A Nail-Biting Time for Europe
Final Points: USA 17 - Europe 7
Cometh the hour - cometh the men. We go into the penultimate session of this fascinating 13th Weber Cup with the pendulum swung very much in favor of the American quartet, that group needing just six points to retain their possession of the prestigious Cup.
The Europeans need a dose of the Medinah Magic enjoyed by their golfing counterparts, coming back from the abyss to defend the Ryder Cup, but miracles twice in one year? There will be 600 spectators in the Barnsley Metrodome with their fingers crossed.
"We've finally gota little space to work with," Chris Barnes told us this morning. "We had a couple of opportunities and every time we did the Europeans were able to answer back and get the points close, but we finally had a run at the end of session three to give us a little breathing and mistake room."
"We might be four points down, but we're going to fight for points today, get level and then go past the Americans," promises Osku Palermaa, the European captain. "We will do a replay of the Ryder Cup. I hope this new lane pattern will suit us, the last time it was used we bowled 3-3 points and it could easily have gone our way. With so many good bowlers it can go either way. We've got to get going and then the sky is the limit."
The order of battle this afternoon will be the same as the first session yesterday, opening with a Baker team match, then alternating doubles and singles to total six matches.
Fortune may favor the rich but it had a reluctance to bring goodies to the European team in the opening Baker match this afternoon. Although the Europeans were ten pins ahead for most of the game, a strong finish by Chris Barnes brought them back into the frame and when Stuart Williams left the 5-10 split in the tenth frame it was all over, theAmericans now five points ahead on the leader board.
"I'm a bit relieved," said Chris Barnes after the fray. The understatement of the day.
HELP! Disaster! There is no Medinah Magic for the European team as the Americans pick up their second point of the day and now have a six point lead, just needing four more to clinch the 2012 888pokerWeber Cup. "High noon is fast approaching," said Master of Ceremonies Tony Wrighton, and that, dear folk is so, so true.
The dynamic duo of Jones and Fagan looked really set for a perfect game, striking through the first nine frames but a stubborn 9-pin with the first ball of the tenth frame dropped the total score to 279, equalling the high game of this year's event.
The Europeans were floored from the start, Williams scoring just four pins with his first ball of the second frame and partner Barrett was unable to convert the mass of pins left on the deck. Williams suffered yet another setback with a 2-10 split in the seventh, the duo then finishing with 160, 119 pins adrift of their opponents.
"It's almost exhibition stuff," commented Cass Edwards from the commentary box as Tommy Jones once again strung the strikes and looked set for either a perfect game or yet another 279. Anyway, Mr Dominator Barrett had to sit and watch when not playing catch-up and a hiccup in the tenth for Jones saw him down to a lowly 268 and post yet another point for USA, their third successive win of the day and the quest for further glory just three points away with only three matches to play in this session.
Another demolition job by the Americans in the second doubles match of the afternoon as Barnes and Fagan made the Europeans look areal couple of amateura. Four open frames from Koivuniemi and Williams gave the Americans a free ride through to the tenth frame and the final scores of 236-152, the latter the lowest score of this year's event, now has the Americans with an eight-point buffer.
It must have brung a little hope to the hearts of the Europeans when Bill O'Neill srated with a big split in his singles battle with Mika Koivuniemi, but the Finn replied with the same and the battle was on. Whilst Koivuniemi swapped nine-spares for strikes and O'Neill got locked into the strike pocket it turned out to be five points in a row for the Americans and now they only need a single point to retain the Weber Cup and that point will cancel out the evening session.
"I felt really comfortable on the lane this afternoon," said O'Neill. "We got all the good breaks today but in our wildest dreams never thought of picking up five straight points."
The slaughter on lane 1 is complete, the United States quartet taking all six points of this of what was supposed to be the penultimate session, but what has turned out to be the final slot. Taking into account last night's six games, the Americans have won nine points in a row for their all-time record win.
"This was certainly a good day for us," summed up USA captain Chris Barnes. "The shorter lane pattern today certainly suited us but I am still surprised that we won nine straight games."
Sky Sports TV commentator Cass Edwards summed up the 13th Weber Cup in his usual succint style: "A one-sided affair with four guys from the United States who came over and kicked the ass of four guys who live in Europe, but they are all bowlers at the end of the day and they will be back next year."
It was interesting to get the views of the tournament's emcee Tony Wrighton, a general sports' commentator somewhat new to tenpin bowling. "On a scale of 1 to 10 I would say that this event was 8.5. I loved it and it was shaping up to be a classic but in the end we didn't have that close finish that would have been that extra one and a half points. I was surprised with the nine point run of the Americans because I thought it was beginning to go Europe's way. In the first couple of sessions they were looking pretty confident . The Americans had problems of their own but as time went on they seemed to really gel and they really enjoyed it as well.
"This was my fourth Weber Cup so I've seem Europe win and I've seen the Americans win, two wins on each side now and you have to admire their skills. The performance of the Americans today was just incredible."
"With the Americans winning nine points in a row, so cancelling out the evening session, is a big disappointment for the fans," admitted Matchroom Sport executive Luke Riches, reprenting the event promoter. "Obviously we have to make up the television programs, but sometimes that is what happens and there's nothing you can do about it. In an event like this, like the Ryder Cup in golf, people will always talk about momentum and often people use the term without really knowing what it means but those nine wins is a true representation of what momentum means in sport if you keep winning one game after the other it just becomes an unstoppable rout. I am trying to think off the top if my head what the biggest tallyof wins in the event before, but if you had given me 75-1 yesterday for such a result I wouldn't have taken it.
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ORDER OF PLAY:
BAKER TEAM -USA: MIke Fagan/Chris Barnes/Tommy Jones/Bill O'Neill
EUROPE: Mika Koivuniemi/Stuart Williams/Osku Palermaa/Dominic Barrett
Doubles; Jones/Fagan vs Barrett/Williams
Singles: Tommy Jones vs Dominic Barrett
Doubles; Barnes/Fagan vs Koivuniemi/Williams
Singles: Bill O'Neill vs Mika Koivuniemi
Doubles: Jones/O'Neill vs Palermaa/Barrett