At last the competitive season has ended. For the Nines team it has been an awful slog, with relegation from Division 1 a certainty for the last few weeks, making it just that bit harder to get motivated. In the event we did pull ourselves off the bottom of the table to finish eighth out of ten teams, but the bottom three go down so the trap door opened. At least we were a decent number of points (16) behind the seventh team – it would have hurt a lot to miss out by just a couple!
The last home game was against Ponteland, and at last, for the first time since the end of May, we got a win. An 8-0 win! Why on earth we couldn’t have played like that against the lesser teams I don’t know, but anyway all three rinks played really solid stuff, and although there was a tight finish in each game the result reflected well on our determination against strong opposition. Particularly encouraging was the way that every rink held on to leads which were being whittled away by strong comebacks by Ponteland. For example, the pairs were pinned back from a 14-3 lead to just 14-10 with two ends to go, and then two shots down, at which point Peter Durnell drew an impossible shot to within an inch of the jack and the only task then was to protect that shot. We did, and the result was a formality after that.
The fours did almost the same thing – twice! They raced into an 11-2 lead, which then became 11-7 three ends later, before re-establishing the nine-shot lead at 16-7. Another three bad ends followed, and suddenly it was 16-15 with two ends to go. This was the sort of position from which we had lost games all season, but this time a couple of twos completed a 20-15 win.
The triples, not to be outdone, managed to let a 7-2 lead disappear completely, so that after 14 ends they were 10-11 down. If there was any worry here it didn’t show, as they then scored a five, and although they added only one to that it was enough for a 16-13 victory.
Our re-arranged match with Gosforth should really have been sponsored by local business Down to Earth. We were a bit unlucky in that Gosforth needed to win the game well to make sure of winning the league title, and we realised the sized of the task when we arrived to find a team packed with County champions and international players. The triples had a torrid time of it, saved from a seven on the second end only by the “one shot on first two ends” rule but then promptly conceding another seven soon after. After six ends the score was 16-0 and the game was up, thanks largely to the astonishing accuracy of the Gosforth lead.
The pairs put up a good fight without ever threatening to win. Whatever we did, ex-Hexham skip Craig Cooper had the answer. If we were lying two or three he would burn the end; if we put the jack in the ditch he would draw to within a couple of inches of the ditch; if we left a gap he would thread a bowl through it to draw shot. It was terrific to watch, let’s be honest, and a bit of a masterclass. If the score (9-22) was a bit harsh, the result was absolutely right.
The fours had an even closer outcome, going down 14-17 after being well behind early on but chipping away at the lead. Unfortunately, against teams like Gosforth the chances of a count are very small, and so the ones and twos were never quite enough. However, to come off the green irritated at not being able to clinch a win shows how close the fours were to pulling it off. Disappointment was softened by the fact that Gosforth is the only club in the league with a bar, and it was good to have a chat there afterwards, especially as four of their nine are former Elvaston players. It’s a pity they had to leave us after last season in order to further their County aspirations, as we lost a third of our team at a stroke, quite apart from the temporary loss of two other key players for health reasons. We never recovered this year, but we just have to accept our place in the food chain, which for next season at least is nearer plankton than big fish. We’ll be back!