World Indoor Bowls: Harlow pushed all the way by Puckett in Open Singles

Greg Harlow in action in the Pairs final. Picture: Mike Copestake

Greg Harlow in action in the Pairs final. Picture: Mike Copestake - Credit: Archant

Greg Harlow, the WBT world number one, enjoys his work as Potters' Bowls Ambassador, but came under tremendous pressure in the International Arena yesterday morning, when he met an in-form PBA qualifier Martin Puckett in the first round of the Just World Indoor Bowls Championships.

Puckett, from the Moonfleet 2000 club in Weymouth, has been burning up the greens, and those who follow the results in the Open Singles circuit were not surprised that he took Harlow to the wire in one of the best matches ever witnessed on the portable rink.

The score? - Harlow beat Puckett 6-7, 9-4, 2-1.

It must be said that the 49-year-old Harlow, who won this title in 2010, played superbly. Indeed, he needed to be at his best because there were knowledgeable onlookers who said that the 25-year-old Puckett played even better and deserved to win.

Harlow led 6-3 in the first set but a brace of doubles gave Puckett the set before Harlow recovered to win the second set.

The Dorset man then took the first tiebreak end and was holding shot when Harlow played a trademark drive and ditched the jack.

Puckett's last bowl of that end looked as if it would stop on the green in shot position but it toppled into the ditch. And, on the tense third end, with Harlow holding shot, Puckett's final delivery was almost perfect.

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Homing in on the jack, it appeared to be on target but it snagged on a front bowl and the challenger's giant-killing bid was over.

Defending champion Paul Foster was brave enough to turn up for the singles after withdrawing from both the pairs events following the death of his father in Scotland just before these championships got under way - but, perhaps understandably, he was another star who appeared vulnerable.

Lea Blackham, a 67-year-old PBA qualifier from Ipswich, pushed Foster all the way, winning the opening set at a canter but the 44-year-old Scot's class and experience shone through in the second set, and he came through strongly to win, 2-8, 12-4, 2-1.

Today's action gets under way at 10am.

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