Finally, after a break of nearly two years, crown green bowls was able to start its competition to decide which county is the best in the game. In a special competition involving a knock-out rather than group format, and with trying to comply with all the various guidelines, it felt good to be able to watch the return of competitive bowls.
In the game I saw Yorkshire proved too good for Merseyside in a lively match. What proved to be a good contest at Mossley Hill Athletic & Sports Club in Liverpool was not replicated at Whitkirk Bowling Club in Leeds where the home side were in dominant form.
On a green he proved to know so well debutant Alex Wolfenden – who also is a co-organiser of the best club competition in the game – led the way with a 21 – 03 win as the Yorkshiremen ground out a 66-shot home win. By claiming ten of the twelve games they took all the pressure off their away team who were involved in quite a battle.
In south Liverpool, on the small and tricky Mossley Hill green and with vociferous support for both sides, the Yorkshiremen started very well with Wayne Moseley in superb form on his way to a 21 – 05 win against Merseyside captain Danny Barwise. There wasn’t much room for Dan early in the game as Wayne led so well, persistent leads which led to Dan having to reach up and therefore lose a bit of control of length, but the worst bowls Dan played were on the few occasions when he led the jack out. If there was a man-of-the-match award, then Wayne was the almost certain winner.
Phil Lee and Graeme Wilson played out the best game on the green. Phil as a past competition winner on the green had the best of the early ends. At one point it looked like he could run away with the game as Graeme struggled with the slower than expected speed towards the church next door, but Graeme got control using his smooth as silk delivery across a ridge and Phil’s left-handed delivery was at a dis-advantage. Graeme could have won to about 15 but Phil got the jack back and good leads in the corners meant he led out 20-19 before a lead a yard or more past instead of a front toucher let Graeme in to get the couple of singles he needed.
The game between Steve Glover and Josh Mordue came down to some excellent bowls Steve played on a round-peg mark along an edge. Sweeping round-peg marks are tough to play on this green. Mike Havern and Craig Gant came down to the better start Mike got, on a green where length is so difficult to find, after that he could keep Craig at arm’s length. It was the to the away team’s credit that they claimed four of the first six games to lead by twenty-five shots.
The use of artificial, or carpet, greens remains a controversial subject for the crown green world. Should the game only be played on grass? I know from my travels that some of the greens I have seen bowlers will need to clear researchers from the Natural History Museum, obviously wondering how grass can grow so long as they comb through the undergrowth looking for new members of the Animal Kingdom on which to base their fame and fortune, before play could start. I think I’d rather be bowling on a carpet than through a jungle though that’s just my opinion, I do know of some who can launch a bowl from any jungle launchpad and into a low-earth orbit but to my mind bowls should be more than a trial of strength.
The second half of the game was far better for the home team and Tex Allen and Craig Taylor, both 21 – 08, led the way in a forty-six-shot swing to the Merseyside men with only Jack Dyson, who with a name like that can’t help but be useful on a carpet, winning for the visitors. The result of the match was a forty-five-shot win for the Yorkshire, and they are in pursuit of their first national championship since 2016.
After a consultation with all the counties a new one-off competition was created so that we could resume post-pandemic bowling this year. However, with sponsorship unsure and without the Champions of Champions and the British Senior Merit to attract hordes (occasionally rampaging) of paying spectators the income and therefore the prize money will be less than the normal Crossfield Cup competition.
Anyway, back to the bowls (that should be a relief to many) and in the next round Yorkshire will play Wales who drew a bye in the draw.
To complete the top half of the quarter-final draw is a match that should delight coach hiring companies as North Midlands play Cumbria in the next round.
North Midlands were delighted with sixteen winners’ home and away against the Potteries. At their Dunlop’s home green Shane Day (21-03) and Stuart Nash (21-07) claimed the best wins as the home team managed to keep the Potteries men under pressure. Joe Williamson (21-10) was the best of their four away wins.
Over at Dilhorne Bowling Club, the Potteries men tried to respond to a barrage from the away men as Russ Prosser (21-12) led the way for the visitors. Paul Charlesworth (also 21-12) tried to lead a recovery but Stuart Perry provided the ‘coup-de-grâce’ with a 21-06 to end the game.
Greater Manchester were far too good for Staffordshire at Crompton BC in Oldham. It was Tom Eccles (22-03) who had the best win and Staffordshire will be regretting the single figure losses in each block. I would imagine the spectators will have followed the Gary Ellis against Gareth Herbert game more than any other. After over fifty county games Gareth ‘crossed the border’ and made his debut for Staffordshire and claimed the win against the five-times Waterloo champion. In what should be a good match Greater Manchester play Shropshire who triumphed in a closest game of the day against North Lancashire & Fylde.
North Lancs will be happy win nine winners at their home game but only won by twenty-two shots at, which according to bowling guru Andy Cairns, is a new venue for them. Shropshire’s Paul Evans more than deserves a mention with a 21-06 win. Over at the tricky Newport green in Shropshire it was a close and the heavyweight clash between Callum Wraight and Simon Coupe, with Callum taking the honours 21-13, will have drawn a crowd. In a match where North Lancs won more of the games they will be regretting those three single figure losses.
Pre-tournament favourites Warwick and Worcester eased to a comfortable home and away win against Lancashire. By claiming six of the first block of games it put winners of seven of the last ten county championships in complete control. Honourable mentions should go to Lancashire’s Neil Bithell for an excellent win at The George who led the way in a determined away performance that only gave away nineteen shots.
It was a bold choice to use the Bellingham club in Wigan against a team who will have had numerous players with the experience of playing it in nation-wide club competition final days. Although the home players used are some of the best there is on the green, the away players green experience was a factor in the result. It was Adam Patrick (21-10) who claimed the best win for the visitors on the way to a twenty-nine shot away win.
Warwick and Worcester play Derbyshire in the next round. The Derbyshire men were mightily impressive in claiming ten winners, and a seventy-one-shot win, at home against Cheshire. Conor Chamberlain and Adam Hartley set the standard at the tricky Stretton Club in Burton-in-Trent. This proved to be too much for the Cheshire home team even though they had seven winners and a forty-two-shot win at the Castle Sports club in Northwich where Tom Vickers was imperious.
The first-round results are:
Yorkshire 442 v 397 Merseyside
Wales v Bye
Potteries & District 384 v 439 North Midlands
South Yorkshire 382 v 416 Cumbria
Greater Manchester 468 v 393 Staffordshire
North Lancashire & Fylde 407 v 422 Shropshire
Warwick & Worcester 449 v 401 Lancashire
Derbyshire 442 v 393 Cheshire
To confirm the straight-through draw for the second round which is due to be played on Sunday 1st August with play starting at 2:00pm:
Yorkshire v Wales
North Midlands v Cumbria
Greater Manchester v Shropshire
Warwick & Worcester v Derbyshire
All the results are available here and will be updated shortly with the teams for the next round of games