Guangzhou has replaced Hong Kong as the provincial leader of lawn bowls in China by taking their second national title for the year, sending shockwaves through the Hong Kong Lawn Bowls Association.
The team from the capital city of Guangdong Province won the Final of the lawn bowls competition at the inaugural 2013 National Bocce Elite Match on Sunday Dec 8. They also pipped Hong Kong to win the First Chinese National Lawn Bowls Championship back in May this year. Hong Kong could only finish a dismal fourth this time.
The results at last weekend’s tournament indicate that the standard of lawn bowls in China has quickly caught up to Hong Kong. According to the Hong Kong Team Manager, Claudius Lam, HKLBA has to take immediate steps to address this or they may lag further behind.
“Despite the fact that Guangzhou was helped a lot by their home green advantage, it is undoubted that they have been rapidly closing the gap,” explained Lam.
“This also applies to other mainland teams, because we saw a lot of improvement from them as well.
“Their technique may be a bit rough, but the aggressive tactics employed did compensate for some of their shortfalls.
“This is a good lesson for Hong Kong as it shows the importance for our team to adapt to different kinds of playing styles,” he said.
“To maintain our advantage, we need to look at the fundamentals of our training and selection system. This has been debated for quite some time and we are still searching for an ideal solution.
“We need to make a decision sooner rather than later or else it will be too late,” said Lam.
The inaugural 2013 National Bocce Elite Match started with lawn bowls at the YueXiu Park, Guangzhou City, from Dec 7 to 8. It will be followed by bocce, boules and petanque competitions at other venues in the following week.
The lawn bowls competition is open to the municipalities, provinces, special administration region, special economic zones and state-owned enterprise teams, who qualified through the Chinese Lawn Bowls Championship earlier this year. A total of 10 teams competed in the tournament last weekend, which was played in the Mixed Fours format.
With many of Hong Kong’s top players deigning not to participate, Hong Kong sent a relatively inexperienced squad for the tournament, including the reigning women’s Bowler of the Year Helen Cheung, last year’s men’s Bowler of the Year Raymond Ho, Andy Chan and debutant Emmie Wong.
Cheung and Ho were in the team that won the Mixed Fours in the last tournament and expectations were high that they could achieve the same result.
The Hong Kong team started well in the round-robin stage, winning four of the five games to progress to the knock-out stage.
Hong Kong then faced Shanghai for the second time in the tournament in the Semi-finals – the only team to defeat them during the earlier stage.
The game was tight with both teams leading at some stage. Tied at 7-7 at the completion of the seventh end, Hong Kong was lining three shots in the 8th end and looking strong, when the Shanghai skipper Tu Long Feng trailed the jack with his last bowl to win three shots.
In the last end, with Shanghai leading 11-9, Hong Kong was holding two shots and it looked as though they would push the game into an extra end. Tu again hit the jack to cut the loss to a single shot. Then Hong Kong skipper Chan tried to take out the rival’s closest shot, but was in vain. Shanghai won the game 11-10 and progressed to the Final.
Awaiting Shanghai in the Final was Guangzhou who, with the home green advantage, had won all of the games they had played. Skipped by China International Ye Sui Ying, the Guangzhou team prevailed in a one-sided game, winning comfortably at 21:10.
Hong Kong continued to struggle on the difficult green and could not repeat their earlier success against Shenzhen during the roundrobin stage. The game finished 17:3 and Hong Kong had to settle for fourth.