The Finale of the National Crokinole Association Tour usually does not lend itself to surprising results. That was only good news for Justin Slater, winning his 5th straight title, and Ray Beierling capping off the NCA Tour with the Championship title.
28 players descended on St. Jacobs for the last tournament of the 2015-2016 NCA Tour. Through the morning play Nathan Walsh qualified with the highest score to earn a spot in Group A, and was joined by Justin Slater, Roy Campbell, Jason and Ray Beierling, Ab Leitch, Andrew Hutchinson, Clare Kuepfer, Rex Johnston and Brian Simpson. Unfortunately, Jon Conrad's run at the NCA title was stopped due to a tiebreaker loss for the 10th and final spot in Group A.
In the afternoon, Eric Miltenburg and Rueben Jong excelled in Group C and claimed the top 2 spots to compete for the title. While Eric Miltenburg had the higher seed, Jong came through in the final to claim the C title.
Jon Conrad scored 50 points in the afternoon to win the top seed in Group B, while Tom Johnston battled away to score 42 points, to finish just ahead of Fred Slater with 37. Jon Conrad could not be stopped though, and went on to win the B title over Johnston in the finals.
In Group A, the 10 players vied for the 4 semifinal spots, while the NCA Tour race had come down to Jason Beierling needing the victory for the day to pass Ray Beierling. The round-robin led to some very clear results as Roy Campbell, Justin Slater and Ray Beierling scored 49 points, followed by Jason Beierling at 45, well ahead of 5th place finisher Nathan Walsh at 36.
The semifinal matchup intensified the drama as Roy Campbell and Jason Beierling met for a rematch of the Owen Sound final earlier this year, while Ray Beierling and Justin Slater met yet again in a playoff match.
Justin Slater, as usual at the Ontario Singles Crokinole Championship, looked dominant in the semifinals, winning the match over Beierling in 2-straight games. But any chances for the NCA title to be decided in the final game was eliminated when Roy Campbell overcame a loss in game 1 to defeat Jason Beierling in 3 games.
It was a first-time finals meeting between Campbell and Slater with 2016 Ontario Championship on the line. Slater took the first game and quickly grabbed the lead in the second. But just as it seemed the match would finish quickly, Campbell complicated the play with a series of "self-assist raises" (where the opposition disc is pushed closer to the 20 hole, rather than off the board, in an attempt to set up a 20 opportunity on the next shot). After a couple of long deliberations, Justin Slater found the clear edge he needed and won the match for his 6th Ontario title in 7 years.
Ray Beierling Wins 2015-2016 NCA Tour
The final standings of the NCA Tour were packed very tightly with only 3 points separating 1st from 4th. Andrew Hutchinson really did make a statement with his impressive 6th place finish on the Tour. He should be commended, not only for switching from cues to fingers so successfully, but for earning all 172 of his rankings points outside of the World Championships.
Roy Campbell's best-ever season started with a 3rd-place finish at the World Championships, continued with his first NCA title in Owen Sound and ended with the runner-up finish in the Ontario finals. He made significant jumps this season and was rewarded with the #5 ranking.
Jason Beierling was on the wrong side of two different playoff match-ups with Roy Campbell, but did earn the higher ranking at #4. He earned three different 2nd-place finishes (WCC doubles, Turtle Island and Owen Sound) and won the Ontario Doubles title.
Jon Conrad started the Tour winning the World Doubles title, and was able to finish 3rd in Turtle Island and London. His 2nd place finish in Brucefield at the ODCC put him in contention for the NCA title, but it was the victory in Hamilton that clinched his top 3 finish.
Justin Slater finished the NCA Tour with more victories than anyone else, at 3, winning his 2nd World title, 2nd Belleville title, and 6th Ontario title. He impressively earned 193 points after only 4 events, with his low score still a very strong 4th place finish in the WCC Doubles event.
While he admitted it didn't happen the way he wanted it to, Ray Beierling did secure the NCA title (his second after splitting the honour with Justin Slater in 2010). He had 2nd-place finishes in both the World Doubles and Singles events, as well as the Belleville tournament. His wins at the ODCC and in London were enough to secure the top spot on the Tour.
So the 8th NCA Tour has been completed, but the intensity of crokinole season only grows as all of the focus now shifts to Tavistock on June 4th for the 18th World Crokinole Championship.