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!