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.