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IIBC World Junior Indoor Championships gets underway

While one World Cup plays out in Qatar, another global event got underway in Northern Ireland today (Monday) when 24 of the world’s best young lawn bowlers converged on the Jim Baker Stadium, which is the home of the County Antrim Indoor Bowling Club.

The International Indoor Bowls Council (IIBC) World Junior Indoor Championships are being staged in a surprisingly rural setting, a mile or so from the tiny village of Parkgate (population 647), in a building that could well be a cowshed, but which, like Doctor Who’s TARDIS, proves to be bigger – and more exciting – than it looks.

The competitors, who hail from fourteen countries, are all 25 or under, and have their sights set on three world titles – men’s singles, women’s singles and mixed pairs. And it is delightful to see top bowling countries, like the ‘home nations’ and Australia, playing alongside relative newcomers to the sport, like Hungary and Switzerland.

Thrown in ‘at the deep end’, Australia’s high-flying duo of Brianna Smith and Nick Cahill, coached by reigning women’s world champion Karen Murphy, opened their bid for the mixed pairs title with a convincing 9-3, 11-1 victory over top England internationals, Ruby Hill and Harry Goodwin.

The Aussies were immediately installed a favourites to win the title, though an experienced local pundit insisted that Hill and Goodwin had played well. “The English pair did nothing wrong,” he said, ”It’s just that the Aussies were out of this world!”

Sarolta Schrank and Mate Dobos, members of the burgeoning Hungarian Bowlsport Federation that embraces all forms of rolling-ball sports, did well to win the second set at a canter, but it was Guernsey’s Catherine Snell and Ben Harvey who got home on a tense tiebreak, 8-4, 1-10, 1-0.

“We don’t even have proper bowling greens in Hungary,” admitted Dobos. “We play on what you in the UK would call short mats, and we also play bocca, and other similar sports. It’s a great experience being here, and playing at this level.”

At the end of Day One, six players – Harry Goodwin (England), Daniel Spratt (Ireland), Kara Lees (Scotland), Yu Yee Sin (Hong Kong), Shauna O’Neill (Ireland) and Ruby Hill (England) – were unbeaten after two rounds of the singles.

But the shot of the day was delivered by Israel’s Shira Eshal, who faced a match lie when she delivered the last bowl of the sudden death one-end tiebreak. Her inch-perfect delivery clipped Lauren Gowen’s shot off the face of the jack to beat the Welsh star, 3-7, 9-4, 1-0.

DAY ONE RESULTS

MEN’S SINGLES
Section A: First round: Harry Goodwin (England) bt Nick Cahill (Australia) 12-5, 7-2; Chow Ho Yin (Hong Kong) bt Adam Rankin (Ireland) 3-10, 9-4, 1-0; Ben Harvey (Guernsey) bt Angel Gomez (USA) 12-1, 11-5. Second round: Cahill bt Chow 10-2, 6-4; Goodwin bt Harvey 7-5, 7-2; Gomez bt Rankin 7-5, 6-6.

Section B: First round: Ben Matthews (Wales) bt Owen Kirby (Canada) 5-3, 6-3; Daniel Spratt (Ireland) bt Mate Dobos (Hungary) 5-5, 11-4; Bradley Buchan (Scotland) bt Ronan Olivier (Namibia) 15-0, 16-0. Second round: Kirby bt Dobos 13-1, 7-4; Olivier bt Matthews 9-2, 6-6; Spratt bt Buchan 4-7, 5-4, 1-0.

Standings (after 2 of 5 group matches):
Section A: 1 Goodwin 6pts; 2 Harvey 3; 3 Cahill 3; 4 Gomez 3; 5 Chow 3; 6 Rankin 0.
Section B: 1 Spratt 6pts; 2 Buchan 3; 3 Matthews 3; 4 Kirby 3; 5 Olivier 3; 6 Dobos 0.

WOMEN’S SINGLES
Section A: First round: Brianna Smith (Australia) bt Amy Spence (Canada) 14-3, 5-7, 1-0; Yu Yee Sin (Hong Kong) bt Shira Eshel (Israel) 18-0, 5-6, 1-0; Kara Lees (Scotland) bt Laura Gowen (Wales) 3-7, 9-4, 1-0. Second round: Yu bt Smith 3-9, 5-3. 1-0; Lees bt Spence 14-1, 14-4; Eshel bt Gowen 7-4, 4-5, 1-0.

Section B: First round: Ruby Hill (England) bt Catherine Snell (Guernsey) 15-0, 6-6; Shauna O’Neill (Ireland) bt Sarolta Schrank (Hungary) 20-0, 18-1; Ellie Dixon (Norfolk Island) bt Larissa Rubin (Switzerland) 3-6, 9-3, 1-0. Second round: Hill bt Schrank 9-4, 11-2; Snell bt Dixon 3-7, 9-3, 1-0; O’Neill bt Rubin 7-3, 9-3.

Standings (after 2 of 5 group matches):-
Section A: 1 Lees 6pts; 2 Yu 6; 3 Smith 3; 4 Eshel 3; 5 Gowen 0; 6 Spence 0.
Section B:  1 O’Neill 6pts; 2 Hill 6; 3 Dixon 3; 4 Snell 3; 5 Rubin 0; 6 Schrank 0.

MIXED PAIRS
Section A: First round: Cahill & Smith (Australia) bt Goodwin & Hill (England) 9-3, 11-1; Harvey & Snell (Guernsey) bt Dobos & Schrank (Hungary) 8-4, 1-10, 1-0; Spratt & Rubin (Ireland/Switzerland) bt Gomez & Dixon (USA/Norfolk Island) 11-2, 6-6. Second round: Cahill & Smith bt Harvey & Snell 12-1, 13-3; Spratt & Rubin bt Dobos & Schrank 8-2. 6-3; Goodwin & Hill bt Gomez & Dixon 6-9, 18-0, 1-0.

Section B: Buchan & Lees (Scotland) bt Kirby & Spence (Canada) 9-3, 9-4; Rankin & O’Neill (Ireland) bt Chow Ho Yin & Yu See Sin (Hong Kong) 12-1, 13-1; Matthews & Gowen (Wales) bt Olivier & Eshel (Namibia/Israel) 10-2, 16-1. Second round: Rankin & O’Neill bt Olivier & Eshel 14-2, 6-4; Chow & Yu bt Kirby & Spence 9-2, 5-6, 1-0; Buchan & Lees bt Matthews & Gowen 9-4, 7-2.

Standings (after 2 of 5 matches):-
Section A: 1 Cahill & Smith 6pts; 2 Spratt & Rubin 6; 3 Goodwin & Hill 3; 4 Harvey & Snell 3; 5 Gomez & Dixon 0; 6 Dobos & Schrank 0.
Section B: 1 Rankin & O’Neill 6pts; 2 Buchan & Lees 6; 3 Matthews & Gowen 3; 4 Chow & Yu 3; 5 Kirby & Spence 0; 6 Olivier & Eshel 0.

[Words and images via David Rhys Jones]

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