Wiltshire men just missed out in their bid to win the 2012 Middleton Cup, on Saturday, when they narrowly lost to Norfolk 114-118 in the final at Beach House Park, Worthing. The game marked only the second appearance in the final, in the 98 year history of Bowls Wiltshire, coming 26 years after last winning the inter county championship in 1986.
The team reached the final after a thrilling semi-final victory against Leicestershire in the morning, which saw the side win on 4 of the 6 rinks, claiming a 4 shot win 113-109. Heavy rain and poor weather conditions in the morning had threatened to delay the start of the semi-finals, however after improvements in the playing conditions the games were able to get under way with minimal delay. The game was to be the 50th Middleton Cup appearance for Wootton Bassett bowler Gary Morphet, who had earlier reached the final of the National Triples Championship, the week before.
A tight opening to the game saw both sides tied 34-34 at 5 ends, although the middle part of the game proved to be Leicestershire’s as they stormed into a 10 shot lead at 15 ends. Having trailed for the majority of the game, the team produced a great display in the last 6 ends of each rink and with the help of some great support, were able to reduce the deficit. The team were able to win all the last 6 ends, to pick up 7 shots across the board, to turn a 3 shot deficit into a 4 shot win, which was a tremendous effort.
Wiltshire 113 – 109 Leicestershire
Rink 1 : Wayne Simmonds (Holt), Michael Richards (Westlecot), Dave Godwin (Chippenham Town) and Russell Francis (Spencer Moulton) won against Chris Rodgers 26-13
Rink 2 : Barry Sictorness, James Nobbs (Both Wootton Bassett), Paul MacDonald (Chippenham Town) and Steve Snell (Wootton Bassett) lost to Alistair Hollis 11-22
Rink 3 : Paul Kistle, Jamie Titcombe, Graham Hatherall and Mel Biggs (All Westlecot) lost to Andy Irons 14-27
Rink 4 : Paul Stokes (Westlecot), Keith Bailey (Holt), Ian Jefferies and Mike Jackson (Both Westlecot) won against Steve Wade 20-13
Rink 5 : Nick Revell (Alderbury), Chris Cheesley (Wootton Bassett), Wayne Snook (Holt) and Michael Snell (Wootton Bassett) won against Neil Hope 21-18
Rink 6 : Kevin Embling, Tom Walkley, Gary Morphet and Neil Smith (All Wootton Bassett) won against Patrick Hulbert 21-16
The win against Leicestershire in the morning set up the final against Norfolk, who had defeated holders Devon by 4 shots in the other semi-final. The final marked another personal milestone for Russell Francis (Spencer Moulton) who made his 50th appearance for Wiltshire.
In reversal of the semi-final in the morning, it was Wiltshire who started off better in the final, leading Norfolk 34-24 at 5 ends and 57-51 at 10 ends, however by 15 ends the lead had been cut to 1 shot (85-84) and the momentum was clearly with the Norfolk team. Wiltshire slipped 3 shots behind at 17 ends, and although Norfolk increased the lead, the Wiltshire team never let the deficit increase to above 10 shots. A final push over the last few ends saw Wiltshire take an overall lead of 3 shots at 20 ends, however over the course of the last 6 ends played the side lost a total of 7 shots to unfortunately loose by 4, winning on only 2 rinks of the 6.
Wiltshire 114 – 118 Norfolk
Rink 1 : Nick Revell (Alderbury), Chris Cheesley (Wootton Bassett), Wayne Snook (Holt) and Michael Snell (Wootton Bassett) lost to Darren Rowsell 14-21
Rink 2 : Paul Stokes (Westlecot), Keith Bailey (Holt), Ian Jefferies and Mike Jackson (Both Westlecot) lost to Mervyn King 17-20
Rink 3 : Barry Sictorness, James Nobbs (Both Wootton Bassett), Paul MacDonald (Chippenham Town) and Steve Snell (Wootton Bassett) lost to Peter Boldero 19-20
Rink 4 : Wayne Simmonds (Holt), Michael Richards (Westlecot), Dave Godwin (Chippenham Town) and Russell Francis (Spencer Moulton) won against Philip Barr 21-17
Rink 5 : Kevin Embling, Tom Walkley, Gary Morphet and Neil Smith (All Wootton Bassett) lost to Wayne Willgress 17-22
Rink 6 : Paul Kistle, Jamie Titcombe, Graham Hatherall and Mel Biggs (All Westlecot) won against Chris Willgress 26-18
Although finishing as runners-up, the team put in some fantastic collective performances over the course of the semi-final and final and deserve a lot of credit for the character shown when behind and the effort they showed throughout the 2012 Middleton Cup campaign.
Team manager Dave Snell added: “Obviously when you reach the final both the players and myself were disappointed to lose, but on reflection they were all winners in my eyes, to get out a tough group section and then have a great win over Berkshire in the quarters and to have a fantastic close win in the semi over Leicestershire and lose to such a small margin against a good Norfolk side was a brilliant performance combined with a great team spirit”
“The selectors and myself are very proud to be looking after a great bunch of guys.”