HONG KONG—Twenty–six years old Australian Jesse Noronha doubled his success at the Hong Kong International Bowls Classic by winning the men’s pairs last Sunday, Nov 19, after scooping up the singles title a week earlier.
The triumph made him the seventh player to achieve such success in the 32 years history of the Classic, following the footstep of George Souza Jr (Hong Kong – 1984), George Adrian (Scotland – 1985), Graham Robertson (Scotland – 1990), Mark Walton (England – 2004 and 2008), Robert Newman (England – 2010) and Barrie Lester – 2012).
Noronha, who beat 21-years-old John Fleming from Scotland in the youngest ever men’s singles final in the Classic history the week before, challenged the pairs title with compatriot Ben Twist, who was beaten by Fleming in the singles semi-finals.
The Australian team finished second of their group in the roundrobin stage, losing to the group leader Scotland and local team Craigengower Cricket Club on the way. They then defeated Wales in the play-off, and took revenge against Scotland in the semi-finals to proceed to the final.
In the other section, an England team which included last year’s singles champion David Bolt emerged as group leader, and then went on to defeat the surprise package of the tournament Hong Kong Football Club in the semi-finals.
The final was tight and the score was tied at 7:7 after eight ends so the first set was decided by the last end.
In this end, Bolt’s first bowl was a superb toucher and was well protected by a number of bowls in front of it. The first bowl from Twist missed the head completely but his second bowl opened up the blockage a bit. Bolt tried to close the gap with the third bowl but was a bit narrow and left the head open. Twist played a heavy shot, took out the two Australian bowls, and won by a shot.
Noronha believed that this was the most critical moment of the whole game, “Ben played a great bowl to win us this end and the set. If we missed it we will need more time to regroup and chase the game. As a result we can relax a bit in the second set.”
In the second set, the confident Australian duo and a determined English team both displayed some of the best skills ever seen in a Classic final. In a number of ends the shot was changed after every bowl and the result was not decided until the last bowl.
However, the Australians were always gaining an upper hand. They won the first five ends and went on to win the set 11:1.
Noronha was very happy to win the title, “This is my first international experience and winning both titles is fantastic. I believe it is our consistency that won us the competition. When the game went on, our consistency get us better and better so we won it.”
Both Noronha and Twist hope that the success will be their stepping stone to a brighter future in the Australian national team.
In the women’s session, Songsin Tsao and Jintana Visanuvimol put Thailand on the Classic history book as they defeated a strong South Africa team of Colleen Piketh and Nici Neal in the pairs final.
Tsao, who started bowling when she lived in Hong Kong back in 1994 played for Kowloon Cricket Club until moving back to Thailand after the millennia, was a local favourite because of her connection with Hong Kong.
Tsao performed superbly in the final and outplayed her opponent in most of the ends. The Thailand team won the first set by a shot but lost by a big margin in the second set. In the tie-breaker, the Thailand team continued their magic and won a shot in each end to lift the title.
An emotional Tsao almost burst into tears after the final bowl as she realized her dream of winning the competition, “When I first started bowling I have a dream of playing in the Classic and getting a result. Winning it is something out of my imagination and I am very happy about it.”
You may review highlights of the finals on YouTube: http://www.hklba.org/live.
Claudius Lam is an officer of the Hong Kong Lawn Bowls Association