Philippines made history last Sunday, November 16, when they became the first country to win both the men’s and women’s pairs competitions at the Hong Kong Classic in the same year. And coincidentally, they both defeated Australian team in a tough final.
This also marked the first (and second) trophy for the Philippines, who has been competing in the prestigious tournament for seven times. Their previous success was mainly from the women’s team, winning runners-up in the 2010 pairs, 2013 singles and this year’s singles.
The Philippines duo of Christopher Dagpin and Angela Morales did well in the group stage, winning nine of the 11 games to top the table, with only New Zealand and sponsor team ‘One Oasis’ being their conquerors.
‘One Oasis’, which comprised Hong Kong international Tony Cheung and the Vice-President of the Hong Kong Lawn Bowls Association Heron Lau, finished second in the group and needed to play against the defending champion Scotland for a place in the semi-finals. The team performed well and edged out the Scot 5:5, 8:5 in a tightly competed match.
When ‘One Oasis’ and the Philippines met again in the semi-finals, history did not repeat itself and this time the Philippines had the last laugh, after beating the local team 12:11, 8:4.
In the final against the Australian team of Matthew Pietersen and Matthew Baus, who also topped the other group and beat another sponsor team ‘Concordia’ in the semi-final, Philippines started the game with a high, winning three shots in the first end. The winning margin was quickly expanded to 9:4 with two ends to go. The three shots loss in the eighth end did bring some scare to the team, but they scraped through with 9:8.
The second game was much tighter when the score was tied at 8:8 in the seventh end. Then Philippines scored a three in the eighth end, forcing the Australian to take some aggressive tactics in the last end.
The Philippines were lining two shot when Baus played his last bowl aiming at taking the jack for a four shots win. Baus bowl did take the jack, but it did not have enough power to move the jack to the desired position. The Philippines held two shots and took the title.
“This end is very critical because if they took four shots, we will need to go into a tie-break and you never know what will happen in the tie-break. Luckily their bowl just touched the jack and allowed us to win,” said an excited Morales after the final.
“We are very happy because this is the first time Philippines win the Hong Kong Classic. Before the game I just told my partner to keep on playing disregard what the result is.
“Our original tactic is to play long but when they chose to play long, we adjusted ourselves to play short head. And somehow we played better on short ends today so we win,” said Morales.
In the women’s final, the Philippines team of Ainie Knight and Sonia Bruce terminated Australian Kelsey Cottrell’s dream of winning her fourth Hong Kong Classic Pairs titles.
Cottrell won the competition in 2009, 2010 and last year. In 2010, Cottrell partnered with Julie Keegan to beat the Philippines team of Bruce and Maila Witheridge in the final. This year she was partnering Carla Odgers to defend the title.
Both the Philippines and Australia were doing well in the group stage, they won nine games and drew one game to top their respective group. Australia defeated New Zealand in the semi-finals and Philippines knocked-out England at the same stage.
The final was a tight affair with Philippines opening up a lead of five shots after four ends. However, a sudden loss of concentration saw the Aussies win five shots in the fifth end, followed by another two shots in the next end.
In a short moment of madness, the Aussie team lost five and won four in the next two ends. In the last end Philippines took two shots and won the first set.
The second set was a tight affair with both teams playing some aggressive shots. The Aussie team was leading by two shots going into the last end and held a shot with Knight’s last bowl. Knight played a firing shot and took out the shot bowls to tie the set and won the title.
Bruce, who lost to Malaysian Siti Zalina Ahmad in the Singles final last week, was very happy after the win: “I feel so good and happy today. We played well today because we really want this for our country. Now we can take this back to show our government what we can do and ask for more assistance to develop the sport there.
“My skip just told me to play the usual way because we are very happy to reach the final already. We just go out to enjoy it and it is great that we got the result,” said Bruce.
Cottrell was not very upset about the result: “I am very happy to make the final again because we had a really hard game against New Zealand in the semi and we nearly lost that. Unfortunately the Philippines played really well in the final and we didn’t do as well as we have been. I am really happy for the Philippines too.”
Entitled “CCC 120th Anniversary Hong Kong International Bowls Classic”, this year’s Classic was sponsored by Craigengower Cricket Club to celebrate its 120 years of service to the Hong Kong community.
Claudius Lam is an Officer with the Hong Kong Lawn Bowls Association.