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…