Tag Archives: Allen Valley

Turning the Tables

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”…



Taking it Seriously

IMAG3874The picture was taken on Opening Day at the Dunbar Club in Vancouver, a really friendly and welcoming club where despite the rule for whites on Sundays the atmosphere is very relaxed – so much so that the club doesn’t play in any leagues, and has just one friendly each year.  (As you will see, in common with most other clubs in Vancouver they use fabric mats to protect the green, whatever the weather.)

Quite how our own members would manage without the extra edge from league and cup fixtures, and with such a high degree of internal competition, is a matter for some conjecture.  However, at the start of the week we were maybe not so keen on league activity ourselves, as early results were disappointing.  In fact, the Nines came very close to a win in their opening fixture, against Ponteland.  The pairs had an excellent win (27-4 shots), while the fours went down by 6-24. However, in the Nines league shots don’t count, so although the triples came within two shots of a win (19-21), thus ensuring a 52-49 lead on overall shots, the fact that we had lost two rinks meant that we took only two points from the night.  This was still a very good performance with a couple of regulars missing.

Despite having a second consecutive home game, against Whitley & Monkseaton, the ladies ended up with a rather similar scores profile, losing two rinks to one.  The trouble was that in the Collins & Shipley league six of the 12 points are decided by aggregate shots, and whereas our one winning rink led by seven (19-12) one of the others went down by 11-28;  although the third rink came very, very close (14-15) even a narrow win wouldn’t have been enough to earn the bonus points.

After those two setbacks it was important not to slip up in the West Tyne league against Allen Valley, especially as league leaders Haltwhistle are making such a strong start to the season.  In the event, the match was close enough: none of our three winning rinks was hugely ahead and we lost one rink by three shots, finishing with an aggregate win by 76-56.  At the same time Haltwhistle were racking up another 40+ margin, with maximum points, so we need to do all we can to stay within touching distance at the top of the table.   After all, we want to be a competitive club…



There were again no league matches this week – but with our Open Mixed Triples coming up, plus the West Tyne Gala Day and some re-arranged matches there will be a flurry in the next couple of weeks.

The Mixed Triples report will be added later.  This blog is simply an update on the progress of our last remaining triples team in the West Tyne knock-out competition.  You may remember from last week’s post that we had a good win against a Haltwhistle team, winning 18-9 after being 3-8 down.

Well, you may not believe this, but we did exactly the same in the final – only in reverse!  Playing against Samantha, Penny and George Little, of Allen Valley, we scrapped away in the first few ends, and after nine ends (half-way) we led 8-5.  The only problem turned out to be that from that point on we didn’t score another point, losing nine ends and thereby losing the match 8-19.   We were, in a word, outplayed.  No ifs, no buts, no maybes.  We played the last end for the sake of form, and because it was the final, but when George rolled in the shot on the seventeenth end, depriving us of a three which might just have made the last end interesting, we knew our number was up. It wasn’t a very high number, either…

In one sense it wasn’t that bad a performance.  The first eight ends of our losing run lost only eleven shots, and in two consecutive ends we lost the shot despite having one of our bowls within a centimetre of the jack.  But that only shows how very consistent and accurate our opponents were.

The symmetry of the scoring patterns relative to last week was quite amazing.  Against Haltwhistle we won only three of the first nine ends; here we lost only three – and in both games the score was 8-5 after those nine ends.  The scores reached 8-8 in each match, and stood at 14-8 (for, then against) after 14 ends.  In each game the eventual winners went into the last end eight ahead.  And whereas last week we won nine of the last ten ends; this week we lost nine of the last ten.

For those stats to apply to any game is noteworthy; for them to be reversed in quite that fashion in consecutive games is more than a little odd.  Our thanks go to those brave supporters who came down and shared our frustration, and especially to Hexham House for the use of their green plus the welcome tea and biscuits afterwards.After two consecutive Final defeats we shall definitely be aiming for third time lucky next year.



Sports coaches and captains often use the M-word, momentum, to describe the way a team can maintain or improve performance through a series.  This week we had a good example of how momentum can be lost.

A team of Brian, Pete, Keith and Trevor went to Gosforth to play in the County fours.  We knew in advance that the Gosforth team comprised four of the players who contested last year’s final (an all-Gosforth affair), and of course all four were County players.  Despite this we started well enough, matching them shot for shot through to 3-3 and not playing  badly even as they stretched the lead to 9-3.   At this point the skies darkened, with a strange brownish light and ragged clouds which seemed to suit us ok as we scored seven shots in three ends to lead 10-9 after twelve ends.

At this point the heavens opened, and we were bombarded with hailstones in addition to mere thunder and lightning.  At least we were the last of three rinks to flee the green.. After ten minutes or so play could resume, albeit with the occasional crack of thunder, but by now the temperature was several degrees colder and the green running rather differently.  It was at that point that the home team’s greater experience and skill became really obvious, and we scarcely scored another shot.  At 13-20 we threw in the towel with one end to go, but it had been a valuable learning exercise.

Just how valuable was shown about twelve hours later as Brian, Keith and Trevor played a West Tyne triples match on our own green.  This was against a Haltwhistle team, and it is taking nothing away from them to say that they offered less of a threat than the Gosforth players.  They were indeed very handy bowlers, but after the intensity of the previous night we were able to relax and play with a bit more confidence.  This worked out well, and this time it was our opponents suing for peace with an end to go, with the score on 24-10.

The ladies had two games in the week, also seeming to benefit from defeat against a strong team in the first.  Against league leaders Chirton they won one rink, and might have done better elsewhere if the players had been able to communicate better and play as a team, rather than a collection of individuals.  Two days later, and with a slightly different set-up, they got back to winning ways with a 10-2 victory at Ponteland B, who had meantime beaten our closest rivals, Morpeth.  According the published league tables this puts the ladies in second position in the table, well ahead of Morpeth on both points and shots.

The West Tyne squad had another good win at Allen Valley.  It was the most beautiful night for bowls, close enough to the summer solstice for the sun to stay on the green for the whole match, thus keeping the midgies away.   The green looked a picture, too: the work that has been put in over the last four or five years has transformed the previous heavy and mossy green into a very smooth surface which needs only to be played on a bit more to develop proper runs.

Whatever the runs were we seemed to find them well, and the overall result was a 7-0 win, with the shots margin at 79-40.  Even that could easily have been more, as one Allen Valley rink pulled back nine shots on the last three ends to cut their losing margin to just four.   One of our rinks won by over 20 shots, helped by a seven which could well have been a full house had it not been for a decision to play a safety shot.

League leaders Haltwhistle also had a 7-0 win, with a shots advantage of 40, so even here they managed to do just that little bit better!   However, our own result made a sunny evening even brighter.

The Nines game against Hexham House two nights earlier was a lot closer.  This was also a nice enough evening, but in the shelter of the trees down at the Abbey it got a little cooler, and the speed of the grass noticeably changed in the course of the match.  The fours had a big win, 17-4 after establishing an early 6-1 lead.  Not that early leads mean safety: the triples also built a 5-0 lead, but were pegged back by a strong team including three recent winners of the singles titles at Hexham House.  Despite losing a five which might have finished us off we promptly got a five ourselves, so that we needed four from the last two ends to draw.  Sadly, Shaun Blaylock drew the last bowl of the seventeenth end to give them a single, so we needed five on the last instead of three – and that proved just too much.

The pairs also lost by four, after a brilliant turn-round by the home team.  Brian and Darren were behind for most of the match, but drew level at 14-14, and then 15-15 with two ends still to go.  Again the seventeenth end was crucial, as Darren hit the jack out into the open to leave us lying two or three shots – that is, until Clive Knott did his usual killer act and drew the shot to put us one down going into the last.  This time there was no escape from the stranglehold of home bowls around the jack.  Last season we earned a draw in the corresponding match after snatching a draw on the last end of the triples, so we can hardly complain about the turn of events this year.



Just win the ones that count

With the men having the first of three consecutive byes in the Nines league there was a chance to fill in the West Tyne schedule by playing the postponed match against Allen Valley.  As ever, the game was played in a friendly atmosphere, though the air temperature by the end of the evening was much less warm, with an icy wind totally at odds with the hot sunshine of the morning.

Elvaston won three of the four rinks, with two of the wins being by 18 or 19 shots, so that the final shots total was 79-47, translating into 6-1 on league points.    Our one losing rink ran into an onslaught from the Allen Valley team: after leading 8-6 after ten ends the Elvaston team conceded nine shots without reply in the next five ends, and then lost the last three by a margin of 2-5, so that the final score of 10-20 was quite a turn around.

There was another West Tyne match on Thursday, away to Alston, but thankfully without the cold wind.  The match was reduced to 16 ends because of the late arrival of one of our cars, and of course we are grateful to Alston for being so accommodating.  It also should be said that the Alston green is much improved from last year.

Here too the match went three rinks to one in our favour, with an aggregate shots total of 69-45.  This was pretty consistent across the board – indeed, after ten ends the total was as close as could be to half of the final result (34-22).  This time it was our turn to have one rink run away with things between ends 10 and 15, going from a precarious 6-5 through to 18-6.   We did lose one rink, so once again it was a 6-1 win on points.   With three wins by that margin this season, the whitewash against Prudhoe looks especially disappointing – but next week’s game against Haltwhistle will be a major test, and will have a big influence on our hopes in the league this year.

The ladies, meanwhile, go from strength to strength in the Collins and Shipley league. They won their third match on the bounce, taking all three rinks against Forest Hall, including a 20-shot win for Shelagh’s rink and a 57-28 win on shots.  Since league leaders Chirton also won with maximum points this week, this 12-0 victory puts the ladies in second place; and with Chirton having won all four of their opening matches with 45 points out of 48 it becomes easier to understand our setback in the opening match.  To put it another way, Chirton have dropped only three points and we were responsible for two of them!

After all this there was a defeat coming, but at least it was at Portland, in a men’s friendly that was enjoyed by all  – good company, the usual fast green, a fine buffet and even some sunshine towards the end.

For the record we lost on all four rinks, and David Ashworth was the only skip who ever led (1-0, and with one end to play, 16-15) but at that point the team had an attack of vertigo and lost by two shots. Brian Norman’s rink also lost by two, in a game with violent swings: 0-7 after four ends, they levelled at 8-8 before immediately losing a six and even then coming back to finish 14-16 having won ten of the 18 ends. Ken Hurst’s rink finished just six shots down – not bad considering they won only five ends!


A Normal Week

After a week of big wins followed by some big disappointments, this was perhaps a week to settle down into some kind of normality.   The Nines team had their second bye of this second half of the season, which when added to two postponements means that we have gone over a month since the last game.  This has allowed Heaton Victoria to take over at the top of the table, but in fact they are just six points ahead having played three games more, so we really ought to be able to make up the deficit.  At the time of writing it is raining, with a lot more forecast, so let’s hope that the match on Tuesday survives.

The West Tyne match against Allen Valley ended in a comfortable win, although the news that Hexham House had scraped home against Haltwhistle meant that hopes of a league title disappeared like the setting sun.  That sun had caused some problems during the match, though you would think that our own players would be ready for that in an evening fixture. Anyway, we won three of the four rinks, losing the fourth after some earnest calculations as Allen Valley had only two players against our three.  They therefore lost a third of their total, and going into the last end with the score 18-11 in favour of the visitors one shot for our rink would have produced a draw at 12-12. The shot went to Allen Valley, however, so it worked out as 11-12.7 in the end, and a 6-1 win for ourselves overall.

The ladies duly beat Forest Hall, losing just the one rink to win 54-40 on shots and 10-2 on league points.  This took us out of the relegation zone, just ahead of Benfield – who happen to be the next opponents (away).  Clearly that’s another must-win match before a couple of games against the big guns in the league.

Tea after the matchThe leagues provide plenty of interest and excitement, but there is still a lot of fun as well as good competition in friendly matches.  The match against Wooler on 26 July was a case in point.  We lost three of the six triples games by three shots each, won two rinks by one shot and six shots, and drew one rink.  How close was that?  Well, the literal answer, of course, is that we lost the match overall 80-82, but in more general terms it was a great occasion, even down to the fact that we started ten minutes early because of the likelihood of rain, and were just clearing the green as the rain started.  Neat!   A lovely tea followed, with good company from Wooler – the emphasis on league results can risk overlooking this social aspect of bowls.

What was that about a week of normality?  Jean Allen pulled off a great achievement on Sunday by winning the County four-wood championship, beating Pat Browne of Burradon 21-15.  No one had won the Cup more than twice since about the 1960’s, but this is now Jean’s fourth victory.  It’s becoming quite normal…

Some Optimism

The week had a full variety of matches, ranging from friendlies through league matches to a Cup semi-final, and in all 30 members had at least one game.

Five triples turned out for the friendly at Consett on Sunday. This was our second visit to Sherburn Park, and the welcome and hospitality were as warm and fulsome as on the inaugural match two years ago.   The sides were extremely well matched, and by about halfway it was becoming obvious that there would be one rink well ahead for each club, with the other three pretty close.  So it proved, and not only that but the shots ended 78-all, which for a friendly really couldn’t be better.  The supply of cakes and sandwiches and pies and tarts and marshmallows seemed to go on for ever, and when all that was finished there was a very generous raffle.  The only thing which some of us might have changed (given that it was a friendly) would be to have the usual 18 ends with one shot on the first two ends, instead of 16 with a couple of trials – but this was no big deal.

By Friday it was time for a longer trip, to Alnwick, where the tea was also fulsome and the hospitality excellent; even the weather was brighter than it was in Hexham.  The only thing wrong with the day was the eventual score (as if that matters in a friendly), but at least one of our new members, John McArdle, finished on our top rink on his début.  And on a day when four of our new members played in the match (whenever could we last say that?) we received two more application forms: things are looking up.

They were already looking up after the West Tyne Cup semi-finals on Thursday.   Hexham House were playing over at Alston, and despite winning one rink 32-13 they lost the other two, so that Alston made it to the final.  Whether they would play ourselves or Allen Valley was in doubt until the last few minutes of our match at Allendale.  Ken’s rink was well ahead early on, and then maintained that advantage to win by six shots; but Trevor’s Trio did the reverse, falling well behind in the early stages and just failing to catch up, losing by three.  It’s just as well that David Ashworth, Blanche and Alan stuck in after losing an early five, coming back to win by just one.   Because of our overall shots advantage Allen Valley needed a five on the last end here, but managed just a three – altogether too close for comfort!   The final will be played on the Chairman’s green, as always, and that gives Alston home advantage – it’s a good job we have a league game there before that to get a bit of practice.

In the Nines we stayed top of the table with a good win over Wallsend Park B.  The match had some pretty ridiculous scores.  Darren and Peter lost the first two ends, and after five ends were 2-4 down, but at this point they stopped dealing in singles, losing only two more ends to finish 31-8 ahead with the final 16 shots unanswered.  They polished off the match several ends before the other two rinks, both of which finished with a scoreline of 26-6 – but unfortunately only one of them (the triples) was in our favour, with the fours winning only four ends, including a three on the last.  The Wallsend skip in the fours said that the last time he was here, in a National competition, the present clubhouse wasn’t even there – but he and his team played as if they were regular visitors.

The ladies had a heavy defeat at Burradon in the Collins and Shipley (no details are available, but let’s just say that we failed to trouble the scorers); however, other results meant that their mid-table position is still secure, and once this run of difficult away matches is over there should be an easier run-in with four home games at the end.  That’s the thing about bowls – there’s always a reason to be optimistic, somewhere…