"I am a Norfolk man and Glory in being so." Horatio Nelson

Mid Ulster stage great comeback to win in Tenby

top teamNorfolk Premier experienced a roller coaster ride of highs and lows at their first appearance in the International Inter-County Challenge event for twenty years at Heatherton Sports Park in Wales. With Mid Ulster representing Ireland, with their incredible record of success in this event, and fourteen times Welsh County champions Pembrokeshire representing Wales, it was obvious that this would be a real test for England I.C.C champions Norfolk Premier. Mid Ulster began as firm favourites to lift the title but the first day of the weekend event saw a major upset as Norfolk first held the Irish to an 8-8 draw in the individual session and then came out 9-3 winners on points in the International Fours session. Wymondham’s Chris Mann secured a massive scalp as he beat Irish legend Alan Paul 12-11 after trailing 8-3 after seven ends. In another triumph Jack Pye of Wymondham & Gary Best of Bob Carter fought back from 6-2 down to beat D McStravock & Daniel Davidson by an 18-9 margin in the pairs. A triples win was added by Jenny Walker of Thorpe Marriott, Debbie Sparham of Wymondham & Keith Cooke of Halvergate who won the last five ends of their game against Damian McAllister’s triple. The fourth win of the individual session against the Irish was the last game to finish after the penultimate end was played no less than four times. Teresa Goldsmith of Kirby Bedon, Jamie Forster of Bob Carter, David Lamb of Halvergate and Selwyn Goldsmith of Kirby Bedon were involved in a tight game in the fours that they led by just 6-4 with two ends remaining. It seemed the game would go on forever as Norfolk drove the jack off the mat twice and Mid Ulster killed the end a further time before the Irish took a single to cut the deficit to 6-5 going into the last end. The Norfolk rink was holding with just the skips to play but there was still room to draw to the jack which was to the side of the mat. The Irish skip attempted a backhand draw with his opening wood but was slightly tight and slipped off the side. The Norfolk skip drew in another shot to put the pressure on the last Irish bowl which their skip failed to get a result with and Goldsmith elected not to play his last wood as Norfolk took three shots for a 9-5 win. Norfolk also faced Mid Ulster in the first round of the International Fours on Saturday. This was played over six mats with just one point for each win and a half point for a draw but with six points going to the side with the greater overall shots. Mid Ulster gained the advantage as the session progressed and with two ends left on each mat the Irish led on four of the six mats and held an overall shot advantage of six shots. But Norfolk then staged a spirited finish over the last two ends scoring fourteen shots against just three, winning on two mats and drawing on two mats to win the session 9-3 on points. Laura Hawksworth of Deaf Sports, Peter Walker of Thorpe Marriott and Jason & Melvin Woods of Bob Carter won 7-2 and Lewis Cranston of County Council, Simon Warnes of Horsford BC, David Lamb of Halvergate & Chris Mann of Wymondham won their game 8-5. The draws were earned by Neil Davidson of Hempnall playing with Bob Carter’s Nigel Willard, Jamie Forster & Gary Best and Jenny Walker of Thorpe Marriott & Phil Watson of Kirby Bedon, who played with Wymondham’s Jack Pye & Jon Sparham. Despite narrowly losing their games the shots pulled back by the other two Norfolk rinks proved vital in gaining the extra points. Elaine Oatway of First Bus, Rob Cranston of County Council, Bob Oatway of First Bus and Simon Willies of East Tuddenham took three shots on the last end of their game to lose by just one shot while Kerry Greenacre of Haddiscoe, Owen Cranston of County Council, Bob Oatway of First Bus and Simon Willies of East Tuddenham took three shots over their last two ends in a narrow 4-6 defeat. Unfortunately Norfolk were unable to replicate the same form over the rest of the weekend as they finished second best to Pembrokeshire in both the individual rounds and the International Fours and were beaten heavily by the Irish in the individual session on Sunday. In the individual session against Pembrokeshire on Saturday Chris Mann beat Michael John 15-11 while fours skipped by Melvin Woods & Simon Willies both drew. The International Fours session against the Welsh saw Norfolk win three of the six games but one heavy defeat proved the difference on shots giving their opponents a 9-3 points win. Norfolk’s wins were earned by Elaine Oatway, Rob Cranston, Bob Oatway & Simon Willies by 8-4, Kerry Greenacre, Owen Cranston, Debbie Sparham & Keith Cooke by 11-9 and Simon Warnes, Melvin Woods, David Lamb & Chris Mann by 12-8. The individual session against Pembrokeshire on Sunday morning was disappointing for Norfolk who only collected three points. Neil Davidson & Jack Pye were on good form in the pairs winning by 16-5 while Lewis Cranston, Phil Watson, Rob Cranston & Bob Oatway drew 9-9 after leading 9-1 after four ends. David Lamb’s rink looked on course leading 5-1 after five ends before losing the last four ends to go down by one shot. The last individual session against Mid Ulster on Sunday was keenly watched by Pembrokeshire who were hoping for another good showing by Norfolk which would help them in their quest for a first ever Welsh win in the event. Sadly for both Norfolk & Pembrokeshire it was not to be as the Irish moved up a gear to win on all eight mats. Keith Cooke’s triple went into their last end level but dropped two shots to lose 10-8 while Simon Warnes & Jack Pye lost their pairs game by one shot. It was certainly an International Inter-County Challenge weekend to remember. After the shock results on Saturday the Welsh went into Sunday as favourites to win and there was even talk from the hosts of the possibility of the Irish being pushed back into third place. The last session on Sunday proved to be the decider as Mid Ulster faced Pembrokeshire in the International Fours and blew the hosts away winning on all six mats leaving Mid Ulster as well deserved champions yet again with Pembrokeshire as runners-up. Norfolk will have learned a lot from the weekend and Saturday’s results against Mid Ulster will long be remembered by those that played a part in them. Hopefully Norfolk will not have to endure another twenty year long wait before they take part again.