Monthly Archives: June 2018

No news today

Readers of a certain age may remember a pop song by Herman’s Hermits (trivia quiz: what was “Herman’s” real name?) entitled No Milk Today.  This typically dotty ditty from the 60s was later parodied as No News Today (“to CNN’s dismay…”), and it was the latter song that came to mind this week, as I received no news of club scores in matches.  With seven of the men away on the Gosforth Tourists’ visit to Lincoln, and another batch of people away on holiday, things must have been rather quiet.  So, in tribute to Peter Noone (for ’twas he):

No news today,  the guys have gone away

They’re on the Gosforth tour, there’s no news that’s for sure.

No news today, the ladies keeping mum

We hope they got to play, but no result has come.

No news today, we cancelled in the Nines,

But Thursday was ok, so how about West Tyne?

No results or score, were our teams down or up?

I’ll try and find out more – but first I’ll watch t’ World Cup

 

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Norman Conquest

Keith Woods had a brilliant Father’s Day – and that was even before any family events!  First, in the morning, he partnered Jean to victory in the County mixed pairs.  In recent years more and more players have entered this competition, with the standard going up too, and here they were playing one of the strongest pairs in the county, who might have been fancied as ultimate winners.  There were some dark comments to the effect that our green wasn’t as good as Gosforth’s – no one would argue with that, for sure, while it’s quite fair to say that our green doesn’t bend as much as Philippe Coutinho’s goal against Switzerland the same day – but the visitors’ general air of gloom was reinforced by some excellent bowls by Jean and Keith, so that the game was conceded early.

With not much in the way of lunch, Keith then played skip again for the Senior Fours against a strong Backworth Welfare team in the quarter-finals of the County competition.  Rink 6 (hut-to-hut) was chosen, as being the most reliable of the rinks at the moment, although our visitors complained increasingly loudly about it.  By coincidence, there had been no complaints early on, when the lead alternated several times to reach a score of 8-7 after 10 ends.  At this point we scored a five and won several other ends, so that the score was suddenly 18-8 in our favour and somehow “home advantage” was making a difference.  Well, no one has ever heard of “away advantage”, have they?

Just when it seemed that we would win easily Backworth suddenly came back into it, lying five until Keith cut it down and then on the next end another five until Keith played an expert promotion shot to reduce the score to one.  We went into the last end 19-12 ahead, and the only tactic open to Backworth was to kill the end and have another go, but despite slicing the jack they failed to put it off the rink and we didn’t bother to count any bowls beyond our token one shot.

Regular readers will recognise that a good number of posts refer to the weather and/or state of the green, and this one is no exception.  After having complaints about our green at the weekend we found ourselves at Ponteland for the Nines on Tuesday, with an immaculate playing surface that – if anything – was too good.  That may sound surprising or even ridiculous, but in truth, when you have been used to a “bit of a push” on our green, to have a green that is much closer to indoor speed is a shock to the system, and it took us a while to adjust.  Making life even more difficult was the weather: rain had been forecast for about nine o’clock, but it arrived right at the start of the match, and although it was best described as very heavy drizzle it made conditions very difficult: the surface became quite greasy, making the bowls slide on through.  The same for both teams, of course, but it’s not so easy chasing the game under those conditions.

You will have gathered that we are softening you up for news of a defeat – a heavy one at that, 0-8.  This was all the more disappointing in that Ponteland have lost several of their best players this year, and also because we were fifth in the table before this game –  a long way off fourth place (53 points) but the “best of the rest”  of half a dozen teams bunched between 36 and 30 points.

The pairs were up against a strong long-term partnership and although they did well to keep the early deficit within reach, with Darren burning the last end in yet another attempt to save the match, they went down 12-17.  The fours also had a slow start, going about seven behind and then finishing exactly seven behind (11-18).  Seven was definitely not a lucky number for us: the triples held their own early on, then, on the seventh end, lost a seven, and despite coming back to level at 15-15, finished seven shots down at 15-22.

The Ponteland game finished with the whole team wet and miserable, but the next day the Ladies were home and dry against Morpeth, running up yet another good win (10-2). Two rinks won and the third lost by only one shot. And on Thursday the West Tyne team, in the absence of several regulars, had an extremely good win at Alston, where the green has improved very notably since the problems of a few years ago. On a bright, sunny evening three of the four rinks performed in almost identical fashion, establishing an early lead and then adding to it slowly but surely, winning by margins of seven (on each of two rinks) and ten. The final rink struggled to get the better of Alston stalwart Norman English: there was scarcely ever more than one shot in it, and – to prove the point – we were lying an apparently unbeatable one shot to win the game when Norman fired up the middle and managed to get the shot for a 15-15 draw. So it was nearly a whitewash, but still a very satisfactory result, leaving us well clear at the top of the table.

Playing skip on that last rink was our Brian Norman. Having seen almost certain victory denied by the Alston Norman (English), he played in the West Tyne triples the next night with Mark and Keith against a Hexham House team skipped by yet another Norman (Brotherton). This was another close affair, which went to an extra end after an outrageous wick by the Hexham House skip – just as all deflections in football are “wicked”, so all wicks against yourself are outrageous. The extra end looked to be (indeed, was) very much in our favour until Geoff Lamb drew the perfect shot to win the end for the visitors. After that result you might say Brian wasn’t very keen on the Normans.

Our Cup Runneth Over

After the men’s success last weekend in reaching the final of the Challenge Cup, attention turned to the ladies’ open triples at Amble. The team of Susan, Sylvia and Blanche won all three of their qualifying round games and progressed to the knock-out stage.  An easy win in the quarter-final meant yet another game in a long day which alternated between sunshine and heavy clouds with steady rain.  The semi-final, which took place in such rain, was the tightest match of the whole day on any rink – it was 3-0 to Elvaston after two ends, 3-3 after four, 5-3 after six and then 5-5 after the full eight ends.  To illustrate how close our team were to winning this: on the seventh end Gosforth Empire chose not to bowl their final wood as the situation was so tight, and then on the last end Blanche’s last bowl finished less than an inch from being the shot, which of course would have won the game.

The draw meant an extra end, but sadly at that point tiredness seemed to take over, with sudden-death defeat coming in the loosest end of the day. However, after 40 ends of bowls that was very excusable!

The league game against Forest Hall on Wednesday saw the ladies’ impressive run of results continue. Blanche’s rink were five or six shots ahead throughout, while Betty’s rink also won by a few shots after a match that for the most part was quite close. Our third rink came back well from 1-9 to level the score at 9-9, but eventually lost by a single shot. The result was another 10-2 win for the club, which keeps us in a strong second position in the table – the score neatly maintained the average of just over nine points per game. While we are talking stats, it’s worth pointing out that last week’s result against Seaton Sluice was only the second time this year that any team had scored more than 70 shots in a Division 2 match (both examples were 78, as it happens), and it was also the biggest winning margin this season.

There were two games against Hexham House this week, just two nights apart but in vastly different conditions. The Nines game on Tuesday took place on a balmy evening with birdsong in the background and shirtsleeves on the green; the West Tyne Cup tie on Thursday at the Abbey was played in the aftermath of Storm Hector, with leaves and twigs having to be removed from the green in conditions more like early September than mid-June. .

In the Nines match the fours ran away with the game after losing the first two ends, conceding only three more ends to finish with a score of 25-7.  That match was pretty well in the bag from the halfway point, but the other two were very much closer.  The pairs were 6-9 down just after halfway, but came back slowly to edge in front before a good score on the penultimate end took them to 14-9; from there it was easy enough to pack the head, and not even Clive Knott’s final thunderbolt could disturb things sufficiently to get the big score that Hexham House needed.

The pairs thus won by three shots, just as the triples were going down by the same margin (15-18).  Here Geoff Lamb was the match-winner for the visitors, playing second and keeping his team in contention all the way through.  Whether we were lying two, three, or even five, Geoff consistently cut it down to no more than one; and on the last end, with the score 15-16 and Mark’s bowl some three inches from the jack for a likely draw, he somehow managed to get two bowls between our shot wood and the jack. So that made it 2-1 to us on rinks, and a satisfying 6-2 win on points.

The Cup match against Hexham House B proved to be similar in almost every way except the weather. It was remarkably close for the first half, with two rinks both tied at 8-8 after nine ends (at which point the other rink was 7-6 in our favour after eight). At the ten-end stage we were leading by one, two and three shots respectively, but thereafter Trevor’s rink took complete control, moving from 8-8 to 25-8 in the course of seven ends, and keeping that 17-shot lead to the end.

So that was one rink safe in a match determined on rinks won, with shots counting only in the event of a draw. This detail became important at the end of Keith’s match. Bowling the last wood of the match, at 13-12 and believing that we were one down, Keith very reasonably played his shot on the basis that a draw was good enough for us, since we were by now sure to win the overall match on shots. After his bowl had come to rest, however, it turned out that we had been two down, not one, and the result was therefore a 13-14 defeat which gave the whole match a different complexion, especially as Steve Bennett’s rink had just been hauled back to 12-12 after 17 ends. It truly was all to play for on the last end.

Thankfully at this point John McArdle played his best three bowls of the night to make the jack hard to reach, Sylvia – unusually for the West Tyne, the only female player on the green – put in some back bowls as insurance, and Steve didn’t need to play his last bowl as Keith Sanders failed three times to dislodge our shot bowls. The three shots difference was the biggest margin all night on either that rink or Keith’s, and rounded off an excellent contest, played in a really competitive but very friendly spirit. Next week will seem really strange with no game against Hexham House…

Losing Count(s)

In recent weeks the Ladies have had some extra maths practice, having started several games with eleven players, rather than twelve, thus incurring a penalty of a quarter of the shots scored by the short-handed team. On one occasion, against Gosforth, this was the difference between winning and losing, as the shots total after the penalty was 40.5 to ourselves and 43 to Gosforth, who thus picked up the six bonus points for a shots win and took the match 10-2. The result would of course have been exactly reversed if we had had a full complement.

No maths were required this week, however, as three full rinks took on Seaton Sluice at home and ended with a comfortable win on all three, for a 12-0 win. A definite plus sign! And an extra plus came with the form of several players still quite new to the league. In particular, Liz Benson showed great tactical awareness in realising that several Seaton Sluice players were struggling for weight and deliberately going for long jacks – an astute tactic which also required good control of bowls and jack.

Long jacks can be a problem for anyone on some of the heavier greens at the moment. In the County Senior Fours competition a rink skipped by Keith Woods played a North Shields four including a couple of notable local bowlers.  This, to use a term from a couple of weeks ago, was a road game, requiring an early departure from Hexham in light of heavy traffic in Newcastle.  As it happened, we arrived really early, but at least that gave some time to acclimatise to the damp and chilly conditions after the late afternoon sun at home.  The green was pretty heavy and spongy – a bit of a heave for early June, to be sure – and it was definitely in our interest to keep the jack at a reasonable length.

The match featured an interesting statistic in that for as long as it remained a real contest it averaged just on two shots per end – though fortunately, most of them were scored by Elvaston!  So after two ends it was 4-0, after eight ends it was 14-2, and by the eleventh end the score had reached 20-3.   With a single apiece to follow that the match seemed pretty well over at 21-4, but suddenly North Shields won three ends on the bounce, picking up seven shots, so that after sixteen ends 32 shots had been scored, while the margin was 10 with five ends left.  Two per end!  In the event, we got one shot on the next end, making the target much harder, and two more singles were enough for the match to be conceded.  The final score of 24-11 might almost have stood for the temperature difference as well…

Things were a bit better at Cramlington the next night for the Nines game, although there was still a huge difference from Hexham temperatures – both places were sunny and bright, but there was a bitter wind on the green.  The triples made light of conditions, running away with it, allowing their opponents to score just one shot every four ends and racking up a 29-4 win.  But even as the last end was being played an ominous shout came from the next rink: “Six!”  The fours had enjoyed a good tussle, and had worked really hard to get into a winning position, 14-10 ahead with two ends left, but then lost a six to go into the last end two behind.  They then scored a single, but – contrary to my post of two weeks ago – one shot was not enough.

The pairs had also been close, after falling behind early on, and went from 12-12 to 13-12 with two ends left.  They were then lying shot with the last bowl of the end to come.  The Cramlington lead told the skip to play a forehand runner to shift the jack, but the skip was unimpressed.  Indeed, he announced to himself and the nearest spectators that this was a “stupid shot”.  So what did he do? Why, he turned round and proceeded to play the shot demanded of him, and while he certainly hit the target no one could have foreseen what happened next.  The jack hit Brian’s back wood so hard that it came a few yards back up the green, to where Cramlington had several badly short bowls – and the result was five shots against us.  That made it 13-17, and there was no way the home team were going to let that lead slip.

So a game which, with two ends left, had looked like a very possible 8-0 win turned into a 2-6 defeat, with two rinks losing 11 shots on the penultimate end.  Truly, it’s not over till it’s over.  And as things turned out, the same moral was illustrated at Throckley the very next night, in a rearranged Nines game. Curiously, after the pairs and fours had seen leads evaporate, this time it was the triples who fell short after doing all the hard work on a difficult and uncooperative green.

Leading 16-9 with just four ends to go, we were just one shot down and with several inviting back bowls. It was agreed that Trevor should go for the trail, or possibly take out the shot bowl, but he completely (as in: completely) misjudged the pace and removed our only bowl from the head, gifting five shots to Throckley. Of course, this still meant we were leading by two shots, but the effect on morale for the two teams was massive, and the home team won all the last three ends for an 18-16 win.

Fortunately the other rinks had wins. The fours had clearly learned a lesson at Cramlington, and turned a 14-10 lead near the end (uh, oh!) into a 17-11 win. Meanwhile Steve Bennett and Darren looked as if they had set their sights on a whitewash in the pairs, as they were already 18-0 up after ten ends before losing a three). This was no real interruption, however, and the final score of 27-7 did not really reflect their total dominance.

So over the two nights we had a points tally of 8-8, with a remarkable shots difference of +46. When we win we seem to win big, but now we really have to concentrate on holding winning positions and not giving away counts.

No one was giving anything away in the West Tyne KO Triples tie between Brian, Mark and Keith (for Elvaston) and the Little family of Allendale. The score was 9-9 after 14 ends, before our team won the last four to win 15-9. The general closeness of the game was highlighted by the fact that there was not a single score above two shots at any point. Our other triples team, skipped by Malcolm Cooper, lost to a Hexham House trio led by Norman Brotherton – now the next opponents for Keith’s team.

To complete a busy week the men had a day-long session at Heaton Victoria in the semi-final heats of the Challenge Cup. We have quite a good record in that competition in recent years, and confirmed it this time by winning all four matches, with three other clubs winning two and one club on four defeats. Each club has two rinks, and the result is based on the aggregate scores of the two meetings between each set of clubs. Steve Bennett’s rink won their first matches 13-2 and 14-1, effectively sealing two wins in the first legs; and while the margins in favour of Darren’s rink were smaller they were quite easily defended for a clean sweep. In fact, Steve’s team conceded only eight shots in the 28 ends played, with no more than a single shot against on any end – now that’s how to avoid losing a count!

All is not lost

Several years ago we went to Gosforth to play the last Nines match of the season, in a game that would determine whether or not they won the league.  We won the match; they lost out on the league.

The only reason for mentioning that is to cheer us up a bit after another ritual disembowelling by the top club in the area.  They could probably beat most clubs with a second-string team out, but there were enough first-rank names in the squad on Tuesday to make it an uphill struggle all night for ourselves.

The pairs did at least come close, with Steve Bennett and Darren actually in the lead after five, ten and fifteen ends. However, those leads were either two or three shots, and from 11-9 with three ends to go we lost it 13-19, with Gosforth clearly scoring ten shots on two of those ends.   Of course, when you pull off that sort of recovery you think you are brilliant, don’t you, with the victory totally deserved!  But it was hard on our lads, you have to say.

The triples also fought hard all through, even though the deficit was growing slightly worse all the time.  To be 1-5 down after five ends wasn’t silly, and the eventual 6-17 showed there was no major upset, just a steady accumulation of low scores by Gosforth.  The fours were a more distant second all the way through, basically shipping eight shots every five ends and finishing some 20 shots behind.  Our overall total of 24 shots on the night was our lowest for some considerable time, but in view of the calibre of the opposition we just have to take it on the chin and see it as a learning experience – albeit a chastening one!

By coincidence our game in the West Tyne league was also against last year’s champions.  It was an away game at Haltwhistle, with the green like a carpet and getting a lot of admiration from our players.   It obviously did our game good, too, especially Steve Bennett’s rink with a 30-7 win which included a sort of power-play, going from 5-1 after five ends to 17-2 after ten.

The other rinks won by six, five and three shots in games that were close throughout – two of them were level at the half-way point, and the other was 12-11 after fifteen ends – but the important thing was that we won all rinks, and therefore picked up seven points on the night.  With Hexham House B losing, we established a clear lead at the top of the table with half the fixtures now played.