Tag Archives: Backworth

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”…



“Don’t Give Up”

Our early-season promise has turned out to be more like the famous promise on NHS funding recently made by a senior politician and soon re-defined as “a series of possibilities”.

One of the possibilities was a rapid bounce back to the top division of the Collins and Shipley, but this hope was dented by a disappointing visit to Forest Hall.   The match started off well enough, and by the half-way mark Sylvia’s rink was 10-4 ahead with the other two rinks one shot up and one shot down.  But having started as if we were the home team we fell away badly after that.  It was hard to see what went wrong.  Certainly on Sylvia’s rink there was a problem with short bowls – consistently nine of the first 12 bowls were short of the jack – but that of course affected both skips, so it wasn’t the sole reason.  The pace of the green changed after one really heavy shower, but again that was the same for everyone.

Betty’s rink was always competitive while Thelma and Jean had notably good games at either end of their rink, but somehow in the second half the game drifted away on every rink.  After five ends we were collectively half a dozen shots ahead, after ten ends that had been reduced to a couple, and by fifteen ends it was 41-42 against. The last three ends continued the graph, so that with Jean’s rink scrambling a draw and the other two rinks being four and five shots down it was another league loss.

On the previous night the men had also suffered on the road, facing strong opposition just down the road at Backworth.  The fours had a torrid time, and would have given anything to have stopped the game after four ends, when they were 5-2 ahead. Unfortunately, they then lost the next eleven ends, conceding 32 shots with some very big numbers, and then another four towards the end even as they scored a couple to make it 7-38.   The Backworth green is notoriously two-paced, but the fours clearly had bigger problems than that.

The pairs were soon 0-10 down, and although they then got into their stride the damage had been done, so that although they matched the scores after that the final score was 11-22, thus giving Backworth the bonus points.  The triples for some reason got off to a flier, going 10-2 ahead and clearly getting the home side rattled by some pretty elementary tactics such as taking the mat up the green.  Quite why it worked so well we couldn’t make out, but it did.  The score continued to mount up, and at 16-7 with two ends to go it seemed a formality – until late panic set in, and Backworth sensed a chance to grab an unlikely win.  They scored four on each of the last two ends, but we clung on for a 16-15 win.  To have lost that wouldn’t just have been falling away; it would have been falling off a cliff.  The overall shots tally on the night didn’t look pretty, but in the Nines that doesn’t matter: at least we came away with two precious league points.

After that result it seemed that John Lambert might be trying some new motivational technique when he turned up to take half the team to Alnwick for the Challenge Cup final, with the car radio playing a song called “Don’t Give Up”.  But no, it was just one of his favourites, even if the next one on the playlist seemed to be preparing for a dejected journey home: “Don’t Speak”.

As it happened, the motivation wasn’t much required.  As in the semi-finals last month the A team performed consistently better than the B team, but the important thing was that the B team never lost by very many shots at all.  They lost the first two games (out of five) by four and three shots, then were down by three and two in the last two games of the day.  Both teams lost to Willington Quay in the middle game of the day (irritatingly, the only game that Willington Quay won), but in three of the others the A team managed to win by sufficient shots to earn an overall victory. These winning margins were mostly very small indeed, but each one earned two points, and then with the last game came a 14-2 win which lifted our shots margin to +13.

challenge cup photoStanding around for the presentation we noticed a smile from the County officials, but even then it was a genuine and total shock to hear that we had finished as runners-up behind hosts Alnwick.  Since Elvaston has never won the Challenge Cup since its inception in 1932 we can safely say that this must at least equal the best performance in that competition.

Special thanks are due to Brian Elstob, who stood in as a replacement at very late notice (as in: 10 pm, the night before).    We can only hope that his enforced change of plans will be compensated by the large coffee and walnut cake he had otherwise planned to take to a friendly match on the Saturday.

This good result followed Friday’s news that Jean, Betty and Susan had reached the semi-final of the Benevolent triples (to be held, with the final, on Tuesday 19 July), and of course those three, with Shelagh, are going to Leamington as winners of the County fours.  Shelagh and Jean are both in the County final of the ladies’ singles, and therefore both going to Leamington, where Jean will also be playing in the two-wood competition.  Altogether, and bearing in mind the difficulty we have in putting together teams from time to time, the club is definitely punching above its weight.  Don’t give up…

Then you win some more!

The friendly against Hexham House was played on a cloudy but bright day with more than the usual number of interested tourists and visitors sitting in the park.  The House green was a bit erratic on some greens – the same could have been said of ours last Thursday, of course – but was running very well in the sense of being fast – indeed, at a certain point heading north the bowls tended to accelerate past the jack.  It really was quite unusual to be needing such little effort to bowl a full length this early in the season.

Six full rinks made for a good spectacle but by the end the scoreboards were less of a good sight.  Two of our rinks had good wins (22-10; 21-10) but two others went down badly (8-25 and 9-25), so although the other two rinks were really close we finished 14 down on the day (88-102).  President Jean Allen played as if her life depended on it, earning the shot end after end and leaving her skip with nothing much to do. Keith Woods’ rink played with such great teamwork that they even shrugged off the temporary absence of a team member who had to rescue (his or) her car from a timed car park.  The narrow loss by four shots on David Ashworth’s rink was almost a win, as Elvaston were lying five shots on the last end until the last bowl won it for the home team.  Meanwhile, Brian Elstob’s rink found themselves level at 3-3, 10-10, 13-13 and then on 16-16 at the finish after winning the last two ends.

All in all, then, well enough matched over six rinks.  That was the first leg of the Courant Vase competition, and although 14 shots is a lot to make up in September it’s not beyond the realms.  In fact, perhaps we shouldn’t make too much of that Vase element, and simply agree with Jean as she thanked Hexham House for a splendid tea and commented that the score wasn’t important.

Where it was important was in the Nines match on Tuesday against Backworth.  Over the years this match has been a foregone conclusion, but our performance against Gosforth in the opening match had been so encouraging that the sight of the famous blue and yellow shirts didn’t seem so worrying – especially as there were only eight of them!  Having established that the ninth was still sitting at home, Backworth had to play with three men on the fours rink, losing a quarter of their final score.

This turned out to be vital.  The score was close enough for most of the game, but we did make a few mistakes, notably trying to win a couple of  ends when accepting a one-shot loss would have been safer (read, mark, learn…), and although we won nine of the first 17 ends we still trailed 12-18 going into the last.  Backworth were then lying the shot, almost touching the jack, when the skips went to bowl.  Since they would lose a quarter of 18 we knew that a two would win the match, and that’s exactly what happened when Trevor ditched the jack with his first bowl.  A win by half a shot!.

The triples had been level or just ahead all the way, and with Matthew Sinclair back in the team and playing as if he had never been away they were always in a good position with bowls in the head.  This time it was Backworth who needed a two on the last end just to draw, but Philip made sure we had several seconds and the single shot meant we had won that one too, by the relatively big margin of one shot.  In fact, that word “one” is the key to the whole win: in a game where the two teams shared the 18 ends, six of our nine ends were won by one, while for Backworth it was seven out of nine – keeping the score down can be as important as scoring a lot yourself.

Compared to this the pairs had a total landslide, 17-12, but the game was notable for having no score above a two, except for the six which put Keith and Darren 7-2 ahead. This came from a situation where Backworth were lying shot but we had five seconds – it was one thing for Darren to see the possibility of removing the shot bowl by promoting another one of ours, and quite another to play it!  From there on it was absolutely level (this game also finished nine-apiece in terms of ends), but with some excellent game management the pair were able to hold off any revival by the visitors.

Often enough in the past we’ve had cause to lament the way that the league points system produces a fruitless evening despite a good performance and a close game.    Tonight it worked in our favour, for sure, as a margin of just 6.5 shots across three rinks gave us an 8-0 win.   We may not be able to do a Leicester this year, but there was another football analogy this weekend as Swansea beat West Ham in London for the first time since 1956: yes, it did feel that good!

We said last week that the ladies were slow starters in the league.  They proved the point by getting up to speed at Gosforth on a fast green: the changes that were made to the teams were largely in terms of position, but they certainly seemed to improve the teamwork.  Two rinks won well, 16-8 and 18-8, and although Betty’s rink were pegged back to 12-12 with one end to play they then put the match to bed by winning a four on that last end.  So overall it was 50-28 and a whitewash in terms of league points, 12-0, a complete reversal of last week’s defeat.   Put that score alongside the men’s 8-0 the night before and it really did start to look like a good week.

This game does come  back to bite you, though, as they say.  The warning signs were there in the men’s friendly against Lyndhurst, where we won 66-64 overall, but thanks only to a big win on David Ashworth’s rink (the other three lost).  It was a lovely sunny afternoon, with good company, and of course the result in these things is a bit of a footnote.

However, the next night, in the West Tyne league, we came up against a determined Prudhoe side with several new recruits in an all-male team.  We have always regarded this league as a mixed league, and shall continue that policy.  The green wasn’t the easiest to play on, and certainly favoured the front-end players as there was no predictable bend for those playing later, but we could hardly blame the green as we were ahead on aggregate for all the first seven ends.   However, after that we found it hard to keep up.  The overall match was even tighter than the referendum polls – three of the rinks split the ends nine-each, while the fourth lost only 8-10 on ends.  But it’s shots that count, and while our own scores were remarkably similar (12,13,14,14) the Prudhoe rinks scored more on every occasion, even though none of them reached 20. Christina had a brilliant game and certainly didn’t deserve to be on the rink with the heaviest defeat.  Shelagh’s rink came closest to a win, going into the last end two ahead but then losing a three, but overall no one could argue with the result.  Defeat by 16 shots and a painful 0-7 in league points wasn’t the ideal end to the competitive week but we won’t be the only team to struggle at Prudhoe this year.



Something to Cheer About

The Ladies went to Ponteland for their final Collins & Shipley match knowing that not only did they have to win but Seaton Sluice had to lose (or at least get four points fewer).  At least the first part of the equation was in their own hands, and it turned out to be a close encounter. One rink won 22-11 while a second lost 11-23, so everything depended on Shelagh Carter’s rink, which once again finished two ends behind everyone else – this certainly ensured a good number of very interested spectators.  When this rink finally got off the green it was with a 16-11 win which ensured a four-shot victory overall (10-2 in points, in this competition).

News soon came through that Seaton Sluice had not only lost at Whitley & Monkseaton but had been trounced 12-0 (no friendly neighbour act there!).  So after weeks of calculations and scenarios promotion was guaranteed, achieved with a margin of six points.  It was a great effort over the whole season, and all the sweeter for having missed out last year by one point.

There is a school of thought that the constant changing of team formations among the ladies is a disadvantage compared to the men’s strategy of keeping the same groupings each week.  You wouldn’t give this theory much room if you looked at the relative results this year – as the Ladies have gone up, so the men have been relegated from Division 1 of the Nines league, bottom of the table for the last few weeks and hardly able to win a rink, let alone a match.  That position wasn’t helped this week by having to go to champions and league leaders Backworth.

Backworth Welfare Club

Although we shall miss playing at Backworth’s superbly maintained green next season we shan’t at all miss the patronising attitude exuding from their teams.  Last night was a good example of both aspects.  First, there was a green that was beautifully cut and running true, set in front of the elegant Miners’ Welfare building.  But as we waited to start the match one of the opposition players came across to their pairs with the very audible advice that they should remember they really needed shots tonight for the league race. In other words, the eight points were sewn up, and only shots mattered.

To rub things in, there was a good deal of banter between the Backworth rinks during the game, although they didn’t deign to speak to the visiting bumpkins.  All in the name of more shots, I suppose.  Well at least we gave them a good run for their money, despite the triples leaking more shots than the South Yorkshire Police.  The heavy defeat was largely due to some superb bowling by the Backworth front end, “relentless” in the words of our long-suffering lead, though it included a seven which was maybe a bit careless. A pity, that, as the other rinks were quite close – especially the fours, with Darren putting in a great effort despite being clearly unwell. On the sixteenth end we scored a two to make it 12-12, then added a single to take a lead into the last end. At this point the Backworth boys could see not only shots but two points disappearing – to the extent that you could see anything in the fading light. David Barker produced a great first bowl, Ken Hurst followed it with an even better one, so that we were lying two halfway through the end.  We were still lying shot with only the skips to play, but somehow John Cleverlely got a bowl to hold a straight line when it looked certain to be lost, and it pushed our bowl out to leave Backworth with two shots and the game.

The pairs were always up against it, losing 10-15 in the end, but when you consider that the skip was one of several Backworth players to have been at the National Finals in Leamington the previous week, and preparing to go down again next week, this was another good performance on our part.  The damage was done over four early ends as a 3-2 lead slipped to a 3-9 deficit.  From that point, however, it was pretty close – at 6-10 we were lying three until the skip burned the end, and the margin was just four with four ends to go –  but even our best bowls weren’t good enough to beat opposition of this quality.  So it was indeed an 8-0 win for Backworth, and one can only hope they were satisfied with the shots count.

Meanwhile we still have a game to play at title challengers Gosforth, so for all our disappointments this season we could still end up as kingmakers, perhaps…