“THAT’S the best I’ve played.”

Ian Howell looked as euphoric as he sounded while he reflected with supporters gathered green-side at Wilmslow RBL on Saturday.

His stunning 21-6 success against Ryan Sandham, an ex-member at the host club, changed the course of the Cheshire County Bowling Association’s Brunner Cup final.

“He was outstanding,” reflected captain Steve Morrey afterwards.

“It was nip and tuck all the way through, and I don’t think either side felt they truly had control.

“Lloyds are a great team – look at their history in this competition – but it’s a fantastic feeling to be part of a Castle side that has won a final for the first time.”

After eight blocks, Castle trailed favourites Lloyd Hotel by 21 chalks.

But Howell’s assured brilliance acted as a spur for his teammates.

Northwich Guardian:

From left, Castle captain Steve Morrey, Jason Cornes and Steve Cook - Cheshire County Bowling Association president - along with Rhys (son of Castle bowler Mike Yearsley). Picture: James McGurk

Steve Curbishley and Paul Dooley responded, both recording 21-12 successes against Mike Geraghty and Robbie Hall respectively, to help the Northwich club claim the county’s biggest team prize for the first time.

It meant Paul Mackie, last on the green, could savour the remaining moments.

Few could begrudge him, for he had suffered a painful reverse – after leading 20-15 – in a decisive head-to-head when the rivals had met at the same stage in 2013.

The joy was Lloyd’s that day after they won by four shots.

Northwich Guardian:

How the Guardian reported Castle's previous meeting with Lloyd Hotel in the 2013 Brunner Cup final at Orford War Memorial in Warrington

Nine of the Castle side that played four years ago were on duty again at the weekend.

The three newcomers – Curbishley, Dooley and Mike Yearsley – all won.

The latter’s recovery against Pete Smith represented perfectly the improvement this side has made since that loss four years ago.

They are now made of sterner stuff, and have learned a lesson or two in defeat.

Rob Winnington battled hard from the start to score 17 against an impressive Dave Carter, while Morrey held his nerve to see off Billy Hibbert (21-18).

A break of 11 by Dave Phillips left Andy Hamman playing catch-up, and at 19-2 he was in danger of a defeat that could have ended early Castle’s hopes.

Instead the nine chalks he put on the board proved crucial in the final reckoning.

They were 10 adrift of the six-time winners after the first four blocks, played on a surface made sodden by a torrential downpour before the start.

Kevin Duncalf was at his best though to dispatch Chris Alderson (21-8), while Dave O’Brien took 18 points off Jamie Bramley.

However defeats for Jason Cornes and Adi Faulkner, during which they scored only 21 chalks between them, left Lloyd with their biggest lead of the match.

It’s why Howell’s demolition of Sandham was timed so perfectly.

The impact on the Chorlton club was a destabilising one, and Curbishley and Dooley – roared on by a crowd sprinkled with bowlers from rival clubs in the Mid-Cheshire Bowling Association – duly knocked them over.

Morrey added: “We had to keep our heads when they opened up a gap, and everybody did.

“We took them all the way last time only to fall short, and I’m happy – relieved too – that the same thing didn’t happen again.”


Cheshire County Bowling Association

Brunner Cup final

Saturday, August 19

Castle 205-200 Lloyd Hotel

Rob Winnington 17-21 Dave Carter

Steve Morrey 21-18 Billy Hibbert

Andy Hamman 9-21 Dave Phillips

Mike Yearsley 21-18 Pete Smith

Kevin Duncalf 21-8 Chris Alderson

Dave O’Brien 18-21 Jamie Bramley

Jason Cornes 11-21 Ben Philliips

Adi Faulkner 10-21 Lee Fletcher

Ian Howell 21-6 Ryan Sandham

Steve Curbishley 21-12 Mike Geraghty

Paul Dooley 21-12 Robbie Hall

Paul Mackie 14-21 Michael McDonnell