We had good cause for celebration this week. For the ladies, Shelagh and Jean won the County pairs title, while Shelagh got to the final of the 2-wood as defending champion, only to fall at the last hurdle. On the same day Betty, Jean and Susan also played and lost in the final of the triples. Three finals in one weekend was pretty good going for the club! Meanwhile, in the men’s section, three club members were named in the County Middleton Cup squad to play in the semi-final against Kent at Leamington next Saturday as Philip and Craig were joined, not before time, by Steve Bennett.
In view of this excitement it was very impressive to see all three guys turning out against Innisfree in Division 5 game of the Clegg League. Innisfree were our closest rivals, 18 league points behind us before this match, for which we had a really strong team. Indeed, we needed it, as the early ends were much closer than we would have wished or expected.
But as the game went on we drew ahead on all rinks. After struggling to 10-10 our first rink scored a five – always a boost in a game with six shots on offer each end! – and then ran in a succession of scores to make it 26-12 as a final result. Three of our rinks scored 23 shots or more, and with the fourth managing 16 it gave us a huge 91-44 win. The lead at the top of the table is now 32 points, and requires Innisfree to win all three remaining games and for us to win neither of the last two, so it looks hopeful – as long as we don’t start the next game like we started that one!
If the performance on Wednesday evening was a second-half rally, the same had been true for the ladies in the Collins and Shipley in the afternoon. Facing Amble, they looked as if they might be facing defeat at the half-way point, with all three rinks down and a shots tally of 17-27. At this point a pre-arranged cooling-off break was taken, with ice lollies being handed out, and the effect was certainly invigorating for our team, as the scores rapidly changed when the players re-emerged. Shelagh’s rink immediately scored a five, having lost the four ends before the break to be 6-9 down, and then won the last six ends as well to finish 20-10 ahead. Betty’s rink had started a come-back even before half-way, and from 5-10 kept going to reach 10-10 before collecting an Audi (four zeroes) which led to a 12-17 defeat. That still left us five shots ahead overall, and Jean’s rink needed to keep things tight, which they did: level at 4-4, 8-8, 9-9 and 12-12, it was only fitting that they should finish the match on 13-13 for an important point and an even more important win on overall aggregate. Nine league points against one of the better teams in the league was a very good return, and we have now overtaken Alnwick for the moment. That ice-lolly break might become a fixture.
The hot weather at the start of the week again saw most of the Nines team in shorts at Throckley, where the hosts apologised for providing the three “least bad” rinks for our match. Here too there was a drawn rink, on a pitted surface which also featured stripy shadows – it was a bit like the effect at St James’ Park on a sunny spring day. As for the bowls, on this rink it really was like skittles, so it was fitting that we rescued a point with the last bowl of the match, straight up the middle to remove a shot bowl and actually finish only an inch off two shots for the win. No such problems on the other rinks, where the pairs were soon in control, easing off a little towards the end for a 26-11 win; or for the triples, with a lead that got bigger all night to reach 35-6.
By Thursday the unpredictable weather that had seen record temperatures linked to fierce thunderstorms disrupted the West Tyne semi-final against Alston. After about four or five ends the players had to flee the green in a violent downpour, and it at least says something for our green these days that they were soon able to continue whereas the other semi-final at Hexham House was abandoned. Two of our rinks won comfortably enough in a game that was decided on rinks won, not shots, so you could say the third one was a bit of overkill with a win by 48-1 – the sort of result which gives no great pleasure to either side, really. In view of the abandonment at Hexham House we now wait to find out who our opponents will be in the final.