WESTLECOT indoor bowls club duo Neil Smith and Phil Gregory came very close to winning the Dolphin Open singles tournament over the new year period.

The pair reached the last four in the latest Open Singles Circuit event (OSC) but were both beaten in the semi-finals in Poole on Sunday.

Smith, a regular competitor on the OSC and its administrator, was involved in an extremely close tussle with England international and world number eight Jamie Chestney (Exonia), going down 1.5-0.5 in sets.

Smith drew the first set 6-6, but then lost the second 6-4.

Chestney, though, did not win the final and pocket the top prize of £1,200, as that honour went to fellow England player Scott Edwards (Oxford City & County).

Edwards had earlier enjoyed a comfortable semi-final win over Westlecot’s Gregory winning 8-3, 9-1.

However, Smith and Gregory had the consolation of collecting £250 each for finishing in joint third spot and moving up the 2018/19 rankings and enhancing their chances of a top-32 spot at the end of the season and qualification for the OSC Grand Final at Potters Leisure Resort in late November.

Smith moved up to second overall on 249 points, behind Spalding’s Graham Smith on 328.

Gregory, who switched to Westlecot last season from Ipswich IBC, leapt up to 13th on 136 points.

On the way to the semi-finals, Smith beat Malcolm Potts (Dolphin) 2-0 (9-0, 8-1) in round one and Sean Gingell (Egham) in the next, coming from behind on a tie breaker 2-1 (3-8, 13-0, 2-1).

Smith then accounted for Russell Francis (Clarrie Dunbar) 2-0 (7-6, 6-4) in round three and Welshman Phil Carpenter (Cynon Valley, Rhondda) in the quarter-finals 2-0 (8-0, 7-5) before exiting the semis to Chestney.

Gregory had one extra game to play before reaching the semis.

He opened in the preliminary round with a 1.5-0.5 win over Rich Ellis (North Wilts), winning the first set 5-4 and drawing the second 4-4.

He needed a tie-breaker to beat Kyle Hampton (Egham) 2-1 (10-4, 3-8, 2-0) in round one and another tie-breaker to defeat Keiran Daniels (Exonia) in the next 2-1 (12-0, 3-5, 2-1).

In round three, Gregory beat Dan Hughes (Barking) 2-0 (6-4, 9-3) and followed it with a superb win over England international Sam Tolchard (Exonia) 2-0 (7-2, 7-6), but then fell to eventual winner Edwards in the semis.

Next best of the many Westlecot players taking part was Mike Titcombe, who fell in the quarter-finals to Edwards.

Katy Smith did extremely well to reach round three before going out to Welshman Phil Carpenter.

  • WILTSHIRE’S men’s side selected to face Devon at home in the quarter-finals of the inter-county championships for the Liberty Trophy next Saturday is dominated by Westlecot players

Fifteen of the 28 players named in the squad will be representing the Old Town club. The rest of the side comprises eight players from Five Rivers, Salisbury, and five from North Wilts (Chippenham).

Team manager Neil Smith and his selectors have been forced to jig the team owing to unavailability.

Skip Mike Titcombe is away in Potters competing in the World Championship pairs qualifying rounds along with Carterton’s Paul Sharman.

Therefore, three rinks stay unchanged from the side that beat Oxfordshire in the last round 135-121.

Those are the rinks skipped by Phil Gregory, Tom Warner and Andy Moore.

All of the team changes or positional switches come in the other three foursomes.

Reverting back to the reserves bench are Tom Newman (N Wilts) and Tom Pittuck (Westlecot), who are replaced by Westlecot duo Terry Walton and Chris Cheesley respectively.

Westlecot stalwart Ian Jefferies comes in at skip to replace the absent Titcombe, while Mel Biggs and Andy McIntyre stay at number three but switch rinks.