EIBA National finals at Melton: Barlow edges out teenage star in signles final

Women's singles winner Michelle Barlow (St Neots) EMN-170404-131725002
Women's singles winner Michelle Barlow (St Neots) EMN-170404-131725002

Michelle Barlow (39) achieved a lifetime ambition when she pipped 15-year-old Devon Cooper to become the national women’s singles champion on Saturday.

The St Neots bowler insisted her Riverain opponent had played the better bowls, but ran out a 21-20 winner in the final at Melton.

Women's pairs champions Sandy Hazell (right) and Wendy King (Swale) EMN-170404-131832002

Women's pairs champions Sandy Hazell (right) and Wendy King (Swale) EMN-170404-131832002

Cooper, who won the pairs last year with Riverain clubmate Rachel Tremlett and reached the fours semi-final last week, opened up a 7-2 lead after five ends, and kept up the pressure to lead 11-6 after 10 and then 15-8 after 15.

Barlow tenaciously tied the scores at 15-15 with a profitable 1-2-4 run, but Cooper seemed destined to became the youngest-ever winner when she surged to the brink of victory at 20-16.

She held a match lie several times, but Barlow scored two doubles to tie again at 20-20, and took the vital single on the 25th end of a fascinating encounter.

“Michelle deserved to win,” said Cooper. “I did my best, but she’s a fighter, and would not let me get away from her.

“I know her well because she used to be a member at Riverain, and I played lead on her rink in the Yetton Trophy”

Barlow added: “I’ve been playing bowls for 25 years, and this is the high point of my career, but I am convinced that this young lady will be standing where I am standing, and holding this trophy in the future. She was tremendous.”

In the semi-finals, Cooper had toppled 2012 champion Bex Field, the only former winner to qualify for Melton this year.

* There was a new name on the national women’s indoor pairs trophy last Thursday when Swale swept to a 21-6 victory over Banbury Cross in the final.

Swale’s Sandy Hazell, leading for her clubmate and England colleague Wendy King, had won the title 13 years ago, with Ann Hill, while a member of the Mote Park club.

The duo had combined to win many other national titles, but never the pairs before last year.

They beat Nottingham’s two-time former winners Sue Mart and Pam Cutts, 14-13, in a tight semi-final earlier in the day.

In the final, Swale struck early with a six on the third end which stretched their lead to 9-0, and kept up the pressure to lead 16-12 at the halfway stage.

Banbury’s Carole Galletly and Kath Hawes rallied briefly, but the game had already slipped from their grasp, and they threw in the towel with three ends still to play.

“We’ve won triples and fours, but never the pairs,” said Hazell, the England team captain. “We love coming to the nationals every year - it’s a great privilege to do so, and to win the pairs title together for the first time is beyond belief.”