Royal's challenge is ended by winner

STOWMARKET'S Mark Royal was proud to be part of Barry Hearn's exciting bowls revolution at Potters Leisure Resort.However, he had to settle for equal third place and a cheque for £5,000 at the end of the PartyCasino.

STOWMARKET'S Mark Royal was proud to be part of Barry Hearn's exciting bowls revolution at Potters Leisure Resort.

However, he had to settle for equal third place and a cheque for £5,000 at the end of the PartyCasino.com Premier League Bowls.

Royal opened with a superb run of victories over Scots-born England captain Andy Thomson, world champion Alex Marshall and Aussie sensation Ceri Ann Davies, and a hard-earned tie with Greg Harlow, before losing to Scot Paul Foster in his last round robin round.

As luck would have it, he met Foster again in the semi-finals yesterday morning and was thought to be in with a great chance of avenging that group defeat and take his place in the final.


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Although it was the Scot who made the better start, easing into a 4-0 lead after two ends, Royal was able to use the new power play option and played his joker to good effect on the third end.

The controversial powerplay allows players to double their score on one nominated end per set, and Royal delivered a perfect jack trailer with his last bowl to score two, which doubled to four, and tied the set at 4-4.

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Royal's prospects looked good when he played an inch-perfect draw to the jack on the next end to lead 5-4 and established a set lie at the start of the fifth and last end.

A brilliant reply from Foster put Royal under pressure and a tied set appeared to be on the cards. When Royal gamely attempted to retrieve the shot, he saw the jack move in the wrong direction to give the Scot two shots.

Sadly, Royal's challenge was over - having come so close to winning the first set, he was not allowed to score again, as Foster turned the screw with a faultless display of drawing to the jack and went on to win the title.

Bowls followers who were waiting to see what Hearn's Matchroom people might have in mind for their sport were relieved that the basis of the game was left untouched - and impressed with most of the innovations.

The sci-fi set makes for an ultra-modern atmosphere and the abbreviated format, with only five ends per set, guarantees tension on every end.

But it was the powerplay option that caught everyone's imagination, the player's decision to play his joker being heralded by a blackout, followed by a swirl of lights reminiscent of the TV quiz show Who Wants to be a Millionaire?.

“The format is excellent, said Royal. “Some people were worried that the sets may be to short but it's worked well. I think I can say we've all enjoyed it, and we hope we will have more tournaments like it in the future.”

Results round-up

Round robin: G Harlow bt C A Davies 8-1, 5-4; M Royal bt A E Thomson 6-3, 4-4; A Marshall tied with P Foster 3-5, 7-2; Royal t/w Harlow 6-2, 3-4; Thomson bt Davies 10-4, 3-3; Marshall bt Davies 8-5, 6-1; Foster bt Thomson 12-1, 11-2; Royal bt Marshall 12-2, 4-3; Harlow bt Thomson 7-2, 9-2; Foster bt Davies 9-5, 7-2; Marshall t/w Thomson 5-6, 5-2; Harlow bt Foster 4-4, 8-4; Royal bt Davies 4-3, 8-2; Foster bt Royal 5-3, 10-2; Marshall t/w Harlow 4-6, 11-4.

Final group standings: 1 Harlow - 8pts (7.5 sets won; 57 shots scored); 2 Foster - 7pts (7.5; 69); 3 Royal - 7pts (6.5; 52); 4 Marshall - 5pts (5; 54); 5 Thomson - 3pts (3; 35); 6 Davies - 0pts (0.5; 30).

Semi-finals: Foster bt Royal 6-5, 7-0; Marshall bt Harlow 4-3, 5-1.

Final: Foster bt Marshall 6-3, 5-1.

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