WATCH: Moray bowler Michael Stepney crowned as world singles champion at the World Bowls Indoor Championships in Bristol after a thrilling last-bowl victory over fellow Scotland international Stewart Anderson
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MORAY bowler Michael Stepney clinched a dream trip to Australia after the best shot of his life saw him become world indoor bowls singles champion.
The 41-year-old product of St Aethans Bowling Club in Burghead produced a stunning final shot to steal victory from fellow Scotland international Stewart Anderson in a thrilling world final in Bristol.
Stepney has now won the Scottish and world indoor titles and is chasing a treble later this year when he takes on the British Isles Championships.
The Elgin stadium bowler will also pick up his 50th Scottish international cap in Ireland this year, and admits he is playing the best bowls of his life in singles right now.
It was third time lucky for Stepney to claim the world indoor after twice being beaten finalist in the old format of the competition when it was run solely by the WIBC (World Indoor Bowls Council).
He was staring another defeat in the face when last Friday's final went down to a one-end tiebreak and Anderson was lying shot, just a quarter of an inch from the jack with Stepney's final bowl to come.
What followed was a shot of perfection as the Moray man's backhand effort came through the eye of a needle to clip his opponent's bowl away from the jack, leaving Stepney basking in world title glory.
Watch the final end, and that amazing Stepney shot on Anne Dunwoodie's Facebook post below.
"That was definitely the best shot I can remember playing," he said.
"He was right on the jack, right behind a quarter of an inch off it. The buzz when I saw the bowl just flick out, I had to turn it just over a foot away and it was a fair sigh of relief.
"You always want to play a good shot to win something rather than somebody getting unlucky.
"It was a long time in coming. To be beaten twice in the final before, you begin to wonder.
"I played my third bowl which I thought was really good and it just held off. So I started thinking ‘ here we go again, third time I’ve been runner-up’. But I just managed to get there."
The World Bowls Indoor Championships pitted 27 countries together in competition including all of the national champs, with Stepney qualifying as winner of the Scottish indoor singles in December, repeating his success of 2009.
He came through a total of 11 matches to clinch national glory and needed another seven matches in Bristol over five days to take him to the world crown.
His reward was not only the trophy, but a trip Down Under next year to defend his title, with the world championships held at Warilla Bowls and Recreation Club in New South Wales, Australia.
"I must admit that was a slight incentive of trying even harder to win it when we were told before the final where the next ones were being played," he added.
Yet it was so nearly a world title double for Stepney, as before his singles victory he partnered up with Claire Anderson in the mixed pairs to reach the final, only to lose that one in a tiebreak end against Anderson and Alison Merrien (Guernsey).
He ended up playing a total of six matches in the final two days of the competition.
But now Stepney can take a break from bowls, as he doesn't play the outdoor season and will recharge his batteries over the summer and go again next September when the indoor season arrives.
The world number 13 has had an incredible year and even greater opportunities lie in wait.
"There’s been a lot of hours and a lot of travelling to get to this stage and it’s time to put the feet up and have a rest from bowls.
"The British Isles was meant to be played in March and now it's October so I’m now trying to go for the mini set, the Scottish, the British isles and the World titles.
"I’m not sure if anyone has done that before so that would be some achievement.
"I'll also get my 50th cap for Scotland.
"For somebody up north it isn’t easy to get into the Scotland team let alone be able to sit in there for 17 years.
"It’s pretty good going for someone who used to be a young lad from Burghead - not so young now!"