Veteran Thomson rolls back years in Hopton world bowls quarter-final

Vintage performances from players who have been around a while added a whiff of nostalgia to proceedings in the Fred Olsen Cruise Lines world indoor singles championship at Potters Leisure Resort

First it was the 'Silver Fox' himself, Andy Thomson, who is 56, digging deep to win through to today's semi-finals, then it was 45-year-old David Gourlay's turn to impress, as he saw off another old soldier, John Price, who is 51.

Welsh ace Jason Greenslade is 41, but he made his international debut as long ago as 1987, and he was always in the driving seat against Scotland's rising star Wayne Hogg, winning, 7-5, 8-6.

Then, last night, Darren Burnett, the burly Dundee policeman foiled the hopes of Commonwealth Games champion Rob Weale, from Wales, who made his international debut at Aberdeen in 1984.

Burnett, the world number three, reached the last four with a 7-7, 8-7 victory, then said, 'I don't think there was a fag-paper between us at any stage during that match.'

Although he has been in pain from an abcess in his mouth, and has received treatment from a local dentist, Burnett was able to focus on drawing to the jack, and did so very well.

Weale showed his class by getting out of trouble with some attacking bowls, once ditching the jack, then drawing to the very edge of the green for two excellent shots – but it was Burnett who had the last laugh.

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The prospect of an all-Scottish final has inevitably reared its head, with Gourlay taking on Greenslade this afternoon in the first semi-final and Burnett facing Thomson in the other.

Thomson, who was born in St Andrews, won back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995, and he firmly believes he can win it again – though he admitted that he will have to have to play better than he did yesterday, when he was lucky to beat his fellow England international Nick Brett.

Brett scored on the first end of the tiebreak, and was holding a match lie on the second end when Thomson produced a blistering drive that ditched the jack, and finished in an unbeatable position.

Finding form at exactly the right time, Thomson, whose first tilt at the world championship was in 1988, drew unerringly on the deciding end, and returned a 6-11, 9-5, 2-1 scorecard.

Earlier, Brett, from the City of Ely, produced touchers with his first three bowls, before playing for position with his fourth, completely forgetting there is a �4,000 prize for anyone who achieves four touchers in one end.

When Thomson's reign as world champion came to an end, it was the young David Gourlay who relieved him of the title in 1996.

Gourlay, now Head Coach for Bowls Scotland, has had a special rivalry with Welsh veteran John Price over the years, and much was expected from their quarter final encounter.

But, although there were many good bowls played, the clash did not hit the heights. After Gourlay won, 8-3, 11-3, both winner and loser remarked on what they called the changeability of the green. Indeed, that seems to be the recurring theme of every post-match post-mortem, though no-one knows why the pace and the swing change from end to end.

Men's Singles quarter-finals: D Gourlay (Scotland) bt J Price (Wales) 8-3, 11-3; J Greenslade (Wales) bt W Hogg (Scotland) 7-5, 8-6; D Burnett (Scotland) bt R Weale (Wales) 7-7, 8-7; A E Thomson (England) bt N Brett (England) 6-11, 9-5, 2-1.