STEVE Morrey reached the last four of the British Senior Merit, and it took the eventual champion to stop him.

The Castle star was visibly hampered by a knee injury, but showed remarkable resilience to win four matches on a gruelling Saturday at Griff & Social Sports Club in Nuneaton.

A fifth, against Darren Plenderleith in front of a buoyant home crowd, proved a step too far as he went down 21-8.

“I’m disappointed I didn’t do myself justice [against him],” rued Morrey afterwards.

“And that’s annoying because I’d played so well in the previous round to get through.

“It’s really tough to keep going all day; my matches were long ones too, so no sooner had I finished then I had to start again on the next green.

“That takes it out of you.”

He squeezed past Mitchell Harvey (Warwick & Worcester) after a close encounter to launch his bid.

An epic battle with Mark Britton, representing Lancashire, then followed before Morrey prevailed 21-20 after his spirited opponent won three successive ends to draw level.

He then ran into a familiar face in the form of Danny Barwise, who had been part of a Tixall team toppled by Castle in a Brunner Cup semi-final seven days earlier.

The Merseyside bowler raced into a 5-0 lead, but Morrey soon recovered.

After taking the lead for the first time at 8-7, he never let it go before celebrating a 21-18 success.

He saved his best performance for a quarter-finals meeting with homester Shane Day, who appeared a certainty to reach the last four after going 11-2 in front.

Morrey stayed calm, and a break of six from 14-8 down rattled his rival.

He did not edge ahead until picking up two chalks at 16-across before closing out a thrilling 21-16 success.

Plenderleith, by that stage established as an overwhelming favourite with the on-site bookmakers, proved too strong though.

It meant Morrey exits at the semi-finals stage for a second time, matching his run three years earlier.

He added: “The closer you get to the final, the more convinced you become that you’ve got a chance. I certainly felt that.

“I never felt comfortable [against Darren] though, and couldn’t get him off a short mark across the middle of the green.

“I was playing catch-up after that.”

Three other Mid-Cheshire Bowling Association stars were also in action.

Pete Illidge, who won the Cheshire Senior Merit for the first time last month, made his debut at the ‘All England’ Championships – as it is referred to by bowlers.

The Rudheath member was satisfied too after reaching the last 32.

He adjusted quickly to new surroundings by dispatching Welsh champion Kieran Roberts (21-13) in the first round.

A defeat against Ben Percival, representing hosts North Midlands, ended his involvement.

Illidge was in trouble at 19-2 down before winning five successive ends after capturing the block.

However he gifted his opponent a 21-10 success after sending both of his woods into the gutter at the next one.

“I really enjoyed myself,” he told the Guardian.

“I felt comfortable straightaway in my first game, but left myself with too much to do in the second.

“It was frustrating not getting him off a short, straight mark and once I did I showed I what I could do.”

Rob Winnington, also of Castle, bowed out at the same stage following a 21-13 defeat against Ross Meese.

The South Yorkshire ace went on to finish as runner-up to Plenderleith in the final.

A 21-17 victory over John Taylor, a former winner back in 1993, had been a promising opening for the Guardian Cup winner.

“I’m disappointed because I did well to battle back to 13-across,” he said.

“Ross performed well though, and went on to show his quality by almost going all the way.”

Tom Vickers’ bid to win a second British Individual Senior Merit title ended early after he suffered a first-round exit.

The Wharton Cons star, a victor two years ago, found Paul Lamb too tough an opponent to overcome during a 21-13 defeat.

He appeared in control after establishing an 8-4 lead, only for a break of 14 by the North Midlands Merit winner to change the course of the contest.

Results (selected)

British Senior Individual Merit

Saturday, July 29

First round

Mitchell Harvey (Warwick & Worcester) 18-21 Steve Morrey (Cheshire)

Paul Lamb (North Midlands) 21-13 Tom Vickers (Cheshire)

Kieran Roberts (Wales) 13-21 Pete Illidge (Cheshire)

John Taylor (Lancashire) 17-21 Rob Winnington (Cheshire)

Last 32

Pete Illidge (Cheshire) 10-21 Ben Percival (North Midlands)

Steve Morrey (Cheshire) 21-20 Mark Britton (Lancashire)

Rob Winnington (Cheshire) 13-21 Ross Meese (South Yorkshire)

Last 16

Danny Barwise (Merseyside) 18-21 Steve Morrey (Cheshire)


Steve Morrey (Cheshire) 21-16 Shane Day (North Midlands)


Darren Plenderleith (North Midlands) 21-8 Steve Morrey (Cheshire)

To see the results in full, click here.