The 2020 Isle of Man Lawn Bowls Championship Finals saw a number of familiar faces compete for the titles. With three members of the same family competing, odds were in their favour in that some silverware would be going home with them.

The afternoon started with the men’s and ladies national singles finals. The men’s final between father and son, Clive and Mark McGreal, seemed to be a case of déjà vu, with the pairing having battled it out for the singles crown the last three years running, in close and intense affairs. In the last few years it has been McGreal senior who has mastered the game in the 21 up format, largely due to getting off to a flying start and managing to keep Mark at arm’s length throughout match. Mark knew that he couldn’t let this happen this year! The match was as entertaining as always; both showing why they are the top two bowlers on the Island. On this occasion, Mark managed to get the better of Clive in the early stages, but not to be outdone, Clive pulled back and went ahead in the middle part of the match. No more than four shots separated the pair throughout, and the lead changed hands twice more after this as they came towards the closing stages. At 14-11 down, Mark must have thought he had missed his opportunity when he took a solid four, to only drop a three immediately and another two, to go behind 19-15 after 19 ends. However, Mark refocused and showed his determination to win the only title he was yet to claim on the Island, taking two on the next two ends to draw level. Both players knew the game was in each other’s grasp, and it seemed like they both each had one hand on the trophy. The end was nervy with Mark managing to place the shot bowl reasonably close and have a couple nearby. Clive put one a few feet back and was holding second. With his last bowl, Mark ensured he wasn’t short, came through the head and sat on Clive’s second to push it away. Mark was now holding game, putting pressure on Clive’s last delivery. The bowl looked good out of the hand and came sweeping across the green on the backhand, but as it approached the head the bowl failed to stop, going too far through, leaving Mark to claim three on the last end and snatch victory.

The ladies final between last year’s finalists, Janice Pilling and Bernice McGreal, was just as exciting to watch. On what appeared to be a very tricky rink, both players kept it tight during the early exchanges. The game seemed to be gearing up to be another close encounter, like last years which went on for 29 ends! Pilling took the lead early on, whilst McGreal kept in touching distance, as they exchanged blows through to the 13th end where they were drawing 11-11. The next two ends were then deemed ‘dead ends’ as the day’s umpire, John Kewley, was unable to determine the shot! Bernice then took the lead for a brief moment before dropping few singles and a very untimely four, having just lost the weight on an end, to give Janice a sight of the finishing line. Once that had happened, there was little stopping the former champion who showed some class and finished the game over the next two ends to reclaim the ladies championship with a final score of 21-13.

The second session of the day saw the pairs championships be contested. Just like the singles matches, the pairs for both the men and ladies were almost identical in their results. The men’s competition which featured one new name from the finals that have taken place over the last five years, was billed as a match that was possibly going to cause an upset. Phil Watterson paired up with Kevin Quirk to face the reigning champions Clive & Mark McGreal. Each year Watterson and his former partner Gary Lee had edged their way closer to the McGreal’s, and they fully expected a close encounter on this occasion. However, following taking an early lead, the McGreal’s didn’t allow themselves to become complacent. Despite the challengers showing some quality that they are capable of and gritty determination, it wasn’t enough, as Clive & Mark ensured that they controlled the jack and kept the score board ticking over. After 16 of the scheduled 18 ends, they were too far ahead for their opponents to catch up, meaning the game ended prematurely with a final score of 24-7.

The ladies pairs final also saw one new face with three regular challengers; Bernice McGreal dusted herself off from her singles disappointment and teamed up with Karen Slack to face the experienced pairing of Win Kewley & Pam Makin. This was also expected to be a close run affair given the abundance of international experience on both teams and given three of the four involved have all got their names on the winner’s shield. However, in similar fashion as the men’s match, Bernice & Karen got off to a flyer, both playing their part, and Karen particularly putting her stamp on the game with some excellent drawing bowls and early take out shots, whilst both Kewley & Makin struggled to find the form that carried them to the final. After just five ends, the McGreal/Slack duo had stormed ahead 14-0! Leaving a very steep mounting for their opponents to climb. That said, they gave it a valiant effort, taking the next few ends to bring the score to 14-4, but after this McGreal & Slack reclaimed the jack and showed their dominance over the game to take the score to 25-4 after just 15 ends to claim the title.

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