Blackstones Bowls Club duo Darren Middleton and Stephen Harris are celebrating winning the Under 25 Open Pairs competition at the prestigious English Bowls Federation finals at Skegness.
The pair were clear underdogs going into the final, at the Suncastle greens, against Nottinghamshire’s Will Marshall (Teversall) and Jack Emmerson (Bottesford), who had earlier eclipsed tournament favourites Jonathan West and Ashley Caress (Lincs) 23-3 in the semi-finals.
But with 24-year-old lead Middleton finding his length on the trickier swinging hand and Harris (19) showing composure under pressure at skip, belying his tender years, they took control by midway with a 12-5 lead.Open
The Nottinghamshire pair struck back in a purple patch to trail only 13-11 after 16 ends but the Blackstones young guns picked up five shots in the next three ends and they were able to concede only one on the 20th end to still win 18-12.
An emotional Darren cried tears of joy but Stephen showed little emotion, despite having the previous day reached the final of the Under 25 singles, only to lose 18-21 to West, who is the boyfriend of his sister Louise.
The victory completed a good tournament for Northants county bowlers with Peterborough-based Mick Duell triumphing in the veteran singles, following Ketton bowler Bob Warters’ success in it the previous year.
Another Blackstones pair - Nick Wilkie and Paul Buckley - failed to advance past the first round of the senior pairs, losing out by 19-12 to a strong Derbyshire duo who eventually lost in the final.
Langtoft’s Peter Cox produced some high quality bowls in the first round of the two-bowl singles to beat Notts’ Russell Pearce 21-8 but admitted he was out-bowled in his next match against Christian Lowings (Northumberland) - a 19- year-old who wasn’t even born the last time Cox had qualified for the Skegness finals.
It was not such a memorable a week for the Northants women but Ketton’s qualifiers in the three-bowl women’s triples featured in one of the most thrilling matches of the week.
Carol Warters, Shirley Suffling and Christine Ford looked to be heading for an early exit when they trailed Suffolk 15-3 at halfway but they staged an amazing comeback to level the scores with the last of the 21 ends to play.
With Northants holding two shots, Suffolk took the jack into the ditch to reduce the deficit but Carol, who had earlier switched to skip, as the rules allow, drew to within four feet of the jack to regain the advantage and when Suffolk’s skip came up short with her last bowl, cheers rang out from the contingent of Ketton supporters flanking the green.
Sadly the trio’s joy only lasted overnight. In the morning they were beaten by Northumberland in the two-bowl rinks in which they had also qualified and then went out to a formidable Derbyshire outfit in the three-bowl discipline.
l Stephen Harris will be in action again this weekend when he represents Lincolnshire in the Bowls England Under 25 doubles rink semi-finals. at Leamington.
He will be lead in Jordan Philpott’s rink against Oxfordshire, while West will play number three to Ashley Caress. Winners will play either Devon or Essex.