The first league game of the week was a rearranged Collins and Shipley match against Gosforth West Avenue. The original game had been rained off, but conditions this time could not have been more different – 30 degrees, in unrelenting sun. Players were more interested in how many drinks there were, not how many rinks, so it was very surprising to see how many started the match without a hat of any kind. Indeed, it all got too much for one of the Gosforth players, who became more and more flustered until having to give up after 12 ends. That Gosforth rink was winning 11-8 at the time, having been 10-2 ahead prior to her malaise, and now would lose a quarter of their score as well.
In fact, Betty’s rink continued their comeback so well that, despite having two Gosforth players with three bowls each, they won comfortably (17-12) even before the mathematical operation to reduce the Gosforth score to 9. Our third rink was comfortably ahead throughout the game, all playing well and increasing the lead end after end to finish 21-11 up. This gave a shots total of plus 18, and although Jean’s rink faced tough opponents they were able to limit the shots deficit to just four, so we won the bonus points for shots. A 10-2 win was all the better for knowing that Gosforth had beaten league leaders Chirton 12-0 the previous week, while Morpeth had lost 2-10 at home – our slip-up at Forest Hall might not have been the end of our hopes after all.
The Nines team played their home match against Hirst Park in conditions on a night when everyone at least knew there would be no need of any layers above the club shirts. In fact, it might have been an advantage if there had been variation, as the two clubs not only have identical designs on their stickers but also club shirts that are so close in appearance that in any contact sport like football one team would have been asked to change. Next year, Mr Treasurer: an away strip!
Hirst Park didn’t look like the away team in the fours. After seven ends they were 14-0 up, and soon stretched that to 19-1. However, at this point the home rink woke up, rubbed their eyes and started to play, with the result that they won seven of the last eight ends and took the score to 15-21. “Another five ends and we’d have won”, was one verdict. Yes, well…
The pairs recovered from the loss of an early three by scoring an excellent five thanks to a take-out by Darren, but in general things seemed very close, with the score 9-10 after ten ends. At this point Darren and Keith really took charge (just like the fours, only without giving the opposition a start of 18): they won almost all the ends after that, to come through with a 21-12 win.
Last week the triples almost lost a 16-7 lead after 16 ends, losing two fours on the last two. This week, after some really good bowling, they reached 16-9 after 16 ends, comfortably ahead all the way. Surely they couldn’t let this slip. After just a single shot lost on the seventeenth it was 16-10 with one to play. Surely they couldn’t let this slip… Oh no, they had to watch as Hirst Park piled shots in, falling just short of adding a sixth for a draw. For the second week running Trevor elected not to bowl his last bowl with the score on 16-15.
Two rinks up meant six points. It may not count for a lot in this horribly disjointed league, but it was a satisfying win all the same. Even the shots ended up in our favour (52-48), not a relevant fact in league placings but a tribute to the fours for fighting back when they could easily have thrown in the towel.
With the ladies’ Wednesday game called off because of torrential rain, the only other competitive fixture was a West Tyne match at Hexham House, whose A team were clearly intent on reversing the earlier result at Elvaston, when we won 6-1. In fact they did even better than that, with a whitewash that gets to sound worse when we record the shots totals: 31-84. Ouch.
There was no disputing the quality of the opposition, or the comprehensive defeat. Our closest rink was a 10-13 that proved really enjoyable for both teams throughout. After 10 ends there had been eight singles and a no-shot, plus a three to Hexham House, who held an 8-3 lead. Our own team pegged that back to 8-6, and were then lying seven shots after our first seven bowls when opposing skip Philip Telfer smacked into them and stopped for the shot – a brilliant shot considering the pressure. Even after that reverse the score was just 10-10 after 16 ends, but we lost the last two ends to go down by three.
All the other rinks lost by 14 shots or more, and the record of scores through five, ten and fifteen ends would make a depressing graph with the Hexham House gradient a lot steeper than ours. All we can say is that they didn’t manage to make 100 shots for the match, which is the milestone achieved on the same night by league leaders Haltwhistle. Until tonight there was just the faintest glimmer of a hope that we could go there for the last game of the season looking to win the game (well) and maybe sneak the title. Any such glimmer was extinguished tonight, but at least the result wasn’t close enough to allow for any lingering “if only”.