Essex was defeated by Hampshire in the Inter County Championship Quarter-final on Sunday 27-13 at Caroline Chisholm.
Both sides were looking for a semi-final spot next weekend but Essex going in as the favourites could not match a resolute performance by Hampshire and surprised the southerners.
The first session was eagerly awaited as the singles had match ups of Barry Hedges and National Singles Champion Jason Mclean, the other being Ben Pay and Mitchell Young. Barry fell behind early on to give Jason a 6-1 lead and from then he was chasing, leaving himself too much to do and lost 15-8. The other singles game was a one sided affair, with Mitchell still in the changing rooms, but not taking nothing away from Ben’s performance heaping constant pressure on Mitchell to romp home with a 22-4 win. Essex was on the back foot but the pairs restored some calm as Dom Reed and Babs Morokutti held off Trevor Pay and Paul England to win 17-11. Jack Shepard and Nigel Reed were the other pairing for Essex who had a very tight game throughout against Jody ‘The Chief’ Bright and Tom Clough but edged the game on the last end to win 11-10 levelling up the opening session.
The second session was where Hampshire took control of the tie as Essex triple Dave Sifford, Shirley Walker and Tony Ealham was well beaten by Hampshire’s triple 16-5. The partnering triple Mo Binsford, Paul Bax and Peter Faultey had a tight affair against young star Callum ‘Gangle’ Goodman, Phil Mills and Leah Woods. The game went to the wire as they went in to the last end 14-13 down but the Hampshire triple saw out the last end and picked up two to win 16-13. Both Essex fours had similar trouble as they both gave away early leads, Sammy Lambert, Mark Chittock, Mark Saunders and Keith Paxman could not get in front against the Hampshire four and won 10-5. Antony Faultey’s rink Sadie Young, Linda Lambert and Steve Killington was a tight encounter against Hampshire’s Captain James Bucknall’s rink but James’s team kept Antony’s rink at bay to scrap home a 6-4 win.
Taking a clean sweep in to the break, Hampshire led Essex 12-4 and was comfortable in three of the four bonus points at this stage. Essex made some minor changes to their side for the second half to get them selves back in the game.
The third session was key for both teams, with the Essex singles looking just to win and forget the shots for the bonus as they were out of sight. Barry got Essex on the road to recovery as he put in a well grafted performance to beat Ben 20-10. Mitchell and Jason’s match was well contested and with two ends remaining, Jason led 15-10 and looked likely for the win but both players were content with the draw as they finished up 15-15 and the bonus points righty going to Hampshire. Dom and Babs went about their business and got the result in their game against Jody and Tom as they won 17-9. The remaining game was a match defining game as a win for Essex would put them one point behind Hampshire leaving it all to play for in the last session. Jack and Nigel came from 14-8 behind to 14-14 in the last end, after a dramatic last end Paul England made the match winning shot as him and Trevor won the game 15-14, to retain their lead despite losing the pairs bonus points.
Going in to the final session Hampshire led 17-11 and Essex needed all four mats and one bonus discipline to win the game. It was a tall task but Sadie, Linda, Tony and Antony kept the fight back alive with a 13-3 win. Although Hampshire quickly shut the door on Essex’s comeback as both triples games was tight but went in favour of the leaders. As Mo, Paul and Peter lost 9-8 with the other triple Dave, Shirley and Steve losing to Callum, Phil and Leah who was in great form 9-6. Coincidently picking up the triples bonus points and finishing up the contest the last four to finish Sam, Mark, Keith, Mark lost 17-6 and also losing the bonus points completing the score line 27-13.
Hampshire deserved the win after a great team performance with Essex coming up short. The winners will now face Oxfordshire next weekend which will be another interesting fixture and the other semi-final featuring Kent and current ICC Champions Cheshire.