COMETH THE HOUR cometh the man and this year it was Stuart Williams who delivered the telling balls to bring the 888.com Weber Cup back to Europe after a pulsating Sunday at the Barnsley Metrodome.
The Phoenix-based Williams beat American captain Chris Barnes 237-227 to give his side their 17th and final point after Europe mounted a stellar comeback on Sunday afternoon after being behind for most of the event. It was Europe’s sixth win in the 14 years of the event, and after last year’s drubbing at the hands of the Americans, was all the sweeter.
“I’m more than proud of them; they’re a great team and we worked hard the whole weekend,” said an emotional Mika Koivuniemi, the European captain.
“We were behind on Friday but we never gave up and worked hard to make the adjustments we needed. Yes, we were the underdogs but when you work hard anything is possible,” he added.
“It was fantastic but I’m lost for words, which is a rarity for me,” said a normally garrulous Williams.
“Once I got the strike in fifth it relaxed me and I felt a bit confident with the line and then crowd started to get going.”
After a roistering Sunday afternoon session when they won five of the six matches, the Europeans entered the final evening with a two point lead. That didn’t last too long though as the Americans won their first Baker match of the event at an opportune time, and then Bill O’Neill lived up to his ‘Real Deal’ nickname with a blistering performance against Stuart Williams to level it up at 13-13.
The team match was a stuttering affair as the US hung on for a 19 pin victory but there was nothing nervy about O’Neill. Only a recalcitrant 10-pin with the second ball of the tenth frame halted his march towards the third 300 game of the event, but he was delighted to have got his side back on level terms.
With both teams now four away from victory, every match was of huge significance and
Tommy Jones got off to a stinker in the next as he left frames one and two open. Euro captain Mika Koivuniemi took advantage as he moved into a hefty lead but faltering play combined with a resurgence from Jones, took the match to the final frame.
The veteran Finn finally fell over the line as he struck with his last ball to win by a single pin and then let fly with some fist pumping.
‘The Moose’ was back out on the lane for the next as he faced Mike Fagan. With so much at stake they both stuck with each other before Koivuniemi left a 7/10 split in the seventh frame which was open. He finished with four strikes and a 9 to make Fagan have to win it and that he did that, knocking down the final pin for a 234-233 victory.
“I wanted to try and focus on what I was doing and not worry about the situation,” said a relieved Fagan.
“I wanted to make good shots down the stretch and that I did. I can’t lie, it’s not easy but you have to focus and try and make the shot and block out everything else.”
Dom Barrett won yet another point as he beat Bill O’Neill in another squeaker. A run of five strikes in the middle part of the game carried the Brit through to a 16 pin lead.
“It’s been a really good weekend for me personally, but it’s about being a team” said Barrett.
“We had some issues early on but it’s full steam ahead now. Friday was very hard after last year and it brought back some sore memories. We didn’t want it to go that way again so we dug in.”
Martin Larsen and Tommy Jones were next up and the early part of the match was something of a shocker. The Swede left a 7/10 frame open to put himself at a huge disadvantage but Jones left the first and second open which left the crowd stunned.
Both players regained their composure and began to strike but a series of 9 spares from Larsen put Jones right back in it and, like a fair few of the matches at this year’s Weber Cup, it went to the final frames where Larsen held out for victory and put Europe on the brink.
It was left to Stuart Williams, playing in his third 888.com Weber Cup – he was a winner in 2005 and a loser last year – to come up trumps and bring home the bacon for Team Europe.
The 888.com Weber Cup is the annual Europe v America tenpin bowling match. Established in 2000, the Americans lead 8-6 after 14 events. Taking place over three days, the match is decided by a series of singles, doubles and Baker format games.