(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.