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.