THE county has its first ever World Champion at the game of Aunt Sally after a tense afternoon on Saturday.
The game was founded – and is played almost exclusively – in Oxfordshire, but for the past three years the World Champion has been from Gloucestershire.
But this year Henry Johnson from Yarnton was crowned the winner at the Charlbury Beer Festival in a hard-fought battle against Abingdon’s Barry Parker.
Mr Johnson, who plays in the pub team at The Black Prince in Woodstock, saw off Mr Parker with a perfect six dolls in the final.
A doll is when a player successfully manages to knock the wooden dolly clean off the plinth without hitting the metal spike it rest on.
A hushed crowed gathered to watch the final battle, which had been delayed after a heavy downpour stopped play before the quarter-finals.
Winner Mr Johnson, who has been playing the game for 25 years, said: “I feel absolutely great because I have had a hard run against some top players.
“I will of course try and retain the title next year.
“I am going to celebrate with a few drinks down at the Black Prince.”
Despite the hit and miss weather, more than 2,000 people were expected to have joined in the day’s festivities at Charlbury Cricket Ground. Organisers think numbers were down slightly on last year because of the rain and think it is likely to raise about £15,000.
Money raised at the event is handed out to local community projects.
Morris dancer Geoff Griffiths doesn’t let the rain stop him
Festival chairman Nick Millea said: “The beer trundled along quite nicely, there were lots of happy, smiling faces, kids being entertained and we have a new world champion.”
Eight-year-old George Foster played Aunt Sally for the first time at the event.
George, of Hempton, said: “It was really fun. I watched some of the World Championship, I think I could take them on.”
Geoff Griffiths, 56, of the Charlbury and Finstock Morris Dancers, enjoyed a dance in the rain. He said: “It has been a great atmosphere.
“This is the highlight of our year. I’ve made sure to come back here from a business trip in Malta.”
AUNT Sally is a traditional Oxfordshire game, usually played by two teams of eight.
Players compete by trying to knock the ‘dolly’ – a ball or skittle – off a spike by throwing ‘sticks’ from 10 yards. The aim is to knock the dolly off the spike without hitting the spike.
The modern rules see the game played over three legs. Each player throws six sticks per leg. The team with the highest number of dolls scored wins each leg.
The game is thought to date back to the 17th century.
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