Mens Singles - Semis & Final
Well here we are at the business end of the season. Your scribe’s day time job has got in the way of a report on the semi finals so here is a recap.
Greg “Tiger” Smith was up against Steven “he who knows all” Goddard. A cracking match for two first time semi-finalists. Tiger jumped out to a big lead to lead 21-11 after 20 ends. But Hymn was not done and got back into the game making it 27-28 on end 35 with two 3’s a 4 and many 1’s. Unfortunately for Steven, Greg bagged a 3 on the 36 end and that was it, Tiger in the final. Well done Steven, we have not seen the best of you yet.
The “TV rink” saw David Gill vs Roddy “Ridley” Silber, a past Champion of this great club, go the Saints. Gilly started well but dropped multiples to be 19-7 down. Rid has amassed 11 shots in five ends. I arrived for a quick beer and Gilly took off winning the next 5 ends to be 12-19 (did he see the beer?). It was tick tack for the next 11 ends but with a 9 shot lead it is very hard to fight back. Rod won 31-19. Well done Gilly. You’ll be back.
Well now I am super excited. The final of the blue ribband event in any club let alone one such as the mighty Saints! The 59th Championship Men’s Singles marked, as tradition dictates, by our illustrious President Kevin Latham. 60th next year, that could be a good one to win so start practicing now. My spine was tingling with anticipation; would the Tiger, a bowler of some 2 years defeat the Ridster, Zone player in two ages groups (sorry Rod yes Vets) and past Champion. I played with Rod in the Peter Russell 4’s invitational last year and he had just played in the Veterans for Zone 9 so we decided to call him “vet” for the tournament; “bowl vet”. A well know Asquith player was skipping against us in the semi (we lost by 1 shot on an extra end) and on the first cross over asked Rod “do you know much about animals, my dogs crook?”.
Back to the final. The Tiger was in a mood. Steely eyed, ready to go, all business, no distractions. Rod was at a picnic, chatting, asking for a whiskey but was this just bravado?
Rod scores a single then Greg hits back with two 3’s. Rod stops thinking about whiskey and realises he’s in a match and off he goes, 8 shots in 5 ends, 9-6 Ridley. Greg hits back with three 1’s, 9 all 11 ends. Things are stable, but a slip from Tiger sees a 4 dropped on the 15. Then Greg drew beautifully to hold 4 on the 19th, Rod trails the jack in the ditch with a runner for 1. 19-13 Roddy. Two more singles to Rod on very tight ends and it’s 20-13. This is a fantastic match to watch.
However, both bowlers were battling a cross breeze from the residential side which means the club house side going south was extremely tight and the residential side was ducking like an Aussie batman against the West Indies in the 70’s. It is always a personal choice; do I ride the tight hand and risk hanging out or do I take the somewhat easier wide hand but risk cutting the head. It is all in the percentages, you need to calculate which is slightly better and stick to it. Personally, I usually go the wider side but am prepared to change if it is too hard. Both bowlers on this day didn’t seem to have a preference but at times were feeling the frustration as the wind gusted frequently. Both were using tight bowls so the clubhouse side was almost straight and the residential side not too wide.
End 21 and the Tiger grabs a 2, he’s back. Rod replies with a 2 then Greg scores 4 shots in 3 ends 19-22 to Rid. Then a massive turning point in the game occurred. 3 shots in it, the Tiger is on the ascendancy, his opponent is feeling the heat, dropping short, wide, the tension in the body is building for him. Greg rolls a medium length, draws three very close bowls, he’s on fire and the end is heading south so it is the most wind affected end. Rod has missed with three bowls, all long and wind affected. Greg draw a forth shot, if he can hold these he will hit the front again. What is rod thinking, cut it down with a two foot through positive draw, play it safe, don’t drop a 4. Rod’s been a top-grade player for a long time. He has skipped in the 2’s, played zone, he’s seen it all. What he does now shows all the experience he has and the confidence he has of having played this shot many times. Rod plays a strong runner going for the bare jack. This shot is not a bad option as if you miss the jack you will cut it down but with the wind it was high risk going south, would he simply fly past the bowls? He didn’t miss, picked up the jack clean and scores a 4, an 8 shot turnaround. 26-19 Rod.
A shot like that is heart breaking for your opponent. How will the Tiger respond? Unphased! Rod goes ditch to ditch and Greg draws beautifully, score a 1. Rolls a medium length and scores a 2, Rod cutting it down from a 4 with a good draw with his last. 22-26 Rod. Four shots in it, it is still anybody’s game.
Greg is on a roll, medium length and he draws 4. Rid’s first three bowls were wide and short on the wide hand, again this is going south and the breeze is a killer. Tiger’s four bowls are clustered around the jack, two on the left, two on the right. One, a bowl in front of jack on the left, the rest jack high. Rod scans the memory banks, he’s been here before. He plays a champion’s shot. Forehand, strong runner for the jack and “boom” jack in the ditch. 27-22 Rod.
Greg comes back with a 1, he remains composed. Rod draws four bowls around the jack but the jack is exposed. Tiger’s bowls are close but out of the count and two behind the head slightly. Greg calmly walks to the head, he is controlling the rink. This is a great tactic, it slows you down and slows your heartbeat. It allows you to see the head close up and decide the best shot, hand, speed, angle. Ridley has flowed him down and is looking very nervous on the bank, he is holding game. Greg slowly walks back to the mat; how will he respond? He plays a forehand, the hand I would have played, its’ a swinging runner looking for the jack, about ditch weight. He has played this really well. The member’s deck raises to its collective feet, beers on the tables as you can’t have a drink standing up under Covid. The bowl turns towards the head, arrives at its destination, this is good. Unfortunately, one of Rod’s bowls, the shot bowl is half a bowl in front of jack and Greg’s bowls clips the inside front pushing Rod’s bowl onto the jack and it stays with the jack going back 2 meters, 1 shot to Rod. What a great effort under pressure from Greg. 28-23 Rod.
Greg is not done. He scores a 2 then a 1 and it’s 26-28 Rod, 2 shots in it. What a final, I’m loving the high quality, aggressive bowls being played in difficult conditions. Rod knows, like all experienced singles players, never let you opponent get to within match. He focuses, score a 2 and a single to win the match, 31-26.
Congratulations Rod our 2020 Singles Champion. With his second win, Rod joins a relatively exclusive club. Eight players have been able to win the singles twice in its 59 year history, only three have won it more than twice, my father, the late Dick Carey, Peter Hawes and Fred Alexander. Well done Rod.
Greg, commiserations mate, you can hold your head high as you played fantastic bowls and were always in the game. They say you need to lose one to win one so next year might just be your year.
Bring on the pairs, starting this weekend, it never ends which is a good thing in my view.