Sprightly veteran goes out with head held high

David Rhys-JonesWillie Wood, MBE, strode down the portable rink last night with a vigour that belied his 71 years, and delighted a large crowd at Potters Leisure Resort in Hopton-on-Sea - but he narrowly failed to clinch a place in the third round of the WBT World indoor singles championship.David Rhys-Jones

Willie Wood, MBE, strode down the portable rink last night with a vigour that belied his 71 years, and delighted a large crowd at Potters Leisure Resort in Hopton-on-Sea - but he narrowly failed to clinch a place in the third round of the WBT World indoor singles championship.

"I enjoyed every minute of that game," Wood said after the number 16 seed, Jonathan Ross, had returned an 8-4, 7-8, 2-1 scorecard and the two players had enjoyed a well-deserved standing ovation.

Ross admitted he felt under pressure for two reasons. He is badly in need of ranking points to keep him in the world's top sixteen and he knew the spectators gallery would be rooting for his opponent.

If the latter was true, it was surely understandable, because, to be frank, the majority of the spectators are nearer the evergreen Scot's age than Ross's 36 years. But they were fair to both players and applauded bowls of both colours.

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Wood won his first club title in 1952, and made his international debut for Scotland in 1966, but his skills are clearly undiminished, and he tested Ross thoroughly for one minute short of two hours.

A cracking jack-ditcher to tie things up at one-end-all in the tiebreak was reminiscent of the drive with which Wood's friend Andy Thomson won the world indoor pairs title on Sunday - but his drawing was first-rate too.

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Ross, who lives in Scotland but plays for Ireland, revealed that he had undergone laser surgery on his eye in Paisley on Friday, before driving south on Saturday.

"The intention was to correct my short-sightedness and astigmatism, and I feel better for it already," he said.

After Ross had won the first set fairly convincingly, Wood stuck back to score a treble on the first end of the second set, and repeated the feat on the next end to lead 6-0 after two ends.

He looked poised to go further ahead when he held a good shot on the third end but a Ross drive ricocheted fortuitously into the head to give the Irish international two shots.

When the last end started, it was 7-7, and the crowd were delighted when Wood took the vital single to take the game into a tiebreak - and the next three ends were, as they say, worthy of a final.

Earlier in the day the first round programme was completed, with victories for England's Rob Paxton, Scotland's Stewart Anderson and Hong Kong qualifier Stephen Chan.

Paxton has given up his job as a postman in Exeter to play bowls professionally at the Mosman Park club in Australia, and had left temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius in Perth to brave the snow and ice of East Anglia.

"I flew 12,000 miles to face an Australian in the first round. It took a bit of adjusting, but it was just as well we were playing indoors," said Paxton, after beating Melbourne's Geoff Maskell, 10-3, 7-5.

WIBC world indoor singles champion Anderson, aged 23, spent the weekend in Ballymoney in Northern Ireland, representing Scotland in the junior home international series, then, after flying home to Cumnock on Sunday evening, drove through the night to be on the rink yesterday afternoon.

Anderson, who reached the semi-finals of the Scottish International Open before Christmas, swept to an impressive 9-7, 14-1 win over Canada's Hong Kong born Fred Fong.

Chan, who plays for the Filipino Club in Hong Kong, had also flown halfway around the world, and was delighted with his shock 8-5, 6-6 first round win over England international Mike Bowley.

The junior series in Ballymoney was a triumph for England, who scorched to wins over Wales, Ireland and Scotland to retain the title they won at Abbeyview in Scotland last year.

If there had been a Player of the Series award, it would have gone to Gallow star Jamie Chestney, who flew to Ireland on Friday, after missing out on a place in the semi finals of the world indoor pairs championship at Potters.

Chestney skipped his rink to three massive victories, beating Paul Taylor's Welsh quartet, 30-13, an Irish rink skipped by Gary Kelly, 26-10, and Col;in Hutchison's Scottish outfit, 36-4.

Acle's Lewis Moore made his junior international debut as third to Sam Tolchard, who chalked up two big wins and a singles shots defeat, while Cumbria's Danny May, with Wayne Willgress of the Norfolk club at third, won one, drew one and lost one.

Hot-foot from Ballymoney, Welsh teenager Jarrad Breen arrived back in Potters yesterday and will face Stowmarket's world number two Mark Royal today for a place in the third round.

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