Country Week Finals Magnificent

by Cameron Harris

The 2019 BCIB Men’s Countryweek concluded on Friday with two semi-finals and three finals making for a busy day at Bassdendean Bowling Club.

The biggest story from the event was of course the Smith family with the York products continuing to announce themselves as one of the most prominent families in bowls.

The Smiths were involved in every final through middle brother Justin who went into the final day with a chance to become the first player since the great Aussie Bailey to win all three events.

The first final of the day was the pairs and it was an all family affair with brothers Aaron and Justin Smith taking on Rob Tiller and his father Bob.

Rob was the pick of the bunch early in the game playing same big shots to keep the Tillers in the match while Bob found his feet.

They managed to hang around enough to make sure game was very tight as the balance of play evened out.

Still you always sensed that the Smith boys were the more likely to get a game breaking number, which happened on end seven when they picked up a five to give themselves an 11-5 lead.

The Tillers responded well though with a three immediately after and a few ones helped them slowly peg the score back to 12-10 with just three ends to play.

The next two ends were both must win and the Smiths managed to score singles on both.

This left the Tillers needing four just to tie and force an extra end, something they hadn’t had many opportunities to do throughout the game.

Halfway through the end there was no easy option to find a number and they had to resort to attempting to kill the end, ultimately unsuccessfully as Aaron and Justin Smith ran out 16-10.

Next was the fours which had some players both looking forward and back to previous games.

Aaron and Justin were joined by father Haydn (skip) and Phil Jones (2nd) as they played against Dudley Park’s Brad Ball, Ben Garrett, David Appleton and Ron Bates.

Justin Smith versus Bates in the leaders dual was an appetiser for the singles final that was set to conclude the day while both had beaten players in the opposing four (Aaron Smith and Brad Ball) in their singles semi-finals.

The game started very tightly with Ball leading 7-6 after 10 ends of play but back to back twos, including a big conversion by Ball saw the Dudley Park boys jump out to an 11-6 lead.

A good three to York signalled that the momentum might be shifting but a Ball runner removing a bowl to get shot to an off centred jack would prove pivotal just to keep his opponents at bay.

A one to the York on the next end set up a grandstand finish but a four Dudley Park, due mainly to a big bowl from Garrett put the deficit out to six, a huge ask in such a tight game.

A six or bigger never looked particularly likely on the final end as the Dudley Park crew scored one to win 17-10, ruining the possibility of a sweep by Justin Smith.

Still the spectators were salivating at the prospect of the singles final given that Bates and Justin Smith had both led well against each other in the fours.

Smith still had a chance to break a drought as we tried to become the first back to back Country Week Singles winner since Keith Doncon’s threepeat in 97-99.

Smith started better and dictated the length and the tempo of the game and quickly shot out to a 7-2 lead.

It would turn out to be the largest lead of the game as Bates regained the mat and generated a some momentum of his own.

He won five ends on the trot to take the lead at 7-8.

Smith immediately retook the lead with a three and followed up with a two to regain most his former advantage.

At 12-8 down Bates really clicked into gear winning six of the next seven ends to put himself in the box seat.

Seven shots in three ends gave him the lead back and a 15-12 advantage.

Smith managed to score a two next end before Bates hit back with three singles to grow his lead to 14-18 and push himself firmly into favouritism.

Smith was for the most part struggling with his first couple of bowls at this time with the night air beginning to take effect and the pace of the green shifting quickly.

However on the next end he well and truly found the range, scoring three crucial shots which meant both players were potentially just one end away from the title.

The next end Smith played the only truly close bowl to level the game setting up a race to three for the title.

The next end was possibly the best of the game with both players drawing within a foot to start the end.

Bates was close to holding game but a great shot by Smith sprang the jack out the side for one which he held.

This put him within two shots of victory and gave him first bowl to try and pile the pressure on.

That he did as Bates stepped up to play his final bowl down two shots and game, with Smith having covered the back as well.

The result was a fantastic pressure bowl, a pure draw to save game and win the end.

There was now a maximum of three ends left with both players requiring just two shots.

Bates took first blood, drawing close jack high with his second bowl.

Smith failed to respond and Bates drew second a little further away to put Smith under the pump.

He did have a good set up though with a bowl two feet behind to play to and a jack high shelf to use, which he did, to take shot.

Bates with two seconds hunted the bowl but missed under giving Smith the opportunity to draw for the match with last bowl.

He couldn’t have drawn it much better to win 21-19 and become the first player in 20 years to win back to back BCIB Country Week Singles titles.

The win capped off a marathon effort from Smith who played in every final.

His campaign began at 9:30am Friday the 1st of March and finished at 8pm a week later.

Despite his and the rest of York’s efforts the overall trophy went to Dudley Park who also had a very successful tournament, winning the fours, coming second in singles and having another three teams in semi-finals.

Country Week was once again a huge success and solidified itself as one of the highlights of the bowls calendar.

Credit must be given to the participating players and the clubs who made their facilities available to host games.

Particular praise goes to Bassendean Bowling Club who hosted a magnificent final day.