HK trio through to singles quarters

Rob Woollard

NOEL Kennedy will spearhead Hong Kong's challenge in the singles competition of the Manulife Funds Direct International Bowls Classic today after an opening round of drama and upset at a sun-splashed Kowloon Bowling Green Club.

Kennedy powered into today's quarter-finals with a gritty 25-17 win over Canada's Keith Roney last night and now faces experienced Scot Graham Robertson in the last eight.

Joining Kennedy from Hong Kong in today's play, are Craigengower Cricket Club stalwarts Tony Chok and Willie Lai, who both overcame fancied international opposition to progress.

It was former Hong Kong representative Lai who scored what was the biggest upset on a day of surprises, when he notched a memorable win over Channel Islander David Le Marquand in the opening round.

Le Marquand - who finished runner-up in last year's singles - was slow to get going and soon found himself struggling to catch an inspired Lai, who finally ran out a 25-17 winner.

Lai then overcame Malaysia's Sani Sazeli 25-17 in the second round before beating CCC teammate Jacky Wong by an identical score in the third.

Lai's heroics have left him with a quarter-final against Chok, which means Hong Kong is assured of a place in the semi-finals at least.

Chok was in similarly inspired form yesterday, with the pick of his results being a nerve-jangling 25-24 win over England's Stuart Airey in the second round.

'This is the best I've ever done here. I've never even got past the second round before,' said a delighted Chok after recording a 25-17 win over Canada's Ian Jones to book his place in the quarter-finals.

'The greens help a lot. They are superb. I just hope I can play as well tomorrow,' he added.

In the other half of the draw, Kennedy had a slightly more straightforward run to the quarter-finals but was, nevertheless, made to work for wins over K. Y. Wong and Canadian Roney.

'It all went according to plan,' Kennedy said. 'I was particularly pleased with the way I stuck at it in my second round match [against Wong],' he added.

'He just kept chipping away at my lead, nicking a point here and there and those sort of matches are always the ones where you have to be careful.

'You only have to lose concentration for a minute and suddenly they are back in it - so I was pleased to stick it out,' a relieved Kennedy added.

Victory over Roney has left Kennedy pondering a difficult match against Robertson, who secured his place in the quarter-finals with a 25-5 win over Hong Kong Police Bowling Club's Nelson To.