Monthly Archives: May 2016

Just win the ones that count

With the men having the first of three consecutive byes in the Nines league there was a chance to fill in the West Tyne schedule by playing the postponed match against Allen Valley.  As ever, the game was played in a friendly atmosphere, though the air temperature by the end of the evening was much less warm, with an icy wind totally at odds with the hot sunshine of the morning.

Elvaston won three of the four rinks, with two of the wins being by 18 or 19 shots, so that the final shots total was 79-47, translating into 6-1 on league points.    Our one losing rink ran into an onslaught from the Allen Valley team: after leading 8-6 after ten ends the Elvaston team conceded nine shots without reply in the next five ends, and then lost the last three by a margin of 2-5, so that the final score of 10-20 was quite a turn around.

There was another West Tyne match on Thursday, away to Alston, but thankfully without the cold wind.  The match was reduced to 16 ends because of the late arrival of one of our cars, and of course we are grateful to Alston for being so accommodating.  It also should be said that the Alston green is much improved from last year.

Here too the match went three rinks to one in our favour, with an aggregate shots total of 69-45.  This was pretty consistent across the board – indeed, after ten ends the total was as close as could be to half of the final result (34-22).  This time it was our turn to have one rink run away with things between ends 10 and 15, going from a precarious 6-5 through to 18-6.   We did lose one rink, so once again it was a 6-1 win on points.   With three wins by that margin this season, the whitewash against Prudhoe looks especially disappointing – but next week’s game against Haltwhistle will be a major test, and will have a big influence on our hopes in the league this year.

The ladies, meanwhile, go from strength to strength in the Collins and Shipley league. They won their third match on the bounce, taking all three rinks against Forest Hall, including a 20-shot win for Shelagh’s rink and a 57-28 win on shots.  Since league leaders Chirton also won with maximum points this week, this 12-0 victory puts the ladies in second place; and with Chirton having won all four of their opening matches with 45 points out of 48 it becomes easier to understand our setback in the opening match.  To put it another way, Chirton have dropped only three points and we were responsible for two of them!

After all this there was a defeat coming, but at least it was at Portland, in a men’s friendly that was enjoyed by all  – good company, the usual fast green, a fine buffet and even some sunshine towards the end.

For the record we lost on all four rinks, and David Ashworth was the only skip who ever led (1-0, and with one end to play, 16-15) but at that point the team had an attack of vertigo and lost by two shots. Brian Norman’s rink also lost by two, in a game with violent swings: 0-7 after four ends, they levelled at 8-8 before immediately losing a six and even then coming back to finish 14-16 having won ten of the 18 ends. Ken Hurst’s rink finished just six shots down – not bad considering they won only five ends!


A Week Away

The Nines game this week was at Ashington, or to be more precise Hirst Park.  This was not a happy hunting ground for us last time (two years ago), and it wasn’t much better this time round.  In fact, it was their first full Nines game of the season, as the previous one had been called off because of snow, and the green was in poor condition, with daisies and  dandelions (some in flower).

The pairs started well (three-all after 5 ends) but six ends later it was 3-17 and the game was pretty well lost:  the final score was 7-22. Last week the big story was of how Darren had played a shot to turn a shot-against situation into a six for ourselves.  A similar scenario played out here, except that it went the other way!  He played his last wood to shift the jack and make a four, but unfortunately the jack flew off in the opposite direction and Hirst Park got a six. With the opposition pair both playing well, especially the skip, it was impossible to recover from that blow.

The fours also lost, and again there was a bad decline through to about the twelfth end. Although 2-0 up after two ends, our team was still stuck on 2 after 12 ends, by which time the score was 2-15. They then staged something of a comeback, to 9-18, but here too the result was never seriously in doubt.

This left the triples to salvage something from the evening.  This was a low-scoring match, with the score 5-4 in our favour after 9 ends before we pulled away to win 15-9.  The league points score of 2-6 meant that in our first four games we have scored 0,2,6 and 8 – almost the full set, though the chances of a 4 next time are pretty slim.

The chances of a win at Gosforth in the Edwardson Cup didn’t look a lot brighter when it became apparent that four of our regular starters in the Nines were unavailable and we raised the team of twelve men only after a lot of phone calls and kind cooperation from members.  And when roadworks meant that not all our team arrived on time it looked as though we might have to hand the game to Gosforth by default.  However, after doing our impression of the Manchester United team bus (albeit without any crowd trouble in Gosforth) we went out and surprised the hosts by taking an early lead on a couple of rinks, against strong opposition – more than half their team have played at County level or above.

The match was very even throughout, and by the sixteenth end the score was just 35-37 in favour of Gosforth – minimal in that Edwardson Cup games are decided on aggregate shots, not rinks.  Indeed, Brian Elstob’s rink had been leading 10-2 after ten ends, though Gosforth came back to manage a 14-14 draw.  Sadly, the other two rinks each lost a four in the course of the last two ends, and the overall result came out at 40-48, but in view of the opposition and the fact that several players were making their first appearance of the season in competitive bowls, this was a great result.  The Edwardson Cup always seems to cause us some hassle, including the postponement of a West Tyne match every year, and there has even been a suggestion that we should drop out of it, but then along comes a result like this and it all seems worthwhile again.

Within 18 hours of the end of the Cup match most of the men were back at Gosforth to take part in the annual mixed friendly.  This again turned out to be very close, which is great for friendlies – there are few things more embarrassing in bowls than a total mismatch.  In this case there was one drawn rink, we won three and Gosforth two; and only one rink had a winning margin in double figures (11).  The overall aggregate was 96-100, which in the context of six triples drawn from the overall membership of each club, is the perfect sort of margin.  As ever, the hospitality at Gosforth was excellent, and the day was enjoyed by all.

Quite apart from those Gosforth matches on consecutive days for some of the men, the ladies also had a long trip this week, for a league match at Seaton Sluice.  Quite how the first match of the season, at home to Chirton, was lost so heavily is still a mystery, as this time they won handsomely for the second week running, 10-2 on league points.  Other results are not yet known, but this win will definitely put us in the top three of the division, and possibly in the top two.

Four away matches, then, this week – we’d better get back to our green, or there might be buttercups and daisies there too.  (Sorry, David, only kidding!)


Then you win some more!

The friendly against Hexham House was played on a cloudy but bright day with more than the usual number of interested tourists and visitors sitting in the park.  The House green was a bit erratic on some greens – the same could have been said of ours last Thursday, of course – but was running very well in the sense of being fast – indeed, at a certain point heading north the bowls tended to accelerate past the jack.  It really was quite unusual to be needing such little effort to bowl a full length this early in the season.

Six full rinks made for a good spectacle but by the end the scoreboards were less of a good sight.  Two of our rinks had good wins (22-10; 21-10) but two others went down badly (8-25 and 9-25), so although the other two rinks were really close we finished 14 down on the day (88-102).  President Jean Allen played as if her life depended on it, earning the shot end after end and leaving her skip with nothing much to do. Keith Woods’ rink played with such great teamwork that they even shrugged off the temporary absence of a team member who had to rescue (his or) her car from a timed car park.  The narrow loss by four shots on David Ashworth’s rink was almost a win, as Elvaston were lying five shots on the last end until the last bowl won it for the home team.  Meanwhile, Brian Elstob’s rink found themselves level at 3-3, 10-10, 13-13 and then on 16-16 at the finish after winning the last two ends.

All in all, then, well enough matched over six rinks.  That was the first leg of the Courant Vase competition, and although 14 shots is a lot to make up in September it’s not beyond the realms.  In fact, perhaps we shouldn’t make too much of that Vase element, and simply agree with Jean as she thanked Hexham House for a splendid tea and commented that the score wasn’t important.

Where it was important was in the Nines match on Tuesday against Backworth.  Over the years this match has been a foregone conclusion, but our performance against Gosforth in the opening match had been so encouraging that the sight of the famous blue and yellow shirts didn’t seem so worrying – especially as there were only eight of them!  Having established that the ninth was still sitting at home, Backworth had to play with three men on the fours rink, losing a quarter of their final score.

This turned out to be vital.  The score was close enough for most of the game, but we did make a few mistakes, notably trying to win a couple of  ends when accepting a one-shot loss would have been safer (read, mark, learn…), and although we won nine of the first 17 ends we still trailed 12-18 going into the last.  Backworth were then lying the shot, almost touching the jack, when the skips went to bowl.  Since they would lose a quarter of 18 we knew that a two would win the match, and that’s exactly what happened when Trevor ditched the jack with his first bowl.  A win by half a shot!.

The triples had been level or just ahead all the way, and with Matthew Sinclair back in the team and playing as if he had never been away they were always in a good position with bowls in the head.  This time it was Backworth who needed a two on the last end just to draw, but Philip made sure we had several seconds and the single shot meant we had won that one too, by the relatively big margin of one shot.  In fact, that word “one” is the key to the whole win: in a game where the two teams shared the 18 ends, six of our nine ends were won by one, while for Backworth it was seven out of nine – keeping the score down can be as important as scoring a lot yourself.

Compared to this the pairs had a total landslide, 17-12, but the game was notable for having no score above a two, except for the six which put Keith and Darren 7-2 ahead. This came from a situation where Backworth were lying shot but we had five seconds – it was one thing for Darren to see the possibility of removing the shot bowl by promoting another one of ours, and quite another to play it!  From there on it was absolutely level (this game also finished nine-apiece in terms of ends), but with some excellent game management the pair were able to hold off any revival by the visitors.

Often enough in the past we’ve had cause to lament the way that the league points system produces a fruitless evening despite a good performance and a close game.    Tonight it worked in our favour, for sure, as a margin of just 6.5 shots across three rinks gave us an 8-0 win.   We may not be able to do a Leicester this year, but there was another football analogy this weekend as Swansea beat West Ham in London for the first time since 1956: yes, it did feel that good!

We said last week that the ladies were slow starters in the league.  They proved the point by getting up to speed at Gosforth on a fast green: the changes that were made to the teams were largely in terms of position, but they certainly seemed to improve the teamwork.  Two rinks won well, 16-8 and 18-8, and although Betty’s rink were pegged back to 12-12 with one end to play they then put the match to bed by winning a four on that last end.  So overall it was 50-28 and a whitewash in terms of league points, 12-0, a complete reversal of last week’s defeat.   Put that score alongside the men’s 8-0 the night before and it really did start to look like a good week.

This game does come  back to bite you, though, as they say.  The warning signs were there in the men’s friendly against Lyndhurst, where we won 66-64 overall, but thanks only to a big win on David Ashworth’s rink (the other three lost).  It was a lovely sunny afternoon, with good company, and of course the result in these things is a bit of a footnote.

However, the next night, in the West Tyne league, we came up against a determined Prudhoe side with several new recruits in an all-male team.  We have always regarded this league as a mixed league, and shall continue that policy.  The green wasn’t the easiest to play on, and certainly favoured the front-end players as there was no predictable bend for those playing later, but we could hardly blame the green as we were ahead on aggregate for all the first seven ends.   However, after that we found it hard to keep up.  The overall match was even tighter than the referendum polls – three of the rinks split the ends nine-each, while the fourth lost only 8-10 on ends.  But it’s shots that count, and while our own scores were remarkably similar (12,13,14,14) the Prudhoe rinks scored more on every occasion, even though none of them reached 20. Christina had a brilliant game and certainly didn’t deserve to be on the rink with the heaviest defeat.  Shelagh’s rink came closest to a win, going into the last end two ahead but then losing a three, but overall no one could argue with the result.  Defeat by 16 shots and a painful 0-7 in league points wasn’t the ideal end to the competitive week but we won’t be the only team to struggle at Prudhoe this year.



You win some, …

Last week we noted that the defeat by Gosforth was not a disgrace, and that the real test would come at Cramlington.  By the end of the night it really was a test – of eyesight as well as nerve – as the pairs were probably guided as much by the applause and encouragement of the spectators as by what they could see on the green.

The match went well from our point of view.  The triples made a terrific start, building a lead of at least ten shots after just a few ends, but then – as so often happens in bowls – seeing the lead reduced as the opponents recovered from the blitz opening.  There was never any doubt about the result, however, and a scoreline of 26-10 showed just how dominant Brian, Ken and Philip had been.

The fours played well, but without making the same sort of early inroads.  In fact, although we won 10 of the 18 ends, these were all ones or twos.  Even though the opposition managed only one three in the match they always managed to cut down any bigger scores we held, so that after 11 ends the score was 7-7: the low scoring reflected some really interesting and well-contested heads.  The three shots which Cramlington scored with three ends to go just gave them the breathing space to control the last ends.  The 11-14 defeat was a disappointment, and seemed all the more disappointing as we glanced across at the pairs and saw they had fallen five shots behind with only the same number of ends to play.

At this point the pairs pulled back, levelling at 14-14 with two ends to play.  After some really good bowls and a couple of near-misses the next end was lost and we went into the last end one shot down.  Yet another front toucher from Keith made things look manageable, and when Darren curled a bowl in behind the jack to add to two more of ours in the count it was all down to the home skip to hit the target and hope for the best.  A drive? A draw?  After long discussions his shot was neither one thing nor the other and that four on the last end gave us an overall win by three.

So one rink up by three, one losing by three and one healthy win:  enough for six points anyway, and one to remember the next time we have a hard-luck story about the points that got away.

Earlier in the day Jean and Trevor won their first-round match of the County mixed pairs, playing over in North Shields on a rink now shared by the men of West End and the ladies of Chirton.  Those readers familiar with the three-green layout at the Parks would be sad to see the bottom two rinks now in disrepair and growing grass longer than a rugby pitch.  The top green is still running very well, cut short and running faster than our own, which with a strong cross-wind meant it was quite hard to judge the lines.  Fortunately we judged them just that bit better than the home pair.

If anyone thought the difference in speed would pose a problem for the Chirton ladies when they visited for a Collins & Shipley game on Wednesday, they would have been wrong.  In fact it was our own rinks which struggled for weight, and two of the three conceded 21 shots in heavy defeats.  Jean’s rink (with Norma Ferguson making a great début) held on for a 12-10 win, but the overall shots difference was clearly in Chirton’s favour: a 2-10 defeat on league points was less than an ideal start to the season, but a genuinely warm afternoon and an attractive green sweetened the pill.

The next evening was also warm(ish) and calm as we welcomed Hexham House B for a West Tyne match.  The games were mostly close throughout, with only Philip’s rink well clear all the way.  David Ashworth’s rink drew away towards the end, but the other two rinks could have gone either way, as each club won one by a single-shot margin.  Our own 14-13 win would have been much more comfortable had it not been for a wonderful performance by opposing skip Pat Thompson , who rescued his team time after time, usually with his last bowl.  To illustrate, Hexham House won 11 of the 18 ends, but nine of those ends were by one shot – almost always Pat’s!

Saturday sees us meet Hexham House again, this time on their green in a friendly which is the first half of the two-leg match for the Courant Vase, inaugurated last year and won (against the odds) by ourselves.  We can only hope that Pat Thompson has worn himself during the week.