score at home, you’ll get in next game”. Poor lead at nineteen cost him but clawed maybe six more than he should’ve and kept the scores close after four.

Conor Chamberlain 20-21 Adam Patrick

Real good game for the majority, Conor usually with his nose in front favouring using the crown one way or another but nip and tuck all game with the occasional worldie good bowl being played. At 20-15 down Adam used a mark up the no.1 green edge he’d gathered some experience on to run out finding a top bowl under pressure game down at twenty’s. Not too many beat Conor on those Stretton greens so very good win even for someone of Adam’s calibre.

After four blocks Derbyshire were four up at Stretton and W&W five up at the Greville thanks to Dan Petcher’s POTM performance. Plenty to play for.

Steve Adams 16-21 Rob Carter

Didn’t see much of this game but feel like this is where Derbyshire maybe came up short. Rob by no means bowled badly but he’s not the strongest in that away side so to stand half a chance you need to be gaining shots especially at home in the middle jacks. Steve wasn’t putting the pressure on so a bit of a gift for W&W here.

Matt Kelly-Walley 19-21 Ashley Bracken

Pre-game I thought big chance for Matt against the debutant to record a tie-turning score, clearly not the worst player and bowled okay at the all-England last week. But you can’t keep leaving yards of room at this level no matter how poor the opposition may be. Ash made his twos when the opportunity was there and got the win. Maybe Matt wins comfortably on another day – I just think it’s an opportunity wasted much like the previous game.

Neil Worthington 21-14 Jason Galvin

This one on the other hand was a real quality performance from Neil. Led well and made the KGV man scrap to fourteen. Very easy to see why you get so much respect around Burton.

Jack Brooks 12-21 Josh Hale

Josh Hale

Oh dear. And it would’ve been a lot less if Josh hadn’t chucked the block off at least four times heading into the corners. Jack was short, then missing land, then leaving a block on the edge and chucking his first off. Entering the corners his problems only got more major. It’s no good being a yes man beating rabbits every week then entering this level unfortunately, you’re going to get found out. The guys watching on the side cos they’re supposedly not good enough would have done a considerably better job. You need a consistent higher level of bowls. Josh didn’t need to get out of second gear.

Unfortunately it was game over after eight. Poor cards at Stretton coupled with four, seven and eleven winners for W&W at the Greville and there’s no way back. Fourty-six shots to claw back is too many.

Andy Fearn 20-21 Mitchell Harvey

“Zidane” looked like winning this one for the majority, asking a lot of questions and getting some answers from Mitch who had to beat some gooduns. Good last bowl from Mitch at twenty’s cost Chico seventy quid. Awful business this bowls betting. Love the nickname though.

Dan Hartley 21-07 Andy Saunders

Bit of a shock this one but thought the older Hartley played very well indeed, dropped on a weight and piled the pressure on Andy. I do rate Andy but will be interesting to see if W&W stick with him given his 1/3 record this year and the fact he doesn’t bowl at the George or the Greville. If only this card came in the middle four it would’ve been game on!

Gareth Nash 21-20 Steve Wallace

Particularly good game this one with some top bowls being played by both. Steve has been doing it for years and played some great bowls to count at times, and looked favourite until Gareth took his counting bowl out clean last end.

Ed Furniss 21-17 Carl Fielding

Genuinely too ill, or tipsy, or both to remember seeing any of this game. Not easy going on last knowing you’ve got not a lot to play for. Ed showed why he’s one of Derbyshire’s best with a solid showing against one of W&W’s stalwarts.

In conclusion after twenty-four ends with Derbyshire pulling twenty-one shots back in the last four home and away, the match going the way of W&W by a probably less than expected twenty-five shots.

I don’t think there was much in the sides, it’s down at the end of the day to having a consistently high standard to play at, something that is tough to come by when the players and greens being used are so dispersed.

The reason North Mids and Potteries have done so well over the past couple years is down to everyone being within close proximity to each other and knowing near enough who the strongest players are. The four and seven cards came off North Derbyshire bowlers. Splitting into North and South Derbyshire would be of benefit to everyone I think, especially if Burton/Derby feel that they’re better than current Derbyshire.

Now then. Merseyside beating Shropshire is in no uncertain terms a shocker. I’ve seen the photos of the Merseyside home venue and you can only doff your hat at their selections.

Why not use a ploughed field as your home leg if you have an advantage on it? Or artificial, or freak, whatever gives you an edge. No good picking a fair crown green if you’re no good on it yourselves? Other selectors should take note. Competitive game and we should look for every edge.

Props to the away side at Pontesbury for putting such a good shift in there too. No green is a banker green if the home side aren’t actually that good on there and no one has the right to have won a game of bowls before they’ve even walked on.

Steve Davies

Throughout his bowling career Steve has always supported the admin side of the game as well as a keen player of the game. As a club secretary, association secretary, county delegate on the BCGBA (National Governing Body) Management Committee, Media Officer for the BCGBA, 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 which became the Bowls Observer channel and, through the LDBA, runs national competitions. Seeing an avenue to report on and promote the game Steve set up the Bowls Observer on-line magazine.