Highley won the 20th ever Playoff final as they will become the 23rd club to play in the Salop Leisure Shropshire Premier Bowling League next season. It wasn’t easy though in the rain at Old Shrewsbury, they were down after eight games off, but they came through by 13 chalks in the end against Hanmer, who end their two year stay in the league. The first four saw Mike Riley outreach Dave East in the corners to win 10 comfortably. Darrell Handley then had a good run near the end of his game to win 14 for Highley against Mike Gilpin in a tight and good contest early on, both players using 30m marks mainly. Hanmer’s Alan Faulkner struggled to reach early on against Ben Dixon, but then went 13-8 and 17-12 up as he shortened the mark. However Ben won the jack and then went full corners and ran out. Highley’s captain Geoff Wylde had an excellent game with Lee Peate, and it was just a couple of runs that allowed Geoff to win 17, having run out from 17-16 down at the end. So after four Highley were 4 up.
Into the middle four and Hanmer turned the screw on Highley, winning three games. Jack Hewitt was superb against Mark Jones, establishing a 4/5 chalk lead at about 10-6 up, and Mark couldn’t get back at him. Jack then ran out from 15-11 up on his usual 25m length. Danny Statham then came off for Highley 7, dominating in the corners against Jack Butler as Jack struggled to reach most ends with his small woods. Dave Ellison put in a captain’s performance for Hanmer as he was in the opposite corners to lead Steve Wright 20-8, before Steve scored two ends on the bounce to get back to 11. The last game was the closest one, with Hanmer’s Martin Elson enjoying an early lead of about 13-8 over Ray Bishop. But Ray never gave up and from 19-14 managed to get back to 18 before Martin saw it out. This gave Hanmer a 5 shot lead.
In the back four and Jordan Riley for Hanmer looked like he was going to produce a match winning card as he led Bill Staite 13-4 on a round peg. Liam Jones and Greg Carr were having an even game, despite Greg having plenty of banter with the crowd, while Highley’s Jamie Holdcroft led Iuean Pugh 8-2 early on, and Stuart Gittings was 6-1 up over Richard Pullen. Hanmer though seemed to just keep ahead on the in game scoring, but then Bill Staite found a mark down the river side edge of the green and was exceptional to run 15 chalks on Jordan to lead 18-15. Greg was about 12 across with Liam, but then ran out in the corners to give Highley a lead of 4. Jamie was level with Iuean now, while Rich had pulled back on Stuart. Jordan got back in but Bill then kept it tight and at 19-15 up missed a chance of winning the game when one on already, as Stuart was 16-13 up and Jamie 17-15 up. But Bill kept his nerve and got his single next end to win Highley the game and himself the man of the match award. Jamie won 16 and Richard won 19 to mean that Highley won by 13 and earn their place in the league next season.
So congratulations to Highley and commiserations to Hanmer, hopefully you can regroup and take part in the playoffs next season again to try and earn their place back in the league like a few clubs have done before.
Thank you to Old Shrewsbury to hosting and to Mike Caddick for refereeing.