Late drama sees Norfolk qualify for quarter-finals of bowls’ Middleton Cup

Norfolk qualified for the quarter-finals of the Middleton Cup in exciting fashion.

Going into their match against Bedfordshire at Maulden Bowls Club in second place in the table behind Huntingdonshire they knew only a convincing victory, along with a defeat for Huntingdonshire at Essex, would give them any chance of winning the group and thereby qualifying.

The Norfolk-Bedfordshire match was a tight affair from the outset with all six rinks evenly contested. As the match moved into its final stages news filtered through that Essex where beating Huntingdonshire and if the scores remained as they were Norfolk would probably need to win the match with four winning rinks to qualify.

With Wayne Willgress's rink winning 23-9 the overall match result looked in the bag. But with the rinks of Mark Turner and Peter Boldero suffering agonising last end defeats it came down to the three rinks still playing to get the wins required.

Philip Barr's rink duly obliged with a two-shot victory. Then Darren Rowsell, facing a two-shot deficit on the last end, removed the Bedfordshire shot bowl to score six shots to secure his rink's win. Finally it was left to Mervyn King to see Norfolk home by securing his rink's win with his final bowl of the match.

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In the quarter-finals, to be played on Saturday, July 21, Norfolk will face Derbyshire at the neutral venue of the Goodwood club in Leicester.

Norfolk manager Brian Taylor said: 'We knew, coming into this match, that we still had a chance of reaching the quarter-finals but needed a good result here and for the result in the other match to go our way.

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'Once we were aware of the situation in the other match we knew what we needed to do and our boys played some great bowls over the last few ends to get us through'

Rink scores: Robert Hadingham, Daniel Noble, Jake Willgress, Philip Barr 20 R Lee 18; John Tufts, Bernie Perrett, Steve Winter, Wayne Willgress 23 J Allen 9; John Ottaway, George Tubby, Andy Siely, Darren Rowsell 24 P Andrews 20; Gary Mallett, Mick Brown, Paul Shackcloth, Mervyn King 20 A Manning 16; Max Harrison, Roger Guy, Chris Gaul, Peter Boldero 17 G Osborne 18; Sam King, Liam Stevenson, Peter Wilkinson, Mark Turner 25 T Cawdell 26

On Saturday attention turns to the Eastern Counties League, where league leaders Norfolk entertain Hertfordshire at County Arts in Norwich.

With Hertfordshire also unbeaten and in second place in the table, victory for Norfolk in this match could go a long way to them securing the league title. Brian Taylor has selected a team which has a mixture of youth and experience.

Norfolk team: Chris Wells, Liam Stevenson, Jake Willgress, Mark Turner; Ollie Allen, Matt Flatman, Roger Guy, Andy Siely; Robert Hadingham, Neil Moulton, Steve Wells, Philip Barr; Daniel Seabourne, Jack Adcock, Tony Dunton, Darren Rowsell; Barry Flatt, David Smith, Rob Parker, Peter Wilkinson; John Ottaway, George Hunter, Malcolm Nicholson, John George (Executive Rink).

At County level the semi-finals of the Bales Cup Club Championship have taken place. At RG Carter, North Walsham EBA surprised Premier League leaders Norfolk BC, winning by 55 shots to 49. In the final they will meet County Arts, who overcame an early deficit to beat Acle St Edmunds 67-54. The final will be on Friday, July 20 at a venue to be decided.

In the Lord Fermoy Cup quarter- finals Freethorpe had a comfortable victory over Acle St Edmund. In the semi-final they meet Norfolk BC, victors over North Walsham. The other semi-final sees Hunstanton EBA play Swaffham Town B. Both semis will be on Thursday, July 19.

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