Northamptonshire’s men have won the Liberty Trophy for the first time in their history.
Competing in their first-ever final of the most prestigious of men’s inter county national bowls team championships, the county claimed a dramatic 110-107 victory over two-times winners Lincolnshire in an outstanding match at Melton & District IBC.
With a number of international players on show, a close affair was expected but no-one could have predicted the close finish that ensued.
The early ends were even with Lincolnshire holding an overall lead of 31-24 after five ends.
From then on, there was very little between the two teams and, with 60 ends to play, Lincolnshire were 59-58 up, although it could have been much worse for Northants had Vernon Gearey’s rink not picked up a count of seven shots on the 11th end.
Lincolnshire extended their lead to 91-80 with 28 ends to go but Northants battled back with some excellent scoring.
There was a count of eight shots from Neil McKee’s rink while Paul Broderick’s enjoyed an8-2 to ensure the overall score was left at 100-99 in Lincolnshire’s favour.
The last few ends proved to be very tense on all rinks.
The key moment arrived when Broderick’s rink picked up three shots on their last end.
That put the county in front by two shots with just one end to be completed by Mick Sharpe’s rink.
That end was well played by Callum Height, at lead, Andy Smith, at number two and number three Andrew Manton and they held three good shots until Billy Jackson sent down a rocket, which killed the end to ensure it was replayed.
But the county supporters didn’t have to worry.
Height, Smith and Manton again played superbly to ensure that Jackson had to go on the attack once again.
This time his firing shot sent bowls all over the place and he sat on one shot, albeit quite a way from the jack.
Sharpe, who had put a back strategic bowl in with his first, and anticipating an attacking shot from Jackson, calmly drew to the jack.
Jackson then almost stole the shot as he sent a trailing weighted bowl which caused the jack to move.
But Sharpe’s first bowl remained as shot and that sealed a thrilling victory for the county.
The delighted players were congratulated by county president Trevor Tilley and they were presented with the trophy by English Indoor Bowling Association chairman Arthur Broadberry.
(Northamptonshire names first)
Rink one: David Love, Ben Sharpe, Jim McKee, Vernon Gearey 22 Jordan Philpott, Andy Dawson, Ashley Caress, Matthew Orrey 19.
Rink two: Mark Corbyn, Bob Fuller, Phil Exley, Neil Corbyn 13 Kevin Rands, Alan Watts, Dean Stevenson, Danny Brown 22.
Rink three: Dave Flippance, Jason Bryan, Connor Cinato & Neil McKee 16 Ron Flowers, Calvin Leuty, Scott Dunham, Paul Simpson 15.
Rink four: Callum Height, Andy Smith, Andrew Manton, Mick Sharpe 17 Adrian Field, Martin Pulling, Dion Auckland, Billy Jackson 20.
Rink five: Richard Lemon, Chris Bland, Darren Childs, Jamie Walker 18 Matt Whyers, Gary Morris, Jonathan West, Graham Smith 17.
Rink six: Matt Pownall, Dominic Graham, John Haines, Paul Broderick 24 Rhys Hill, Nick Orrey, Simon Lilley, Martin Spencer 14.