After a jam-packed report last week there is much less than usual to report this time, as we played only two league games instead of the usual four. The ladies had a bye week in the Collins and Shipley, while our opponents in the Clegg called off and conceded the points on the morning of the match. It’s fair to say that with our fortnightly trip into Newcastle (and beyond) in each of three leagues we tend to forget that for some opponents a trip to Hexham appears to be quite an event, with various logistical issues.
The Nines match was at Cramlington, with most of those playing still on a high after the Top Club game at Whitehaven on Sunday, and Steve Bennett definitely on a high after winning his County quarter-final match at Gosforth on the Monday night. He and Malcolm certainly dominated their pairs game here, although after nine ends the lead was just 8-4, with only one end scoring more than a single. At that point they really took off, and it was soon 18-4, with a final score of 23-6 being a true reflection of the game. The triples were also in full control, though here too the half-way score of 6-6 was immediately boosted by a four and a couple of threes, so that even a brief final rally by the home side left it at 19-12 in our favour.
With the game and the bonus points sewn up, it was down to the fours to go for maximum points, but here the close first half (6-7 after nine) was mirrored in the second, as the Cramlington skip time and again frustrated hopes by disrupting a dominant position. The most notable example was on the last end but one, where we were lying five, only to have a wick go against us for one shot and a scoreline of 11-12. So it was that we required a fine bowl skip’s bowl from Craig to level the scores with the last bowl of the match, and earn a 7-1 win in league points.
On Thursday the West Tyne match at Prudhoe was a great chance to stay in contention near the top of the table, as Prudhoe had lost most of their matches. However, a couple of players were away in County competitions or for family reasons, so it was always going to be a good examination. In the event, whether it was the physics involved in bowls running over an unfamiliar surface, or the chemistry between our own players, the maths at the end confirmed a fail – just one point out of the six. Even this one was a struggle, as our one winning rink went from 13-6 to 13-15 in the space of three late ends, before restoring order with a four and a run of singles for a 20-15 win.
The second rink not only wobbled but totally collapsed: leading 8-6 after nine ends, we lost the next five by every number from one to five, and a score of 8-21 with four ends to go was an impossible task – six more shots in our favour made it respectable, but nowhere near a win. The adjacent rink were actually closer (12-16), but were never ahead or even level; here the issue seemed to be losing the first five ends – although each was a single, that margin was crucial because despite winning nine of the remaining ends we could never make inroads into the home lead. Meanwhile, away on the far side of the green, our final rink managed to hold the opposition to low scores for the most part, but managed only five ends themselves on the way to a 10-18 loss.
On the same night Steve and Malcolm’s run in the County pairs came to an end against top-class opponents (the holders, playing on their own green), so there was no disgrace there. It wasn’t a great night for results, though! Next week will see us back to a full league programme, not to mention a trip to Shap on Friday for a Top Club match against Heaton Hall from Manchester. Let’s just make sure that Thursday was a minor blip.