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!