The weekend of Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd February 2014 witnessed the Short Mat Players Tour’s return to Bromsgrove, England for what was the 4th and penultimate world ranking event of the 2013-14 season, the English Masters, sponsored by Henselite.
Bromsgrove Indoor Bowls Club hosted its 3rd SMPT event, as 108 players representing no less than 8 different countries were split into 18 groups of 6. The players would all compete in 4 out of their 5 group games on the Saturday, before the final group games and knockout rounds would be contested on the Sunday.
The first session saw defending champion, Ireland’s Joe Beattie, beaten by England’s Bronagh Malone 6v9, in what was a rare loss for Joe at this venue. Top ranked Belgian, Dimitri Payne, lost to Niall Cox of Ireland 10v11, whilst world number one Cecil Dillon (Ireland) and Jonas Hager (Sweden) continued their good recent form with wins over Annelie Wikkstroem (Sweden) and David Graham (Ireland), respectively. European Masters Champion Chris Mann (England) was held 9v9 by Seamus McGillion (Ireland) and there were solid starts for Irish pair Mark Beattie and William Morrison, who both overcame tough opponents. Meanwhile, current Order of Merit holder Joel Hager saw off the challenge of fellow Swede Bente Dahlgren, as he won 14v10.
In session two SMPT debutant Roger Hammond (France) lost to Dom Reed of England 5v13. There were victories for Lisa Douglas (Ireland), Steve Puttock (England) and notably Rosa Albrektsson, who’s full-house in the 10th end effectively sealed her win against former double British and World Triples Champion James Smith (England) 16v9. The round however belonged to former SMPT winner Jonathan Payne (Belgium) who played a wonder bowl on the 11th end as he went on to beat multiple World Singles Champion Stephen Williams (Wales) by a single shot, 12v11.
Session three began with wins for Pauline Beattie, Gary McNabb and Jal Richardson (all Ireland). The southwest of England also fared well as rising star Daniel Winmill of Somerset earned a credible draw with seasoned England international Gareth Stanway (8v8) and Devon’s Maggie Smith beat Jack Moffett (Ireland) 10v9. Swedish bowler Ingvar Nelson opened his SMPT account with a 10v8 win against experienced compatriot Marcus Almen, and in an all-Hampshire tie, Ben Pay’s impressive performance meant he got the better of current England National Singles Champion Jason McLean, winning 21v2.
As lunchtime on day one approached, the fourth session of games took place. Ireland’s Don McNamara ensured Joe Beattie suffered back-to-back losses, as he ran out a 10v5 winner and former UK Open finalist Bronagh Malone just got over the line, beating fast-improving Paula Geens (Belgium) 7v6. Cecil was not going to give up his spot at the summit of the world rankings lightly and he beat his number one fan Jonas, 10v8. In another tight encounter Dick Almen (Sweden) triumphed 11v10 over fellow countryman Lars Hansen. Talented England under 21 international Jack Barrett sent out a message to the rest of the field as he beat Jorgen Karlsson (Sweden) 10v9. In contrast, Mitchell Young (England) struggled to stay in touch with Mark Beattie as the classy Irish bowler showed glimpses of his best form to win 19v4.
Saturday afternoon kicked off with the fifth round of games. Rosa Albrektsson, who has become a consistent performer on the SMPT, took another English scalp when she defeated her second former National Champion in the space of 4 hours!
The clash of the West Sussex titans saw Marc ‘Bomber’ Lancaster beat Chris Page 13v10, whilst Norfolk’s Neil Davidson came agonisingly close to Stephen Williams losing 9v11. The youngest female competitor, Sadie Young, overcame Italian Antonio Rinaldi 14v8 and Devon’s John Parnell recorded his first win in a SMPT event (and with it 2 world ranking points) when he defeated Steve Puttock 16v7.
By the sixth session the groups were starting to take shape. In Group M, Gary McNabb recorded a 12-6 win over Pauline Beattie and Matt Chapman (England) won in some style, beating Alun Thomas (England) 24v2. The action in group M was heating up as Daniel Winmill held his nerve to beat Marcus Almen 10v9 whilst Jal got the better of Gareth Stanway, 12v7. In Group Q Manx bowler and SMPT director Stephen Gale won 12v9 against Jason McLean before Ben Pay lost to Ivor Armstrong (Ireland) 7v14
Session 7 saw Neil Davies of Wales secure an excellent victory over Bronagh, who during an earlier break in the day’s play had accepted Lee Toleman’s marriage proposal! Joe Beattie made it one win from three when he beat fellow Irishman Pat Garvey 15v5, whilst in Group C a win for Dimitri over Jonas (16v6) was followed with defeat for Cecil as he was beaten 12v6 by David Graham. Mark Beattie looked set to take charge of Group F when he won 14v3 against Kevin McAloon (Ireland) but Jack Barrett was not going to give him an easy ride and he edged William Morrison 12v10.
In the eighth round of games, 6 times English National Winner Jody Bright was held by 2013 National Fours Champion Gareth Davies 11v11 and Dave Lamb cruised to a 24v1 victory over Ivan Salmon. James Smith returned to winning ways with an emphatic 22v6 result against Roger Hammond. Shirley Parnell (England) pulled out all the stops to snatch a well deserved win against giant killer Rosa! In Group I, Chris Page beat Jonathan Payne 12v6 and Ireland’s Michael McGrade battled to beat Stephen Williams 11v9. Italy’s Antonio Rinaldi registered a marvellous 10v8 win over Ireland’s Gary Burke in Group J.
As the players embarked on their hugely important final games of Day 1 there were many significant results. In the keenly contested Group N there were wins for Jal Richardson, Daniel Winmill and Gareth Stanway ensuring all three were still in with a good chance of progressing to the knockout stages of the Main Competition. In Group A, the head-to-head rule meant that his win against Paula Geens was not enough and therefore Joe Beattie would have to settle for a spot in the unfamiliar terrain of the Plate Competition! Group C saw wins for Dimitri over Cecil (15v7) and Jonas over Niall (13v9).
In Group O, England’s Anthony Fautley and Ireland’s Stuart McSorley stated their claims for success in the Main Competition with wins. In Group H, Dom Reed beat James Smith 10v8 and Robin Hansen beat Rosa 13v4. Group I saw all the main protagonists keep their hopes of progression alive as Chris Page beat Stephen Williams 14v6 and Marc Lancaster beat Jonathan Payne 14v8. Finally, in Group L, former World Champion Lee Toleman beat Devon compatriot Paul Pomeroy 13v9.
The final days play got under way with the completion of the group stages. In Group A, Ireland’s Don McNamara beat England’s Bronagh Malone 13-8 ensuring him top spot and despite Joseph Beattie winning 14-8 against Neil Davies of Wales, Bronagh pipped Joe to second spot on head to head and consigned the recent Swedish Masters Champion to the Plate Competition.
In Group B, European Masters Champion Chris Mann eased through as group Winner whilst Swedish international Tommy Dahlgren & England Player John Manley would head for the Plate & Wooden Spoon respectively.
In a dramatic ending to Group C, Belgian Dimitri Payne showed a much improved performance from Sweden and topped the group with a 10-10 draw with Ireland’s David Graham. Joining him the main knock-out was World No1 Cecil Dillon who got through on Head to Head over Sweden’s 11 year old star Jonas Hager and Ireland’s Niall Cox.
Group D was an extremely close affair with just 2 points separating top and bottom. Wins for England Players Mike Ivings & Jack Shephard over Alan Graham & Dick Almen put them through to the main knock-out at the expense of their opponents and a big 22-2 win for Sweden’s Lars Hansen over England player David Glennerster was not enough as he joined David in the Wooden Spoon.
Strong performances from last season’s joint World No1 Joel Hager of Sweden and James Trott from England saw them both safely through from Group E.
In Group F World No4 Mark Beattie eased through with 5 wins including a 19-4 result against England’s Mitchell Young. Joining Mark was England’s Jack Barrett which saw World Pairs Champion William Morrison enter the Plate.
In the English dominated Group G, wins for Gareth Davies & David Lamb saw them both qualify for the Main Knock-out.
Group H saw final session wins for Sweden’s Robin Hansson over former World Triples Champion James Smith and England’s Dom Reed over compatriot Shirley Parnell to see them both safely through.
4 times World Singles Champion Stephen Williams unfortunately had to withdraw for personnel reasons which left England’s Chris Page & Neil Davidson through from Group I.
Several players were still in with a chance of qualifying for the top 2 spots in Group J. Wins for Irish star Gary Burke and England player Ed Dyer was enough for them both to qualify with Italy’s Antonio Rinaldi and England’s Eric Pavey heading to the Plate.
Steve Puttock of England continued his recent good form and topped Group K with a 14-3 victory over Ireland’s Lisa Douglas. Joining Steve was John Lax who despite losing 14-6 to compatriot Nigel Nicholls, qualified following his head to head result over Lisa.
With the top 2 already decided in Group L, England’s Lee Toleman and Paul Pomeroy could concentrate on the knock-out stages. Andrew Stratton defeated Lee by 1 shot to see him through to the Plate.
Group M was tied up by a dominant Irish pair with Gary McNabb and Pauline Beattie making it through. World No3 Jal Richardson breezed through into top spot in
Group N winning 13-5 against England’s Daniel Winmill in his final game. Former British Isles Singles Champion Gareth Stanway would now need to beat Sweden’s Ingvar Nelson by 16 shots to deny Dan 2nd spot after their 8-8 draw. Unfortunately for Gareth he could only manage to win by 13 shots as ends ran out for him and he finished the group in 3rd place.
In Group O, England’s Anthony Fautley edged a close game against Karl Hudson 12-11 to win the group. In a winner takes all match, Ireland’s Stuart McSorley beat England’s Keith Cooke 15-5 to grab 2nd spot.
Group P was headed by Ireland’s William Boggs following a 9-7 victory of compatriot Barry Brannigan. This left the door open for England’s Andy Thompson who needed to win by 12 shots to deny Barry 2nd spot. Victory came over Ireland’s Jack Moffett but by only 9 shots and so Andy just missed out.
The top 2 places were already decided in Group Q. Ben Pay secured top spot by beating Isle of Man star Stephen Gale 11-7. Stephen finished 2nd which meant current England Singles Champion Jason McLean had to settle for the plate.
Finally in Group R defeat for England’s Martin Simcock by Wales’ Paul Edwards meant he was leapfrogged by compatriot Craig Strong who grabbed top spot with a 12-6 victory over Richard Rose.
With the Group stages now complete it was time for the nitty gritty of the Knock-out Competitions.
Wooden Spoon Knock-out
The Semi Final line up in the Wooden Spoon saw the prospect of a potential father & son final. Patrick Garvey playing Nigel Nicholls was only 9-7 down after 9 ends but 5 shots over the next 2 ends saw Nigel through to the final. In the other Semi Final Pat Garvey succumbed to an 11-6 defeat to England’s Mitchell Young. After 6 ends in the final the score was tied at 4-4. A single for Mitchell on the 7th end saw him take a 5-4 lead but this was to be his last score as Nigel rattled off 8 shots over the next 4 ends and win 12-5.
With Alan Graham, Jason McLean, Keith Cooke & Norman Noble all losing at the Qtr Final stage, this left the Semi Final line up as follows. England’s Eric Pavey quickly Fell behind Against compatriot Marc Lancaster and was 10-4 down after 9 ends. A score of 3 on the next end brought Eric back into the game but requiring a full house 4 on the last end was a stretch to far and Marc secured 2 shots to win 13-7. In the other Semi Final, Ireland’s William Morrison cruised into the final with a 10-2 victory over England’s Jody Bright. William made a strong start in the final taking an 8-2 lead after 7 ends. Marc stormed back into the game and tied the game at 8-8 with end left. In a tense finish William secured the single shot he required and won 9-8.
Qtr Final victories for Cecil Dillon over Ed Dyer 13-10, Dimitri Payne over Steve Puttock 12-10, Ben Pay over Dom Reed 14-9 & Anthony Fautley over Pauline Beattie 13-8 set up two mouthwatering Semi Finals. World No1 Cecil Dillon was aiming to reach his 2nd final of the season and would have to play well against England star Ben Pay. Cecil led 3-2 after 4 ends and a full house 4 extended that lead to 7-2 after 5. A further 3 shots on the 7th end meant Cecil now led 10-3. A brilliant full house from Ben and a single on the next end meant the deficit was cut to 10-8. Cecil then collected 3 Shots on the 10th end to lead 13-8 and with Ben chasing shots Cecil scored 3 again to win 16-8. In the second Semi Final, Anthony got off to a flying start and led 6-0 after 3 ends against Belgian No1 Dimitri Payne. With the players trading the next 4 ends Anthony led 8-4 after 7. A 3 and a 2 to Dimitri over the next 3 ends meant the scores were now tied 9-9 after 10 ends. Dimitri took 2 shots on the 11th end to lead for the first time in the match and in a tense last end Anthony could only manage a solitary shot and so Dimitri was victorious by 11-10 and a place in a first SMPT Final was his.
Bronze Medal Match
In An all English affair, team mates Ben Pay & Anthony Fautley faced off. Anthony led 8-4 after 5 ends but Ben fought back to just 9-8 down after 8. Anthony played some great bowls over the next 2 ends to score 5 shots and once again take command. 4 shots from Ben over the last 2 ends wasn’t to be enough and Anthony took the Bronze medal 14-12.
After adding the points to the rankings it seemed fitting that the top two ranked players now met in the final. Having previously played in the group stages (Dimitri winning 15-7) both players were keen to win. Cecil decided that attack was the best way forward and proceeded to ditch the Jack from long spot and this took him into an early 4-0 lead. This extended to 6-1 after 5 ends. Dimitri then roared back and took the lead with 6 shots over the next 3 ends. Both players were drawing well and key bowls kept both of them in it. With singles being exchanged the score was tied at 8 a piece with a nerve racking final end shoot out in prospect. Dimitri had the Jack and decided to try and ditch it. Both players tried and failed with first two woods which brought gasps and encouragement from the watching supporters. Dimitri then drew with his third bowl and finished just short of the Jack and to the right. Cecil weighed up his options and with the forehand covered, boldly switched hands and drew the Jack into the ditch on his backhand and with his bowl finishing within a couple of inches of the Jack the match was won! A fantastic finish to a great match.