Monthly Archives: June 2017

Water Week!

After the unusual heatwave of last week we are back to what is actually the norm for June – unpredictable, with heavy showers or longer periods of rain.  The green was flooded on Tuesday, which would certainly have knocked out our home Nines game against Ponteland had it not already been postponed because so many of our team were away in the Borders with the Gosforth Tourists.  Then tonight (29th) the West Tyne match at Alston was called off, as it would have been had it been here.

The ladies did manage to get their Collins and Shipley game played at Whitley & Monkseaton, though it was a real struggle on a difficult green with the bowls often fighting the bias.  If you read that as a softening up for the news that we lost all three rinks, you’re right.  What was that old joke about being the strongest team in the league – holding all the others up…

Club competitions are moving on, and although they don’t normally feature in match reports several recent games were good enough to merit a mention.  In the handicap Mark started 3-0 ahead of Trevor, but soon found himself 8-13 down.  At this point he changed the jack length with dramatic effect, winning the next six ends and scoring 12 shots to lead 20-13, whereupon Trevor got the jack, changed the mat position and got back to 20-19 before Mark clinched the match with two excellent bowls.

The handicap was also pretty accurate in the match between Brian Norman and David Boaden.  Here they started 2-4, and the match was very tight all the way.  After 22 ends they had won 11 each, with the score 19-16 to David, who then got two singles in the next three ends to edge it 21-18. With just 33 shots scored on 25 ends it was a game which didn’t give the marker much variety in the scores recorded.  The same could be said for a long 4-wood match in which Trevor beat David Robertson 22-11:  David won ten of the 24 ends, obviously getting singles on all but one of them.

Yet another close match saw Pete Seago and Keith beat David Boaden and Mark 11-7 after 15 ends.  As in David’s handicap match it took until the eighth end for anyone to score more than one, and there were just three twos in all.

In the mixed pairs Sylvia and Darren were leading 11-8 against Christina and Malcolm (Cooper) after 12 ends, at which point Christina piled several early bowls in and Darren found himself at least four down.  The predictable drive followed, and – aided by a slight wick that his Dad will never let him forget – he buried the jack in the ditch to pick up three shots and the game was effectively over.

With reference to the various close games in our own competitions, let me throw in this detail from the Balcomb Trophy, a national competition between the counties, with two men’s rinks on each side.  This year Cumbria have reached the national finals, playing Devon in the semi at the end of August.  But on the way there they had to play Nottinghamshire in the semi-final of the Northern section.  One rink drew 22-22 and the other won 18-17.  No doubt there were a few people saying “If only…” after that match.

Now, if only it would stop raining…


Getting Better…

When the British and Irish Lions played the All Blacks at the weekend the result was depressingly familiar.  Despite playing out of their skins, and scoring one of the most thrilling tries you’ll ever see, the Lions finished on the wrong end of a 15-30 scoreline thanks to the crucial bit of extra skill and speed the All Blacks showed all through.  It was, in its way, a parallel for our Nines match with Gosforth on Tuesday.

Gosforth, with a startlingly young team, settled in very quickly on our green, even though the pace must have been totally different from their own, but our own teams all played really well, and much better than in recent weeks, so that the overall match was closer than the scorecards might suggest.

The pairs, for example, stayed within three shots all the way through the match until the fifteenth end, after which the score was 13-16.  On the next end they were lying shot until “former pupil” Craig Cooper, playing opposite brother Darren, drove the jack through to the back of the rink with his last bowl, picking up five shots and essentially winning the game.

The triples also fought hard, winning eight of the first 16 ends, and leading 7-5 after nine ends.  At that point a few loose ends, including a six against, allowed Gosforth to regroup, though a good four meant the score was 12-15 with four ends to go: sadly, Gosforth won all four of them.  The visitors just deserved to win, but perhaps not by the margin of 24-12.

The fours meanwhile stayed in contention early on, and when Malcolm Cooper trailed the jack to earn a six they had a good cushion.  With four ends to go they were leading 17-9, but here too Gosforth won the last four, fortunately with low scores on each so that the final count was 17-15 in our favour.

To go back to the rugby analogy, and to quote Stuart Barnes in today’s paper, “like so many teams who have faced New Zealand, the Lions wilted in the final quarter.”  To lose 1-2 on rinks, after playing well, shouldn’t be too bad, but the 2-6 defeat in league points leaves us in a precarious position at the halfway point of the season (albeit with a postponed game still to play).  The good news is that we are playing much better, with a lot of good teamwork – good signs for the second half of the programme.

There were more good signs in the West Tyne match, away to Hexham House A.  Two rinks won easily.  The “S” team (Susan, Sylvia and Steve) increased their lead consistently as the match went on: their lead at five, ten, fifteen and eighteen ends stood at 3, 5, 7 and 9 shots – they would probably have liked to carry on all night!   At the other end of the green, on a rink that both skips described as unplayable, Brian, Ken and David Ashworth won 23-8: after leading 6-0 after five ends they then basically scored two shots to every one marked up by the home team.  It is a compliment, not a criticism, to say that the rink took away a lot of the normal skill factor.

Those results were never really in doubt, but the same couldn’t be said of the other two. Blanche, David Boaden and Darren seemed to have the game sewn up at 13-6, but Hexham House had a great comeback to square it at 13-13 with four ends to play.  But that’s where the resistance ended, as we won those last four ends, all singles, for a 17-13 win.

For Christina, Jean and Trevor things were even tighter, indeed miserly.  After the fifth end there was never more than two shots between the teams, while after ten, 12, 14 and 16 ends the number of ends won had been exactly shared.  At fifteen ends our team were 9-11 down, before winning the last three ends to come through 13-11.

That last result, secured when the last Hexham House bowl missed its target by an inch, gave us a 7-0 league win – rare against those opponents – with a satisfying 73-43 shots margin.   In league terms it is still, or already, a case of who will finish second to Haltwhistle, who racked up the amazing total of 101 shots at Alston, but in view of recent disappointments the win was a big boost.

On Wednesday the ladies’ game in the Collins & Shipley league, at Burradon, was called off mid-morning because of heavy rain showers and what was described as a big black cloud.  Clearly the storms were worse over towards the coast, and as is the nature of such thunderstorms the rainfall would have been very localised.   These decisions are always very hard to judge, especially when you are having to let a travelling team know.  Here in Hexham it poured for an hour, but within twenty minutes you were out on slightly damp grass which was totally dry by midday, with various singles competitions going on through an increasingly warm afternoon.  There were some very good contests, which – together with a number of new visitors of all ages, trying out the sport – has given us a bit more optimism than we could manage a couple of weeks ago!

Up for the Cup

With temperatures in the high 20s and bone-dry playing surfaces,this has been a brilliant spell of weather for bowls.  Unfortunately our performances haven’t been red-hot.

As it happens, several scheduled games were postponed or cancelled, so there hasn’t been too much action to report.  That explains the lack of match reports lately.  But in fact, it was just as well that the games were delayed, as several of us were suffering from bowls fatigue, with matches coming not just one per day but sometimes even more!

One such event came about after we received a request to supply some of our players to make up numbers in a special match on our green between the Friends of Bowls England and Bowls Northumberland.   Of course we had been delighted to host the event, and honoured to be asked, but the result of providing about five men in addition to several ladies who had already been due to play was that three of the nine men who played in the league on Tuesday night had already played 21 ends in the afternoon – not to mention rushing home without the après-match meal and then going in to Newcastle.  It was striking that Brian and Darren fell behind in the latter stages of the league game against Heaton, looking worn out in the heat, while the triples team (none of whom had played earlier) won handsomely.

The match against Heaton was as close (overall) as usual.  At about the half-way stage we led 9-3 on two rinks (pairs and triples) and were down 3-9 in the fours.  From that point the fours continued to fall behind to lose 9-21 while the triples exploited jack length very well to push home their advantage, winning 30-6.  The pairs saw their early lead pegged back, and despite all their efforts towards the end lost 11-17.

Only two league points from that match, and it was the same story – though for different reasons – next day for the ladies, who lost 2-10 at home to  Chirton, with just one of the three rinks winning.  And while that was happening, the two men’s rinks in the Bell Cup were proving to be the whipping boys once again, losing all five of their round-robin ties.  The day can be really punishing, especially when it is clear by lunchtime that you have no chance of winning the event: with a 10.30 start and the last match finishing around 18.00 it wasn’t good for morale.

We were quite relieved to hear that the West Tyne Cup game against Hexham House B, due on Thursday, was to be postponed until the following week.  The friendly against Alnwick was then cancelled as the visitors couldn’t field a team.

Perhaps if that event hadn’t been on the calendar fewer people would have ruled themselves out of a trip to Sunderland on Sunday for a friendly against Roker Marine: it certainly felt like a case of being “never knowingly underbowled”.  However, the match took place thanks to having the help of six good friends from other West Tyne clubs, plus half a dozen players from Roker Marine, who play only two friendlies each year and therefore have quite a lot of people eager to play whenever possible.  It was another glorious day in a beautiful park setting, and although Elvaston finished ahead on the scoreboard (just) we could hardly count it as a win in view of the number of guest players.  The other notable feature was the very generous prize of a half-bottle of whisky for each member of our top rink – the only one to have as many as three Elvaston members, so well done to Sheila, Jean and Sylvia.  And do you really want that whisky?

On, then, to the delayed Cup match with Hexham House B, played tonight on their green. Malcolm and Darren Cooper each skipped a rink, and both found themselves level for at least half the match, before both of them drew ahead, with wins by 18-10 and 18-11 respectively.  This Cup competition is decided on rinks won, so the actual shots weren’t too important – and after those results, totally irrelevant.  However, if either had slipped up we would have been in trouble, as Trevor’s rink lost an early 12-3 advantage when the opposition lead shortened the length by taking the mat up, whereupon Hexham House won seven ends on the bounce, moving to 14-12.  Trevor then nicked the shot on each of the next two ends to make it all square going into the last end of an excellent match, but Hexham House got the winning shot for a 15-14 win.  However, we are now through to the semi-final, against Haltwhistle, and at last there was something to cheer about.  Just as well, as the next league game is a Nines match against Gosforth…


A win, at last

Fifty years ago this week Britain switched its old Whitsun holiday for a late Spring Bank Holiday.  And of course, that year it turned out to be not only a dreadful May but also a particularly wet and windy Monday on 29 May – prompting “I told you so” complaints and a bad reputation for the new holiday.  It so happens that the weather in that back end of May has been rather poor over all the years since, so it really shouldn’t have surprised us that a long spell of hot, dry weather turned damp and chilly for our Queens Cup event, quite recently moved to the Bank Holiday Monday, and falling this year on the fateful 29th.

The grey weather was at least improved by the traditional red, white and blue outfits worn by participants.  For a while even that colour was covered up by rainproofs, but thankfully it eased after an hour or so, and seven teams of three enjoyed a round-robin event which was decided only in the final round.  All teams won at least two and lost at least two of the six rounds, so the combination of chosen skips and teams drawn at random worked out well.  The winners were Norman Lees, David Boaden and (skip) Mark Terry.

20170529_180039Other winners were the MacMillan cancer care charity, as we started the day with a special spider, with proceeds going to MacMillan. Thanks are due to Keith Woods for donating a bottle of whisky as the prize – this was won by Betty Boaden, who also won the prize for the best outfit.  And of course, everyone won with the splendid catering, with everyone providing their own favourite – how about this massive gateau?

It isn’t usual, I know, to spend time writing about internal club competitions, but somehow it seemed essential this week as we could at least record a victory!  Most of our other matches ended in defeat, and if we were a football club the manager might be getting a bit nervous.

In fairness, our Nines game with Hirst Park had been postponed at their request, while the ladies had a scheduled bye in the Collins and Shipley league, so we had just the one league match.  This was against Haltwhistle.  Unbeaten this season, they still have a plaque on the clubhouse wall recording their eleven consecutive West Tyne titles from 2001 to 2011, and there have been more since.  Put in that context, our 2-5 defeat, (59-67 on shots) was not at all bad.

Our first rink got off to a flyer, going 7-1 up in four ends, but from then on it was a very tight game (16 shots on the next 13 ends) as Haltwhistle fought back to make it 12-12 with one end to go.  At this point our lead John McArdle put a bowl right on the jack at the start, and the rest of the end was spent defending or shielding that precious shot: with some relief we got a 13-12 win without needing the last bowl of the match.  David Ashworth’s rink had an excellent win, by some 13 shots, and put us in with a good chance of a surprise result.  Blanche skipped an all-female team – Haltwhistle have no ladies in their team – which did very well to limit defeat to just six shots, including a five on one end.  Unfortunately, however, our fourth rink lost by 16 shots, so that the overall shots balance was negative (59-67).

In the West Tyne singles, Trevor played the Hexham House champion, Willy Dunn, in a two-leg match.  In the first leg, at Elvaston, he scored three threes late in the match to win 20-10 and establish a comfortable-looking cushion for the return.  However, Willy had rescued several ends with his final bowl, and that feature of his game came to the fore in the second leg.  From 3-3 he went to 11-3 with two consecutive fours, each of them clinched with the final bowl when Trevor had been lying at least two shots himself.

The margin remained at around ten throughout the match, until a four for Trevor on the fifteenth end of eighteen made it 12-18, an aggregate lead of 32-28.  On the next end he was lying three, effectively match shot, only for the last bowl to “do” him again, and with that boost Willy won the next two ends with some excellent bowls, and won overall by two shots. These were two really good games, even if the result was not the one we wanted.  In the first leg the home player won 12 of the 18 ends, winning 20-10; in the second the home player also won 12 ends, with exactly the same ratio of shots (24-12).  It could hardly have been closer – but it was still another negative balance!

Our second senior fours team lost heavily at home to Ponteland on a day when nothing went right.   So it was down to the standard issue fours team to provide some positive news, and they duly did so, against Rockcliffe.  After eight ends it was 4-4, at which point the visitors pulled ahead so that we were 5-8 down, but then our four (David Boaden, Brian, Keith and Darren) took control, with at least one of the first three bowling a very good bowl each end. In fact they didn’t lose another point, and Rockcliffe conceded after 19 ends, with the score 21-8 in our favour.  An actual win – some of that bunting from the Queens Cup day would have come in handy!