Big crowds at Potters to see singles rivals step up battle at World Indoor Bowls Championships
PUBLISHED: 07:00 19 January 2017
The International Arena at Potters Resort in Hopton-on-Sea came alive when a couple of coach-loads of supporters turned up to cheer on their club-mates, James Rippey and Tony Webb, from Chelmsford and Hitchin respectively.
The loyal resident bowls-watchers at Potters, who sit back and are enthralled by the skill of the world’s best players, deserve the highest praise: they are the best supporters of the sport anywhere in the world, but, under normal circumstances, they are not partisan.
Yesterday, the usual murmured comments of approval and polite applause gave way to a more raucous reaction, as Rippey’s Falcon club-mates urged his bowls towards the jack, and Webb’s pals from Riverain called out, “C’mon Webby!” On one occasion, I think I even heard, “You’re the man!”
It all made for highly dynamic contests, and reminded the neutral observer that we were present at a very special sporting occasion – a world championship – in which the results matter. Everything was said and done in the best sporting spirit. Nothing nasty or over the top – but, boy, was it exciting?
Rippey, a 39-year-old Scot, who has lived in Essex for 20 years, is head of risk and IT at a big firm of financial advisers. He not only likes fast Italian cars, but owns three, and he is as competitive on the bowling green as he is behind the wheel.
He matched the number 13 seed, Jonathan Ross, for the first two sets, then dug deep to produce a couple of magnificent match-winners on a tense best-of-three-ends tiebreak.
The first was an accurate draw to the jack with his last bowl of the first end; the second – his last bowl of the second end – got him out of jail, after Ross propelled three of his missiles to within an inch or so of the jack.
Just when it looked as if a third end would be needed, Rippey delivered a miraculous bowl that homed in on the jack, stole the shot from under Ross’s nose, and, to the delight of his vocal club-mates, enabled the Essex man to return a 9-6, 6-9, 2-0 scorecard. Webb played just as impressively against the number four seed Greg Harlow, who works at Potters as the resort’s bowls co- ordinator, and, responding to the exhortations of his Riverain club-mates, almost forced a tiebreak – but it was Harlow who looked relieve to win in straight sets, 10-5, 10-9.
At that stage, four seeds had fallen in seven first round matches, but Rob Paxton, the number three seed, evened things up with a well-deserved 8-2, 9-3 straight sets win over Lincoln’s 2009 world champion Billy Jackson, who has slipped out of the top 16, but who recently picked up a WBT Tourcard.
Paxton, who skipped an England trio to the gold medal in the world outdoor triples championship in Christchurch before Christmas, played consistently well, often forcing the talented and hiighly experienced Jackson into attempting some adventurous firing shots. Today, the four seeds with red bowls who face unseeded opposition are Norfolk-born Jamie Chestney, Suffolk’s Mark Royal, and two top Scots, Paul Foster and reigning Commonwealth Games champion Darren Burnett.
Green for go as Furman edges rival
The curse of the green bowls struck again at Potters Resort when, on the blue portable rink, Neil Furman propelled his green ‘uns closer to the jack than Jason Greenslade’s red ones, and duly booked his place in the second round of the singles.
There had been nine successive wins for the greens, before Stewart Anderson and David Gourlay bucked the trend on Tuesday, and, with seeded players all being in the ‘red corner’ for the singles, it seemed as if the reds were set for a sequence of victories.
However, Welsh star Greenslade, the 12th seed, followed in the footsteps of Andy Thomson and Mark Dawes, becoming the third seed to fall at the first hurdle – and there was certainly no fluke about Furman’s victory, which was achieved in straight sets, 7-6, 10-8.
Furman, who was born in South Africa, employs the neat clinic style delivery that was developed in South Africa by Dr Julius Serge.
He has lived in America for 34 years, and is currently residing in Palm Springs, California, from where he has to drive for two-and-a-half hours to get to his nearest bowling green.
Although he has never made the heady heights of the WBT Top Sixteen, he has been knocking at the door, and making a nuisance of himself since he appeared in his first ranking event – the International Open – way back in 2002.
Yesterday, in a game that could be best described as scrappy, he opened up a 6-1 lead after five ends, and hung grimly on to win the first set with a single that broke a 6-6 deadlock.
Greenslade, who will line up with England’s Les Gillett against young Welsh duo Dan Salmon and Damian Doubler in next Monday’s pairs final, looked on his way to a tiebreak when he led, 8-5, with only three ends to play in the second set.
The 56-year-old Furman, who was once a masseur to Hollywood stars, but now describes himself as a marketing consultant, twice failed to add vital shots with straightforward final deliveries, but upped his game over those last three ends, and got home with a 2-1-2 sequence.
Singles, first round (seeds in brackets): N Furman (US) bt J Greenslade (Wales) (12) 7-6, 10-8; J Rippey (England) bt J Ross (Scotland) (13) 9-6, 6-9, 2-0; G Harlow (England) (4) bt T Webb (England) 10-5, 10-9; R Paxton (England) (3) bt B Jackson (England) 8-2, 9-3
Singles, first round: 10am Jamie Chestney (England) (14) v Paul Hay (Scotland)
2pm Mark Royal (England) (11) v Debbie Wilford (New Zealand), Paul Foster (Scotland) (6) v Michael Cheeseman (England). 7.30pm Darren Burnett (Scotland) (7) v Paul Butler (Australia)