Drama at Ely bowls championships

TOP international bowler Mark Royal claimed victory in thrilling fashion at the City of Ely Bowls Club’s annual open championship held over the Easter weekend.

Royal survived a dramatic last bowl from Norfolk opponent Jamie Chestney that came within inches of denying him the title, to claim the victory and �1000 prize.

Home favourites Greg Harlow and Nicky Brett meanwhile, came within a whisker of making it an all-Ely final but both fell in tie-breaks at the semi-final stage.

Royal, Harlow and Brett were just three of a plethora of the country’s leading bowlers who gathered at the Ely club on Friday and Saturday to compete in the championship, sponsored by N & C Glass.

A number of first round matches took place on Friday and it was a chance for young local talent to shine as both Ben Ackroyd and Jack Alexander won through to round two disposing of much more experienced opponents.

Another Ely youngster, Edward Elmore, fought off a challenge from Stephen Roberts from Ferryhill in Cumbria on Saturday morning and the competition really got under way when Royal took on Ely’s Andrew Easy. The tie was never going to be a comfortable passage for Royal with Easy, fresh from his Denny Cup triumph the previous weekend, in fine form. Royal however took the first set 8-3 but was in trouble early in the second as Easy coasted into a 5-0 lead and eventually took the match to a tie break which Royal won 2-0.

Former world champion Billy Jackson had a straightforward win against Mark Roberts from Beccles winning 10-1, 6-2 whilst Harlow eased past Simon Reeson from Boston 5-4, 8-1. Jamie Chestney, having played a first round match on Friday was back in action against Elmore on Saturday and lost the second set 11-0 before winning the tie break 2-0.

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The local rivalry continued as John Smyth beat Andrew Ware after another tense tie break decider. The star line up of the last 16 was Billy Jackson against Simon Skelton and a very close match with some superb bowls from both players resulted in a win for Skelton. Chestney was involved in yet another tie break in his match against Chesterton youngster Ben Russell and managed to pull through 2-1.

Harlow edged out John Smyth in yet another tie break cliffhanger. The quarter finals were unusual in that none of the matches went to a third set. Nick Brett edged of Neil Smith of Westlecot, Royal beat Philip Last from Ipswich, Chestney went through against Ray Cutting from Pinewood Park and Greg Harlow ended Skelton’s hopes.

The semi finals pitched Harlow against Chestney and Royal against Brett. Chestney comfortably took the first set 8-1 but was in trouble early in the second with Harlow picking up two fours in the second and third ends to lead 8-1, a further two shots on the fourth end virtually clinched the set and inevitably the match went to a tie break after a final set score of 11-2, with Chestney winning 2-0. Royal and Brett’s match followed a similar pattern. Royal picked up the first set 7-4 but lost a very close second 7-6. The resultant tie break ended Brett’s bid for the title in a 2-1 loss.

In the final the crowd witnessed bowls of the very highest class with neither competitor able to take command of the match. Royal took an early advantage but was never fully in control at 4-1 up with two ends left. Chestney then took a single on the sixth end to leave him needing a three on the last to take the set. Royal just held on to take it 4-3. Chestney took an early lead in the second set and was 6-1 up after four ends. Although Royal picked up a two on the fifth Chestney replied with a two of his own and a score of 8-3 made the final end superfluous. The resulting tie break was probably the most exciting of the day and the final result was not decided until the very last bowl when Chestney needed to kill the end to survive. His driven shot missed the target by a fraction of an inch and Royal was champion.