ENGLISH INDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS: Spalding win another title thanks to Ruby and Chelsea

Ruby Hill (left) and Chelsea Tomlin won the women's national pairs title.
Ruby Hill (left) and Chelsea Tomlin won the women's national pairs title.
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Spalding Indoor Bowls Club won another title at the English Championships in Melton Mowbray last night (March 29) when Ruby Hill and Chelsea Tomlin were crowned women’s pairs champions.

They beat a vastly more experienced pair, the defending champions from Sittingbourne, 16-13 in a thrilling final and the success was the Spalding club’s third of the championships.

Graham Smith won the men’s two bowl singles at the beginning of the sport’s flagship jamboree last Friday, and Matt Whyers, Smith, Martin Spencer and Matt Orrey won the men’s fours last Sunday.

Spencer, incidentally, is Tomlin’s partner on and off the green, and the two are waiting to move in to a new-build home in Spalding. He was the national indoor singles champion in 2016.

The win crowned a great season for Tomlin, a 24-year-old cardiology nurse at the Pilgrim Hospital in Boston, who was runner-up in the national women’s under 25 singles, won the national mixed fours title, captained England to the British Under 25 team title, and has now won the national women’s indoor pairs title.

In doing this - with her clubmate, 18-year-old sensation Ruby Hill - she followed in the footsteps of her dad Martin and grandfather Mick, who won the national men’s indoor pairs title out of the Boston club exactly 29 years ago - five years before she was born.

Hill and Tomlin were both in the England teams that won the British junior and senior team titles this winter - and their ages add up to just 42 years - considerably younger than either of their distinguished opponents in the final - defending champions Sandy Hazell and Wendy King, from the Swale club in Sittingbourne.

Hill, who is doing her A levels in business, geography and psychology, and hopes to take up a business apprenticeship, looks as calm as a cucumber on the green, but admitted afterwards that she hadn’t properly taken in what she and Tomlin had achieved.

The Spalding duo’s prospects looked bleak when Swale led, 11-5, after 11 ends.

“We just kept plugging away, and it all came right in the end,” said Tomlin. “We started playing more aggressively, and things went our way in the second half.”

Indeed, their success owes much to the drawing skills of Hill, and the knack that Tomlin has in playing conversion shots. They were still 13-9 adrift with only four ends left to play, but they picked up a treble, a single and a double to lead 15-13 as the last end got underway.

Brilliant play from King set up a lie of two shots for Swale, but Tomlin sent the jack into the open, and drew the winning shot with her very last bowl for a memorable 16-13 victory that had neutral spectators buzzing.

“That’s the best game I’ve ever seen,” said one.

Hill and Tomlin beat Sue Kearsley and Janice Gowler 17-3 in the semi-finals.