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The weeks seem to be getting busier and busier at the moment, with early rounds of individual national competitions in full swing. We have 4 National Pairs matches to discuss and Neil Smith was in action in the Champion of Champions. In addition, the team competitions rolled on, with our Denny team taking on Desborough and our Top Club team facing a tough away tie with Whiteknights.

We start the weekly round up with Neil Smith and Scott Edwards beginning their National Pairs campaign, taking on Barry Romain from Swindon Manor. Neil and Scott were both in good form from the off here, racing into a strong early lead. Unfortunately for the Swindon Manor pair, things did not improve, Westlecot not giving them a look in at any moment and breezing to a comfortable 19-0 win. A great win to open their account for the season and Neil and Scott will now face a tough test away from home against Carterton’s Paul Sharman.

Our second pairs game of the week saw Dave Snell and Mel Biggs taking on Chipping Norton’s Martin Shepherd in their opening round. This was a much tighter affair with both teams going blow for blow in the early part of the game. With the scores incredibly tight, Mel and Dave needed to find another gear to ensure victory and that is exactly what they did, pulling away in the second half of the game to record a 22-11 win. A great start for them and they move onto the second round, where they will travel to Brackley.

On Friday evening, Andy McIntyre and Mikey Titcombe were in second round action, looking to follow up on a comfortable first round victory. They faced a tough test in Mark Sykes and AJ Docherty and early on it looked as though they had their work cut out, trailing 9-4 with Mark and AJ playing some excellent bowls. Andy and Mikey managed to score a 3 to close the gap and changed the jack length, which led to a remarkable comeback, scoring big counts of 5 and 4 on the next two ends to lead 16-9. Andy and Mikey continued to pull away from here, eventually winning 24-10. This result puts Andy and Mikey into the area quarter-final, where they will be at home with their opposition still to be determined.

Which brings us to the Denny Cup and our second game in the competition, against an experienced Desborough side. This was another close game, with some big twists and turns during the 21 end match.

It was a fantastic start from Neil Smith at Westlecot, leading 7-1 at 5 ends. However, this was counteracted by the Chris Cheesley rink not getting off to the best of starts, trailing 11-0. Things were very tight early on away from home, Mikey Titcombe trailing 5-4 and Scott Edwards level at 4-4.

Over the next few ends, Chris began to close the gap at Westlecot, trailing 14-6 at the halfway mark, whilst Neil had increased his lead slightly to 10-3. Some excellent bowls from the opposing skip against Mikey meant his quartet were behind 11-6, whilst Scott had managed to get out in front slightly, leading 11-8. This meant we were trailing by 3 shots on the overall board heading into the second half of the match, still all to play for.

It was approaching the 15 end mark where the game took a dramatic turn. With the score starting to move slightly in Desborough’s favour, Mikey’s rink being 18-10 down and Scott just 2 shots in front, the Chris Cheesley rink scored a huge 7 on the 14th end to bring them back within just 2 shots of their opponents, whilst Neil Smith scored another big count of 4 to bring his score to 16-4, meaning a 10 shot advantage at home and an overall 4 shot lead.

Across the remainder of the game, things started to improve away from home, Mikey’s rink managed to peg back their opposition, getting back within 2 shots before losing an unfortunate 2 on the last end to lose by 4 shots. Scott managed to pull away to lead by 7, just losing 2 singles on their final 2 ends to win by 5, meaning a 1 shot overall win away from home. Considering they were trailing 11-0 early on, Chris’s quarter dug in and managed to close the gap, eventually just losing by 4 shots, which was more than cancelled out by Neil’s rink continuing to pull away from their opponents, winning 23-5. An overall 15 shot win for Westlecot, 81-66 puts us into the last 32 of the competition, where we will face Malvern Hills on the 11th December. Well done to all involved on another good win!

It was now the turn of our National Top Club team, who travelled to Whiteknights to take on a very strong looking side.

Westlecot got off to a solid start, with both our Two Wood Singles players, Paul Kistle and Lucy Smith, racing into strong leads. Unfortunately, both their opponents then began to warm to the task and clawed their ways back into the game with some top quality bowls. Paul eventually lost 21-16 in a good battle, and Lucy was involved in an even closer game with Donna Knight, with both players playing some great bowls, Donna eventually getting over the line by the finest of margins, 21-20.

Unfortunately from this point onwards the writing looked to be on the wall. Both the Four skipped by Mikey Titcombe and the Triple skipped by Neil Smith got off to poor starts and were struggling to recover. Scott Edwards was locked in a tight clash with Rob Newman in the Pairs, but he needed Neil or Mikey to get back into the game in order to give us a chance.

Sadly, this did not happen, with the scores gradually worsening over the next few ends. Things were looking very, very bleak and it was time to call it a day, Westlecot conceding the match to Whiteknights who were far superior across the board on the day. A big well done to Scott for securing our only points in the Pairs in an otherwise disappointing match. Good luck to Whiteknights for the remainder of the competition, based on this display they have a chance of going very far.

There was better news on Sunday afternoon, with Neil heading back to Westlecot to take on Slade’s Champion Dennis Gregory in his second game in the National Champion of Champions. Neil was in good form, racing into an early lead and keeping his foot on the gas to run out a 21-3 winner. This gives us our first area finalist of the season, Neil will play either Paul Maynard or John McGuinness at a neutral venue in the final, with the winner earning a place in the national finals at Dolphin in early February.

Our final game to report on for the weekend was Tom Pittuck’s opening round in the National Pairs, against Brackley’s Alan Dunkley. This was an incredibly close encounter, with both teams trading blows and being locked at 16-16 after the 18 ends were completed, meaning an extra end having to be played to determine the winner. Unfortunately, this one did not go our way with Tom losing the extra end, meaning Alan advances to the next round. Alan will now play at home against another of our Westlecot pairings, Dave Snell and Mel Biggs.

That’s all for this week, next week sees Neil Smith’s quartet opening their account in the National Fours away at Carterton against Craig Morphet, our Under 30 Double Triples team facing defending champions Wey Valley and plenty more!

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