After a mere two-day gap between the two previous posts, it’s been almost two weeks since the last one – fancy real life getting in the way of bowls, eh? Rafa Benítez has apparently described football as “the most important of the least important things in life” – maybe he hasn’t heard of bowls…
Last week’s West Tyne league fixture survived the weather, although there had been fears of a postponement for a while with really heavy showers late afternoon. Two of our players played the entire game with full waterproofs on, although in reality it didn’t rain once the match had started and after a few ends it wasn’t even necessary to dry the woods. However, with the moisture in the air the appearance of the Allendale midgies was even more predictable than normal!
Steve had a fairly comfortable win, leading throughout and finishing 18-12 up. David Boaden relied on a late charge, winning 27-15 after leading just 9-8 after eight ends. Richard Hart-Jackson’s rink came back from 4-10 down to 10-all, then led 12-10 but lost 7 shots on the final 3 ends to go down 12-17. The sub-plot here was that they were lying six shots on the 17th end until the Allen Valley skip moved the jack and scored three.
The fourth rink was even closer at the end, after being tight all the way, with seldom more than a couple of shots in it. Elvaston led 11-10 with two ends to go. On the last-but-one Allen Valley skip George Little took the shot wood out with his last bowl to claim a three and go 13-11 up. On the final end, Allen Valley were lying shot but had no back woods. David Ashworth moved the jack back with his second wood and George’s final wood stopped short. So we got a three in return to steal it 14-13 with no need for the final bowl. The overall result was therefore a 6-1 win (71-57 on shots).
This week’s Cup semi-final at Haltwhistle went less well. Cup matches are decided on rinks won, not shots, and our line-ups were strong enough to give us hope of nicking at least two rinks. However, Malcolm’s rink were behind for most of the match, losing by eight shots; Trevor’s rink started well but failed to recover from a dropped five, losing 12-17; and Darren also lost a count towards the end, losing 13-16. Three single-digit defeats tell a consistent story, and we have to admit that Haltwhistle were just too accurate for us when it mattered. As ever, it was a fixture which was both competitive and friendly – and at least the rain held off until we were in having a cup of tea.
This week we heard that Hirst Park have dropped out of the Nines league, thus reducing the original eight teams to just six. Hirst Park were on our list of re-arranged fixtures, so that reduces the congestion but it is still a disappointment – and even more of a disappointment for those clubs who have already played Hirst Park, and now lose any points earned. At least we had no points to start with, not having played them, but of course we were still bottom of the table going into our game with table-toppers Backworth.
It’s possible that Backworth were just a bit complacent – who knows? – but for whatever reason all our rinks started well. The pairs were soon 10-2 up, and the triples picked up a seven – almost unheard of, even against lesser teams – so that with everything going right for the fours we were leading on all three rinks after 14 ends. From here on things became quite tense – though not for the fours, who took full advantage of what even they admitted were a couple of lucky breaks to build up a nine-shot lead with two ends to go, then added another two to hold an unbeatable lead going into the last end, achieving a final score of 19-9 .
The pairs had inched ahead in a low-scoring match, increasing their lead from one, to two, to four shots by the fifteenth end before losing a four that made the score 12-12 with two to go; but they then won both of those ends to make it 15-12 and seal the overall match result. The triples were also pegged back to equality (16-16) with four ends to play, before each side scored two to reach 18-18 and then a single shot each for a 19-19 draw. So overall it was a 7-1 win, a result that would have fetched long odds at the bookies’, but which confirmed our earlier contention that form and teamwork have improved a lot over recent weeks. We’ll still be bottom of the table, for sure, but not by very much, and now with some momentum to take us into a busy period of re-arranged matches.
The day after this upset, Alnwick were the visitors in a Collins and Shipley league game. Here too our ladies were bottom of the league while Alnwick were top – by only one point, and maybe thanks to a lot of home games, but top none the less. So here was another challenge.
Rather like the men in the Nines, the ladies seemed to be encouraged, rather than put off, by the quality of the opposition. After about ten ends, one of our rinks was 5-10 down and another was losing by three, with the third rink ahead by seven. From that point on the various scores changed quite a bit, but the overall closeness hardly changed until the last end. Blanche’s rink were reeled in but still won by two shots, while our second rink came back to be close to a draw until our final bowl gave the shot to Alnwick, who declined to bowl their last one and took a one-shot win. With Elvaston therefore winning by one shot on the two completed games, all eyes turned to Betty’s rink. Having already come from 5-10 down to move to 15-10 ahead, they would clinch the match by avoiding a six on the last end – but when the Alnwick third trailed the jack to give them a very solid four, with two bowls still to come, things started to look ominous. Betty’s first bowl was caught up in the traffic, but her second was perfectly judged, hitting her first full-on and promoting it not just to save a count but actually to get the shot. To win this match 10-2 on league points was a major achievement – and there would certainly be no point in trying to persuade the ladies that this was one of the “least important things in life”…