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MacDonald (16) lifts British Isles bowls trophy

Sport | Published:

RACHEL MacDONALD, a 16-year-old Highlands College student, became the first Channel Islander to win the British Isles women's under 25 indoor singles title yesterday, when she beat the English junior champion Annalisa Bellamy, 21-13, in the final in Belfast.

Although the Jersey girl said she felt nervous, she looked unruffled and composed throughout and thoroughly enjoyed her first taste of international competition away from home.

She had to work hard for her win in the final, after her 19-year-old opponent opened up a 7-3 lead at seven ends, but a determined effort produced a profitable five-ends spell that enabled her to hit the front at 11-7 after 12 ends.

Bellamy was far from finished and hit back to regain the lead at 13-12 after 16 ends, but MacDonald launched another offensive, and the game was all over four ends later, after the Jersey star registered an irresistible 1-3-2-3 sequence.

'I really didn't think I was in with a chance,' Rachel said.

'When I came to Belfast, I was hoping I'd simply put up a good show against the Irish girl, Ashleigh Rainey, in the semi finals, and perhaps get to double figures.' Even though she beat the local hope 21-5, MacDonald still did not believe she could end up as champion: 'It wasn't until I got to 16 in the final that I started to think I could win it, but even then I assumed I would have to do it the hard way, by taking shots one at a time,' she admitted.

'Next time I won't be quite so nervous, but there's no way I'm going to get over-confident just because I've won the title once,' Rachel added.

If MacDonald was nervous on the green, her chief supporters, Jersey's own Lindsey Greechan and Guernsey's Alison Merrien, were biting their nails, crossing their fingers and holding their breath on the bank, showing how tense top level bowls can be.

'Rachel was magic out there, and we are so proud of her - but for us it was like a nightmare," said an elated Greechan, a former U25 World champion.

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'Now I know how my mum feels when she's watching me in a big game.

I was Rachel's honorary mum today!' Guernsey's former world pairs champion Merrien, too, was full of praise for MacDonald: 'She was marvellous, and it's such a great achievement for the Channel Islands.

This wasn't a case of Guernsey against Jersey - in this event the two islands just pull together.' On what turned out to be the last end, MacDonald, who needed three to win, was holding two shots, when she deftly pushed her own bowl towards the jack for a championship lie.

'I just held my breath when Annalisa tried to save game, and when she missed, the cheers were deafening - and I realised I had actually won,' MacDonald said.

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'The first thing I did was to borrow Lindsey's phone to ring my mum, who was back home in Jersey - and when I told her I'd won, she screamed and screamed down the phone.' Greechan, who shares a room with MacDonald in the team hotel, reached the British Isles under-25 final twice, in 2003 and 2004, but is now too old to compete at junior level.

Earlier, Greechan had teamed up with her mum-in-law, Helen Greechan, to bid for the pairs title, but the Jersey duo lost heavily in the semi finals to Welsh sisters Norma O'Sullivan and Marion Gwynne.

'We were 11-0 down in no time at all, but we still don't know how,' a rueful Lindsey said.

'We built up good heads on the first few ends, and were holding shots, but we just couldn't keep them.' The Jersey duo slumped to 27-6, and were always playing catch-up.

Lindsey trailed the jack for a six on the 17th end, and the final 28-16 scoreline did then some credit for a spirited, if rather late, fightback.

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