Monthly Archives: May 2015

A Good Week in the Leagues

The week started well, with a big win for the Nines team at Throckley.  The results for this league are so slow in being posted that the league tables are indicative only, but it would seem that whatever happened this week we would (at worst) still be a close second in the table with a game in hand. All three rinks won, with scores of 32-10 (pairs), 22-8 (triples) and 24-10 (fours).  Clearly it was pretty well one-way traffic, and Darren’s scorecard looked more like a scorer’s record of Ben Stokes’s innings against New Zealand, with a succession of big hits, hardly any singles and not a lot of dot balls either.

One notable feature (again, like that cricket match) was the sporting nature of the contest: although Throckley were on the wrong side of a big defeat they were totally pleasant company throughout – you have to admit that it isn’t always the case.

The Ladies went into the game against Benfield as usual with a different line-up from the previous week’s winning formula, but this seemed to make no difference as they came out with a 10-2 points win to add to the precious twelve points of last week.  Blanche’s rink won by one shot, with a deflection off the last bowl of the match, and the others were quite evenly poised, with Shelagh’s rink losing and Pat’s rink winning by a similar margin. However close it was on shots, the scoring system gave us the big points win for aggregate shots – and no one would be complaining.

The West Tyne team was missing five or six regulars, and was grateful to those who were willing to stand in.  Here the rinks had to be moved around out of necessity, but the balance proved to be just right against Alston.  For the second day running Blanche’s rink won by one shot, despite or even because of a bizarre mix-up where the opposition skip completely misread the head on the last end and assumed he was five (not two) down.  Jean had an efficient four-shot win, while David Ashworth’s rink won 19-14 thanks simply to a five on the last end!  Finally, Brian Elstob’s rink won 23-6 after being tied 5-5 after nine ends, so we were definitely like those football teams that get stronger as the game goes on.

At the same time as that match was going on Darren and George were winning their National Pairs match 18-17 after 21 ends – once again the ability to hang on at the sharp end of the match was rewarded.  The only blot on this successful week, therefore, was the utter humbling at the hands of a strong Gosforth rink in the National fours.  Our only hope here was to get a good start.  We didn’t.  After four ends we were 0-6 down, and although we then scored a three we managed only one more single before we threw in the towel after just 14 ends, with the score at 4-25 and threatening to get a lot worse.   No excuses: we were outplayed.  At least it put the earlier wins into perspective…

Well done, Ladies!

Pride of place this week has to go to the Ladies’ team, who travelled to Forest Hall on the back of two 2-10 home defeats.  As reported last time, the defeat against Ponteland had been quite a close affair, despite the fact that Ponteland top the table after three matches.  The first way match of the season might have appeared a little daunting, but in the event all three rinks won, two of them very comfortably, and the 12-0 scoreline lifted us several places up the league.

With no Nines match this week, the only other league match was a West Tyne game against Prudhoe.  The Prudhoe green was running really fast, with very short grass – and slopes near the banks meant that anything past a full-length jack would almost certainly roll into the ditch.  However, all the rinks worked it out, some more quickly than others, and we were pleased with the outcome.

Both David Ashworth’s rink and George’s won just eight of the 18 ends, but whereas this resulted in a narrow loss (15-17) for George, David was helped enormously by a four and a six, to come home by 17-14   Since this rink had been leading 13-5 at the half-way mark it was as well the match finished when it did!

Darren’s rink took a while to get going, and indeed after 10 ends they were 6-8 down.  But from that point on they didn’t lose another end, and won 18-8.  By this stage the match points were already safe, thanks to the 26-9 on the fourth rink, where Pete Seago was Man of the Match with a brilliant display.  Drawing bowls in from all angles, he reduced the Prudhoe team and his own skip to the role of spectators. The win would have been even bigger but for our giving away a three and a four near the end.

Overall, then, it was another 6-1 win – not enough to keep up with Hexham House, but after last year’s travails a very encouraging start to the season.

It’s the time of year when various Bowls Northumberland knock-out competitions start.  In the Mixed Pairs Trevor and Jean renewed their partnership with a big (27-7) win at Gosforth.  In the Men’s Triples, Darren, Keith and Trevor played against a Hexham House trio led by Shaun Blaylock, who had an excellent game and secured several ends that had seemed cast-iron certs for ourselves. One shot in particular – stopping us from nailing a four – was crucial in that a possible 12-5 lead suddenly went back to 8-6, and the Hexham House team won five ends on the trot before we went ahead by one with one end to play.  Sadly we played a really bad final end, and the lights went out.

Two days later it was a similar story, as we played the round-robin Jubilee Cup qualifiers at Benfield.  Despite winning two matches very easily, including against Walker, the Nines champions of last year, we had a shocker against Seaton Sluice, losing 4-16 over nine ends, and so we finished second on shots.  That too was a very winnable situation, so it was a big disappointment.  Obviously we need some tuition from the ladies on how to win…

A Win, a Defeat, and a Draw

There are an awful lot of bowls bowled in the course of a league match: in the case of the Nines league there are precisely 900 in the evening.  It was remarkable, then, that on Tuesday the whole result boiled down to the fate of the 900th!  Let me explain.

Wallsend Park “A” were playing their first game of the season, after two byes, but they were certainly not rusty, going into a lead on two rinks before being pegged back.  Our fours repeated their first result of the season, coming from behind to win quite comfortably – scoring a six half-way through didn’t hamper the cause, and in fact counted as most of the eventual winning margin.  The pairs, meanwhile, also had a similar experience to the first week, making up a deficit and going into a good-looking lead before two bad ends (losing half a dozen shots) allowed Wallsend into the lead – all the more galling in that the visitors finally won by a single shot.

So that was one rink each.  The triples, meantime, had been in a tight game all night, with the margin between the teams never more than two shots until the sixteenth end, when it stretched to four (15-11) in our favour.  But the Wallsend skip had earlier predicted it would go to the last end, and so it proved.  On the last bowl of the penultimate end, with our team four ahead and lying one, he managed to send the jack right back to where their lead had put three dreadful bowls at the start of the end: three shots to them, and now only one in it.

On the last end another weighted shot gave Wallsend a winning position of three shots, but we cut it down to one and almost pinched the shot as Trevor’s second bowl stopped half a centimetre from the jack – unfortunately Wallsend had one literally touching it!.  And that’s where the 900th bowl became decisive – clipping either of the bowls on the jack would probably give us the match 6-2, but hitting them too hard might give away more than one shot and end up 2-6.  In fact, Trevor’s approach was just too careful, and fell short, which with everyone watching was a bit of an anti-climax!  Overall, it meant the points were shared 4-4, and on the night, you would have to say it was a fair result – even the ends were split 27-27.

The ladies played against Ponteland “A” the next day, and once again put up a good fight with the bare bones of a team.   Shelagh and Christine did really well at the back end on their rink and pulled off an excellent 17-10 win.  On the last few ends especially they frustrated the opposition by getting in for the shot when all seemed lost – on the fifteenth end Shelagh magicked two on the last bowl to make it 14-10, then two ends later Christine effectively won the game by stealing the shot when Ponteland were lying three good shots.

Blanche’s rink lost by six shots, with Thelma in great form as lead and Lesley Lofthouse making a very impressive début – it was great to see some coloured bowls on our side in a Collins and Shipley match!  Over those two rinks, then, we were just one ahead, and Betty’s rink had kept in touch so well that a three on the final end would actually have tied the scores.  The words “would have” give the story away, don’t they?  It didn’t happen, and it was another 2-10 defeat – but considering the number of County players in the Ponteland squad this was a good showing.

After last week’s West Tyne Cup win against Haltwhistle it was strange to see much the same people turning up again for the league match on Thursday.  Once again we had just managed to put together a team – but with so many new members this year (either new or experienced bowlers) it looks as if the days of scratching around for a team will soon be over.

As it happened, those who did play put in an even better performance than last week’s.  Last year Haltwhistle came to our green on the first night of the league and absolutely hammered us.  This time there was a notable turn-round, although as ever Haltwhistle gave us a really good game.  In fact, two rinks of the four were very close throughout: at the half-way mark the scores on these two were 8-7 and 7-6 in our favour, and one end later the scores were 8-11 (David Ashworth) and 7-9.(Darren).  From here Darren went on to win 16-14, while David just failed to make the comeback and lost 12-16.

On Trevor’s rink Christina Auld made her West Tyne début and had a super match as lead.  This rink struggled with the weighted shots played by Haltwhistle, and (like the other rinks noted earlier) it was close for a long time – at the half-way mark 9-7 and then 9-8 after ten ends.  However, once it got to 12-10 things really went our way: after sharing the first twelve ends equally we then won all the last six ends to win 24-10.  The scoreboard maybe wasn’t lying, but it was being economical with the truth.

George Rockett has brought great experience as well as skill since joining this year, and his rink was comfortable after gaining a 13-1 lead.  They may have won only ten of the 18 ends, but the numbers were consistently big, including an early six, and the final result was 24-12.  On this rink and on others everyone seemed to be playing in positions they liked, and that undoubtedly helped the result. The overall result for the match was 6-1, with a 76-52 shots margin – but that makes it sound a bigger win than it felt like (we won just 38 ends to Haltwhistle’s 34). Never mind: the memory of last year’s thumping was well and truly banished.

A bit of a struggle

(Apologies for late publication: the draft was ready on about 7 May, but was overlooked.)

As the season gets properly under way  it has been a bit of a struggle to get teams together.  We managed to make up our 24 for the friendly against Hexham House only with the help of a home team reserve, while the men’s friendly match at Lyndhurst would have been reduced to four triples a side if the hosts hadn’t kindly provided four of their own members to make up four full rinks .  More significantly, the ladies could only just put together their three rinks for the opening game of the season in the Collins and Shipley league, while the West Tyne Cup selection certainly didn’t leave too many “on the bench”.

This sounds gloomier than it is, in that there were several perfectly good reasons why various members were away or otherwise unavailable.  But we clearly need to be at full strength as soon as possible.

The friendly matches were as enjoyable as ever, though the weather for the game at Hexham House was cold and damp.  Fortunately the bowls travel up and down the green at quite a speed at this time of year, so we got through the 18 ends pretty quickly to earn a welcome cup of tea (and a lovely spread).  The game this year was the first leg of a two-leg match to contest the Hexham Courant Vase, donated by the local paper.  Whether or not this made people try harder or play better is unknown, but it was a good game all round, with three rinks won by each club and Elvaston coming out on top on shots by just four (93-89).  We shall take that slim margin into the home leg at the end of August – and in between we have to play Hexham House at least four times in other competitions.

The Lyndhurst match was just as close – this time with two rink wins for each club and an overall margin of 67-64 in our favour.  Let’s leave aside the issue of how many shots we should have lost for not having a full team…

The ladies started their league campaign in Division 1 of the Collins and Shipley league at home, against Cowpen and Crofton.  It was an up-and-down sort of afternoon: Jean’s rink was well down all the way, slipping further and further behind to finish down by 17 shots (6-23); Blanche’s rink did almost exactly the reverse,with the “plus” shots margin being uncannily similar all the way through, so that the overall result was always going to depend on the third rink.  Leading 9-3 approaching half-way, Betty’s rink looked to be coasting, but getting to 11 produced the dreaded “13” effect, and they sat there for several ends as the visitors caught up and then left them in the rear-view mirror: the 12-22 loss meant that with just one rink win we lost by xx shots and by 2-10 on  points.

The green was quite wet at times, and after one heavy fall there was an observation from one interested spectator that it was surprising that bowls insists on flat shoes, whereas golf (where the surface of the greens is even more important) allows – indeed, requires – spikes of some kind.  If they do no damage on golf greens, why should they hurt a bowling green?  I simply ask…

With no Nines game this week, the only other competitive action was a West Tyne Cup match against Haltwhistle.  In a match determined by rinks won we did well across the board and managed a solid 3-0 win –  one rink (Darren’s) won by four shots and the other two (David Ashworth and George) by three each.  Clearly these were all tight games, but as in the friendlies we seem to be making a habit of getting over the line in the lead.  As it happens, our first league match (next week) is a repeat against Haltwhistle, albeit with four triples instead of three, so we’ll see if we can develop this habit even more.  Let’s just hope there are enough names to be able to name a couple of reserves, at least.

Here we go again…

On Tuesday there was a hail shower at lunchtime, and that could mean only one thing – the league season was starting later in the day.  We had arranged to start the Nines game early – though not even that would have rescued us the night before, when it was practically dark by eight o’clock – and thankfully we got the full 18 ends in, albeit with some peering into the gloom by the very end.  It was the first league match since the removal of five large trees at one end of the green, and this also made a difference to light levels.

North Shields West End provided stiff opposition, and racked up big early leads on two rinks.  Our pairs were 0-10 down after six ends, but then came back well to reach 14-15 going into the last end; sadly they lost this one, and the match went 14-17.

The fours lost a five on the third end, which made the scoreboard a bit lop-sided early on, but then they pegged away, chipping away at the deficit before scoring a five of their own and finally winning by 22-14.

The triples, with new member George Rockett fitting in very well, also had to work hard.  This time it was North Shields who came back well in the middle stages, but our team responded in kind and wrapped up the last four ends to seal a 21-10 win that was much less comfortable than the score suggests.

With only nine available players before the match there was no room for accident or injury, but as the month goes on more of the usual squad become available.  There’s no Nines game on 5 May, but on 12 May we’re at home again, to Wallsend Park A.  As seen on the various sub-pages of our schedule the Ladies start their programme at home on 6 May, with a West Tyne Cup match the next day.