Bowls: McMahon ejects Gourlay
MARK McMahon arrived at the Potters Holidays World Indoor Singles Championship in Norfolk having not played any competitive bowls since last July. But the 39-year-old Flight Manager from Australia continued his march through the flagship World Bowls Tour event at Potters Leisure Resort yesterday by beating former champion and fellow Australian David Gourlay in a dramatic third round match which will take the 14th seed through to an unexpected quarter-final on Thursday.
MARK McMahon arrived at the Potters Holidays World Indoor Singles Championship in Norfolk having not played any competitive bowls since last July.
But the 39-year-old Flight Manager from Australia continued his march through the flagship World Bowls Tour event at Potters Leisure Resort yesterday by beating former champion and fellow Australian David Gourlay in a dramatic third round match which will take the 14th seed through to an unexpected quarter-final on Thursday.
McMahon, a former England international who had earlier ousted Scotland's International Open champion Darren Burnett, romped to a comprehensive first set lead over Gourlay. But the Scottish-born world number two came back powerfully to take the second by a nine-shot margin and force the match into a best-of-three-ends tie-break.
Third seed Gourlay, the 1996 champion, played a wonder bowl to draw level in the second end, but saw his hopes of victory disappear when McMahon drew an inch-perfect toucher in the decider to clinch a shock 8-3, 2-12, 2-1 win.
"It was truly a game of two halves," said McMahon after the match against his closest friend on the Tour. "Whenever we play, it always goes to the wire - it's difficult when you're best mates.
"It was always going to be difficult to keep up the standard of the first set, but in the second David started playing short jacks and that really threw me."
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Gourlay raced to an 11-0 lead after just five ends before McMahon, in his 20th appearance in the world championships since 1989, responded.
"I'm really glad I got on the board in the sixth end - that settled me down. Scoring a shot at that point was important.
"I played a poor second bowl in the second tie-break, perhaps because of the pressure, but I was very focussed in the final end and knew that if I could get on the jack, it would be difficult to beat. I couldn't have played it better," explained McMahon.
"I'm absolutely delighted to get to the quarter-finals - I didn't come here with any expectations."
David Gourlay, runner-up in the earlier World Pairs championship, and winner of the Mixed Pairs event, was full of praise of his opponent: "I felt I played really well - but Mark played the some really big bowls."
When asked if he could explain how his opponent could produce such a performance having played so little bowls in recent months, Gourlay said: "I don't think there's another person who could turn up and play like that.
"I feel I'm playing better than I have for a number of years - so I'm disappointed to lose out. But the standard is so high - it's definitely a lot higher than it was when I won the title," added the 42-year-old from Sydney.
The third seed's demise was followed shortly afterwards by the exit of the fourth seed - when Welshman Jason Greenslade, the world No4 from Pontypridd, went down 10-5, 7-7 to Englishman Les Gillett.
Gillett, the 13th seed from Loughborough, displayed the same form which saw him despatch former champion John Price in the previous round. The underdog led throughout the first set, but it was nip and tuck in the second with Greenslade, 4-7 down after the eighth end, needing a full-house four shots to force a tie-break.
But the Welshman, a semi-finalist two years ago, only managed a three, thus tying the set and handing victory to Gillett.
"I've never performed before on the portable rink as well I feel I could do - I've never really turned it on here," explained the jubilant 38-year-old from Leicestershire later. "I feel I played better than I did in the previous match.
"I put it all down to my preparation - which has been fantastic as I've been able to stay here and practise regularly and not rush home between matches to carry on with work, as in previous years.
"I'm lucky that my firm Electrum Services sponsor me and allow me time off work for events like this - in fact my MD has been here today supporting me!
"It's the best I've prepared for a tournament for a long while - I'm relaxed and more focussed - I would say that the support from my company is why I'm doing so well," added Gillett.
Last year's runner-up Debbie Stavrou, of England, and Guernsey's Alison Merrien will meet in tomorrow's final of the Potters Holidays Ladies World Matchplay Championship after surviving tough semi-finals today.
Stavrou, from High Wycombe, ended the run of event debutante Sarah Seymour, beating the WIBC World champion 8-8, 11-5, while Merrien, a quarter-finalist in 2008, defeated England's two-time champion Carol Ashby 9-4, 7-8, 2-0.
Wednesday (21 Jan) schedule:
World Indoor Singles Championship, 3rd round:
 Mervyn King (ENG) v  Robert Weale (WAL)
Ladies World Matchplay Championship
FINAL: Alison Merrien (GUE) v  Debbie Stavrou (ENG)
World Indoor Singles Championship, 3rd round:
 Jonathan Ross (IRE) v  Greg Harlow (ENG)
Thursday (22 Jan) schedule:
World Indoor Singles Championship, 3rd round
 Kelvin Kerkow (AUS) v  Mark Royal (ENG)
 Paul Foster (SCO) v  Billy Jackson (ENG)
 Alex Marshall (SCO) v  Simon Skelton (ENG)
 Ian Bond (ENG) v  Andy Thomson (ENG)