Monthly Archives: June 2016

Momentum

Sports coaches and captains often use the M-word, momentum, to describe the way a team can maintain or improve performance through a series.  This week we had a good example of how momentum can be lost.

A team of Brian, Pete, Keith and Trevor went to Gosforth to play in the County fours.  We knew in advance that the Gosforth team comprised four of the players who contested last year’s final (an all-Gosforth affair), and of course all four were County players.  Despite this we started well enough, matching them shot for shot through to 3-3 and not playing  badly even as they stretched the lead to 9-3.   At this point the skies darkened, with a strange brownish light and ragged clouds which seemed to suit us ok as we scored seven shots in three ends to lead 10-9 after twelve ends.

At this point the heavens opened, and we were bombarded with hailstones in addition to mere thunder and lightning.  At least we were the last of three rinks to flee the green.. After ten minutes or so play could resume, albeit with the occasional crack of thunder, but by now the temperature was several degrees colder and the green running rather differently.  It was at that point that the home team’s greater experience and skill became really obvious, and we scarcely scored another shot.  At 13-20 we threw in the towel with one end to go, but it had been a valuable learning exercise.

Just how valuable was shown about twelve hours later as Brian, Keith and Trevor played a West Tyne triples match on our own green.  This was against a Haltwhistle team, and it is taking nothing away from them to say that they offered less of a threat than the Gosforth players.  They were indeed very handy bowlers, but after the intensity of the previous night we were able to relax and play with a bit more confidence.  This worked out well, and this time it was our opponents suing for peace with an end to go, with the score on 24-10.

The ladies had two games in the week, also seeming to benefit from defeat against a strong team in the first.  Against league leaders Chirton they won one rink, and might have done better elsewhere if the players had been able to communicate better and play as a team, rather than a collection of individuals.  Two days later, and with a slightly different set-up, they got back to winning ways with a 10-2 victory at Ponteland B, who had meantime beaten our closest rivals, Morpeth.  According the published league tables this puts the ladies in second position in the table, well ahead of Morpeth on both points and shots.

The West Tyne squad had another good win at Allen Valley.  It was the most beautiful night for bowls, close enough to the summer solstice for the sun to stay on the green for the whole match, thus keeping the midgies away.   The green looked a picture, too: the work that has been put in over the last four or five years has transformed the previous heavy and mossy green into a very smooth surface which needs only to be played on a bit more to develop proper runs.

Whatever the runs were we seemed to find them well, and the overall result was a 7-0 win, with the shots margin at 79-40.  Even that could easily have been more, as one Allen Valley rink pulled back nine shots on the last three ends to cut their losing margin to just four.   One of our rinks won by over 20 shots, helped by a seven which could well have been a full house had it not been for a decision to play a safety shot.

League leaders Haltwhistle also had a 7-0 win, with a shots advantage of 40, so even here they managed to do just that little bit better!   However, our own result made a sunny evening even brighter.

The Nines game against Hexham House two nights earlier was a lot closer.  This was also a nice enough evening, but in the shelter of the trees down at the Abbey it got a little cooler, and the speed of the grass noticeably changed in the course of the match.  The fours had a big win, 17-4 after establishing an early 6-1 lead.  Not that early leads mean safety: the triples also built a 5-0 lead, but were pegged back by a strong team including three recent winners of the singles titles at Hexham House.  Despite losing a five which might have finished us off we promptly got a five ourselves, so that we needed four from the last two ends to draw.  Sadly, Shaun Blaylock drew the last bowl of the seventeenth end to give them a single, so we needed five on the last instead of three – and that proved just too much.

The pairs also lost by four, after a brilliant turn-round by the home team.  Brian and Darren were behind for most of the match, but drew level at 14-14, and then 15-15 with two ends still to go.  Again the seventeenth end was crucial, as Darren hit the jack out into the open to leave us lying two or three shots – that is, until Clive Knott did his usual killer act and drew the shot to put us one down going into the last.  This time there was no escape from the stranglehold of home bowls around the jack.  Last season we earned a draw in the corresponding match after snatching a draw on the last end of the triples, so we can hardly complain about the turn of events this year.

 

 

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Not a Good Week

Apologies for the late posting of this summary: all landlines and broadband in our area have been were knocked out for days as a result of an errant underground drill, and other commitments stopped me from getting to wi-fi access until today. Better late than never, I suppose, though after reading the results you may wish the wi-fi hadn’t worked at all…

Yet again – the fourth week on the trot – there was no Nines game, so the first competitive action of the week was the ladies’ Collins and Shipley match at Morpeth. After a really strong run through May they too had been interrupted by a break in the schedule and it seemed to show as they found themselves on the wrong side of a 10-2 scoreline. There was no particular reason, but the whole product was somewhat less than the sum of its parts.

The same could be said of Trevor and Jean’s quarter-final of the County mixed pairs, at Newbiggin. It would be nice to blame a heavy (10-25) defeat on a quirky rink, or a bumpy green, or maybe the stiff breeze off the sea – but not even all such excuses put together could avoid the fact that they were outplayed – apart from a really good trial end! True, they got into an early lead, but once the home skip started firing and producing a couple of good counts it was uphill all the way. At least the winners had already beaten both the winners of 2014 and 2015, and that provides some perspective for the result.

There was more bad news in the West Tyne Cup, albeit with a much closer result. After losing at Alston in the final last year we took encouragement from the improved green and our own recent victory there in the league. In fact, we played pretty well, and (in a format decided on the best of three rinks, with shots counting in the event of a tie) we were winning two rinks to one after 10 ends and also after 15. The home team then came back and nicked a one-shot win on Darren’s rink after the skip turned out our shot bowl with his very last bowl. The lead also changed several times on the last end of David Boaden’s rink, and we were briefly holding the one shot that would have meant a draw and an overall win on shots – but here too the home skip got rid of a bowl to claim a narrow win. We ended up losing 1-2 on rinks, with the shots dead level on 42-each. If we say that it couldn’t have been closer, it really couldn’t.

On the grounds that the results of friendly matches don’t count in serious records we couldn’t even claim our 106-76 win against Alnwick as a real win (pleasing as it was). So our last chance of a victory in the week came in the rearranged West Tyne league match against Hexham House A. This turned out to be almost as close as the Cup match at Alston. We lost one rink by eight shots, and won another by eight. The other two rinks were close throughout, but finished in our favour by margins of three and two shots respectively. An overall win by five, then, and by total coincidence that was the margin in league points too: a 6-1 win to keep us vaguely near the top of the league, and with enough points to keep us all interested. Once again the really pleasing thing about this match (apart from the final score) was the way that several of our newer members were able to step in and indeed step up to earn a result against good opponents.

The Nines team have a game against Hexham House on Tuesday, and that really is one to win. We’ll see…

Up for the Cup

This week’s reports are an unusual mixture, as there was not a single league match – we had byes both in the Nines and in the West Tyne league, while the ladies kindly postponed their Collins & Shipley game in order to help with the catering at the Bell Cup knock-out event on Wednesday.  The competition is held each year among the eleven private clubs in Northumberland; there are two pools, one of six clubs and the other of five, playing in a round-robin format  with two rinks from each club; the two winners on the day go forward to the final.  The trouble is, it doesn’t seem to matter how strong our team is,  we never do very well!

This year we had the slight advantage of being at home because of the late decision by the original host club to decline the offer, but having the event on our green didn’t mean a change in fortune.  Once again we finished in a lowly position, but despite our early Hexit an analysis of results shows that we were not that far behind the eventual winners, Gosforth.  We did draw one of the games against Gosforth – half a feather in the cap – and had it not been for a couple of wayward bowls at crucial moments we might have given the winners a much closer run.  However, we didn’t, and that was that.

To see that our draw in the Challenge Cup three days later pitted us yet again against Gosforth, on the Ponteland green with Ponteland also in the group of five clubs, didn’t bode well. The green looked absolutely superb, though that didn’t mean it was easy to play on – if anything, the lush grass made the bowls less likely to take a consistent bend.  One of our teams played a Gosforth rink in the opening match, and the format meant that our other team would play the second Gosforth rink at the end of the day.  With Ryder Cup tactics we decided to let our more experienced rink play Gosforth in the final game, since they would know what (if anything) they needed to do, while the opening game on a neutral green was more open to chance.

The first bit of the tactic worked very well, as our B team pulled off a neat 5-3 win in the seven ends (a two on the last end was the only score that wasn’t a single).  Meanwhile the A team demolished a Throckley team 16-1 (the highest win of the whole day, for anyone).  The second game for the B team was also tough, against Ponteland A, and after losing the last end to an amazing final bowl that was the equivalent of a golfing hole in one the match was lost 4-9.  After lunch came the reverse fixture with Ponteland, and our A team really took the game to the hosts.  By the sixth end they were three in front and actually lying six until the home skip cut it right down to a no-shot decision that was reached only after three attempts to measure a winner.  Needing now to win the last end by two to get an aggregate draw, our team were lying five with only one bowl left for Ponteland – and again the skip did for us, resting our shot bowl to get second shot and leaving us down by one shot over the two games.

Meanwhile Gosforth had beaten Ponteland over their two games, so the equation in the last game was quite simple – the A team had to beat Gosforth (starting with a 5-3 advantage, of course), and hope for other scores to go our way.  And – surprise, surprise – that’s exactly what happened.  Despite a minor scare near the end, Darren turned a Gosforth bowl out on the last end to score one shot and draw the game, so that we won the overall match.

When the maths were finally worked out the verdict was that we had won the day’s competition, by six shots after tying with Gosforth on match points. Of course, the overall points margin of plus 25 was largely down to the A team – especially that 15-shot win in the first session – but although the B team finished just 24-22 up on the day those two shots were the crucial ones against Gosforth.  So all in all it was a great team performance, and so good to end the day on a high after various disappointments.  We now go on to the Final (at Alnwick, on 16 July)..

Speaking of finals, last year’s West Tyne triples runners-up (Brian Norman, Keith and Trevor) started this year’s challenge at Hexham House, where they played a team who (in all fairness) they should beat most days of the week.  It didn’t look as if that would happen on this day of the week, with the home team going from 6-6 to 13-6 with only six ends left.  At this point we were glad – very glad – to pick up a seven, thus levelling the score, but immediately dropped a four to some inspired bowling by the home skip.  Some brilliant bowling from Keith, plus some anxiety among our opponents, gave us another five on one end and we looked to have sealed it, leading 19-18 and lying one shot on the last end, with one bowl to go.   Cue an outrageous wick and a Hexham House bowl coming to rest right behind the jack.  So the scores were now level, and we needed an extra end.  This time there were nerves on both sides, but we did enough to get the one shot needed.  To win a game after winning only seven of the 18 regular ends was quite remarkable – as we carried our bowls bags away it felt as if they should have “Swag” written on the side.

A Quiet Week

The way the Nines schedule has worked out the men have three consecutive byes, and following the withdrawal of Fossway from the league it means there will be four Tuesdays on the trot without a game.  This Tuesday was the second such blank week, and as there were no other matches to re-arrange the evening remained blank.  However, with temperatures the way they have been lately not too many people were complaining.

The ladies continued their surge up the table with another 12-0 win against Seaton Delaval.  With this rich vein of form it’s doubly unfortunate that next week’s match against Ponteland has been postponed due to our agreeing to host the Bell Cup this year, following the late withdrawal of Morpeth St George’s.   But one week off shouldn’t hurt as much as the four weeks for the men.

The West Tyne match this week was an away game against league leaders Haltwhistle.  If you had to choose a match in which to lose half a dozen regular players this wouldn’t be it, but that shouldn’t take anything away from Haltwhistle, who have won all their other games this season.  They duly won this fixture 6-1: our only winning rink won by just two shots, and although one of our other rinks lost only by a single shot the overall.result was never in doubt.

The result on the “an” rink (two Brians and a Susan) was a remarkable affair, with the mere scorecard doing no justice to the way things went.  Elvaston got the one shot allowed on each of the first two ends to lead 2-0. We then dropped an amazing 19 shots over the next 5 ends (4,4,3,3,5).  When we then managed to get the shot on the eighth end the tactic was to try a longer jack, with a different mat placing also. This worked so well that our team won the next eight ends to go 21-19 up. At this point there was another very bad end –  six against -and although we won the final two ends the match was lost 25-26. There was no bonus for winning 12 of the 18 ends!

We referred at the start to the ladies having a game against Ponteland postponed next week; by concidence the men had their friendly with Ponteland cancelled at the last minute as the visitors could not raise a team.  That made for an even quieter week – though with the Bell Cup taking place at our club and the Challenge Cup being held on Saturday, next week looks like having plenty of activity.