On the day that the BBC came in for heavy criticism because only a third of its top earners were women, HEBC managed the same proportion in the West Tyne game with Hexham House: four of the 12 players were female, one on each rink. At least all were on the same pay scale as their teammates.
One in particular deserved to be a top earner: Christina played what she happily agreed was her best game ever, nailing the jack so often that we almost needed to send for extra supplies of chalk. A few early ends went against us, so that after eight ends we were leading just 7-6, but once Christina started sending in her guided missiles we won all the next ten, scoring 20 shots for a 27-6 win.
David Ashworth’s rink had almost as big a win, also being 14 shots ahead after 15 ends, but this lead was pegged back a bit in the closing stages so that it finished 25-14. Here too it was in the middle period that things clicked, with David Boaden getting the hang of his borrowed bowls: the score went from 9-7 to 22-8 in the course of five ends.
The other rinks were much closer – in both cases the teams went into the last end level. Brian Elstob’s welcome return to action had promised well (his was the only rink to be leading after five ends), but Hexham House caught up, and with the scores on 13-13 our rink was holding shot until the last bowl of the match, when Pat Thompson drew the shot.
Darren’s rink finished well after all others, partly because of some confusion about scores and measuring, not to mention a burnt end. They were tied 13-13 after 15 ends, then 14-14 going into the last but after a relatively low-scoring match suddenly lost a four to make the defeat look bigger than it should have been. However, with the overall aggregate safely in our favour it was a 5-2 win on the night against the only side now able to chase us for runner-up spot in the league.
The Friday night saw our Senior Fours play in the County semi-final against Portland, at Gosforth. The forecast had been for gloomy and damp weather, but as the match started the sun came out, making life a bit tricky for anyone not wearing a cap, at least in one direction. That problem was not as difficult as the rink – not because of any imperfection, but because of the extremely fast pace. Portland, of course, play on a fast green themselves, and settled much quicker than our team. The score was soon 1-12, but to the great credit of the HEBC four they came back to 10-14. In the next ends a few crucial shots went against them, and the “run rate” went up until it meant getting a five on the last end simply to draw – and some well-placed bowls by Portland ruled that out. It is fair to say that, on the night, the better team won, but reaching the inaugural Final of this competition was still a great achievement.
Brian and Keith were back for more on Sunday, at Alnwick, in the semi-final of the County fours with Darren and Malcolm. In fact, they almost had a fruitless journey, as it was raining so hard on arrival that they had to shelter in the car for a while, and when play did start the conditions became bad enough for the players to come off the green. At that point our team were leading, but after the resumption they fell behind for the first time in the match (14-17). At this point they scored a four, then added a few more over a couple of ends, so that their opponents from Morpeth needed a five on the last end to draw – a precise re-run of Friday’s finale, in reverse. Not only did our team avoid the five, they scored one themselves for a 23-17 win. This puts them in the final next weekend – Darren will be playing against his brother Craig – and it also guarantees a trip to Leamington Spa for the national finals. Well done, all.
On an adjacent rink two of the winning Portland team from Friday were in a semi-final of the triples, and leading all the way through until they lost a seven – and the match – on the last end. Well at least they’re already booked for Leamington…
While all this was going on we had a friendly at Consett, where the rain arrived rather later but allowed us – just – to finish the match. Soaked as we were, it was an enjoyable game with a magnificent spread afterwards. Our top rink comprised new member Isobel Adamson, Christina Auld (clearly unstoppable just now) and Richard Hart-Jackson, whose joke-telling at the après-match tea was as impressive as his bowling. They each received a miniature bottle of wine for their efforts – so at least HEBC can say that our ladies get equal rewards for doing the same job!