The finalist for the 2022 Major Pairs Championship have been decided following the completion of the quarter and semi-finals. Joel Hilliard kept alive his quest for his fifth consecutive victory in this event when he and Col Fletcher prevailed in their semi-final. However, the real story of the moment is the sensational form of Stuart Graham that guided him and Doug Williams to two tight wins to make the final.
Just recovered from a bout of COVID, Graham had to play his quarter final and semi-final on consecutive days. Far from being adversely affected by his illness he was in great form and set the platform for two memorable wins.
Williams and Graham played Peter Macdonald and Ray Downey in their delayed quarter final on Friday. From the start this was a very tightly contested affair with neither side able to grab control. After 11 ends they were locked at 10 all! Based on some tremendous lead bowling from Graham, his side gradually built a lead and with two ends to play they looked safe with a 20 – 12 margin.
Macdonald and Downey created a chance for themselves when they picked up 3 shots on the 20th end and followed this with a strong performance on the last end. Needing six shots for an unlikely win, they held five shots with just a few bowls to be played. Again it was Graham who played the decisive bowl when , with his last bowl of the game, he managed to cut the deficit to two shots. Downey and Williams were unable to change the head giving Graham and Williams a well-deserved 20 – 17 victory.
On Saturday Williams and Graham played Noel Downie and John Monks for a place in the final. Monks had the better start and after 8 ends had a 10 – 4 lead. Graham was then again behind a revival for his side. When they picked up 5 shots on the 13th end the scores was tied up at 13 all!
Williams and Graham took the lead for the first time in the game when they scored 4 shots on the 15th end only to see Downie and Monks strike back with 5 shots on the next end to see them regain the lead at 19 – 17. From this point it was a very tight battle. Going into the last end Williams led 20 – 21. This time it was Monks who played the critical bowl when he drew the shot with his last bowl to force the game into an extra end.
The extra end was very tense. Graham gave his side the early advantage only to see Monks take it back. At his second turn on the mat, Graham was able to regain control and this time Monks was unable to play the bowl needed. Williams and Graham progressed to the final with a 23 – 21 win.
Col Fletcher and Joel Hilliard played Allan Etheredge and John Wagstaff in the other semi-final. Wagstaff had a dream start picking up 6 shots on the 3rd end to give him an early 9 – 0 lead. However, Hilliard hit his straps and he was able to win the next seven, albeit tight, ends to take the lead at 11 – 9.
Etheredge and Wagstaff could not reproduce the form they displayed in their previous match. While they were competitive, they could not match their opponents. Fletcher played some excellent draw shots while Hilliard pulled out the ‘big’ shot when needed. Fletcher and Hilliard won 20 -15.