Report by Mikey Titcombe
Following a tense 1 shot victory at Royal Wootton Bassett over Somerset, Wiltshire travelled to Ilminster for the regional finals of the Balcomb Trophy. Wiltshire faced Herefordshire in the morning session, with a win meaning they would move onto the afternoon session, where they would take on Gloucestershire or Devon for a place at the national finals at Leamington.
Wiltshire vs Herefordshire
The match started incredibly tightly, with neither side able to gain much of an advantage. Just 12 shots were scored across the two rinks in the first 5 ends of the game. Wiltshire led 7-5, with Russ Francis 5-2 ahead, and Graham Shadwell trailing by a single shot, 2-3.
At the 10 end mark there was still very little to split the two sides, and Herefordshire had moved in front by a single shot. Russ had been pegged back to 8-7 by Tom Holmes, whilst Graham trailed 7-9 to Shaun Jones.
The tide began to turn over the next 5 end spell, as Wiltshire moved into a 6 shot lead. Russ was now trailing 11-13, however a huge count of 6, followed by a 3 on the 13th and 14th ends meant Graham had now forged ahead at 18-10.
Across the next 3 ends, Wiltshire managed to extend their lead to 7 shots. Shaun Jones’s Herefordshire rink rallied against Graham, scoring 4 shots without reply to cut our lead to 18-14. However, in contrasting fashion, Russ & co scored 5 shots without reply and now led 16-13.
Graham’s rink finished strongly, winning the last 3 ends 5-1 to record a 23-15 victory. A fantastic bowl from Tom Holmes on the 19th end made a 4 for Herefordshire to reduce the deficit and with the two remaining ends both being on Russell’s rink against Tom, it was down to them to finish the job. Fortunately for us, with Herefordshire chasing shots, Wiltshire scored a 3 and the final end did not need to be played, with Wiltshire having an unassailable 10 shot lead, 42-32.
In the other semi-final, Gloucestershire recorded a convincing win over Devon. Therefore, the stage was set for the afternoon, as Wiltshire faced Gloucestershire with a place in the national finals at Leamington at stake.
Wiltshire beat Herefordshire 42-32
Kyle Anderson, Neil Yeoman, Steve Snell and Graham Shadwell beat Shaun Jones 23-15
Tom Warner, Mikey Titcombe, Neil Collett and Russ Francis beat Tom Holmes 19-17
Wiltshire vs Gloucestershire
With Gloucestershire on a high from a fantastic win in the morning session, this was never going to be an easy game for Wiltshire. Graham Shadwell’s rink took on Lee Williamson, and Russell Francis & co took on Nathan Kitchen.
At 5 ends, it was Gloucestershire who had the upper hand, and Wiltshire trailed 5-11. A tough first end for Wiltshire saw Russ drop a count of 3, and Graham drop a 4. After 5 ends, Graham had recovered slightly to 3-5, whilst Russ trailed 2-6.
However, over the next 5 ends, Wiltshire recovered strongly. Winning this spell of the game 7-3, helped by a count of 4, Russ recovered to even things up on his rink 9-9, whilst a count of 5 helped Graham to move into an 11-7 lead, meaning a 20-16 lead as we approached the halfway stage.
This truly was proving to be a see-saw battle, as at 15 ends it was Gloucestershire who had their noses in front once again. Both our rinks were narrowly trailing, with Russ scoring a 4 on the 11th end but unfortunately losing the next 4 ends to trail 13-14. It was a tough spell for Graham’s rink who lost this period of the game 1-7 to trail 12-14.
Not wanting to be denied, the momentum once again turned in Wiltshire’s favour. A huge moment in the match saw Graham score a 7 on the 16th end, followed by a 3 on the 18th end to now lead his rink 22-16. Things were still incredibly tight next-door on Russ’s rink, as they trailed by a single shot 15-16. This meant a 37-32 lead for Wiltshire heading into the final stages of the match.
Scores of 2 from Graham’s rink and 4 from Russell’s rink seemed to have put one foot into the national semi-finals at Leamington for Wiltshire, but Gloucestershire were not ready to give up the fight, and both their rinks scored counts of 4 on the 20th end to reduce the gap to just 3 shots. Graham dropped a 1 on his final end, meaning Russell’s rink needed to defend Wiltshire’s 2 shot advantage on his last end.
After the front ends had bowled, Wiltshire held the winning shot, and the bowl looked difficult to move. Following some very close attempts from Gloucestershire and some good cover bowls from the Wiltshire backend, it was down to Nathan Kitchen to bowl his last bowl and attempt to make 2 shots for Gloucestershire and force Russ to play his last bowl. A super effort sliced the jack, but not quite far enough, meaning 1 shot to Wiltshire and our place at Leamington officially secured!
A great battle with Gloucestershire with us just edging it to advance to the national semi-finals. We now face Cumbria at Leamington on Sunday 20th August, with a place in the final later that same day at stake, taking on either Essex or Buckinghamshire.
Wiltshire beat Gloucestershire 44-41
Tom Warner, Mikey Titcombe, Neil Collett and Russ Francis drew with Nathan Kitchen 20-20
Kyle Anderson, Neil Yeoman, Steve Snell and Graham Shadwell beat Lee Williamson 24-21