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U25’s report

Five of the Oxfordshire U25 side lined up for their final competitive game in the Junior Home Counties league against a strong Kent side on 7th July at Kidlington. Sam Watts, Harvey Alder, Jamie Wilkinson, Bradley Squires and Joe Glenn have all given a lot of time and effort to the juniors over the years and were looking to go out with a bang. The game that followed was befitting of their determination to the side. 

Captain Sam Watts’ rink of Jonathan Dadson, Lucas King and Joe Glenn dropped a 5 on the first end against Adam Lawrence, but had recovered by 5 ends to trail 6-7. By 10 ends, this had turned into a slender lead of 11-10. 

Jamie Wilkinson and his team of Luke Gilbert, Bradley Squires and Harvey Alder conversely led 7-6 at 5 ends, but after a couple of dropped counts were 9-18 down at 10 ends to Jason Avery’s rink. 

Orren Bennett’s rink of Joe Justin, Andrew Docherty and Brandon King were playing against the triple of Luke Ereira after one of the Kent players failed to show. Despite an early dropped 4, Orren’s side was level 5-5 at 5 ends, and led 11-7 at 10 ends (11-5.25 after 25% lost). So overall at 10 ends Oxon trailed 31 shots to 33.25.

Sam’s rink shaded the next 5 ends to lead 17-14, Orren’s rink conceded another 4 but still led 13-9.75 while Jamie’s rink slipped a little further behind at 12-23. Kent led by 4.75 shots overall. 

By 18 ends, Jamie’s rink had fallen further behind at 13-27, Orren’s rink had collected a 4 of their own to lead 18-10.5 and Sam’s rink had found their highest gear and had extended their lead to 21-15. The difference was now only half a shot in Kent’s favour. 

The final few ends from all the rinks were filled with drama in the context of the game. The 3 graduating members of Jamie’s rink clearly did not want to go out with a whimper, and a couple of huge bowls from Harvey and Jamie helped them recover 5 shots in the final 2 ends to get back to a 18-29 defeat. But it gave their teammates a chance overall. 

Orren was due a win after consecutive last end, one shot defeats in the previous two games. Despite dropping a pair of 3’s on the 19th and 20th ends, Orren played a bowl out and stayed for 2 shots with his final bowl, meaning while the scoreboard showed a draw, the rink was won 20-15. This levelled the score overall with 3 ends to play on the last rink.

A one on the 19th end put Oxfordshire in the lead for the first time in the game, and this was backed up by an excellent 3 on the 20th end with Jonathan and Lucas surrounding the jack. 4 shots ahead on the match playing the last end, Sam’s side built a good head but Kent successfully killed the end to try again for the shots they needed. This time the head was not as well covered and Kent had a chance to trail the jack a yard for 4 shots. The first attempt was narrowly missed and left Sam with his final bowl to take the opportunity away from Kent. With teammates and supporters along the side of the green and with the confidence which brought him the National Two Wood title in 2017, Sam opted to play for the jack, where a close miss would mean removing some of the opposing back bowls. But the jack was taken clean into the ditch, with Sam’s bowl sat just inches away next to it. Adam Lawrence was quick to commend this bowl and chose not to play his last, with no way to make a shot or kill the end, giving Sam’s rink a 26-15 victory, and a 5 shot win overall 64-59, and an 8-2 win on point. This was an excellent game of bowls from all involved, and a result which lifts us to 3rd in the table, where we will hopefully remain after the other teams complete their final fixtures.

From a personal point of view, I have thoroughly enjoyed my first season as junior manager and the players are the main reason why. The team is often a big stepping stone to playing county bowls, and it’s clear that those 5 who are leaving will be an important part of the County Men’s side for years to come. Obviously, with losing this many players in one go, the rest of the side next will need to step up and fill those shoes, and the younger ones coming through have showed some excellent promise. A couple of people playing an afternoon friendly who arrived early today were enthralled by the final few ends and asked “Is it always as exciting as this?”.  I hope so!

The season is not yet over, starting with a get-together/practice match at Kidlington on the 28th July, followed by trips to Leamington for Jonathan Dadson and Joe Glenn in the Men’s Junior Pairs, Joe Justin and Orren Bennett in the Men’s Junior Singles and Jazzmin Alder and Katie Glenn in the Women’s Junior Singles and Claire Soden and Jazzmin Alder in the Women’s Junior Pairs. Then the Amy Rose competition starts at 2.30pm on Saturday 31st August vs Kent at Leamington. I’m sure all welcome your support!

I hope the clubs around the county will continue to support the two sides. I have appreciated the feedback I have had so far. But as ever, the juniors can always use new players. Doesn’t matter about the experience level, the camaraderie of the team give a welcoming atmosphere for any youngster to bowl in. 

If there are any who wish to be involved, please could players, parents or clubs get in contact with me on the details below. There are plenty of informal chances and friendlies for anyone to get involved so please get in touch.

David Leighfield
Junior Manager

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