Rayner Shield Final
Marown A beat Douglas A at Finch Hill bowling green on Friday evening to win the coveted Canada Life International Rayner Shield for a third successive year, in arguably the most dramatic final ever in the illustrious competitions history.
It wasn’t a bowling match it was a war, with the challengers throwing everything in their arsenal at the defending champions who fought to the death as if their lives depended on it. The teams on paper looked evenly match, and on the impeccable yet tricky playing surface things were even closer.
Marown took the initiative in the early stages with Colin Kelly drawing first blood for his side with a 21-10 win over Keith Rise. The next three games came off the green in quick succession with Marown moving further ahead thanks to wins from seasoned campaigners John Gelling and Phil Kelly, but then something happened.
Stuart Garrett picked up a superb 21-18 win over June Festival winner and Marown Captain Neil Withers to give his side hope, and the Douglas troops responded brilliantly to this rallying cry with Paul Skelly and Matthew Keggen notching up wins to draw the challengers level. The balance of power seemed to be swinging towards to underdogs.
Then there was another twist in the tale as Mike Cain, who had trailed by a couple of points for most of his game, edged passed Douglas Captain Mark Kneen 21-19 to leave his team needing only one more win to retain their crown. With the two remaining games on the green finally balanced the scene was set for an ending so suspenseful that it could have been scripted.
Paul Kelly moved through the gears and held his nerve brilliantly to see off the challenge of Peter Kelly 21-16 to keep his team in the running leaving everything resting on the game between Ian Moore (Douglas) and Dean Kipling (Marown).
Moore was ahead 20-17 and led out to try and bring home the trophy for his team. He headed straight for the corner however he got a little tight with his first bowl and it just went off the green. Last years division 1 merit winner Kipling capitalised and played a great bowl which Moore just failed to beat with his second. Kipling then picked up a two to tie the scores at 20-20.
Kipling put up two brilliant woods to leave Moore lying game down but he held his nerve and with everything resting on the fate of his final bowl he struck the jack off the green, killing the end and keeping the Douglas hopes alive in the process. However it was not meant to be for the challengers as Kipling, who seemed to thrive in the pressure cooker atmosphere, led magnificently and picked up the final point required for a Marown win.
It is heartbreaking for Douglas who came so close to winning the shield for the first time in over 50 years, but it wasn’t meant to be. Marown just had the edge by the smallest of margins winning 5-4 on games with the scores ending 167-165 on points in a match that had everything. In sport there are always winners and losers and Marown are brilliant champions but Douglas are far from losers after this performance, the real winners on Friday night were those lucky enough to watch this epic encounter which I am sure will be stored in the memory banks for years to come.