The 2018 Bowls England National Championships at Royal Leamington Spa rolled into action on Saturday 4th August with inter-county team competitions the Middleton Cup (men) and the Johns Trophy (women).
In the first of the Johns Trophy semi-finals, Surrey took on Northamptonshire and came out on top in a close-fought game winning 117-110. In the second semi-final, Wiltshire faced Yorkshire. Wiltshire booked their spot in the final after winning comfortably 129-79.
In the final, Surrey made history with the game finishing 125-109 in their favour. This was the 22nd time that Surrey had won this trophy – a new record.
The four teams battling it out for the Middleton Cup were defending champions Devon, Buckinghamshire, Leicestershire and Yorkshire. In the semi-finals the much-favoured Devon showed their strength with a convincing 145-94 win over Buckinghamshire, while the game between Leicestershire and Yorkshire saw Leicestershire emerge with a 10-shot win.
Boasting a host of current and ex-international players, it's easy to see why Devon had won the Middleton Cup the three previous years, but Leicestershire went into the final with the passion and enthusiasm they always show on the green.
Devon were in the lead all the way through the game, but despite being four shots down overall on the match going into the final ends, Leicestershire managed to force extra ends after a tight measure from the umpire.
A new ruling says that all six rinks must play extra ends, and Leicestershire took full advantage to win 9-1. This was a huge upset with Leicestershire winning their second Middleton Cup title after a 54-year wait.
The Family Pairs competition saw Cambridgeshire brothers Adam Barker & Jamie Barker play against Warwickshire father and son pairing Mark Smith & Andy Smith. The Smiths pipped the Barkers to the title with a 23-18 win to take the trophy in their home county.
At just 16, Worcestershire's Izzie White battled through a field of quality players to claim the Women's U25 Singles title. She managed to come from behind in both her semi-final, and in the final against England junior international skip Vicky Room from Buckinghamshire. After a slow start that left her 9-3 behind, Izzie recovered magnificently to win 21-12.
The Women's Senior Pairs was almost a repeat win for 2017 winners Lesley Johnson & Margaret Holden from Hampshire, but were upstaged by Durham's Glynis Morgan and Joan Rogerson. The Durham pair scraped into the final with an extra-end semi-final win, and picked up a critical score of three late on in the close-fought contest which eventually finished 21-12 in their favour.
Lincolnshire's Amy Gowshall won the Women's Champion of Champions competition for an incredible eighth time with a 21-15 win over Somerset's Stef Branfield in the semi-final, and a 21-12 win over Oxfordshire's former champion Katherine Hawes in the final. World and Commonwealth Games pairs champion Gowshall first won the title in 1998.
Kevin Embling, Graham Richards, Alan Small & Dave Snell from Wootton Bassett BC in Wiltshire overcame Ron Mayne, Ross Newman, Reg Burton & David Simpson from New Lount BC in Leicestershire 24-13 to win the Men's Senior Fours title.
Devon pair Zach Kidd & Harry Goodwin took home the Men's Junior Pairs trophy after beating Cambridgeshire brothers Adam Barker & Jamie Barker 17-10. The Barkers had also lost out in the final of the Family Pairs competition just a few days earlier.
The Women's Fours final was a star-studded match-up with seven of the eight players having represented England, five of whom have also played in the Commonwealth Games. The final saw Devon's Sophie Tolchard, Kelly Atkinson, Lorraine Hackett & Natalie Chestney beat Kent quartet Emily Ferguson, Sandy Hazell, Wendy King & Sian Honnor 23-13.
The 2018 Bowls England National Championships at Royal Leamington Spa run until Sunday 2nd September, and we'll keep you up-to-date with summaries of who's been winning what, so make sure you check back!
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