Weber Cup XIV - Europe Fight Back
After a gripping Saturday night transatlantic team tussle, the American quartet of Chris Barnes, Tommy Jones, Mike Fagan and Bill O'Neill emerge with just a slim two point advantage after allowing the European team of Mika Koivuniemi, Stuart Williams, Dominic Barrett and Martin Larsen to chip away the colonials four point lead.
One again the Europeans won the opening Baker team game, previously the strong point of American strategy but this year of the three matches opening the sessions the Europeans have won them all.
“We were a lot more relaxed with a four point lead and we may have taken out foot off the pedal while they put theirs on it," stated captain Chris Barnes. "The longer lane pattern in sessions two and three saw us lose a couple of points in the morning. We've been struggling in the Baker matches and that's where we need to do better today to get us off to a better start.This pattern is in the middle at41 feet. It is the last day and we have to get comfortable on the lane."
Last night saw a Baker team opening match followed by five singles. Probably for the first time, the opening two singles matches featured the same two players, Barnes versus Barrett. That resulted in one victory each. Koivuniemi brought Europe back with a win over O'Neill but Williams faced Jones once again and came off worst.
The final match of the evening was an encounter of a very close kind as just two pins separated Fagan and Larsen, the latter holding the key to success. All Larsen had to do was hit a spare in the tenth frame and then a fairly high count. But disaster reared its ugly head by leaving him a 2-10 split, handing victory from the jaws of defeat to Fagan.
"I'm pretty happy wher we are right now," commented European captain Mika Koivuniemi. "Of course, it was disappointing to lose one point in the last game. I'm a little disappointed, by compared to yesterday we had a good day. If it is like on Sunday it will be good. Everybody bowled good today, we were smart and tried to figure out the lanes and how to get through the pins, so hopefully we can do the same thing through the last two sessions."
So, going into the final two sessions the Americans sit on a 10-8 lead with the target of 17 to retain the Weber Cup.
This afternoon stint features the Baker opening then alternating doubles and singles for a chance of six points.
Team order - Europe: Koivuniemi, Barrett, Larsen, Williams. USA: Jones, Barnes, Fagan, O'Neill.
POINTS: EUROPE - 9; USA - 10
They have done it again. The Europeans won their fourth Baker team match in a row, normally their weakest part of the Weber Cup. "Unheard of in Weber Cup history," mentioned TV commentator Cass Edwards.
The format now segues into alternating doubles and singles matches.
POINTS: EUROPE - 9; USA - 11
Back to a two point lead for the Americans as the Jones and Barnes duo dominate Mr Dominator Barrett and cohort Larsen. Open frames for the Europeans in frames two and five brought them a task to tough to fill.
POINTS: EUROPE - 11; USA - 11
You want a couple of guys who can put some points on the board? Well, we know some men who can, Koivuniemi and Larsen by name, the former a Finn, the latter a Swede, but bowling under the European banner the pair gave the Americans a good hiding, which brought the points back to 11-all and true hopes of getting to that vital figure of 17 points to regain the Weber Cup.
POINTS: EUROPE - 12; USA - 11
Yet another tenth frame thriller - a disaster for USA and a big relief for Europe. Larsen was coming in from behind after a split in the eighth frame nd was looking to at leat double in the tenth. He got the first strike and then a 5-washout with the second ball, posting 223.
Fagan just needed to stay clean for his tenth frame but had the utter catastrophe of leaving the 7-10 split. Once again suffering defeat from the jaws of victory.
It is now up to Tommy Jones and Chris Barnes to rescue American pride as the Europeans lead for the first time since the opening match on Friday evening.
POINTS: EUROPE - 13; USA - 11
Yet again the Europeans ride on the crest of the wave and must have beaten the bookies by taking four points from the afternoon session and need just four more to capture the Cup.
All credit to the American duo as they responded to the pounding they were receiving from the European duo but once again the tenth frame split was their undoing.
"It was great for our team this afternoon," Koivuniemi told us."We had some lucky breaks at the right time. But it is not over, we need to get to 17 to win before this is over, so we need to stay focussed, make some good shots, and put the pressure on the Americans. Of course, it is better to be two points ahead than two behind, but we need to win five more matches and we need to focus on that."