Dream comes true as Nick Brett claims his first World Indoor Bowls Championships title
- Credit: James Bass
In only the third all-England final since the world indoor championships were introduced in 1979, Nick Brett, the world number one from Huntingdon, defeated Taunton's Rob Paxton, 9-9, 12-9 at Potters Resort in Hopton-on-Sea yesterday to win the Just Retirement world indoor singles title.
Greg Harlow, who is now Potters' own Bowls Ambassador, and Norfolk hero Mervyn King were involved in the last one in 2006, but we have to dig back to 1987 to discover the first, which featured two of the sport's all-time legends, Tony Allcock and David Bryant in Coatbridge, where the world championships were originally stage.
Although yesterday's final was a fascinating cat-and-mouse affair, it failed to reach the heights of Saturday's enthralling semi-finals, in which Brett beat legendary Scot David Gourlay, 6-7, 7-6, 2-1, and Paxton accounted for the defending champion Alex Marshall, 3-12, 7-4, 2-1.
'For me, it really is a dream come true,' said Brett. 'Like a lot of youngsters who were into bowls, I watched in awe on TV as the greats played for the world title, but I never thought I would ever be good enough to win it.'
He recalls how it took him at least ten years to come through the qualifying process to become a member of the elite top 16: 'I thought I was OK, but the play-offs are hard, because you have to balance them with your work and the demands of your family.'
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Things did not always go smoothly for Brett, whose face does not seem to fit as far as the national outdoor selectors are concerned.
'I did the hard yards, and took a few hard knocks, but I've found you have to keep on going forward in your own way.'
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That, in fact, is exactly what he did against Paxton, stealing the initiative and changing the balance of power on the last end of the first set and the first end of the second.
Brett led 6-3 after six ends in the first set but found himself 7-9 adrift with just one end left to play when, after Paxton had hit one of his shots off the rink, he deftly drew it back for a count of two that tied the set.
'That was massive,' Brett said. 'But just as influential was the full house I scored on the very next end. And when I scored a treble and a double on the third and fourth ends to lead 9-2 all I had to do was to play safe and stop him coming back at me with any big counts.'
To his creditPaxton, who refused to lie down, made inroads into Brett's lead and on the eighth end actually played the shot of the match when he clipped out a green Brett shot as clean as a whistle to score two shots to close the gap to 11-7.
With three ends left to play it was important that Brett, who had conceded five shots while scoring just two over the last four ends, should stem the tide and he did just that by picking up a single on the ninth end.
And, when Paxton managed a single on the penultimate end, his task was to score a full house to tie the set and force a tiebreak, but, as soon as his third bowl – a speculative drive – left the rink, he was left with nowhere to go, and the match ended prematurely.
A civilian with the MoD, Brett will start a new job this morning at RAF Wyton, where he has landed a job as 'requirements manager'.
When asked to explain what that meant, he grinned and said: 'To be honest with you, I've no idea.'
Magic in the air on a day to remember
There is a show on in the West End called The Illusionists, but the eight magicians who are delighting audiences at the Shaftesbury Theatre could not hold a candle to the four semi-finalists who enthralled a full house at Potters Resort on Saturday.
Whether it was all done by mirrors or sleight of hand we shall never know, but the world semi- finals in which Nick Brett beat an in-form David Gourlay, and Rob Paxton managed to get the better of six-times champion Alex Marshall were full of magic.
Marshall looked unbeatable in the first set against Paxton but the Taunton man dug deep, hit back to win the second set, and came out on top in the tiebreak to win, 3-12, 7-4, 2-1.
Rolling back the years, Gourlay hit the form that took him to the world title at Preston 20 years ago, and looked poised to make it through to the final - but Brett, who lost the first set by one, won a measure to win the second by the same margin, and edged home in yet another tense tiebreak, 6-7, 7-6, 2-1.
Saturday was a day to celebrate for junior bowlers, too, with the semi-finals and final of the World Indoor Under 25 championship on the portable rink, with 18-year-old Welsh star Joe Mower, who now lives in Scotland, winning the new title.
'We learnt that the fastest growing section of PBA membership were in the under 25 age group, and thought it was a good idea to give them an event of their own,' said WBT CEO Richard Maddieson.
'Everyone, including sponsors and the BBC were in favour, so we went ahead with the event as an experiment,' he explained. 'We wanted to give it an international dimension, but the New Zealand qualifier withdrew, and we were left with an all-UK field.'
Further promoting the idea that bowls can be (and is) a young man's game, the BBC showed the most of the final on TV yesterday after Brett had won the main event.
Mower, who has played for Wales and junior and senior level, and hopes to play for Scotland one day, won the first set, but Ross Owen, who skips for the Welsh senior side, won the second, before Mower got home, 9-4, 5-11, 2-1.
'It was a good advert for the game of bowls,' said Maddieson.
World Under 25 singles, semi-final: Joe Mower (Wales) bt Jake Willgress (England) 15-0, 6-4; Ross Owen (Wales) bt Tom Smith (England) 9-6, 8-4. Final: Mower bt Owen 9-4, 5-12, 2-1.
Singles, Semi-finals: Nick Brett (England) bt David Gourlay (Scotland) 6-7, 7-6, 2-1; Rob Paxton (England) bt Alex Marshall (Scotland) 3-12, 7-4, 2-1. Final: Brett bt Paxton 9-9, 12-9.