Monthly Archives: July 2018

Campiones!

In a week where the famous football scoreline “East Fife 4, Forfar 5” really did come about (albeit on penalties), the scoreboards  at Elvaston read in a very similar manner after the early ends of our Nines match against Heaton Victoria.

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Unfortunately that was about as good as it got all night!  Heaton Vic had turned up with only eight players, and as the missing person had been due to play in the pairs, they withdrew one from the fours, who then played a man short.  This turned out to be the worst thing that could happen to us, as the new lead in the pairs played a blinder.  The early parity (4-4) was ruined on the seventh end, as Heaton scored (or were gifted) a seven.  From then on the soundtrack on the green wasn’t great, with a thumping bass provided by Darren’s wayward drives hitting the ditch surrounds, accompanied by triangle sounds as he occasionally hit the rink markers full on.  Meanwhile, the score didn’t make for easy listening, with several large numbers being called out, but not in our favour, and the final score was 7-26.  Mamma Mia!

Steve Benson’s rink, playing in three-four time, at least jazzed things up a bit, although here the match turned out to be closer than had seemed likely early on.  Heaton came back from 0-6 (five ends) to level at 7-7 after ten, and thereafter we were glad of the penalty deduction of a quarter of their score.  At least we were never behind, and the atmosphere was quite calm: the final score was 15-12 in our favour, adjusted down to 15-9.

If there had been a soundtrack for the triples it would have been a compilation of Help and A Hard Day’s Night.  We piled shots in early on, with three on each of the first two ends, but this was of course totally wasted as those ends are limited to one shot.  After reaching a 4-1 lead everything seemed to go wrong: not only did Davie Thomson (Heaton) show why he was once the EBA National Singles champion, but the front end couldn’t quite get close enough to give Steve Bennett anything to work with.  It was almost all singles for the visitors (nine of their 11 ends) , and although we came back from 5-13 to 11-13 with one end to go, Heaton played the finale better and finished with a three-shot win.

Over recent years our reports have regularly noted that Heaton Victoria are the club most like our own in terms of general standard.  Even so, we would have expected to win this home game, and the result was a real disappointment.  But as long as it was only a dress rehearsal for the West Tyne match against Haltwhistle we could still hope that it would be all right on the night – five points were needed to make sure of the league title, since we could pretty well assume that Hexham House A would get maximum points at Alston.

In the event that assumption was correct, so our target was a very real one.  With a couple of late call-offs – one a few minutes before the match was due to start – we had to re-shuffle a little, but still had a competitive team.  That was just as well, as Haltwhistle brought a strong squad even though it was the last match and they were out of the running.

The first few ends were played in clear but sultry conditions, but the sky was already starting to darken from the south and the sound of thunder became ominous, then continuous.  The rain that was scheduled to arrive after nine o’clock came before eight, and everyone fled the green to cover up.  At this point most rinks had played about ten ends, not enough to constitute a full match, and to call the game off at that point, when we were leading on three rinks and tied on the fourth, would have hurt.  Fortunately the rain didn’t last long and there was time not only to get past the twelve-end milestone for the match to count, but even to complete the match, even if the last rink to finish was peering into an extremely gloomy distance.

Oh, and the score?  One of our rinks finished five shots down, and another won by three; both these were well contested throughout, with never more than three shots in it on either rink until the very last end for our losing team.   But those close encounters were made redundant by the other two rinks.  Our two Steve B’s combined really well against a strong Haltwhistle pairing to win 21-9; and another two B’s (no, no, I didn’t mean that: it was Blanche and Brian) combined really well together on Darren’s rink so that the game was largely done and dusted with five ends to go: this one finished 20-10.  These were excellent wins, with good game management and a steady accumulation of shots.  Overall, on the four rinks, we were 23 shots ahead after 10 ends and also 23 shots ahead after fifteen.

It therefore became pretty clear after the rain break that we were going to win the match and the league, and the last few ends were a bit like that strange ceremonial stage of the Tour de France, when everyone knows who the winner is but the formalities still have to be completed.

The final winning margin was 65-45.  Only on one occasion this year had Haltwhistle scored fewer than 45 – and it was when we won 80-43 in the away fixture in June!  That detail is linked to another telling statistic for the season: although we scored marginally fewer shots than Hexham House A and Haltwhistle we conceded by far the fewest shots in the league.  On five of the ten nights we held the opposition to fewer than 50 shots, with another exactly on 50; Haltwhistle did it just twice; while Hexham House A failed to do it at all, although they did manage the precise 50 in three consecutive weeks!

Portland called off the men’s friendly due for Friday, thus extending our dismal run of cancelled friendly fixtures, but there was at least confirmation that the match at Wooler on Sunday would go ahead.  Beyond that we have a free week in the West Tyne next week but there is a clutch of rearranged Nines games to add to the scheduled one at Gosforth, plus the final Collins and Shipley game of the season, so next week will be busy.

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Wins all round

Waterlogged LyndhurstIn this driest of summers we looked forward to a friendly at Lyndhurst on Monday. We left Hexham under grey skies, but as we passed the Metro Centre the heavens opened, and we got to Gateshead just in time for that downpour to catch up with us.  Within minutes the green was flooded, and it took only a few minutes more to call the match off.

It was even stranger to get back to Hexham and find the roads dry, while at Gosforth Blanche Adamson and her playing partner from the Gosforth club also had a fine afternoon, made all the finer by winning the County Over-55 Pairs competition.  Their opponents in the final were Susan and Shelagh from our own club, so we can be proud of our prominence in the ladies’ game.

Through the rest of the week it was back to the normal routine of regular games in men’s, ladies’ and mixed leagues.  The Nines team played at Collingwood (North Shields) on a green that was extremely similar to our own in terms of brown, parched grass and occasional bumps.  We were reduced to eight players just as we about to leave Hexham, following a bizarre mix-up that had nothing to do with bowls, so the fours played as three, facing the loss of a quarter of their score.

This seemed not to trouble them at all, as they were soon 12-0 ahead, and even when you took that penalty into account 9-0 still sounded pretty good.  Collingwood then came back into the game, basically sharing the shots, so that after 16 ends the score was a gross 22-8 in our favour.  That was not the time to lose a count, but in an eerie echo of the Cramlington match back in June, we dropped a five on the penultimate end, to make the score 22-13, or (in net terms) 16.5-13.   It would have been hairy if that half-point had been needed, but in the event we conceded just a single on the last end, for a win that was much narrower than had seemed likely.

The pairs were also ahead throughout, extending an early four-shot lead to seven or eight for much of the game – at the end the scoreboard read exactly the same as the fours, 22-14, but this time we got the full benefit.  Having said that, Collingwood made a spirited recovery at various points, pinning us back to just a couple of shots early in the second half and causing some furrowed brows on the part of Brian and Darren.

The triples really looked to be too strong for the opposition on paper, especially taking into account the fact that the Collingwood second had been playing bowls only for a couple of months.  The trouble was, he hadn’t read the script, and also had a background in archery, so that his ability to see the right line was phenomenal for someone new to the game. Allied to that, the skip was extremely good, and managed to cut down our potential shots on several ends – a quick calculation suggested it was well into double figures.

So it was a game of attrition, just having to be satisfied with single shots, of which there were plenty – from 4-4 after five ends the score plodded to 17-5 after fifteen.   Still Collingwood didn’t give up, and after yet another corking bowl from their skip to turn a two-shot deficit into three for them on the last end, it finished 17-10.  By that time most of the home team had gone home, probably dispirited after yet another defeat.  It was still a good win for ourselves, even if a clean sweep against a team that hasn’t notched up a single point since May won’t gain us too much ground in the league.

The ladies got back to winning ways in the Collins & Shipley league – by coincidence they too were playing the bottom team in the league.  The strong start to the season had tailed off in recent weeks with three defeats, but against Seaton Delaval the engine sparked back into life.  Betty’s rink took a few ends to get the better of the opposition but from about the mid-point pulled away to win just about every end for a 19-7 win.

The other rinks were closer for most of the match, but at least that solid victory on the first rink meant that the bonus points were all but assured.  Blanche’s rink had trailed consistently for the first half of the game, but a four with just two ends to go established a clear lead for the first time, so that from 11-10 with three ends left they took the match  16-11. The third rink were actually lying two shots on the last end for a tied score, but the opposition skip trailed the jack to earn Seaton Delaval one shot on the end and a 17-14 win.  The overall result was therefore two rinks to one in our favour.  With ten points this week and another nine guaranteed next Wednesday because Seaton Sluice have conceded the game, the points tally is suddenly looking a lot healthier.

After those two matches against teams that were bottom of the league we were able to send out a West Tyne team that was top of the league before playing Hexham House B at the Abbey green. The green posed some interesting challenges, with bowls occasionally running against the bias and some doing an elegant little slalom. On one rink a slight depression meant that well-weighted bowls speeded up in the last yard of their journey to travel at least another yard past the jack – a novel twist to the game.

Of course, these conditions applied to both teams, and once we had worked out the vagaries of the runs it was quite straightforward (with the emphasis on straight). Three rinks won quite well, with Darren’s rink progressing consistently from a lead of four (after five ends) to eight (ten ends) and sixteen by the end (a score of 24-8). Keith’s rink also finished well ahead (21-9), after being just 8-6 up at the half-way point. Trevor’s rink looked to be on track for a big win too (15-5 after 14 ends), but then lost five shots on two ends before finishing 18-10 ahead. Meanwhile the two Steves and Blanche played really well, even leading after ten ends, but were unfortunate to come up against skip Mike McDonnell in awesome form: the loss of a late five made the score (11-20) look far worse than the performance had been.

This meant a 6-1 win on league points, which in the light of other results means we are now three points clear at the top of the table with one game to go. Five points against Haltwhistle next week would guarantee the title, and although four might be enough with our current shots advantage that is an unusual points score to achieve as it means winning only one rink while also winning overall on shots. At least, as the football managers say, it’s in our own hands.  And by the end of the week, unlike our experience at Lyndhurst, we could be home and dry.

Into the Final

Thankfully, in a season full of postponements, there was no clash between our West Tyne Cup match and the slightly bigger Cup games in Russia. Our semi-final with Allen Valley duly took place one day after England’s semi against Croatia

In the football, Croatia had fallen behind early, then equalised before getting the winner.  We definitely played in a Croatian style, as early exchanges were not in our favour.  After five ends we were leading on one rink, down on the second and drawing on the third, and after eight ends it was worse, with two rinks each 3-8 down.  A couple of ends later we had restored the earlier balanced position not only in terms of rinks but also on overall shots, which were tied 24-24: it simply couldn’t have been closer.

Quite why things changed as rapidly as they then did is unclear, but for some reason all three rinks pulled ahead, and in the course of the next five ends we won the shots count 26-5, with two rinks so far ahead that the final ends were a bit of a formality.  In the end we won by three rinks to nil, but it had clearly been a struggle early on.  We now meet Hexham House A in the final, to be played on 9 August.

The Nines game due on Tuesday was postponed, adding to a long list of re-arranged fixtures in that league.  By the time we get them all finished the next football season will be well under way.

(Limited) Action

With so many people away on tour or on holiday in the last week of June the club had been very quiet. Things perked up a bit this week, even if a lot of the noise was made up of expressions of amazement at the dryness of the green, and the fast surface that has resulted.  It has been running like a wooden floor, with no carpet, and thanks are due to all those involved in watering whenever it has been possible.

The rinks for Thursday’s West Tyne match had to be chosen to avoid newly watered areas, which left a choice of any four from four.  Our visitors from Allen Valley adapted very well to the unaccustomed surface, and three rinks turned out to be very close.  Brian Elstob’s rink were never more than three shots up or down on all the “way markers” of five, ten and fifteen ends, but sadly were still one behind after the full eighteen.  Steve Benson was in a very similar position, literally within one shot on each of those same marker points, but then falling (three) short at the end.  With two rinks down it was looking bleak in that Darren’s rink had been 1-8 down after five ends, then 5-13 down after ten, and still 13-15 behind after fifteen ends.  So it took some doing for them to get singles on each of the last three ends and came away with a 16-15 win, rather against the odds.

That, of course, still left us behind on overall shots on these rinks, but fortunately our fourth rink had an easy win with all the twos, 22-2, and – bingo! – we ensured a 5-2 points win on the night.  Next week (12 July) we play the same opponents in the Cup, with just three rinks, so we can expect a close match again.

The ladies could have done with a close match in the Collins and Shipley league, but were given a hard time by Ponteland, with a 0-12 scoreline.   Depending on other results this week that may make our second position less assured, but there is still plenty of time for a return to earlier form.   And with several re-arranged matches in the Nines to be played, as well as the usual West Tyne fixtures and the final of the Challenge Cup, the mid-season lull may well be over…