After the cold winds of April had made us wonder whether the green would be ready in time for the new season the sun came out at the end of the month for our first club sessions at Elvaston. Unfortunately for those who had put themselves down to play in the Nines, the first match of the season was over at Blyth, against New Delaval, and it was a cold, wet evening by the sea, with the rain relenting only in the last fifteen minutes or so.
New Delaval had won Division 2 of the Nines at a canter last year, and we therefore expected a tough game. It did indeed turn out to be very close. The pairs started well, and even after losing a six, and then a four, managed to be just 15-17 down with two ends to play. On the penultimate end there was a strong shout for it to be our shot, but the measure showed it was New Delaval’s by a quarter of an inch, so that we needed three on the last to make a draw, but got only one.
New Delaval fielded a very young team on all rinks, but really rubbed it in with a 13-year old playing lead in the fours. We were 1-8 down at one stage but then came back strongly to lead 12-10 with just three ends to go. However, one unfortunate end let the opponents back in, and we actually lost the last three ends to finish 12-14 down. So two rinks had lost by two shots each.
That meant that the overall match was lost, irrespective of a narrow shots margin which became even narrower when our triples won by one shot. We led all through until end 14, but then pulled back a small deficit to make it even after 16 ends. A three on the next end gave us breathing space, and although the opposition skip moved the jack with a bold shot on the last end it produced just two shots, so at least one rink had earned a win.
High Heaton had postponed the match due for the Friday, so our next opponents were even more difficult than the first, in the form of Backworth. Again the pairs match was close, level after five ends and again (14-14) after 16 ends. We then scored a one and a three to win 18-14.
The triples found it hard to get going, the more so in light of being on the wrong end of a couple of absurd flukes for which the opponents (to their credit) apologised. An early 0-7 score was reduced to 5-7 before another bad spell (and two more flukes) meant it was 5-17, before finishing at 11-20.
The fours had the classic game of two halves, playing well early on to lead 9-8 after 10 ends. But somehow, when no one was looking, Backworth took over, and we scored only one more shot to lose 10-23.
That meant another 2-6 defeat on league points, but the fact that New Delaval beat our local rivals at Hexham House 8-0 shows that they are going to make a big impact this year, while on the evidence of recent years it is an achievement to get any points at all off Backworth. So let’s see how things go in May as the teams start to gel.
In the Collins and Shipley the ladies went to Morpeth with only 11 players. One rink therefore played one short and lost a quarter of their score as a penalty. Despite that handicap the other two rinks did very well to ensure that the final aggregate score was in our favour, and we came away with an 8-4 win on points.
To finish this first, elongated week of the league season we had a home game against Alston in the West Tyne league. This time it was our turn to be playing with a full team against a depleted visiting side. The advantage for the short-handed rink is quite great in playing terms, as the two Alston players each had four bowls while one of our team (Keith, as skip) had only two. On this rink we led for almost every end until the sixteenth of the full 18, at which point, leading 12-11, the Alston skip fired for the umpteenth time in the match and managed to turn a likely deficit on the end into a four-shot score. Alston then won the other ends to “win” 18-12 – which is where the penalty of one third of the score came into play, reducing their total to 12 and making it a draw.
That was the only (half) point that Alston scored on the night, but in fact the match was much closer than the points score would suggest. Darren and Malcolm Cooper’s rinks each won by three shots, but they were both trailing with (respectively) two and three ends to play. Steve Bennett’s rink had the most comfortable win, 24-11, although this was also the result of a late surge after being just 8-6 up after ten ends.
Other results meant that after one whole game we are top of the embryonic league table. But then, West Brom were unbeaten after two games this season and that didn’t finish well, did it?…