Bowls: Stars vying for place in the quarters

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Portobello stage four of the eight last-16 ties in theirbowls Singles Championship tonight, with the bill including former champions Stuart Betts and George Johnstone plus last season’s runner-up Andrew Caldwell.

Betts has won the title on three occasions and bids to keep his hopes of celebrating a fourth success alive at the expense of Willie McDonald.

The winner of that tie will then face a quarter-final clash against either Johnstone or 16-year-old Liam McKay, who on the outdoor scene last summer became the inaugural winner of the Willie Wood E&L Under 16 Singles.

Caldwell, 25, has a tough challenge on his hands against current junior cap Jamie Reid.

The winner of that clash won’t be able to rest on his laurels as the quarter-final test looms up in the shape of much-lauded former junior cap Chris Steven and Portobello team stalwart Scott Roger.

The second batch of four ties is down for decision tomorrow night on the 8-15 session and the main focus of attention will be on the fate of title-holder Ian Fleming and former champion Gary Nisbet.

Fleming is chasing a fourth title success and the son of the late E&L icon JS faces an interesting match against 17-year-old Josh Spalding who, on the outdoor scene especially, is being hailed as a future Edinburgh superstar.

The winner will move on to a quarter-final against former club champion Gary Nisbet or BJ Smith, who is a colourful personality but has yet to match the Singles success he has enjoyed at outdoor club, Hillside.

Dean Mackintosh is another teenager making a breakthrough at Portobello and it is a battle of the generations when he goes head-to-head with senior citizen Jimmy Marshall who, many moons ago, made the headlines as a Trades Tournament champion.

The field is completed by two honest types in the shape of Mike Wilson and Portobello team selector Robert Wood.

The state of play in the Singles Championship race at Midlothian IBC is that a new name will be etched on the silverware with the field down to the semi-final stage and featuring Ronnie Duncan v Scott Runciman and Lindsay Plenderleith v Ian Brown.

Duncan installed himself as favourite when turning in a tip-top performance to beat defending champion, and fellow internationalist, Colin Walker, 21-8 in the quarter-finals.

Meanwhile, former Bainfield ace Jamie Gracie is still to find his best touch since transferring this season to West Lothian IBC but the junior cap already has a feather in his cap having defeated Singles holder George Sneddon 21-17 in the third round of the championship.