Tag Archives: Challenge Cup

“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…

Up for the Cup

This week’s reports are an unusual mixture, as there was not a single league match – we had byes both in the Nines and in the West Tyne league, while the ladies kindly postponed their Collins & Shipley game in order to help with the catering at the Bell Cup knock-out event on Wednesday.  The competition is held each year among the eleven private clubs in Northumberland; there are two pools, one of six clubs and the other of five, playing in a round-robin format  with two rinks from each club; the two winners on the day go forward to the final.  The trouble is, it doesn’t seem to matter how strong our team is,  we never do very well!

This year we had the slight advantage of being at home because of the late decision by the original host club to decline the offer, but having the event on our green didn’t mean a change in fortune.  Once again we finished in a lowly position, but despite our early Hexit an analysis of results shows that we were not that far behind the eventual winners, Gosforth.  We did draw one of the games against Gosforth – half a feather in the cap – and had it not been for a couple of wayward bowls at crucial moments we might have given the winners a much closer run.  However, we didn’t, and that was that.

To see that our draw in the Challenge Cup three days later pitted us yet again against Gosforth, on the Ponteland green with Ponteland also in the group of five clubs, didn’t bode well. The green looked absolutely superb, though that didn’t mean it was easy to play on – if anything, the lush grass made the bowls less likely to take a consistent bend.  One of our teams played a Gosforth rink in the opening match, and the format meant that our other team would play the second Gosforth rink at the end of the day.  With Ryder Cup tactics we decided to let our more experienced rink play Gosforth in the final game, since they would know what (if anything) they needed to do, while the opening game on a neutral green was more open to chance.

The first bit of the tactic worked very well, as our B team pulled off a neat 5-3 win in the seven ends (a two on the last end was the only score that wasn’t a single).  Meanwhile the A team demolished a Throckley team 16-1 (the highest win of the whole day, for anyone).  The second game for the B team was also tough, against Ponteland A, and after losing the last end to an amazing final bowl that was the equivalent of a golfing hole in one the match was lost 4-9.  After lunch came the reverse fixture with Ponteland, and our A team really took the game to the hosts.  By the sixth end they were three in front and actually lying six until the home skip cut it right down to a no-shot decision that was reached only after three attempts to measure a winner.  Needing now to win the last end by two to get an aggregate draw, our team were lying five with only one bowl left for Ponteland – and again the skip did for us, resting our shot bowl to get second shot and leaving us down by one shot over the two games.

Meanwhile Gosforth had beaten Ponteland over their two games, so the equation in the last game was quite simple – the A team had to beat Gosforth (starting with a 5-3 advantage, of course), and hope for other scores to go our way.  And – surprise, surprise – that’s exactly what happened.  Despite a minor scare near the end, Darren turned a Gosforth bowl out on the last end to score one shot and draw the game, so that we won the overall match.

When the maths were finally worked out the verdict was that we had won the day’s competition, by six shots after tying with Gosforth on match points. Of course, the overall points margin of plus 25 was largely down to the A team – especially that 15-shot win in the first session – but although the B team finished just 24-22 up on the day those two shots were the crucial ones against Gosforth.  So all in all it was a great team performance, and so good to end the day on a high after various disappointments.  We now go on to the Final (at Alnwick, on 16 July)..

Speaking of finals, last year’s West Tyne triples runners-up (Brian Norman, Keith and Trevor) started this year’s challenge at Hexham House, where they played a team who (in all fairness) they should beat most days of the week.  It didn’t look as if that would happen on this day of the week, with the home team going from 6-6 to 13-6 with only six ends left.  At this point we were glad – very glad – to pick up a seven, thus levelling the score, but immediately dropped a four to some inspired bowling by the home skip.  Some brilliant bowling from Keith, plus some anxiety among our opponents, gave us another five on one end and we looked to have sealed it, leading 19-18 and lying one shot on the last end, with one bowl to go.   Cue an outrageous wick and a Hexham House bowl coming to rest right behind the jack.  So the scores were now level, and we needed an extra end.  This time there were nerves on both sides, but we did enough to get the one shot needed.  To win a game after winning only seven of the 18 regular ends was quite remarkable – as we carried our bowls bags away it felt as if they should have “Swag” written on the side.

Up and Down

After last week’s successes there was almost bound to be a return to mixed results, and so it proved.

The closest league match of the week was certainly the  West Tyne game against Hexham House. Both teams were missing a few players, but the overall standard was still very good, and it made quite a difference playing on a calm, sunny evening.  One rink finished one shot up to Hexham House, one finished one up to us, and a third was drawn, so things there could hardly be closer; unfortunately one of our rinks lost by nine shots and of course that was the overall margin, with Hexham House getting the shots bonus.  On our winning rink Darren saved a point on the final end, drawing second shot to ensure the one-shot win, and not even risking his final bowl.

In the Collins and Shipley league the ladies had a difficult day on a very heavy green at Whitley & Monkseaton.  It was apparently quite an effort to get bowls up to full length, and a real struggle, with only one rink winning and a long trip home after a 2-10 defeat.

There was no such problem with heavy greens at Gosforth when Trevor and Jean played their Mixed Pairs game against a Gosforth team.  The bowls were, as they say, flyin’, especially in the direction where they were wind-assisted on one of the windiest June days on record. This didn’t make for very accurate bowling, but both sides were equally disadvantaged, and it was a close match throughout – for example, just 8-7 to the home team after 12 ends.  We then moved ahead 13-8, but back they came to within a single shot, and it was only on the twentieth end that a four put us in a comfortable position, seven up with one end to play.

Even by the end of the week the wind was still blowing strong, causing mild havoc at the Challenge Cup competition at Cowpen and Crofton.   This time it was a cross-wind, which made things difficult in both directions – in fact, this was the biggest challenge of the day. Hats and bits of foliage were blown across the green from time to time, and the scoreboard cards had to be tied with thick elastic bands, or otherwise they were flicking over like the old-fashioned departure boards at airports.  Anyway, there were just four clubs in the pool, so it turned into a round robin of three matches of 15 ends, with each club having two rinks.  So each club played two games against the other three, with results based on the aggregate scores over the two “legs”.  Against the home team our “B” rink lost by three, but the “A” rink won by four; and against Tynemouth the “B” rink’s four-shot defeat was matched by a five-shot win for the “A” group – so both matches were the narrowest of wins.  Against Haltwhistle, however, our luck (or rather, our skill) ran out, and both rinks lost, quite deservedly and with no room for debate.  Good luck to Haltwhistle in the final.

Finally, the Nines team had a big win (8-0) against Forth on the Tuesday night.  The wind that day had calmed down a bit and somehow the heavy black clouds produced nothing more than scattered showers so that the game went the distance – fortunately for us, as the pairs were behind for quite a long time.  The triples had an easy 24-9 win that came out even bigger when Forth lost a quarter of their score for having only three players, while the triples clocked up 30 shots.  With Hexham House winning big over at North Shields we therefore went to the top of the table, still with a game in hand over North Shields.  Next week it’s Heaton Victoria, who in recent seasons have always given us a really good game, so we can expect something much tougher, even if the weather is bound to be better.  Isn’t it?…