The return (home) leg of our two-leg contest with Hexham House for the Courant Vase trophy took place on Friday 9 September. We don’t usually cover friendlies in any great detail, but this one is a little special not only in having an actual prize, but for being the last of the season. It was also exciting enough to merit a little description.
The match started at 5.30 pm, with a threat of rain and a thoroughly grey sky. Right from the start it was obvious that we had made the right choice in bringing the start forward from 6 pm, as it’s now getting dark early on the best of nights, and this wasn’t one of them.
The game, reduced to six rinks of triples, started with our club fourteen shots down after the earlier match at Hexham House. If we were hoping to make rapid inroads into the deficit we were disappointed: not least because of the usual rule about one shot on the first two ends we were just 24-22 ahead after five ends. By the tenth end, however, this lead had increased to 63-54, the sort of lead which a Sky Sports graphic would have shown to be on target for finishing in front. But bowls rarely works like that, and after another four ends the position had changed entirely, so that we found ourselves 82-83 down over the six rinks. Fifteen shots down with four ends to go – a tall order now.
Several good ends followed. Steve Benson’s rink won the last four ends, picking up eight shots, while Shelagh Carter’s rink scored 3,2,4 on the last three ends. The result of this – and all the other activity – was that after 17 ends we were ahead 104-93, therefore needing to win the last end by a total of four shots to win the whole match. Some won, some didn’t, but apart from Shelagh’s obtaining a most spectacular draw (19-19 after having been 1-9 down after a handful of ends) it all came down to Steve Benson’s rink, still playing the last end after everyone else had left the green. They were leading by two shots going into the last end but with the other five results showing us only 11 ahead on the night they still needed one more for an overall draw. This didn’t look likely when the Hexham House second put a bowl on the jack, but Betty launched a brilliant Exocet that took out the bowl and moved the jack into an even darker area of the green. Thankfully Steve could still see this, and he bowled two of his three woods to count, and produce a 20-16 win that gave us a win by fifteen shots. There was at least one recount in the pavilion, but once the various scores had been confirmed it became clear that we had won 112-97, and by one shot over the two legs.
Whose shot had done it? A silly question, of course, in bowls, especially when you think that over two legs 3,672 bowls had been delivered! But whether it was John Lambert and Jean ensuring a 14-shot win on their rink, or the two rinks which each won by one shot, or Shelagh’s late comeback or Steve’s “shot in the dark” – or even the fact that our one losing rink kept the game so close – it was a great team effort that showed how exciting bowls can be when played as a team game across several rinks.
All in all, as a semi-competitive match (half-friendly, half-trophy) it was a very fitting end to the external season. Our own internal season ended the next day with a Gentlemen vs Ladies match which – it was later tactfully agreed – the ladies allowed the men to win, and which was followed by a meal and then the Presentation of Prizes for the year. There’s no need for a report on this game, of course, and match reports are now over until 2017. Thanks for reading.