Two top-of-the -table teams came to Elvaston on successive days this week. For the ladies it was a visit from Bedlington Dr Pit, who arrived on a lovely afternoon with the green looking a picture. Given that most observers would have seen the result as a foregone conclusion the home team played really well, and were entitled to feel hard done by in not getting a point.
At one stage, after about 14 ends across the board, we were actually leading on two rinks and level in the third. However, it was at this point that the visitors’ experience and class told: there was no panic, just the same determination and relentless approach, so that we were on the back foot all the time. This was best summed up on the penultimate end, when Jean (playing skip) came to the mat five down, then managed to rest on the shot bowl to make it one to us, before seeing that bowl in turn sent flying to make it five to the visitors again. With her second bowl she hit the jack and sent it through to the “back pack”, but of course it ended up sitting on an away wood for a one-shot deficit. That was an awful lot better than a five, but it still meant we were down. The final result here and also on Blanche’s rink was 13-15, with similar near-misses: again near the end Moira put the first wood of the end on the jack, where it stayed undisturbed until the very last bowl of the end, when the visiting skip pushed it out to take the end. With Betty’s rink losing by six it meant a ten-shot aggregate defeat, but in truth this was one of the best performances of the season and even one of the best results, bearing in mind the standard of the opposition.
The Nines team welcomed Heaton Victoria, who in many ways are the team most like us in the Division – always a good game, well contested and hard-fought between clubs that have been yo-you clubs over recent years. This one ran true to form, although we came out of it very well on points, with a 7-1 win that wiped out Heaton Vic’s six-point lead at the top of the table.
On the ground the story was different, though. The Pairs had a close match throughout, although progress was difficult to chart as they were over on rink 6 while the other two games were on rinks 1 and 2. Four shots up after five ends, and also after ten, they eventually won by five – obviously close all the way. The Triples had a big win which was a counterpoint to the defeat suffered in Newcastle back in June. On each night one team came away with a heavy defeat having played perfectly well, and this week it was our turn to feel pleased with a 21-9 win which no one would have predicted with the score at 8-7 after ten ends.
The fours, meantime, were at that same score after only five ends, thanks to losing a six and winning a five. It seemed reasonable to imagine a high-scoring game, but not even the most enthusiastic spread-better would have wagered on the eventual outcome, which included conceding an eight while leading 16-10,.immediately followed by a five to be 18-23 down with three ends to go. So 19 shots had been conceded in just three ends. That might (and probably should) have been the end of the road, but the fours showed a similar attitude to the Bedlington ladies and came back to win the last three ends, including a great final bowl from David Ashworth, to wick gently in to seal a two on the last end, and somehow scrape a draw, 23-23. This might well have been the largest aggregate score for any rink in the Nines league this season.
On Friday we may have scored the lowest such aggregate, although what the history books won’t record is that this is because the match at North Shields was reduced to 12 ends because of bad weather. In fact, there was a lively debate before the match as to whether we should try for the 18 or else set the limit at the start. The argument that a set number of ends would stop any, er, arguments won the day, but in the end we wished it hadn’t, as we lost two rinks for our first defeat of the season.
The fours started well enough but let a lead slip so as to go into the last end one shot down. A few short woods on that end made life tricky for skip David Ashworth, and the trickiest problem of the lot was a clever blocker from the home team – sure enough, he hit it with the last wood. The pairs were also ahead, 10-5 at one point, but North Shields not only drew level but took a three from the last-but-one end, so that a single to us on the last was of no use. The triples had a good win, 14-5, with the opposition scoring only on two ends in the middle of the game; this game was notable for John Lambert’s league début, and he took to it like a duck to water – an appropriate simile on a damp night. Despite the early rain it was a good enough night, though, and as it turned out the problem might have been early darkness rather than wet conditions. It’s a long way home from North Shields when you’ve lost!
It was the final week of the West Tyne League, with so many different matches that they are best grouped in another post (to follow on Sunday).