WILTSHIRE'S men produced a stunning finish to topple holders Devon in their opening inter-county championship game of the season for the Middleton Cup at home at Royal Wootton Bassett on Saturday.

The Moonrakers pulled off a remarkable five-shots success in their west group match against Devon, the winners of the cup for the past two seasons, to run out 115-110 winners and stamp their authority on their four-team west group, placing themselves as favourites to win the group.

Rink honours were shared 3-3 but with Wiltshire ahead on aggregate scores they collected 16 of the 22 points on offer for the win.

Wiltshire made a solid start and just led across the board after five ends 30-28 but trailed Devon 58-52 after 10 ends.

The Devon side laced with England internationals then forged 92-75 clear at 15 ends and still led at 19 ends by 16 shots 109-93.

However, on the final two ends across the board the Moonrakers six rinks turned up the power with a truly remarkable fightback to stun their illustrious opponents and snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat scoring 22 shots and only conceding one for a famous five shots win.

Rinks skipped by player-manager Neil Smith (Bassett) and Russell Francis were ahead throughout the entire match while Francis’ fellow Spencer Moulton team colleague Graham Shadwell held a lead from the tenth end onwards.

Although the other three rinks were beaten, Mel Biggs (RWB) lost by two shots to extremely strong opponents, and Holt duo Ben Gadd and Justin Davis deserve great credit for recovering well from slow starts to lose by small margins of eight and four shots only.

Gadd trailed 15-0 after eight ends and reeled back his gap in the final flourish with seven shots. While Davis was 18-3 down after 12 ends but had reduced it to only 19-12 after 19 and then scored three more shots.

Team manager Neil Smith said: “I'm very proud of the whole squad. The two rinks that were behind early on played a massive part in the win bringing their matches back to single figures, also thanks to all the supporters who played their part in a great day for Wiltshire.

“Although the win puts us ten points ahead of Devon, we are likely to need further strong wins from our remaining two games to win the group and qualify for the quarter-finals.”

Smith added: “Our next fixture at home to Worcestershire, on Saturday June 17, is equally important, so a repeat of yesterday's excellent support would be appreciated.”

Not surprisingly Wiltshire selectors have named an unchanged team for their next game against Worcestershire, but there are two positional changes with Tom Warner and Mike Richards swopping rinks.

The former moves across to lead for Neil Smith while Richards moves the other way to lead for Mel Biggs.

In the other game in this west group Gloucestershire won away against Worcestershire 120-111 and also collected a 16-6 points win.

It makes Wiltshire’s trip to Cheltenham on July 8 extremely important.


Rink 1: Wayne Simmonds (Holt), Craig Hatherall (Westlecot), Wayne Snook and Ben Gadd (both Holt) lost to Sam Tolchard 18-26.

Rink 2: Craig Doughty (Holt), Colin Easton (Avon), Steve Snell (Royal Wootton Bassett) & Justin Davis (Holt) lost to James Webber 15-19.

Rink 3: Mike Richards, Mike Titcombe, Ian Jefferies (all West) & Neil Smith (player/manager, RWB) beat Griff Sanders 27-20.

Rink 4: Gary and Mike Jackson, Graham Hatherall (all West) & Graham Shadwell (Spencer Moulton) beat Ian Lesley 20-16.

Rink 5: James Richman (West), Chris Cheesley, Dave Godwin (both RWB) & Russell Francis (S Moulton) beat Rob Paxton 19-11.

Rink 6: Tom Warner (Amesbury), Jamie Titcombe (West) Gary Morphet & Mel Biggs (both RWB) lost to Jamie Chestney 16-18.

Score: Wiltshire beat Devon 115-110 and by 16pts to 6pts.

Wiltshire now turn their attention to the other inter-county championship event, Balcombe Trophy, national county top two fours competition.

They host Worcestershire at Royal Wootton Bassett on Sunday morning (10 am) in a first round west group tie bidding for victory and a place in the west regional final on Sunday June 25 at Bristol BC (Somerset).

That would be just one step away from a semi-final place at Royal Leamington Spa in August.

The Wiltshire selectors have opted for a strong two rinks which includes five of the skips that played against Devon last Saturday.


Rink 1: Gary Jackson (Westlecot), Russell Francis (Spencer Moulton), Ben Gadd (Holt) and Graham Shadwell (S Moulton). Rink 2: Wayne Simmonds (Holt), Neil Smith, Gary Morphet & Mel Biggs (all Royal Wootton Bassett).

Reserves: Tom Warner (Amesbury) & Dave Godwin (RWB).

THE quarter finals in the men’s county championships in the fours and triples took centre stage last week.

Westlecot hosted the fours which featured teams from both Chippenham clubs Town and Park, Spencer Moulton, Holt , Avon, Swindon and two from Royal Wootton Bassett.

On Friday, Holt was the venue for the triples quarter-finals with teams drawn from Westlecot (2), Bassett (3), Highworth with hosts Holt supplying two.

All of the fours games produced comfortable winners with Neil Connor’s Town rink thrashing Keith Hutchens foursome from the Park 25-8.

Mel Biggs' quartet won the all-Bassett clash with Gary Morphet’s rink 26-12. Avon (Danny Holland) went down to Swindon 14-22 and in the final game former winners Ben Gadd’s foursome outgunned Spencer Moulton 22-10.

However, the four triples matches were far closer affairs with one game going to an extra end and two needed last end deciders.

The exception was the top match in the draw where Gary Morphet’s trio thumped Westlecot 20-12.

Holt produced two winners. In the battle of the heavyweights Ben Gadd’s trio, winners three-times in recent years 2010, 2014 and 2015 beat Mel Biggs trio on the last end scoring a two to win 16-15.

Biggs had won the triples title five-times since the turn of the century with different players and clubs.

Justin Davis led his Holt threesome to a three-shot victory 19-16 scoring a single on the 18th and last end after dropping a five on the previous end over a Bassett trio skipped by Chris Cheesley.

The other match between Highworth and Westlecot needed an extra end with Highworth coming back from 14-13 down at 17 ends with two singles to force the extra end and then win the match 15-14.

In the fours semi-finals Ben Gadd (Holt) will play Carl Fernandes (Swindon) while Mel Biggs (Wootton Bassett) meets Chippenham Town’s Neil Connor.

In the triples the two Holt teams have been kept apart. Ben Gadd (Holt) faces Gary Morphet (Bassett) in one semi and in the other Justin Davis (Holt) plays Highworth shock winners over a young Westlecot team.

The semi-finals for men’s fours and triples will be played at Devizes on Sunday, June 18.

The two winners in the fours and triples meet in the county men’s final on finals day at Devizes on July 29/30 and these four combinations will also represent Wiltshire at the national championships in August at Royal Leamington Spa in the fours and triples.


Fours Quarter-finals at Westlecot

Rink 1: Tom Walkley, Terry Walton, Neil Smith & Mel Biggs (Royal Wootton Bassett) beat James Nobbs, Chris Cheesley, Craig and Gary Morphet (RWB) 26-12. Rink 2: Mike Hudd, Nigel Elms, John Crowder & Danny Holland (Avon) lost to Mickey Pearce, Steve Barker, Geoff Porte & Carl Fernandes (Swindon) 14-22. Rink 3: Wayne Simmonds, Justin Davis, Wayne Snook & Ben Gadd (Holt) beat Duncan Baxter, Graham Jones, Jamie Shadwell & Adam Bolwell (Spencer Moulton) 22-10. Rink 4: Richard McComb, Keith Hutchens, Malcolm Drew & Martyn Whitaker (Chippenham Park) lost to Rob Clews, Jim Fitzpatrick, Richard Gainey & Neil Connor (Chippenham Town) 8-25.

Triples Quarter-finals at Holt, Rink 1: James Nobbs, John Williamson & Chris Cheesley (RWB) lost to Robbie Jeffreys, Pete Hardie & Justin Davis (Holt) 16-19.

Rink 2: David Murray, Mark Richman & Rod Etherington (Highworth) beat James Richman, Jamie Titcombe & Mike Richards (Westlecot ) 15-14 (after extra end).

Rink 3: Dave Matthews, Mike Shawyer & John Thomas (West) lost to Craig Morphet, Kevin Embling & Gary Morphet (RWB) 12-20.

Rink 4: Barry Sictorness, Neil Smith & Mel Biggs (RWB) lost to Wayne Simmonds, Wayne Snook & Ben Gadd (Holt) 15-16.