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.