Royal revels in adversity

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By Mark Williams

EVEN some of the greatest sporting stars struggle to produce their best form when their backs are up against the wall.

But, for England bowls ace Mark Royal, it seems a must-win scenario is just another day on the rink.

Ahead of the final two World Bowls Tour events – the World Championships in January and the Welsh Grand Prix earlier this month – Royal was in great danger of slipping out of the world’s top eight, and possibly top 16.

Sitting on 65 ranking points following an indifferent start to the season, Royal needed to rediscover the form that saw him reach world number two in 2009.

Impressively, just when he needed it, the Stowmarket left hander reached a career-best semi-final at Hopton-on-Sea in January, before lifting his second Welsh title in Swansea two weeks later.

“There was a chance of missing out on a top 16 spot and certainly the top eight,” said Royal, who was provisionally ranked 17th before the new list was disclosed last Friday. “It works similarly to snooker in that the top 16 have to qualify for fewer events and the top eight even fewer.”

Royal’s end-of-season surge saw him obtain 80 ranking points and catapult him into fourth spot in the world. His final points tally of 145 fell just four short of World Championship runner-up and third-placed Darren Burnett.

“I am delighted with my late form,” said Royal. “I hadn’t been playing too great before the New Year, but I made up for that in the last two events. I really needed it and luckily I did enough in the end.”

The win in Swansea means that Royal automatically qualifies for the money-spinning Premier League event in Cyprus, later this summer, soon after competing at the World Matchplay in Sheffield, in June.

Elsewhere in the new rankings, four-time world champion Paul Foster remains at number one, while Ely’s Greg Harlow is the leading Englishman in second.