Stowmarket’s Mark Royal knocked out of World Singles competition

Mark Royal

Mark Royal - Credit: James Bass

Darren Burnett would not be drawn on his prospects of winning all three world titles at Potters because the field is full of star players, and yesterday three of them clinched places in the quarter-finals.

First through to the last eight was Rob Paxton, who last year enjoyed the sort of success that Burnett is experiencing this year. After winning the 2015 open pairs and mixed pairs titles, Paxton fell victim to the wiles of legendary Scot David Gourlay in the quarter-finals.

A Devonian by birth, Paxton now lives and play bowls in Somerset, where he is a member of the Taunton Deane club. Over the past ten months, he has lost three stone in weight so it was ironic that he found himself up against Suffolk star Mark Royal, who is currently putting on weight after a health scare. Leading, 6-4, Paxton seemed to have the first set in his pocket when Royal stole it with a well-taken treble on the last end, but Paxton took the second set and played brilliantly on the tiebreak to win, 6-7, 12-5, 2-0.

Gourlay was the next to qualify for the quarter-finals, playing with more flair than you might expect, given the fact that he now lives near Barcelona, and has played bowls only once since last March.

With Jonathan Ross in opposition, shots were hard to come by, particularly in the first set, when nine measly singles were scored in nine ends, but Gourlay conceded shots on only four ends, and returned a 7-2, 9-4 scorecard.

Last night Simon Skelton, who is suffering from a stress fracture in his fifth metatarsal - a common football injury - was wheeled up and down the rink in between ends by match official Dan Bluett in a customised wheelchair.

In the first round, Skelton had beaten the number 14 seed John Price, but this time he was edged out on a tense tiebreak by Matt Orrey, a young man from Grantham who last week took the scalp of world number two Paul Foster. Not only did the encounter go to extra-time, but it needed a measure on the third end of the tiebreak to establish that Orrey, a 27-year-old IT engineer, still held the winning shot, after Skelton had drawn his last bowl within a millimetre of victory.

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Orrey’s 7-10, 7-6, 2-1 win sets him up for a crack at Gourlay on Friday evening.

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