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.