A late posting this week, not least because of the number and extent of fixtures. It’s been the busiest week of the summer and a bit of a blur, so where to begin? Ok, let’s start with the worst bit.
The trip to Centurion Park on Wednesday for the Clegg was definitely one to forget. The home team could manage only 10 players, which was a bit ironical in view of the lengths we went to in order to get a full team, so two of our triples played against pairs. This isn’t an excuse for a poor showing on the night, as one of those unbalanced rinks won, but it was somehow typical of a dispiriting evening. We lost quite heavily on two rinks, so that even with the penalty of one third of their shots on two rinks Centurion Park still won by some 18 shots overall, and we brought home just two league points. It’s quite a pity that the bad weather which caused postponement of the ladies’ Collins & Shipley game earlier in the day didn’t reach Wallsend too!
The absence of key players not just for that game but for the Challenge Cup on Saturday was regrettable, but in fact the performance of the deputies in the latter event was really impressive. In a four-club round robin we looked to have run out of energy and enthusiasm just before the lunch break, with both of our sides losing to Forest Hall; but then after lunch both sides really took off, reversing the form and results of the very first games and ensuring two wins. In the end we came second, losing out by seven shots to Forest Hall. Of course, at that point it’s always easy to isolate one bad end in an “if only” scenario, but actually there’s usually more to it than that – and for us the crucial thing is that it was a great learning experience for our newer players and a really enjoyable event on our own green.
Eight men were unavailable for the West Tyne game at Haltwhistle on Thursday night because of another event, and although this game was also – as always – enjoyable in sporting terms, the result was a disappointing 0-7, with a shots margin of 44-77 showing a large disparity. At least our team gave it their all, with some good individual performances, but Haltwhistle are clearly determined to win back the title this year and didn’t let amiable chat and banter get in the way of a solid win. Considering that we won the league last year, our current position of sixth in a table of seven clubs is quite the downfall: all we can hope for now is a positive shots difference!
The rest of the week was rather dominated by the word Gosforth. We started with a Nines game at home, where the champions and league leaders brought a very strong team, only one or two off their first pick. Craig and Steve were in no way overawed by playing against current and recent County singles champions, and raced into a 14-6 lead by half-way. Indeed, after the first two ends they only bothered with singles on two of their eight scoring ends while at the same time restricting their opponents to singles on five of their eight ends, so that the result was an impressive 23-12.
The triples were also up against three County players in a match that was a good deal tighter. The first time that Gosforth edged ahead (6-7) was on the tenth end, and even then we then made it 11-7 (the biggest margin in the whole match) before they came back strongly with a three and a four to make it 11-14 against us with just two ends to play. One shot on the next end didn’t seem to be enough, but – somewhat against the odds – the Gosforth skip narrowly missed his target three times on the last end, leaving three of our bowls sitting there for a one-shot win that ensured the bonus points.
A points score of 6-2 was already good, and in the excitement nobody had noticed what was happening over on the far side of the green, where the fours fought back from an early deficit of 1-8 (and 7-15 with five ends to go) to reach 15-15 going into the last end. This was a fabulous effort, and there was every chance of a famous maximum point haul until the Gosforth lead put in a front toucher that no one could dislodge, but despite the two-shot defeat this was a great performance.
Two days later we faced Gosforth again, this time in the round-robin format of the Bell Cup – like the Challenge Cup, two rinks for each club, with the scores aggregated. This proved to be quite an incentive, in that our A team lost by seven shots to Ponteland in the morning before a post-lunch revival saw the B team simply swat the Ponteland A team aside to win 18-3 and seal the win. The same effect applied in reverse against Gosforth: our B team had started badly in the first game of the day, conceding two fours on the first two ends and eventually losing by ten. However, in the final game of the day our A team ran riot, taking a 10-shot lead immediately and going on to lead by 12 with two ends to go. Sadly, Gosforth then scored a two and a one to reduce the deficit to nine shots, and therefore a one-shot win over the two matches. Another case of “if only”, especially as Gosforth emerged as winners on the day, with ourselves tied in second place, albeit finishing third on shots. It was, none the less, our best showing in the Bell Cup for many years.
“Best showing”…, “Gosforth”… – ah yes, where were we? Back at West Avenue, for the Centenary Invitation event organised each year by the Gosforth club, and where the ladies had two rinks of round-robin format just like those described above. This competition goes beyond the county, with Lyndhurst and Sunderland among the entrants. With three of our regular players away in Leamington it was a challenge but to the great credit of all involved the two rinks rose to the occasion, making clever tactical choices on things like jack length and carrying off the trophy for the first time in five years. It is fair to say they were all very happy, and so they should be. The week wasn’t all gloom and doom…