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


Mark Beattie wins SMPT UK OPEN again

Nine Norfolk bowlers took part in the SMPT UK OPEN, the first Singles World Ranking Event of the 2019-20 season, played over the weekend at the Falcon Bowling Club in Chelmsford, Essex. Three of Norfolk’s most experienced singles players, Neil Davidson, Chris Mann & Jack Pye, were among the 192 bowlers along with Simon Warnes, Jack Marshall, John Jeffery, Owen Cranston, Steve Easter & David Blundell. There were 32 groups of six players with the top two in each group qualifying for the UK OPEN knock-out stages. Those finishing in third and fourth positions in the groups played off for the Plate Competition while those finishing in the bottom two positions in each group were entered into the Shield knock-outs. This system ensured that all bowlers played at least six games over the course of the weekend’s event, the minimum being five games in the group stage and at least one knock-out round. It was a weekend of mixed fortunes for the Norfolk bowlers with Neil Davidson leading the way reaching the last 16 of the UK OPEN, while Chris Mann and Jack Pye next best going out at the Last 32 stage. In the Plate section Simon Warnes, Jack Marshall & John Jeffery all went out in the Last 64 knock-out round. The Shield event saw Owen Cranston reach the semi-finals and Steve Easter reach the quarter-finals while David Blundell went out in the Last 64 knock-out round. Details of the Norfolk bowlers progress through the competition are covered in the relevant sections that follow including details of the eventual winners in all three sections of the UK OPEN. Needless to say it was a great weekend of short mat bowls featuring bowlers of varying abilities from across the short mat world with many of the big names competing as always. And of course it was superbly organized as ever by the SMPT.

 UK OPEN Group Stages

As previously reported both Mann and Davidson, along with highly rated Somerset bowler Daniel Winmill, were part of a strong Group 27 and this was always going to be a highly competitive group. Neil Davidson started well by beating Winmill 12-8 and by the end of Saturday’s play had added good wins against both Bill Burn & Emilia Thompson. But Davidson was beaten 12-7 by Wymondham’s Chris Mann in the highly anticipated clash between two of Norfolk’s best singles players. Norfolk Singles Champion Chris Mann also beat Bill Burn and Derek Coates but lost 14-8 to Winmill. This left the group delicately balanced going into Sunday morning’s last group session with Mann, Davidson, Winmill & Coates all still in with a chance of finishing in the top two qualifying positions for the main competition. Chris Mann clinched top spot with a 19-7 win against Emilia Thompson and Neil Davidson finished in the second qualifying spot by beating Derek Coates 13-5.

Wymondham’s Jack Pye was drawn in Group 5 where the biggest danger was top Welsh bowler Stephen Williams but Pye was in no mood to give anything away at this stage and won all his five games to win the group. Stephen Williams was also in good form but met his match in Pye when the pair met. The Wymondham star stormed to a 15-6 win to top the group with Williams finishing in second place. Chris Mann, Neil Davidson & Jack Pye would prove to be the only three Norfolk players to qualify for the knock-out stages of the UK OPEN.

Simon Warnes, Jack Marshall & John Jeffery qualified from their groups into the Plate competition, which is for bowlers finishing in third and fourth positions in the groups. Simon Warnes was in Group 17 which included North Yorkshire’s England internationals Bronagh Toleman & Lawrence Moffat who in this SMPT competition were listed as representing Ireland and Scotland respectively. While Warnes beat Aaron Clarke 13-10, John Wade 16-9 and United Arab Emirates bowler Ponrasan Thanusan by 19-2 he went down 14-7 to Moffat and then by 13-7 to Toleman to finish fourth in the group. Jack Marshall was drawn in Group 26 and opened with a 9-5 win against Sweden’s Eva Nelson before losing his second game by 12-7 to Robert Evans of Wales. Marshall returned to winning ways beating Robert Kristiansen 10-8 but defeats against Norway’s Joakim Jensen and Ollie Hipkiss left him fourth in the group. In Group 14 Wymondham’s John Jeffery lost his opening game by 17-4 against Thomas Coles but recovered well to beat Gill Willis 13-8 and Sam Moore of Northern Ireland by 10-6. But a 15-10 loss against Josie Robinson followed by a heavy 22-2 defeat against defending champion Alex Kley on Sunday morning left John Jeffery fourth in his group.

For bowlers finishing in fifth and sixth positions in the groups a place in the Plate knock-outs awaited and this was where David Blundell, Steve Easter & Owen Cranston finished. Wortwell’s David Blundell was in Group 1 and found the opposition just too strong on the weekend. Five defeats left Blundell in sixth position in the group. Steve Easter held England international Edward Sawbridge to a 9-9 draw in their opening group game but this proved to be as good as it got for Easter in Group 21 as he then suffered four straight defeats to finish sixth. Owen Cranston of County Council was in Group 31 and there was genuine reason to believe that this could be a great weekend for this talented young Norfolk bowler. He began well with a 13-8 win against Martin Watts but went down in his second game against the experienced Alan Thompson. A 14-8 defeat followed against formidable Northants bowler Chris Hopkins to leave Cranston with a mountain to climb but he responded with an excellent 17-6 win against Andy Howard of Northern Ireland. In his last group game he played another Northern Ireland bowler, Trevor Brian, but lost this time by 16-5 leaving him in fifth position while Howard won the group with Brian second. Cranston is a naturally gifted young bowler and if he concentrates on the singles format the time will come when he joins Mann, Davidson & Pye in competing for the top prizes.  



Last 64

The first knock-out round of the UK Open saw 64 bowlers take to the mats with Chris Mann playing Simon Meirhaeghe of Belgium. The Wymondham player came out of this with a 12-8 win to reach the Last 32. Hempnall’s Neil Davidson was up against Ian Ford and also made it through in a close game by just 12-11. Jack Pye of Wymondham enjoyed a much more comfortable win beating Dafydd Howell of Wales by 18-5 so all three Norfolk bowlers in the main UK Open competition were safely through to the last 32 stage. This round also saw two former UK Open champions come up against each other and it was 2017 champion Sam Harvey who came out on top beating 2016 champion Lawrence Moffat 12-10. Among other big names to exit at this stage were Jonathan Payne of Belgium who lost by 11-10 to England’s James Trott, Ireland’s Bronagh Toleman who lost 11-10 to Martin Harries of Wales and Edward Sawbridge who lost 10-8 to Lee Toleman.  

Last 32

The Last 32 knock-out stage did not go well for Norfolk as only Neil Davidson survived. He played well to beat fellow Englishman Paul Seaman by 13-3. But in the other games Chris Mann lost by 11-9 to young Swedish star Jonas Häger, who would go on to reach the final, and Jack Pye’s superb run of wins came to an end as he went down by just one shot to James John Davies of Wales. Another big name to exit was North Yorkshire and England star Lee Toleman who lost 11-5 against Stephen Proctor.


Last 16

All Norfolk hopes of the big prize were now on Neil Davidson’s shoulders who would face Alistair McCrea in the Last 16 round. McCrea had been in blistering form all weekend recording seven straight wins and had just disposed of England’s Mitchell Young in the previous round. Despite Davidson’s best efforts he failed to bring McCrea’s run to an end as McCrea claimed his place in the quarter-finals with a 10-6 win against the Hempnall & Norfolk star. Also in the this round 2017 winner Sam Harvey was beaten by 2013 winner Joseph Beattie while Stephen Williams of Wales lost 12-9 to Mark Beattie. On the show mat it was an all Häger affair with young Jonas beating Joel 15-4.


In the quarter-finals McCrea finally met his match losing by just one shot against Irish star Joseph Beattie while defending champion Alex Kley went down by the same scoreline of 13-12 against Mark Beattie of Ireland. The young Swede Jonas Häger knocked out England’s Stephen Proctor by 11-9 while in an all England clash SMPT World Ranked number 3 Nigel Nicholls beat World ranked number 1 James Trott by 13-11.


England’s interest in the UK OPEN came to an end in the semi-finals as Nigel Nicholls lost by 12-10 to Jonas Häger while in an all Irish encounter Mark Beattie beat Joseph Beattie by 12-10 as well.


A fascinating final saw the young Swedish bowler Jonas Häger gain an early advantage against four time SMPT winner Mark Beattie who was seeking his second UK OPEN title having previously won in 2012. On the fourth end of the final Häger had put himself in a great position but a cracking backhand attack shot by the Irishman killed the end. Beattie then ditched the jack on the replayed end and drew in two more shots for a count of three to lead the final by 4-3. A great display of drawing increased Beattie’s lead to 6-3 on the fifth end but Häger then earned three singles on the next three ends to level the game at 6-6 after eight ends. But Beattie regained the lead on the next end earning a single with a superb backhand draw with his third bowl and a tight tenth end saw Beattie score another single to move 8-6 ahead. Häger found himself forced to attack on the penultimate end but he failed to stop Mark Beattie scoring two shots. This left Beattie 10-6 up going into the final end with Jonas Häger needing a full house to take the game into a play-off but early on he again found himself forced into using weight in an attempt to kill the end which he failed to do. Mark Beattie had won the match 13-6 and he became the first bowler to win the UK OPEN twice as he collected the trophy and a cheque for £750 while Jonas Häger collected prize money of £375 as the runner-up. The beaten semi-finalists won £175 each.  


Three Norfolk bowlers started the first knock-out stage of the Plate but by the end of the session all had been eliminated. Simon Warnes of Horsford BC went down 17-3 against Greg Wade, Jack Marshall of Wymondham lost by 14-8 to Ferdinand Frantzen of Norway and John Jeffery lost by just 9-7 against Greg Puttock. By the semi-final stage the only English bowler still in was Chris Coates but he was beaten 14-4 by Sweden’s Benny Sjogren while Don McNamara of Northern Ireland beat Sweden’s Bjarne Andersson by 17-7. In the final Don McNamara beat Benny Sjogren 13-12.     


The first knock-out round of the Shield event saw David Blundell of Wortwell eliminated as he lost by 14-10 to Nigel Froud. Steve Easter of Wymondham enjoyed his first win of the weekend beating Peter Clarke 10-9 to reach the last 32 of the Shield. He was joined by Owen Cranston of County Council who beat Robert Doorey 16-8. In the next round Steve Easter brushed Netherlands bowler Greta Roberts aside 22-0, the Dutch entry had already endured a 26-1 defeat against Robin Armstrong and a 25-2 loss to Stephen Proctor. Owen Cranston also had a big win beating Paula Geens of Belgium 19-2. In the last 16 round Steve Easter defeated Ingvar Nelson of Sweden 13-9 while Owen Cranston beat Bill Burn 16-7. The quarter-finals saw Owen Cranston win again as he defeated Northern Ireland’s John McCallion by 12-7 but Steve Easter’s run came to an end as he was defeated 13-7 by Wendy Ford. In the other quarter-final matches Michael Doorey beat Barry Bates 10-4 and Kevin Lawley won 12-6 against Chris Terry. Owen Cranston’s interest in the Shield competition came to an end in the semi-finals where he lost by 13-7 to Michael Doorey while Wendy Ford clinched her place in the Shield Final beating Kevin Lawley 14-9 in an all English match. A close final saw Michael Doorey defeat Wendy Ford by 10-9.

The next three SMPT Singles events are already fully booked. These are the Irish Open in Belfast on 14th & 15th September, the Norwegian Open on 26th & 27th October at Skien Fritidspark and the British Open on 11th & 12th January 2020 at York IBC. Entries will open for the World Masters on 1st September, this event will be held at Belfast IBC on 18th & 19th April 2020. So the message is if you want to enter these well run events put them in your diary and get your entry in when entries open on the SMPT website!

For those wishing to take part in the annual “Potter’s Resort East Coast Triples & Pairs Over 50’s Week” which runs from Monday 4th May to Friday 8th May 2020  the details can be found on the “Open Competitions” page of this website under the “Information” tab. This event, as well as the “Potter’s Short Mat Bowls Weekend” held every September, is organized by Teresa & Selwyn Goldsmith of the Norfolk CSMBA. Please be aware that available places are now extremely limited for this event that provides a superb week of short mat bowls for the Over 50’s. This is due to the heavy level of pre-booking experienced at last year’s event. Unfortunately, all single rooms are now booked out. 

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