Five-times champion Marshall crashes out of world indoor bowls championships at Potters
An air of disbelief hung over the auditorium at Potters Leisure Resort last night when Alex Marshall, who has won the title five times, fell at the first hurdle in the Fred Olsen Cruise Lines world indoor singles championship.
Appropriately enough, Marshall was sent packing by an explosives technologist, Craig Rimmington, from Johannesburg, whose main concern after returning a 8-5, 2-10, 2-0 scorecard was what to do with his non-refundable return flight ticket to South Africa.
Clearly expecting to lose, Rimmington had booked his flight out of Stansted for 6am this morning, but is now committed to a second round encounter next Tuesday with the winner of Sunday's match between England's Andy Thomson and Australia's Brett Wilkie.
'That was the biggest win of my career, indoors or out,' said Rimmington. 'I can't believe I won it – and that I did so without hitting my target with any of my drives.'
If Rimmington was incredulous, and Potters crowd were in denial, Marshall found it well nigh impossible to find the words to describe how he felt.
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Dodging the official press conference, he left a message to say he believed he had played the better bowls, but that Rimmington had played a frustrating game, often operating with one effective bowl per end.
'Nothing went right for me,' added Marshall, who had to endure jacks rebounding up the rink, bowls that fell out away from the jack, and a sequence of eccentric outcomes that invariably favoured Rimmington.
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The South African dominated the first set, thanks to those one-bowl interventions of his, but Marshall showed some signs of getting back into contention towards the end of the set, which Rimmington won, 8-5.
Predictably, the pendulum swung Marshall's way in the second set, and a tie-break seemed inevitable. When it came the burly Scot had the momentum behind him and was hotly tipped to prevail.
On the first and second ends of the tiebreak, Marshall took the initiative, guiding one of his bowls to within an inch or so of the jack, but Rimmington was unwilling to admit defeat.
A brilliant last-gasp draw gave the first end to the explosives expert, who proceeded to draw the jack around the corner with his second bowl of the second end.
Marshall tried to beat it three times, and came tantalisingly close – but the Rimmington shot stayed put, and the ground reverberated with the biggest shock in the history of the tournament.
Earlier, Rob Paxton, who received a wildcard invitation to compete at Potters after winning the Scottish International Open in November, dispatched a beleaguered Billy Jackson, who won the world title in 2009.
Jackson, under pressure to retain his place in the top 16, started well, and led 5-1 after three ends, but was allowed only one more shot as Paxton powered to a 10-6 14-0 victory.
Paxton, an Exonia clubmate of Ian Bond in Exeter, is ambitious to cement a place in the top 16, and could surprise everyone by going further than that, and climbing into the top eight.
Hong Kong's 'CY' Wong put up a good show against the 2000 champion and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Robert Weale before the Welshman got home 9-4 9-5. And Simon Skelton, the number six seed, kept his head above water to beat Ipswich ace Phillip Last 8-6 10-6.
TODAY'S POTTERS ACTION
Mixed Pairs quarter-finals
10am: Simon Skelton & Alison Merrien v Alex Marshall & Janice Gower
2pm: Greg Harlow & Amy Stanton v David Gourlay & Debbie Stavrou followed by Darren Burnett & Julie Forrest v Mark Royal & Rebecca Field
7.30pm: Paul Foster & Kerry Packwood v Mervyn King & Karen Murphy
Ladies Matchplay quarter-finals
10am: Alison Merrien v Amy Stanton.
2pm: Kerry Packwood v Debbie Stavrou followed by Julie Forrest v Rebecca Field
7.30pm: Karren Murphy v Janie Gower
World Singles, 1st round: Robert Paxton (Eng) bt Billy Jackson (Eng) 10-6 14-0; Robert Weale (Wales) bt C Y Wong (HK) 9-4 9-5; Simon Skelton (Eng) bt Phillip Last (Eng) 8-6 10-6; Craig Rimmington (Sth Africa) bt Alex Marshall (Scot) 5-8 10-2 2-0.