Whether or not this turns out to be a record month for June rainfall, there seems never to be a day without rain. There is a particular irony in the fact that work started last week on the installation of our new irrigation system – ah well, at least it forced us to tidy the shed.
On Tuesday night, over in North Shields, it was the temperature that was the big feature as we ventured out of the changing room for a Nines match against Collingwood. The pairs certainly caught their hosts cold, picking up three fours and a five on the way to a 28-5 lead which was only slightly dented by the loss of a late five, so that a score of 30-12 was not flattering at all. The triples took longer to assert control, with neither side more than two shots in front until the half-way point (7-6 in our favour). Winning three of the next four ends put our team 13-7 ahead, at which point a random six for Collingwood levelled the scores with only four ends to play. The team remained so calm that you would never have guessed they had just lost a big count, and three ends later they went into the last end seven shots ahead, making the eventual 20-14 win look like a formality.
Meanwhile, the fours managed to control not only the conditions but also a determined opposition. In a rather low-scoring game, they were behind only on one early end (3-4), but never extended the lead to more than three, though in fact that margin occurred several times (8-5, 10-7, 12-9, 13-10). So for all the narrowness of the game, and the eventual 13-11 margin, they were clearly on top the whole time. The outstanding statistic of the night was still that the temperature was in single figures in the middle of June, but overall, an 8-0 win made the conditions bearable.
June was doing its best to imitate November the next night, too. The home match in the Clegg league went ahead – much to the surprise of our visitors from Astley Park – on the basis of a green inspection and total trust in an array of weather forecasts which proved to be very accurate in that rain arrived an hour or so after we finished. Not that it was totally pleasant out there, and we should thank in particular those who agreed to turn out at short notice when we were struggling to make a team.
As it happened, the teams worked together very well. Big wins (33-8 and 27-9) on two rinks made sure of the bonus points, with our complete dominance shown by winning 17 and 15 of the 21 ends respectively. It would be easy (and accurate) to say that the results here were never in doubt, but in fact after nine ends, at a point when the second rink was 13-4 ahead, our third rink was 13-3 in the lead and theoretically even more of a cert to win. However, that’s when 13 proved to be the “graveyard” it is known as in bowling circles, and Astley Park proceeded to win seven ends on the trot to lead by two shots. It’s as well the match wasn’t 18 ends, as we were still two down, but after drawing level with one end to go we scored two on the last to win 18-16.
The fourth and last rink was also well down, on paper at least, as they neared the end of the match, but here the opponents had an advantage by virtue of having only two players , each bowling three woods. The penalty was a loss of a third of the score, so after 16 ends, and the score at 10-15 on the board, it was actually a dead heat. Once again we proved to have more staying power, and despite slipping behind by one (or more precisely, two-thirds of a shot) on the next end a couple of solid threes meant that the final score was 17-17 on the night, translated into a win by something over five shots after the penalty. So here we were with a 14-0 win in terms of league points, pushing up into top place in the table. Once again, the blend of old hands and newer league players worked well, and thanks are due to all for turning out so cheerfully on a dismal night.
The ladies had seen their match at Gosforth postponed in the afternoon, and once the rain set in overnight on Wednesday it became pretty clear that we should call off the West Tyne game against Alston. This was in part precautionary, bearing in mind the number of players, the distance travelled by our opponents, and the good chance of rescheduling. However, the green had in fact held up well in the rain, as shown by Steve Bennett and Shelagh Carter playing and winning their County Mixed Pairs that night (23-13): this puts them in the quarter-final. Earlier in the week Shelagh and Jean had had a very good win in an early round of the pairs, while at the weekend Jean, Susan and Betty reached the final of the triples with a 16-13 win in the semi-final against a team from Ponteland. These successes clearly made up for any lack of action in the league!
There were mixed fortunes in the County competitions for the men. Philip and Craig lost to a notable pair from Newbiggin in the pairs. In singles competitions we had the unusual situation of two of our players (last year’s finalists) each playing someone from Morpeth St George’s. Steve Bennett went to Morpeth and won in the Open Singles, while Brian Elstob was at home to the very experienced Phil Harvey in the Champion of Champions. Brian certainly wasn’t disgraced, and the match went to 23 ends, of which he won 11. But it was a classic example of the old mantra about needing to secure second shot, especially in singles. Brian may have won 11 ends but they all came as singles, whereas his opponent had won four ends before scoring less than two, and by this point was already into double figures. As it happens, Morpeth St George’s are our opponents on Tuesday in the next round of the Top Club competition – eleven-a-side, and we can only hope that the temperature is into double figures as well…