Category Archives: Bowls

Final(s) Report

It always happens.  We put so much effort into preparing the green and the administrative side of the club, and start off the season looking at a long list of fixtures.  Then, at a certain point in August, it suddenly dawns that the season is just about over again.  If only the season could be stretched out a bit, to make it less frantic…

One of the obvious signs of nearing the end is the last league fixture for Bowls Northumberland, a home match against Ponteland.  It reflects on the packed schedule this year that having just the one Nines game in the week was a remarkable event.   The triples set off at a gallop, 11-1 up after five ends and 16-1 after seven.  As so often happens, however, the dominant team eased off slightly, with the opponents also making a comeback.  This revival was kept well under control, though, and although Ponteland outscored us slightly in the second half we were safe for a 22-13 win.

The fours also got off to a solid start, 4-1 ahead after five ends and then 8-1 after eight, but obviously that score relied on a lot of singles.  That was to be the downfall, as two ends later Ponteland had brought it back to 8-6, after which we scored just two more singles in the last eight ends to lose 10-15.

Apart from a brief early flicker when they won the first two ends the pairs were always struggling to impose themselves.  After five ends the score was 2-3, which already showed how Ponteland were starting to be consistent, and five ends later it was 5-13.  That was where the damage was done, clearly, as the margin of difference stayed much the same, for an eventual loss by 10-18.

Yet another 2-6 defeat!  That was a depressingly familiar scoreline this year – exactly half of the 22 matches (and six of the last eight) finishing that way.   Once again in this match the number of shots (42-46) showed that it wasn’t a walloping, but the ability to win two out of three rinks has just been beyond us.  Like the Team Sky cyclists we need some “marginal gains” to push up to another level.

A marginal gain in the form of one more shot would probably have allowed us to win the West Tyne Gala Day on Sunday.  With each club playing two triples games against each other club, and the result not clear until after the fifth and final round of games, it transpired that we finished second on seven (out of ten) points, with Hexham House A winning the event with eight points.  In fact, their only loss was to ourselves, but apart from losing to the other Hexham House team we drew 10-10 with Allen Valley – the only drawn match of the day and coincidentally the lowest aggregate score of the day as well.  But any small disappointment was offset by the fact of having done the League and Cup double – quite enough for one club to take home!

Events later in the week produced the chance of another double in the Ladies’ County competitions, as both Susan and Jean reached the final of the Champion of Champions, in 2-wood and 4-wood respectively.  This in itself was quite an achievement for one club. The finals were played simultaneously at Alnwick on a sunny morning and a lovely green.

Jean was two down after two ends but after then levelling went well ahead thanks to a four on the first full-length jack she played.  Since she had won the quarter-final and semi by 21-2 in each game, playing long jacks, it was a surprise that the jack length here varied so much – but if it was a ploy to unsettle her opponent it worked very well, and from 10-3 she moved to 15-7 without any alarums.  At this point there was some unexpected turbulence as a result of dropping two consecutive threes, and it needed a good saving shot to cut a potential four on the next end to two.  That made it 15-15, but whatever Jean said to herself at this point (and we were glad it was Saturday morning, not Sunday) she moved on to 19-15, just failing to score a two on the next end but rounding off with a four on the last for a convincing and deserved win.

On the next rink Susan started really slowly and was 1-7 down after just five of the 21 ends.  It proved difficult to get any real momentum but at least the game became more even, so that after 13 ends it was 7-12.  All the while, it seems, Susan was applying some good sports psychology, based on focus and concentration (apparently the role model was Harry Kane taking penalties) and with her opponent rather too willing to chase the shot – always a risk in the two-bowl game – she came back to 11-13 after 16 ends and 13-13 on end later.  Game on!

With one shot apiece on the next two ends it was 14-14 before a score of two took Susan to the brink of victory, 16-14 up and lying shot on the last end.  At this point the Amble player finally made a heavy shot count, and somehow nicked two, to level the scores and force an extra end.  Susan lost the toss but for some strange reason her opponent handed the jack over, and (helped by Harry Kane) Susan put her first bowl close enough to put pressure on immediately.  This time there was no escape for her opponent, and Susan was the new champion.

Well done, both!  And after a season when not everything has turned out perfectly let’s end our final match report with what we can with good reason call a winning smile!  See you in 2019…

cofc2018

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Wins all round

Waterlogged LyndhurstIn this driest of summers we looked forward to a friendly at Lyndhurst on Monday. We left Hexham under grey skies, but as we passed the Metro Centre the heavens opened, and we got to Gateshead just in time for that downpour to catch up with us.  Within minutes the green was flooded, and it took only a few minutes more to call the match off.

It was even stranger to get back to Hexham and find the roads dry, while at Gosforth Blanche Adamson and her playing partner from the Gosforth club also had a fine afternoon, made all the finer by winning the County Over-55 Pairs competition.  Their opponents in the final were Susan and Shelagh from our own club, so we can be proud of our prominence in the ladies’ game.

Through the rest of the week it was back to the normal routine of regular games in men’s, ladies’ and mixed leagues.  The Nines team played at Collingwood (North Shields) on a green that was extremely similar to our own in terms of brown, parched grass and occasional bumps.  We were reduced to eight players just as we about to leave Hexham, following a bizarre mix-up that had nothing to do with bowls, so the fours played as three, facing the loss of a quarter of their score.

This seemed not to trouble them at all, as they were soon 12-0 ahead, and even when you took that penalty into account 9-0 still sounded pretty good.  Collingwood then came back into the game, basically sharing the shots, so that after 16 ends the score was a gross 22-8 in our favour.  That was not the time to lose a count, but in an eerie echo of the Cramlington match back in June, we dropped a five on the penultimate end, to make the score 22-13, or (in net terms) 16.5-13.   It would have been hairy if that half-point had been needed, but in the event we conceded just a single on the last end, for a win that was much narrower than had seemed likely.

The pairs were also ahead throughout, extending an early four-shot lead to seven or eight for much of the game – at the end the scoreboard read exactly the same as the fours, 22-14, but this time we got the full benefit.  Having said that, Collingwood made a spirited recovery at various points, pinning us back to just a couple of shots early in the second half and causing some furrowed brows on the part of Brian and Darren.

The triples really looked to be too strong for the opposition on paper, especially taking into account the fact that the Collingwood second had been playing bowls only for a couple of months.  The trouble was, he hadn’t read the script, and also had a background in archery, so that his ability to see the right line was phenomenal for someone new to the game. Allied to that, the skip was extremely good, and managed to cut down our potential shots on several ends – a quick calculation suggested it was well into double figures.

So it was a game of attrition, just having to be satisfied with single shots, of which there were plenty – from 4-4 after five ends the score plodded to 17-5 after fifteen.   Still Collingwood didn’t give up, and after yet another corking bowl from their skip to turn a two-shot deficit into three for them on the last end, it finished 17-10.  By that time most of the home team had gone home, probably dispirited after yet another defeat.  It was still a good win for ourselves, even if a clean sweep against a team that hasn’t notched up a single point since May won’t gain us too much ground in the league.

The ladies got back to winning ways in the Collins & Shipley league – by coincidence they too were playing the bottom team in the league.  The strong start to the season had tailed off in recent weeks with three defeats, but against Seaton Delaval the engine sparked back into life.  Betty’s rink took a few ends to get the better of the opposition but from about the mid-point pulled away to win just about every end for a 19-7 win.

The other rinks were closer for most of the match, but at least that solid victory on the first rink meant that the bonus points were all but assured.  Blanche’s rink had trailed consistently for the first half of the game, but a four with just two ends to go established a clear lead for the first time, so that from 11-10 with three ends left they took the match  16-11. The third rink were actually lying two shots on the last end for a tied score, but the opposition skip trailed the jack to earn Seaton Delaval one shot on the end and a 17-14 win.  The overall result was therefore two rinks to one in our favour.  With ten points this week and another nine guaranteed next Wednesday because Seaton Sluice have conceded the game, the points tally is suddenly looking a lot healthier.

After those two matches against teams that were bottom of the league we were able to send out a West Tyne team that was top of the league before playing Hexham House B at the Abbey green. The green posed some interesting challenges, with bowls occasionally running against the bias and some doing an elegant little slalom. On one rink a slight depression meant that well-weighted bowls speeded up in the last yard of their journey to travel at least another yard past the jack – a novel twist to the game.

Of course, these conditions applied to both teams, and once we had worked out the vagaries of the runs it was quite straightforward (with the emphasis on straight). Three rinks won quite well, with Darren’s rink progressing consistently from a lead of four (after five ends) to eight (ten ends) and sixteen by the end (a score of 24-8). Keith’s rink also finished well ahead (21-9), after being just 8-6 up at the half-way point. Trevor’s rink looked to be on track for a big win too (15-5 after 14 ends), but then lost five shots on two ends before finishing 18-10 ahead. Meanwhile the two Steves and Blanche played really well, even leading after ten ends, but were unfortunate to come up against skip Mike McDonnell in awesome form: the loss of a late five made the score (11-20) look far worse than the performance had been.

This meant a 6-1 win on league points, which in the light of other results means we are now three points clear at the top of the table with one game to go. Five points against Haltwhistle next week would guarantee the title, and although four might be enough with our current shots advantage that is an unusual points score to achieve as it means winning only one rink while also winning overall on shots. At least, as the football managers say, it’s in our own hands.  And by the end of the week, unlike our experience at Lyndhurst, we could be home and dry.

Into the Final

Thankfully, in a season full of postponements, there was no clash between our West Tyne Cup match and the slightly bigger Cup games in Russia. Our semi-final with Allen Valley duly took place one day after England’s semi against Croatia

In the football, Croatia had fallen behind early, then equalised before getting the winner.  We definitely played in a Croatian style, as early exchanges were not in our favour.  After five ends we were leading on one rink, down on the second and drawing on the third, and after eight ends it was worse, with two rinks each 3-8 down.  A couple of ends later we had restored the earlier balanced position not only in terms of rinks but also on overall shots, which were tied 24-24: it simply couldn’t have been closer.

Quite why things changed as rapidly as they then did is unclear, but for some reason all three rinks pulled ahead, and in the course of the next five ends we won the shots count 26-5, with two rinks so far ahead that the final ends were a bit of a formality.  In the end we won by three rinks to nil, but it had clearly been a struggle early on.  We now meet Hexham House A in the final, to be played on 9 August.

The Nines game due on Tuesday was postponed, adding to a long list of re-arranged fixtures in that league.  By the time we get them all finished the next football season will be well under way.

No news today

Readers of a certain age may remember a pop song by Herman’s Hermits (trivia quiz: what was “Herman’s” real name?) entitled No Milk Today.  This typically dotty ditty from the 60s was later parodied as No News Today (“to CNN’s dismay…”), and it was the latter song that came to mind this week, as I received no news of club scores in matches.  With seven of the men away on the Gosforth Tourists’ visit to Lincoln, and another batch of people away on holiday, things must have been rather quiet.  So, in tribute to Peter Noone (for ’twas he):

No news today,  the guys have gone away

They’re on the Gosforth tour, there’s no news that’s for sure.

No news today, the ladies keeping mum

We hope they got to play, but no result has come.

No news today, we cancelled in the Nines,

But Thursday was ok, so how about West Tyne?

No results or score, were our teams down or up?

I’ll try and find out more – but first I’ll watch t’ World Cup

 

Norman Conquest

Keith Woods had a brilliant Father’s Day – and that was even before any family events!  First, in the morning, he partnered Jean to victory in the County mixed pairs.  In recent years more and more players have entered this competition, with the standard going up too, and here they were playing one of the strongest pairs in the county, who might have been fancied as ultimate winners.  There were some dark comments to the effect that our green wasn’t as good as Gosforth’s – no one would argue with that, for sure, while it’s quite fair to say that our green doesn’t bend as much as Philippe Coutinho’s goal against Switzerland the same day – but the visitors’ general air of gloom was reinforced by some excellent bowls by Jean and Keith, so that the game was conceded early.

With not much in the way of lunch, Keith then played skip again for the Senior Fours against a strong Backworth Welfare team in the quarter-finals of the County competition.  Rink 6 (hut-to-hut) was chosen, as being the most reliable of the rinks at the moment, although our visitors complained increasingly loudly about it.  By coincidence, there had been no complaints early on, when the lead alternated several times to reach a score of 8-7 after 10 ends.  At this point we scored a five and won several other ends, so that the score was suddenly 18-8 in our favour and somehow “home advantage” was making a difference.  Well, no one has ever heard of “away advantage”, have they?

Just when it seemed that we would win easily Backworth suddenly came back into it, lying five until Keith cut it down and then on the next end another five until Keith played an expert promotion shot to reduce the score to one.  We went into the last end 19-12 ahead, and the only tactic open to Backworth was to kill the end and have another go, but despite slicing the jack they failed to put it off the rink and we didn’t bother to count any bowls beyond our token one shot.

Regular readers will recognise that a good number of posts refer to the weather and/or state of the green, and this one is no exception.  After having complaints about our green at the weekend we found ourselves at Ponteland for the Nines on Tuesday, with an immaculate playing surface that – if anything – was too good.  That may sound surprising or even ridiculous, but in truth, when you have been used to a “bit of a push” on our green, to have a green that is much closer to indoor speed is a shock to the system, and it took us a while to adjust.  Making life even more difficult was the weather: rain had been forecast for about nine o’clock, but it arrived right at the start of the match, and although it was best described as very heavy drizzle it made conditions very difficult: the surface became quite greasy, making the bowls slide on through.  The same for both teams, of course, but it’s not so easy chasing the game under those conditions.

You will have gathered that we are softening you up for news of a defeat – a heavy one at that, 0-8.  This was all the more disappointing in that Ponteland have lost several of their best players this year, and also because we were fifth in the table before this game –  a long way off fourth place (53 points) but the “best of the rest”  of half a dozen teams bunched between 36 and 30 points.

The pairs were up against a strong long-term partnership and although they did well to keep the early deficit within reach, with Darren burning the last end in yet another attempt to save the match, they went down 12-17.  The fours also had a slow start, going about seven behind and then finishing exactly seven behind (11-18).  Seven was definitely not a lucky number for us: the triples held their own early on, then, on the seventh end, lost a seven, and despite coming back to level at 15-15, finished seven shots down at 15-22.

The Ponteland game finished with the whole team wet and miserable, but the next day the Ladies were home and dry against Morpeth, running up yet another good win (10-2). Two rinks won and the third lost by only one shot. And on Thursday the West Tyne team, in the absence of several regulars, had an extremely good win at Alston, where the green has improved very notably since the problems of a few years ago. On a bright, sunny evening three of the four rinks performed in almost identical fashion, establishing an early lead and then adding to it slowly but surely, winning by margins of seven (on each of two rinks) and ten. The final rink struggled to get the better of Alston stalwart Norman English: there was scarcely ever more than one shot in it, and – to prove the point – we were lying an apparently unbeatable one shot to win the game when Norman fired up the middle and managed to get the shot for a 15-15 draw. So it was nearly a whitewash, but still a very satisfactory result, leaving us well clear at the top of the table.

Playing skip on that last rink was our Brian Norman. Having seen almost certain victory denied by the Alston Norman (English), he played in the West Tyne triples the next night with Mark and Keith against a Hexham House team skipped by yet another Norman (Brotherton). This was another close affair, which went to an extra end after an outrageous wick by the Hexham House skip – just as all deflections in football are “wicked”, so all wicks against yourself are outrageous. The extra end looked to be (indeed, was) very much in our favour until Geoff Lamb drew the perfect shot to win the end for the visitors. After that result you might say Brian wasn’t very keen on the Normans.

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!

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