Author Archives: trevorf1

Our Cup Runneth Over

After the men’s success last weekend in reaching the final of the Challenge Cup, attention turned to the ladies’ open triples at Amble. The team of Susan, Sylvia and Blanche won all three of their qualifying round games and progressed to the knock-out stage.  An easy win in the quarter-final meant yet another game in a long day which alternated between sunshine and heavy clouds with steady rain.  The semi-final, which took place in such rain, was the tightest match of the whole day on any rink – it was 3-0 to Elvaston after two ends, 3-3 after four, 5-3 after six and then 5-5 after the full eight ends.  To illustrate how close our team were to winning this: on the seventh end Gosforth Empire chose not to bowl their final wood as the situation was so tight, and then on the last end Blanche’s last bowl finished less than an inch from being the shot, which of course would have won the game.

The draw meant an extra end, but sadly at that point tiredness seemed to take over, with sudden-death defeat coming in the loosest end of the day. However, after 40 ends of bowls that was very excusable!

The league game against Forest Hall on Wednesday saw the ladies’ impressive run of results continue. Blanche’s rink were five or six shots ahead throughout, while Betty’s rink also won by a few shots after a match that for the most part was quite close. Our third rink came back well from 1-9 to level the score at 9-9, but eventually lost by a single shot. The result was another 10-2 win for the club, which keeps us in a strong second position in the table – the score neatly maintained the average of just over nine points per game. While we are talking stats, it’s worth pointing out that last week’s result against Seaton Sluice was only the second time this year that any team had scored more than 70 shots in a Division 2 match (both examples were 78, as it happens), and it was also the biggest winning margin this season.

There were two games against Hexham House this week, just two nights apart but in vastly different conditions. The Nines game on Tuesday took place on a balmy evening with birdsong in the background and shirtsleeves on the green; the West Tyne Cup tie on Thursday at the Abbey was played in the aftermath of Storm Hector, with leaves and twigs having to be removed from the green in conditions more like early September than mid-June. .

In the Nines match the fours ran away with the game after losing the first two ends, conceding only three more ends to finish with a score of 25-7.  That match was pretty well in the bag from the halfway point, but the other two were very much closer.  The pairs were 6-9 down just after halfway, but came back slowly to edge in front before a good score on the penultimate end took them to 14-9; from there it was easy enough to pack the head, and not even Clive Knott’s final thunderbolt could disturb things sufficiently to get the big score that Hexham House needed.

The pairs thus won by three shots, just as the triples were going down by the same margin (15-18).  Here Geoff Lamb was the match-winner for the visitors, playing second and keeping his team in contention all the way through.  Whether we were lying two, three, or even five, Geoff consistently cut it down to no more than one; and on the last end, with the score 15-16 and Mark’s bowl some three inches from the jack for a likely draw, he somehow managed to get two bowls between our shot wood and the jack. So that made it 2-1 to us on rinks, and a satisfying 6-2 win on points.

The Cup match against Hexham House B proved to be similar in almost every way except the weather. It was remarkably close for the first half, with two rinks both tied at 8-8 after nine ends (at which point the other rink was 7-6 in our favour after eight). At the ten-end stage we were leading by one, two and three shots respectively, but thereafter Trevor’s rink took complete control, moving from 8-8 to 25-8 in the course of seven ends, and keeping that 17-shot lead to the end.

So that was one rink safe in a match determined on rinks won, with shots counting only in the event of a draw. This detail became important at the end of Keith’s match. Bowling the last wood of the match, at 13-12 and believing that we were one down, Keith very reasonably played his shot on the basis that a draw was good enough for us, since we were by now sure to win the overall match on shots. After his bowl had come to rest, however, it turned out that we had been two down, not one, and the result was therefore a 13-14 defeat which gave the whole match a different complexion, especially as Steve Bennett’s rink had just been hauled back to 12-12 after 17 ends. It truly was all to play for on the last end.

Thankfully at this point John McArdle played his best three bowls of the night to make the jack hard to reach, Sylvia – unusually for the West Tyne, the only female player on the green – put in some back bowls as insurance, and Steve didn’t need to play his last bowl as Keith Sanders failed three times to dislodge our shot bowls. The three shots difference was the biggest margin all night on either that rink or Keith’s, and rounded off an excellent contest, played in a really competitive but very friendly spirit. Next week will seem really strange with no game against Hexham House…

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Losing Count(s)

In recent weeks the Ladies have had some extra maths practice, having started several games with eleven players, rather than twelve, thus incurring a penalty of a quarter of the shots scored by the short-handed team. On one occasion, against Gosforth, this was the difference between winning and losing, as the shots total after the penalty was 40.5 to ourselves and 43 to Gosforth, who thus picked up the six bonus points for a shots win and took the match 10-2. The result would of course have been exactly reversed if we had had a full complement.

No maths were required this week, however, as three full rinks took on Seaton Sluice at home and ended with a comfortable win on all three, for a 12-0 win. A definite plus sign! And an extra plus came with the form of several players still quite new to the league. In particular, Liz Benson showed great tactical awareness in realising that several Seaton Sluice players were struggling for weight and deliberately going for long jacks – an astute tactic which also required good control of bowls and jack.

Long jacks can be a problem for anyone on some of the heavier greens at the moment. In the County Senior Fours competition a rink skipped by Keith Woods played a North Shields four including a couple of notable local bowlers.  This, to use a term from a couple of weeks ago, was a road game, requiring an early departure from Hexham in light of heavy traffic in Newcastle.  As it happened, we arrived really early, but at least that gave some time to acclimatise to the damp and chilly conditions after the late afternoon sun at home.  The green was pretty heavy and spongy – a bit of a heave for early June, to be sure – and it was definitely in our interest to keep the jack at a reasonable length.

The match featured an interesting statistic in that for as long as it remained a real contest it averaged just on two shots per end – though fortunately, most of them were scored by Elvaston!  So after two ends it was 4-0, after eight ends it was 14-2, and by the eleventh end the score had reached 20-3.   With a single apiece to follow that the match seemed pretty well over at 21-4, but suddenly North Shields won three ends on the bounce, picking up seven shots, so that after sixteen ends 32 shots had been scored, while the margin was 10 with five ends left.  Two per end!  In the event, we got one shot on the next end, making the target much harder, and two more singles were enough for the match to be conceded.  The final score of 24-11 might almost have stood for the temperature difference as well…

Things were a bit better at Cramlington the next night for the Nines game, although there was still a huge difference from Hexham temperatures – both places were sunny and bright, but there was a bitter wind on the green.  The triples made light of conditions, running away with it, allowing their opponents to score just one shot every four ends and racking up a 29-4 win.  But even as the last end was being played an ominous shout came from the next rink: “Six!”  The fours had enjoyed a good tussle, and had worked really hard to get into a winning position, 14-10 ahead with two ends left, but then lost a six to go into the last end two behind.  They then scored a single, but – contrary to my post of two weeks ago – one shot was not enough.

The pairs had also been close, after falling behind early on, and went from 12-12 to 13-12 with two ends left.  They were then lying shot with the last bowl of the end to come.  The Cramlington lead told the skip to play a forehand runner to shift the jack, but the skip was unimpressed.  Indeed, he announced to himself and the nearest spectators that this was a “stupid shot”.  So what did he do? Why, he turned round and proceeded to play the shot demanded of him, and while he certainly hit the target no one could have foreseen what happened next.  The jack hit Brian’s back wood so hard that it came a few yards back up the green, to where Cramlington had several badly short bowls – and the result was five shots against us.  That made it 13-17, and there was no way the home team were going to let that lead slip.

So a game which, with two ends left, had looked like a very possible 8-0 win turned into a 2-6 defeat, with two rinks losing 11 shots on the penultimate end.  Truly, it’s not over till it’s over.  And as things turned out, the same moral was illustrated at Throckley the very next night, in a rearranged Nines game. Curiously, after the pairs and fours had seen leads evaporate, this time it was the triples who fell short after doing all the hard work on a difficult and uncooperative green.

Leading 16-9 with just four ends to go, we were just one shot down and with several inviting back bowls. It was agreed that Trevor should go for the trail, or possibly take out the shot bowl, but he completely (as in: completely) misjudged the pace and removed our only bowl from the head, gifting five shots to Throckley. Of course, this still meant we were leading by two shots, but the effect on morale for the two teams was massive, and the home team won all the last three ends for an 18-16 win.

Fortunately the other rinks had wins. The fours had clearly learned a lesson at Cramlington, and turned a 14-10 lead near the end (uh, oh!) into a 17-11 win. Meanwhile Steve Bennett and Darren looked as if they had set their sights on a whitewash in the pairs, as they were already 18-0 up after ten ends before losing a three). This was no real interruption, however, and the final score of 27-7 did not really reflect their total dominance.

So over the two nights we had a points tally of 8-8, with a remarkable shots difference of +46. When we win we seem to win big, but now we really have to concentrate on holding winning positions and not giving away counts.

No one was giving anything away in the West Tyne KO Triples tie between Brian, Mark and Keith (for Elvaston) and the Little family of Allendale. The score was 9-9 after 14 ends, before our team won the last four to win 15-9. The general closeness of the game was highlighted by the fact that there was not a single score above two shots at any point. Our other triples team, skipped by Malcolm Cooper, lost to a Hexham House trio led by Norman Brotherton – now the next opponents for Keith’s team.

To complete a busy week the men had a day-long session at Heaton Victoria in the semi-final heats of the Challenge Cup. We have quite a good record in that competition in recent years, and confirmed it this time by winning all four matches, with three other clubs winning two and one club on four defeats. Each club has two rinks, and the result is based on the aggregate scores of the two meetings between each set of clubs. Steve Bennett’s rink won their first matches 13-2 and 14-1, effectively sealing two wins in the first legs; and while the margins in favour of Darren’s rink were smaller they were quite easily defended for a clean sweep. In fact, Steve’s team conceded only eight shots in the 28 ends played, with no more than a single shot against on any end – now that’s how to avoid losing a count!

All is not lost

Several years ago we went to Gosforth to play the last Nines match of the season, in a game that would determine whether or not they won the league.  We won the match; they lost out on the league.

The only reason for mentioning that is to cheer us up a bit after another ritual disembowelling by the top club in the area.  They could probably beat most clubs with a second-string team out, but there were enough first-rank names in the squad on Tuesday to make it an uphill struggle all night for ourselves.

The pairs did at least come close, with Steve Bennett and Darren actually in the lead after five, ten and fifteen ends. However, those leads were either two or three shots, and from 11-9 with three ends to go we lost it 13-19, with Gosforth clearly scoring ten shots on two of those ends.   Of course, when you pull off that sort of recovery you think you are brilliant, don’t you, with the victory totally deserved!  But it was hard on our lads, you have to say.

The triples also fought hard all through, even though the deficit was growing slightly worse all the time.  To be 1-5 down after five ends wasn’t silly, and the eventual 6-17 showed there was no major upset, just a steady accumulation of low scores by Gosforth.  The fours were a more distant second all the way through, basically shipping eight shots every five ends and finishing some 20 shots behind.  Our overall total of 24 shots on the night was our lowest for some considerable time, but in view of the calibre of the opposition we just have to take it on the chin and see it as a learning experience – albeit a chastening one!

By coincidence our game in the West Tyne league was also against last year’s champions.  It was an away game at Haltwhistle, with the green like a carpet and getting a lot of admiration from our players.   It obviously did our game good, too, especially Steve Bennett’s rink with a 30-7 win which included a sort of power-play, going from 5-1 after five ends to 17-2 after ten.

The other rinks won by six, five and three shots in games that were close throughout – two of them were level at the half-way point, and the other was 12-11 after fifteen ends – but the important thing was that we won all rinks, and therefore picked up seven points on the night.  With Hexham House B losing, we established a clear lead at the top of the table with half the fixtures now played.

One Shot is Enough

arizona asphalt beautiful blue sky

Photo by Nextvoyage on Pexels.com

This report (totally reliant on details provided by roving reporter Brian Norman) is sent from British Columbia, just after reading a report on the Vancouver Whitecaps’ recent “road game” in Texas.  Texas?  Road game!  I mean, the nearest big city from Vancouver is Seattle, in the States, only 140 miles but two and a half hours by road, so quite how that expression comes from is a mystery.  Anyway (or “anyways” as they say here), Heaton Victoria in the Nines definitely is a “road game”.

After last week’s 100% record in competition the chances of a repeat this week were a little less than 100%, but the Nines made a good start. The triples had a sense of being hard done by early on, as the Heaton skip kept nicking the shot so that we were 1-7 down after six ends. However, the next six went 17-2 in our favour, to give us an 18-9 lead, and from there it was easy to see the game out at 20-12.  The fours were equally, or even more, impressive.  Here the score was 3-3 after five ends but 17-3 after fourteen! The final score was 20-7.  So the match was won, and the question was, by how many points.  The pairs had led 3-1 after four ends, then slipped behind at 4-11 before fighting back to 12-all with three ends to go. They then dropped a one and a three so were 12-16 down going into the last end. They managed just a three to lose 15-16.

So one more shot could have made it 7-1 on points, but in the light of early defeats, and several defeats at Heaton over the years, the 6-2 was very acceptable. The overall shots score was 55-35, which is pretty good for a road game!

The West Tyne match was a top-of-the-table game against Hexham House B.  Each side won two rinks, but in this league shots count for a lot.  Our two defeats were by seven and ten shots, though it must be said that the seven margin was a great effort after the rink went 0-9 down after just five ends.

Our first win was a tight (indeed, miserly) match, with five shots scored on the first five ends, 12 in total after ten, and ourselves in the lead 10-8 after fifteen ends.  True to form, only three shots came on the last three ends, and we won 12-9.   This low score was the main reason why this fixture had the second-lowest shots total of the season so far in the West Tyne league.

The last rink also saw a tight match: we were leading 3-2 after five ends and then just one shot down (7-8) after ten; at 17-12 after fifteen ends it looked like a case of “job done” but Hexham House came back and we were probably relieved the game finished after 18 ends with a one-shot win (18-17).   But that was enough to give us a rink point, and make it 2-5 in league points on the night.  At least that meant that Hexham House are now ahead of us only on shots.

It was a punishing schedule for some, as the men had a friendly at Portland on Friday afternoon, with one of our triples (Brian, Mark and Keith) playing there in the evening as well in a County triples.  Naturally they made sure they played together in the afternoon and had a handy 21-6 win in a match that was reduced to fifteen ends because of a heavy and prolonged shower.  Steve Benson’s rink did even better, 28-6, against useful opposition, and it is fair to say that with a score of 72-33 after fifteen ends, there would have been no way back for Portland even if the rain had relented.

None of the Portland trio in the evening game had played in the friendly. Because everyone was on site the game started 45 minutes early, although this didn’t help our cause.  It had stopped raining but the green was still saturated – presumably because the green was so baked from recent good weather.  Our team got off to a terrible start and were 2-15 down around the half-way stage, but then fought back to 14-16 and were lying shot on the penultimate end until the Portland skip got the shot with his last wood to make it 14-17 rather than the rather more likely-looking 15-16. So we needed four on the final end.  After Brian and Mark had bowled we were indeed lying four as Mark neatly took their nearest wood out. This left the jack about an inch behind one of Brian’s woods and Portland had plenty of back woods. The skip could have drawn for third shot but decided to try to hit Brian’s wood and send the jack back. He missed.  Three times.  So we won 18-17: one shot is all you need.

Oh, and it was Portland, Newcastle, not Portland, Oregon.

road trip

Hat-trick!

The week started well with a win for the Nines team – our first this year.  The pairs had a good tussle in the early stages, 3-3 after five ends and then 7-8 after twelve, but then scoring a 3 and a 6 gave them breathing space and the final result was 21-11.  That left Darren undefeated in the pairs games this year.

The triples were also in a close game early on, 4-4 after six ends and 9-9 after twelve, but they came on well after that to win 16-12.  Some little credit is due to the team selectors, who adjusted the team formations on the night to give just the right balance: those two wins were enough to seal the overall win, but even had one of them lost the fours chalked up a 23-11 win that was actually even easier than the score suggests.

So that was an 8-0 points win, and the ladies improved on it next day (numerically, at least) with a 12-0 win against Ponteland.  We have no details of this win, which was clearly also three rinks to none, other than the fact that one of our teams was a player short – so that particular win must have been big enough to allow for losing a quarter of the score.

The next night (Thursday) we travelled to Allen Valley, who were no doubt buoyed by their win at Haltwhistle the previous week.  Our star-studded line-up is captured on the new cover photo for our Facebook page, and the FB photo montage shows it as being a nice, sunny evening albeit with several fleeces on view.  In the end it was the home team that was fleeced:  after 15 of the 18 ends we were actually 44-46 down, but a really strong performance in the last three ends meant that we won 65-50 overall, with three of the four rinks winning.  The game was obviously much closer than that 6-1 result suggests, but whatever, it meant three league wins out of three in the week. It’s a while since that happened!

With those wins out of the way, a friendly at Gosforth on Friday was, well, just a friendly. Despite having some strong sets of triples our teams might seem to have had one eye on the mouth-watering tea provided by our hosts, and two rinks went down by exactly 20 shots each.   Perhaps we had better just stress that it finished three rinks apiece and that we won the tie=break by securing all three raffle prizes.  Another hat-trick…

We’re Back!

After the cold winds of April had made us wonder whether the green would be ready in time for the new season the sun came out at the end of the month for our first club sessions at Elvaston.  Unfortunately for those who had put themselves down to play in the Nines, the first match of the season was over at Blyth, against New Delaval, and it was a cold, wet evening by the sea, with the rain relenting only in the last fifteen minutes or so.

New Delaval had won Division 2 of the Nines at a canter last year, and we therefore expected a tough game.  It did indeed turn out to be very close.  The pairs started well, and even after losing a six, and then a four, managed to be just 15-17 down with two ends to play.  On the penultimate end there was a strong shout for it to be our shot, but the measure showed it was New Delaval’s by a quarter of an inch, so that we needed three on the last to make a draw, but got only one.

New Delaval fielded a very young team on all rinks, but really rubbed it in with a 13-year old playing lead in the fours. We were 1-8 down at one stage but then came back strongly to lead 12-10 with just three ends to go.  However, one unfortunate end let the opponents back in, and we actually lost the last three ends to finish 12-14 down.  So two rinks had lost by two shots each.

That meant that the overall match was lost, irrespective of a narrow shots margin which became even narrower when our triples won by one shot.  We led all through until end 14, but then pulled back a small deficit to make it even after 16 ends.  A three on the next end gave us breathing space, and although the opposition skip moved the jack with a bold shot on the last end it produced just two shots, so at least one rink had earned a win.

High Heaton had postponed the match due for the Friday, so our next opponents were even more difficult than the first, in the form of Backworth.  Again the pairs match was close, level after five ends and again (14-14) after 16 ends.  We then scored a one and a three to win 18-14.

The triples found it hard to get going, the more so in light of being on the wrong end of a couple of absurd flukes for which the opponents (to their credit) apologised.   An early 0-7 score was reduced to 5-7 before another bad spell (and two more flukes) meant it was 5-17, before finishing at 11-20.

The fours had the classic game of two halves, playing well early on to lead 9-8 after 10 ends.  But somehow, when no one was looking, Backworth took over, and we scored only one more shot to lose 10-23.

That meant another 2-6 defeat on league points, but the fact that New Delaval beat our local rivals at Hexham House 8-0 shows that they are going to make a big impact this year, while on the evidence of recent years it is an achievement to get any points at all off Backworth.  So let’s see how things go in May as the teams start to gel.

In the Collins and Shipley the ladies went to Morpeth with only 11 players.  One rink therefore played one short and lost a quarter of their score as a penalty.  Despite that handicap the other two rinks did very well to ensure that the final aggregate score was in our favour, and we came away with an 8-4 win on points.

To finish this first, elongated week of the league season we had a home game against Alston in the West Tyne league. This time it was our turn to be playing with a full team against a depleted visiting side.  The advantage for the short-handed rink is quite great in playing terms, as the two Alston players each had four bowls while one of our team (Keith, as skip) had only two.   On this rink we led for almost every end until the sixteenth of the full 18, at which point, leading 12-11, the Alston skip fired for the umpteenth time in the match and managed to turn a likely deficit on the end into a four-shot score.  Alston then won the other ends to “win” 18-12 – which is where the penalty of one third of the score came into play, reducing their total to 12 and making it a draw.

That was the only (half) point that Alston scored on the night, but in fact the match was much closer than the points score would suggest.  Darren and Malcolm Cooper’s rinks each won by three shots, but they were both trailing with (respectively) two and three ends to play.  Steve Bennett’s rink had the most comfortable win, 24-11, although this was also the result of a late surge after being just 8-6 up after ten ends.

Other results meant that after one whole game we are top of the embryonic league table.  But then, West Brom were unbeaten after two games this season and that didn’t finish well, did it?…

End of Season

We may not be at the end of the playing season, as such, but the formal league season is now over.  Some might say “Just as well” after another loss tonight in the Nines, against Ponteland , but in general the week’s results were on the positive side, so we should perhaps note them in order to take some encouragement into the close season.

First, for the Ponteland match we played our “Leamington Four”, and after a slow start where they remained in first gear to 5-5 they rather ran away with it, winning 28-11: that was good practice for the nationals next week.  The triples, on the other hand, went down heavily despite some very good opening woods from John Lambert, and the 4-30 score showed how well the opposition were playing.  The pairs also had their work cut out against a lead who played like a machine, but never gave up and won some crucial ends to bring the score back to 12-14 with three ends to go; sadly things slipped away, especially chasing shots on the last end, and the result was 12-24.

Last week’s Nines game against Gosforth had been even less encouraging in terms of the score (0-8), but given the high calibre of the opposition and the totally different pace of their excellent green, the performances were good enough.  Indeed, Keith and Darren came very close to winning the pairs match, with Darren in with a shout of making a draw or even a win with his last bowl; sadly it trailed off into the gloom of a dark, wet evening and our 16-20 defeat was confirmed.

There was serious discussion before the match as to whether it should go ahead, and there has seldom been a more reluctant set of bowlers (on both sides) emerging from the clubhouse, but we all managed to overcome the damp conditions. The triples, without playing badly, were well and truly beaten (13-30) by a trio who had won the County triples and will soon be down to Leaminton Spa for the national finals.  Put like that, could we have reasonably expected to win?  The fours also faced strong competition, and while their result was slightly better (12-24) it was never in doubt.

Two days later we travelled to Alston on a beautiful evening for the last game of the West Tyne league season.  Not only was the weather a total contrast, but so was the green – sublime to ridiculous, as Alston is surely the worst green any of us has played on.  That is not a criticism of anyone; it’s just a statement of the obvious, with Alston players openly apologising for the state of the green.  It’s not enough, either, to say that “it’s the same for everyone” – it’s not the same for someone who is used to such a surface and to the fact that a drawing weight bowl will never arrive because it is deflected by bare earth or bumps.  There is an art to hurling bowls, after all.

None of this is designed as an excuse – the one rink that lost had drawn back from 2-10 to 10-10 by about halfway, and should therefore have had every reason to go on and win.  Instead, everything went Alston’s way and the result was a 12-19 defeat.  Other rinks won more or less comfortably – more for the 24-9 and less for the 18-17, where David Ashworth used his last bowl to successfully reduce Alston to one shot.

Before going to Alston we knew that a 7-0 win would get us second place in the league, as we were level on points with Hexham House B but the best part of 100 shots ahead. Anything less and we would have to depend on their result.  Well, we did get less (6-1) and sure enough, we later heard that Hexham House had won 6.5-0.5, thus beating us to second place by half a point.  When you think of the number of ways in which we might have got that half-point it is a little frustrating – but at the end of the day, it’s doubtful whether the lives of millions will be affected by our third-place finish, and for several of our newer members the trip to Alston will have been a good learning experience, memorable not only for the scenic ride.

There have been several reports this year of tight finishes.  David Boaden makes a speciality of these in the  Handicap, beating Darren 21-20 (after leading 17-3) and then winning 21-19 against Mark in the semi-final.   Mark had at least been part of the first Elvaston team to win the West Tyne Triples, with Keith and Trevor against Jean, Darren and Malcolm in the final.  This was another game where a sizeable early lead was pegged back to 10-10 before the winners took off to win most of the remaining ends for a 22-11 score.

The ladies played their last Collins and Shipley match against top-of-the-table Bedlington and surprised the visitors – and maybe themselves! – with a 9-3 win.  With one rink well up and another losing narrowly the bonus points were assured whatever happened in the third rink, as they entered the last end two shots ahead.  Despite losing two on that end for a draw it was a healthy overall win, and Bedlington players expressed surprise that we were in our lowly league position.  But we are, and that’s how it is.  Just wait till next year!