BOWLS: Wonderful Wiltshire into Cup last four

Russell Francis was a rink winner in Wiltshire's triumph over Devon

Neil Smith also secured a vital victory for the Moonrakers

First published in Sport by

WILTSHIRE’S men are through to the semi-finals of the Middleton Cup for the second time in the last three seasons after a superb 117-109 victory over Devon last Saturday.

The Moonrakers booked their place in the last four in the inter-county championship at Leamington after an outstanding eight-shot quarter-final win against last year’s losing finalists on the neutral green at West Backwell Bowls Club, Somerset.

It was a tight game throughout with the lead ebbing and flowing on several occasions, Wiltshire finishing strongly to gain revenge for their loss to Devon at the same stage in the quarter-finals last season.

Wiltshire took the honours on three of the six rinks with Ben Gadd’s rink leading the way with a big 30-14 victory while Russell Francis’ four, last-end heroes in the previous match with Warwickshire, were key to the success again with a late flourish to snatch a four-shot win.

The other winning skip was Neil Smith’s, who edged home by two shots, while Graham Shadwell’s rink drew 19-19.

Moonrakers were 27-26 up across the board at five ends but 61-54 down at ten, however they hit back to lead 86-81 at 15 and still held a narrow 100-97 advantage at 18.

A strong finish saw them extend the winning margin to 117-109.

Delighted Wiltshire team manager Dave Snell said: “We put in another fantastic performance against a very strong Devon side to creep over the line and book a semi final place at Leamington.”

“We got off to a flying start on the first end picking up 11 shots to Devon's three with Mel Biggs rink scoring a seven. This eight-shot margin was quickly reduced and by the 10th end Devon had moved into a seven lead.

“At the halfway stage it was already looking that this match was going to be decided over the last few ends and this indeed was to be the case.

“After 15 ends we had moved back into the lead by five shots with Ben Gadd's rink leading the way moving into a 12 shot lead against Kevin Phillips rink.

“Three ends later after 18 this lead had been reduced to three and over the last three ends we picked up 17 shots to Devon's 12 with Russell Francis's rink picking up 10 shots over the last four ends to turn a six shot deficit into a four shot win and help push Wiltshire over the finishing line by eight shots.”

Snell added: “It was another great team performance and as usual was combined with a superb team spirit and they deserve their place in the semi final to play Hampshire.

“As I have said before we now have a strong squad with a team that is hard to beat.

“I am very proud to be managing a great bunch of guys and to reach the semi final in Wiltshire's Centenary year is great for the County.”

Wiltshire will play Hampshire, who edged out Surrey 117-116, in the semi-finals at Leamington on the morning of August 2.

Cumbria will play Norfolk in the other semi-final with the two winners meeting in the final in the afternoon.

The selectors have named an unchanged Wiltshire side for the semi final.

RESULTS

Rink 1: Paul Kistle, Mike Richards, Ian Jefferies & Mike Jackson (all Westlecot) lost to Griff Sanders 12-21.

Rink 2: Kyle Anderson (Wootton Bassett), Justin Davis (Holt), Graham Hatherall & Mel Biggs (both West) lost to Rob Paxton 20-25.

Rink 3: Wayne Simmonds (Holt), Chris Cheesley, Dave Godwin (both WB) & Russell Francis (Spencer Moulton) beat Ian Lesley 20-16.

Rink 4: Gary Jackson (West), Craig Doughty (Holt), Steve Snell (WB) & Graham Shadwell (S Moulton) drew with Ian Bond 19-19.

Rink 5: Kevin Embling (West), Keith Bailey (Holt), Gary Morphet & Neil Smith (both WB) beat James Webber 16-14.

Rink 6: Tom Warner, Nick Revell (both Amesbury), Wayne Snook & Ben Gadd (both Holt) beat Kevin Phillips 30-14.

Score: Wiltshire beat Devon 117-109.

MORE BOWLS NEWS & PICTURES IN THIS WEEK'S GAZETTE & HERALD AND WILTSHIRE TIMES

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