If the bookies included our fixtures on their betting lists I think our opening sequence of results in the Nines league would give a good clue as to the next result: LWLWL… This week’s defeat at Fossway was pretty disappointing, and the first defeat where we could reasonably say we probably should have won it. Fossway have struggled a bit at the start of the season, but in fairness they put out teams in two separate leagues on a Tuesday night, so it was just as well they weren’t picking a team from the full complement.
The triples, skipped by Brian Elstob in his Nines début (or at least the first game for several years) established a good lead but then wobbled before re-asserting themselves to take a seven-shot lead into the last. Not even the extreme firing of the Fossway skip could pull that back – the only question was whether his bowls or the back board would be the first to splinter. A four-point win on that rink, then, earning the only points of the night as both the Fours and Pairs lost by three shots.
The Fours got off to a bad start – nothing disastrous, but consistent singles lost so that they were 0-7 down after six ends. David Ashworth kept encouraging the team, though, and very soon they pulled things back, to edge ahead 9-8. It remained tight at 10-10 and 13-13, but then the home side went ahead to lead 18-13 going into the last end, and the five was too big an ask. Meanwhile the Pairs ended up in an exact reversal of last week’s match, two down going into the last but then finding the opposition lying shot and needing a wonder shot to dislodge it. Just like the Walker skip last week, Trevor tried a bit too hard with his attempt and the result was a three-shot (16-19) defeat. But these results all show how competitive the league is – even if the game was watched by (literally) one man and his dog for most of the time.
The clouds had been building up through the match and by next morning it was raining steadily – certainly enough to cause a postponement of the ladies’ match at Chirton. At the time of writing they are third in the division, having already played both of the teams above them, so that looks promising. In the Nines league the league tables, compiled centrally, are lagging a bit, but what we can say is that after five matches we have exactly the same number of points as we did after the first five last year. The bookies would give pretty long odds on our repeating that success all season long, but at least there’s still everything to play for.
A pity we can’t quite say the same about the West Tyne league, but when the games are as good as this week’s no one is going to mind. Last year it was the 2012 champions, Haltwhistle, who got off to a bad start to the season, and this year we are repeating the trick. Unbeaten until the last game last year, we have lost both this time, but at least this week’s loss to Hexham House was really close – indeed, about as close as you could get without a tie. We lost two rinks (one of them 17-18 after a measure on the last end), drew one and won one – and the shots (most unusually) were tied, at 68 apiece. It was calculator stuff, but the end result was a 4-3 points win for Hexham House.
The Queens Cup day is always good fun, not least because of the requirement to wear red, white and blue in some form. The forms this took this year were quite extreme. With 21 players there was a mixture of triples and fours, and the winning team was the only one to win all three games: Brian Elstob, Jean Allen and Colin Kirkpatrick. Perhaps if we’d all kept our red, white and blue outfits for the league games it would have given us the extra edge we needed…