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Newport, Gwent, United Kingdom, 2011/05/09 - Troon Petanque club hosted the 2011 and twenty third annual Celtic Challenge Tournament between Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
Wales travelled to Scotland with high hopes of extending their record run of consecutive wins in the tournament, having won last year at home at the Wenvoe Arms venue near Cardiff. With a number of top players missing from this years squad, Wales were still expecting to come away with the win but Scotland A had other plans.
The competition took place over two gloriously sunny days on Saturday 30th April and Sunday 1st May. After the opening ceremony on the Petanque terrain at the home of Marr Rugby, the games got under way at 9.30 with intense competition throughout the day. The opening matches were Wales verses Ireland and Scotland A verses Scotland B. Wales winning 11-5 and Scotland A also victorious 11-5. The competition then moved on with two more rounds of matches to be played during the first day.
Wales were now up against Scotland A whilst the Irish turned their attention to Scotland B. The results of these matches left the competition still in the balance with Scotland A and Wales sharing the games 4 each, with Scotland B taking the honours 5-3 against the Irish. This left the total results after the first day at Scotland A, 15, Wales, 15, Scotland B, 10 and Ireland on 8.
The second day started badly for Wales with their third and fourth triples losing both games to their respective Scottish opponents. This allowed Scotland A to gain the upper hand with honours even in the other two triples.
Ireland showed resilience and fighting spirit and gained some momentum by winning their final two encounters against the Scottish B squad 6-2. The overall results at this stage were Scotland A on 21 wins, Wales standing at 17, Ireland on 14 and Scotland B on 12.
Moving into the last phase of the competition, Scotland A had a clear advantage and just had to maintain their form against Ireland, whilst Wales now facing Scotland B had every chance to catch up bit needed all four teams to put in a solid winning performance.
Although both Scotland A and Wales were to win their first round of matches 3-1, it was the hosts who were able to maintain form with a tremendous finish winning the encounter against Ireland 11-5. Wales without much hope of catching them simply didn’t have enough left to overall the Scottish B squad who themselves went on to beat the Welsh 11-5.
Only the Wales 2nd team of Stewart Spencer of Abergavenny, who is sponsored by the CD and DVD Duplication and Replication company Dischromatics, Ian Bailey of Baileys Garage in Abergavenny and Mike Jacques from the Wenvoe club showed enough fight to compete at this level with 9 wins from 12 games, only coming second to the Scottish A first team of Robbie Stronach, John Wilson and Paul Bretenoux who won all twelve games.
Once again, although winning was most important to everyone involved, the display of camaraderie, fun and banter during this weekend was superb and showed clearly why this is the petanque competition everyone wants to play in and is unique in this type of tournament.
Thanks must go to The Scottish Petanque Association and to Troon in particular with a special mention for Donnie Macintyre for the wonderful hospitality and superb planning. Already, everyone is talking about and looking forward to the next venue and the twenty fourth Celtic Challenge in Bangor in Ireland.