David Rhys Jones
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Today’s final in the Just Retirement World Bowls Tour Women’s Matchplay singles at Potters Resort in Hopton-on-Sea will feature two young East Anglians, whose ages add up to only 42 years – a record statistic that reflects how younger bowls players are coming to the fore.
Defending champion Stewart Anderson, who expected a hard game against the Commonwealth Games champion Robert Weale, cruised into the quarter-finals of the open singles with an astonishing 10-2, 12-2 second-round victory.
Although he would not use it as an excuse, Weale has not properly recovered from an Achilles tendon injury he sustained several months ago, and he found it difficult to play the attacking shots that make him such a dangerous player.
Anderson piled bowls around the jack, forcing Weale into playing weight, and the strategy paid off. “I honestly felt for Robert, but you can’t take your foot off the gas in that position, because someone of his class will make you pay for it.”
The 28-year-old Scot will now play Darren Burnett, a community police officer from Arbroath, who defeated the 2010 champion Greg Harlow, from the City of Ely, 10-5, 2-12, 2-1, last night, in a curate’s egg of a match that went down to the wire.
Harlow was all at sea in the first set and Burnett clean out of luck in the second when Harlow came on song. The burly Scot’s luck changed in the second end of the tie-break, when, after losing the first end, he faced a match lie. Attacking the head, he shifted the furniture sufficiently to take the shot, and acknowledged the fact that he had been slightly off-target.
The only time an end can be killed, and a replay ordered is on the third end of a tie-break, and, at one-set-all and one-end apiece in the tiebreak, Burnett killed the end the first time of asking.
On the replay, he was first to draw close, and it was Harlow’s turn to nominate a killed end – but his drive was marginally awry, and Burnett was the winner.
In yesterday’s semi-finals, Norfolk’s 24-year-old Rebecca Field defeated top Scot Julie Forrest, 7-2, 8-3, while Ipswich ace Katherine Rednall, who is only 18, got the better of the 2011 champion Alison Merrien, from Guernsey, 11-5, 8-4.
If anyone felt that Field’s achievement in winning the WBT World Women’s Matchplay singles title last year was a flash in the pan, they had to eat their words when she turned on a brilliant display to clinch her place in today’s final.
Her semi-final opponent, Julie Forrest, from Teviotdale in the Borders, actually played well, but was made to look mediocre by the in-form Field, who was able to beat whatever the Scot came up with – seemingly at will – on her way to a well-deserved straight sets victory.
“Bex was awesome,” said Forrest. “She always seemed to get in first, but, even when I got bowls in the head, she was able to get out of trouble with some incredible escape shots.”
Once, on the sixth end of the first set, Forrest, who trailed 1-4, drew two superb shots, and looked certain to score a double, before a beautifully judged delivery from Field denied her, but the most telling blow came on the fourth end of the second set.
Forrest, who was leading 2-1, was by this stage beginning to find a consistent rhythm and, when she surrounded the jack with three close bowls, she was obviously hoping to establish a 5-1 lead and increase her chances of forcing Field into a tie-break.
Although Field is a ‘touch’ player who prefers finesse to force, she has shown she is dangerous with a running bowl, and her accurate drive took out all three of Forrest’s counters and left her holding a treble – a turnover of six shots that saw her hit the front, 4-2.
Despite the lop-sided scoreline, it was not an easy win for Field. Shots were hard to come by and, in an absorbing match that went to 17 ends, only 20 shots were scored, 15 of them in singles.
“I always enjoy the morning session here at Potters,” said Field. “I’ve got myself into a routine – get up, go to the International Arena for some practice at 7.40am, have breakfast, back to the bungalow, and then to the portable rink for the game. It works well.”
It is hard to believe that Field’s opponent made her debut on the world stage only last week.
Rednall, whose dad John has been a tower of strength in England teams for a quarter of a century, and whose grandmother Gwenda is an ever-present at the national outdoor championships at Leamington, has an old head on her shoulders, and both feet firmly on the ground.
“The standard of the players in this event is phenomenal, and I regarded it as an achievement just to get here,” Rednall says. “But I know I can play well enough to beat anyone on my day, and I’m looking forward to meeting Bex in the final.”
Just before Christmas, Rednall accounted for Field in the regional play-offs for a place in the national under-25 singles championship, but remembers being beaten by her rival in the semi-finals of the national singles two years ago.
“I was leading 14-7 in that game, but Bex overtook me, got to 21 first, and went on to win the England title,” recalled Rednall, suggesting that she has a score to settle.
Women’s Matchplay semi finals: Rebecca Field (Eng) bt Julie Forrest (Scot) 7-2, 8-3; Katherine Rednall (Eng) bt Ali Merrien (Guernsey) 11-5, 8-4. ‘Open’ singles:- Second round: Stewart Anderson (Scot) bt Robert Weale (Wales) 10-2, 12-2; Darren Burnett (Scot) bt Greg Harlow (Eng) 10-5, 2-12, 2-1.
10am: Open singles – Andy Thomson (Eng) v John Price (Wales).
1pm: Women’s Matchplay final – Rebecca Field (Eng) v Katherine Rednall (Eng).
2.45pm (approx): Open singles – Danny Denison (Eng) v Paul Foster (Scot).
7.30pm: Open singles – Alex Marshall (Scot) v Gary R Smith (Eng).