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!)