Tag Archives: defeats

A win, at last

Fifty years ago this week Britain switched its old Whitsun holiday for a late Spring Bank Holiday.  And of course, that year it turned out to be not only a dreadful May but also a particularly wet and windy Monday on 29 May – prompting “I told you so” complaints and a bad reputation for the new holiday.  It so happens that the weather in that back end of May has been rather poor over all the years since, so it really shouldn’t have surprised us that a long spell of hot, dry weather turned damp and chilly for our Queens Cup event, quite recently moved to the Bank Holiday Monday, and falling this year on the fateful 29th.

The grey weather was at least improved by the traditional red, white and blue outfits worn by participants.  For a while even that colour was covered up by rainproofs, but thankfully it eased after an hour or so, and seven teams of three enjoyed a round-robin event which was decided only in the final round.  All teams won at least two and lost at least two of the six rounds, so the combination of chosen skips and teams drawn at random worked out well.  The winners were Norman Lees, David Boaden and (skip) Mark Terry.

20170529_180039Other winners were the MacMillan cancer care charity, as we started the day with a special spider, with proceeds going to MacMillan. Thanks are due to Keith Woods for donating a bottle of whisky as the prize – this was won by Betty Boaden, who also won the prize for the best outfit.  And of course, everyone won with the splendid catering, with everyone providing their own favourite – how about this massive gateau?

It isn’t usual, I know, to spend time writing about internal club competitions, but somehow it seemed essential this week as we could at least record a victory!  Most of our other matches ended in defeat, and if we were a football club the manager might be getting a bit nervous.

In fairness, our Nines game with Hirst Park had been postponed at their request, while the ladies had a scheduled bye in the Collins and Shipley league, so we had just the one league match.  This was against Haltwhistle.  Unbeaten this season, they still have a plaque on the clubhouse wall recording their eleven consecutive West Tyne titles from 2001 to 2011, and there have been more since.  Put in that context, our 2-5 defeat, (59-67 on shots) was not at all bad.

Our first rink got off to a flyer, going 7-1 up in four ends, but from then on it was a very tight game (16 shots on the next 13 ends) as Haltwhistle fought back to make it 12-12 with one end to go.  At this point our lead John McArdle put a bowl right on the jack at the start, and the rest of the end was spent defending or shielding that precious shot: with some relief we got a 13-12 win without needing the last bowl of the match.  David Ashworth’s rink had an excellent win, by some 13 shots, and put us in with a good chance of a surprise result.  Blanche skipped an all-female team – Haltwhistle have no ladies in their team – which did very well to limit defeat to just six shots, including a five on one end.  Unfortunately, however, our fourth rink lost by 16 shots, so that the overall shots balance was negative (59-67).

In the West Tyne singles, Trevor played the Hexham House champion, Willy Dunn, in a two-leg match.  In the first leg, at Elvaston, he scored three threes late in the match to win 20-10 and establish a comfortable-looking cushion for the return.  However, Willy had rescued several ends with his final bowl, and that feature of his game came to the fore in the second leg.  From 3-3 he went to 11-3 with two consecutive fours, each of them clinched with the final bowl when Trevor had been lying at least two shots himself.

The margin remained at around ten throughout the match, until a four for Trevor on the fifteenth end of eighteen made it 12-18, an aggregate lead of 32-28.  On the next end he was lying three, effectively match shot, only for the last bowl to “do” him again, and with that boost Willy won the next two ends with some excellent bowls, and won overall by two shots. These were two really good games, even if the result was not the one we wanted.  In the first leg the home player won 12 of the 18 ends, winning 20-10; in the second the home player also won 12 ends, with exactly the same ratio of shots (24-12).  It could hardly have been closer – but it was still another negative balance!

Our second senior fours team lost heavily at home to Ponteland on a day when nothing went right.   So it was down to the standard issue fours team to provide some positive news, and they duly did so, against Rockcliffe.  After eight ends it was 4-4, at which point the visitors pulled ahead so that we were 5-8 down, but then our four (David Boaden, Brian, Keith and Darren) took control, with at least one of the first three bowling a very good bowl each end. In fact they didn’t lose another point, and Rockcliffe conceded after 19 ends, with the score 21-8 in our favour.  An actual win – some of that bunting from the Queens Cup day would have come in handy!


We’re back!

After such a mild, dry winter it was disappointing to have a cold snap as the season was about to get under way, and even more disappointing to start the new term with a narrow defeat at the hands of Hexham House A.  The score, 2.5 against their 4.5, hides the fact that we won two rinks, drew one and lost only one: the result of course is based on the crucial detail that the side with the most shots gets three bonus points.  And since the shots margin at the end was just two (59-61) it was a tough one to take.

Keith Woods’ rink was in a well-matched draw at 16-each. Brian Elstob’s rink did well to earn a 17-12 win, while David Ashworth’s  14-12 win would no doubt have been much, much bigger had it not been for the exceptional shot saving of the Hexham House skip. However, another crucial element in the result, unfortunately, was the final bowl on Darren Cooper’s rink, where Darren found himself 12-15 down with one bowl to play and elected to fire, with a view to picking up three or four shots.  As is so often the way, the plan (how do we put this?) mis-fired, and he lost a six.

Well, nobody died, as Boris Becker once put it after a defeat. But if there is a lesson here for all our teams in the coming season, it is surely to watch all the scoreboards in such team games, and to accept that a loss on one rink may be acceptable if there is a big premium on overall shots.  It’s a bit like accepting that you can’t win every end in singles.  Easy to say when sitting well away from the green and the heat of the competition, but a vital point all the same.

And speaking of the heat of competition, let’s hope for some warmer weather for the next games.


“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…

A (very) mixed bag

When the men played their Nines game at Cramlington earlier in the season they came away with a hard-earned six points, confirmed only on the last end.  Hopes were high that with home advantage we might get a similar result in the return, and those hopes if anything rose when one of the visiting triples team announced that he had only two bowls, so that we loaned him a set.

We soon wished we hadn’t, as he played a blinder.  We were always playing to retrieve the situation, and it was telling that although Cramlington won 14 of the 18 ends, none was by more than two shots, with eleven of them being singles.  We were always able to get in quite close but never close enough, and crucially not early enough.   On the other hand, when we did get a chance to build the head we scored well, with a four and two threes in the ends that we did win.  When we were lying shot on the last-but-one end it had seemed we might be within two shots going into the last, but the end was lost and the final result was 11-17.  However frustrating that might be, it was the right result on the night.

The pairs had an almost identical score, 10-17, and although they won eight ends it was probably true to say that this score was fair too.  At least Keith and Darren (unlike the other teams) did manage to be in the lead at one point, and even at the halfway mark were level at 6-6, but losing a late four when there was already a gap of four shots between the teams was the killer blow.  Whatever good shots they pulled off – and there were a lot – the opposition seemed to match them with interest.

The fours won five of the first 12 ends, reducing an early 1-6 deficit to 8-10.  Unfortunately that was as good as it got, as they then lost five of the last six ends, losing fourteen shots in the process, so that the final score, 9-24, looked decidedly one-sided.  In the second week of Wimbledon this was definitely a case of game, set and match to Cramlington, and we really will need to improve our game for Hirst Park in a fortnight – winning the home fixtures should be a given, but on Tuesday we looked like the away side.

At least the men could say that they were beaten by better bowlers, or certainly by players who adapted better on the night.  The ladies really had no such excuse for losing 2-10 to Seaton Sluice at home the next day.

Jean’s rink won comfortably enough, 16-10, bowling neat and well-placed bowls to maintain a lead throughout the game, easing ahead over the last few ends with no alarums.  The measure of their efficiency was that when they finished the other two rinks were just finishing the fifteenth end.  Or perhaps that says something about the glacial pace of the other rinks, with regular deliberations and measures.

For whatever reason, those other two rinks let promising positions slide.  Betty’s team had been 7-5 up, but gradually the visitors started to dominate and the final score of 10-17 showed the scale of the surprising turn-round.  There seemed to be no particular reason; it was just one of those things that happen on the bowling green. But the result obviously left us one shot down overall, and in a league system where there are six bonus points for winning overall on shots, that made the result of the third rink really significant.

Unfortunately Shelagh’s rink also saw a good position fade.  At 13-8 with five ends to go  it looked quite comfortable, but a tendency to play too aggressively proved our downfall, and the final score was 13-16.  This meant that we had lost the whole match, including the bonus points.  In view of the men’s poor result the night before it was not shaping up as a very good week, with Prudhoe, who beat us 7-0 at their place earlier in the season, still to visit.

This West Tyne match turned out to be very good quality, with all four rinks well-matched. David Ashworth, David Boaden and John Lambert had a particularly close encounter, though any of our members watching it might have been viewing between their fingers: 11-3 up, and then 12-6, they let things slip to 12-12 in the course of losing five ends, but then managed to get the single that took them over the line.  Compared to that, Brian Elstob, Blanche and Alan had a positively comfortable two-shot win: trailing until the fourteenth end, they then created a 17-12 lead before losing the last three ends for a 17-15 win.  Here again the secret lay in keeping the opposition scores down to one for most of the time, whereas most of our own scores were more than that.

Darren, Sylvia and John McArdle won ten of the 18 ends, with three threes and a four, and this enabled them to re-establish a lead which had been pegged back from 14-8 as Prudhoe won three ends on the trot to make it 14-14 after 14 ends.  It was then our turn to go on a run of winning ends, and by sealing all the last four it finished 20-14 in our favour.

Trevor, Jean and Susan’s game was also close early on, tied at 8-8 after eleven ends, at which point a run of five ends out of six took the game away from Prudhoe, with the final result (19-12) being both satisfying and slightly flattering in terms of how the ends had played out. Susan’s consistent delivery of the jack to our preferred length was notable, quite apart from the bowls, and as on the other rinks the teamwork was very good.

Overall, then, it was a 7-0 win to cancel out our bad night over there in May, with a shots margin of 69-53.  Most of that difference of 16 shots was accounted for by the higher number of threes and fours that we scored in what was a very close and exciting game all round.  It also, thankfully, saved this blog from being completely doom and gloom!



Not a Good Week

Apologies for the late posting of this summary: all landlines and broadband in our area have been were knocked out for days as a result of an errant underground drill, and other commitments stopped me from getting to wi-fi access until today. Better late than never, I suppose, though after reading the results you may wish the wi-fi hadn’t worked at all…

Yet again – the fourth week on the trot – there was no Nines game, so the first competitive action of the week was the ladies’ Collins and Shipley match at Morpeth. After a really strong run through May they too had been interrupted by a break in the schedule and it seemed to show as they found themselves on the wrong side of a 10-2 scoreline. There was no particular reason, but the whole product was somewhat less than the sum of its parts.

The same could be said of Trevor and Jean’s quarter-final of the County mixed pairs, at Newbiggin. It would be nice to blame a heavy (10-25) defeat on a quirky rink, or a bumpy green, or maybe the stiff breeze off the sea – but not even all such excuses put together could avoid the fact that they were outplayed – apart from a really good trial end! True, they got into an early lead, but once the home skip started firing and producing a couple of good counts it was uphill all the way. At least the winners had already beaten both the winners of 2014 and 2015, and that provides some perspective for the result.

There was more bad news in the West Tyne Cup, albeit with a much closer result. After losing at Alston in the final last year we took encouragement from the improved green and our own recent victory there in the league. In fact, we played pretty well, and (in a format decided on the best of three rinks, with shots counting in the event of a tie) we were winning two rinks to one after 10 ends and also after 15. The home team then came back and nicked a one-shot win on Darren’s rink after the skip turned out our shot bowl with his very last bowl. The lead also changed several times on the last end of David Boaden’s rink, and we were briefly holding the one shot that would have meant a draw and an overall win on shots – but here too the home skip got rid of a bowl to claim a narrow win. We ended up losing 1-2 on rinks, with the shots dead level on 42-each. If we say that it couldn’t have been closer, it really couldn’t.

On the grounds that the results of friendly matches don’t count in serious records we couldn’t even claim our 106-76 win against Alnwick as a real win (pleasing as it was). So our last chance of a victory in the week came in the rearranged West Tyne league match against Hexham House A. This turned out to be almost as close as the Cup match at Alston. We lost one rink by eight shots, and won another by eight. The other two rinks were close throughout, but finished in our favour by margins of three and two shots respectively. An overall win by five, then, and by total coincidence that was the margin in league points too: a 6-1 win to keep us vaguely near the top of the league, and with enough points to keep us all interested. Once again the really pleasing thing about this match (apart from the final score) was the way that several of our newer members were able to step in and indeed step up to earn a result against good opponents.

The Nines team have a game against Hexham House on Tuesday, and that really is one to win. We’ll see…

“And in second place…”

This week saw two finals in the West Tyne League, as well as the final league fixture and – on Sunday – the Gala Day.

In the Singles final, Trevor Field played Steve Doneathy of Prudhoe, with the final for the first time being played as one match rather than over two legs. Rather oddly, the format whereby the two legs were each of 18 ends was maintained for this match in favour of the traditional 21-up, but once that was clarified the game got under way and threatened to be over in record time as Steve found line and length immediately to go 9-2 ahead.

Trevor eventually woke up from his early afternoon nap, and a four squared the match at 9-9.  From that point on it was very even (12-12 soon followed by 14-14).  On the seventeenth end Trevor drew what had seemed an impossible bowl to win the end with his last wood and go ahead 15-14.  However, this was not the first time he had had to do something special to foil an excellent opponent, and in the last end Steve again put two bowls close, forcing a departure from the steady draw that had served Trevor so well, and when the attempted trail missed Steve was the winner by a single shot.

Two nights later Trevor was joined by Keith Woods and Brian Norman for the Triples final against Haltwhistle (David Lee, Micky Rogan and Frank Robson), at Allendale.  They got off to a Doneathyesque start, going 8-1 ahead after five ends, but then disaster struck as they conceded 14 shots on the next five, including a seven, so that after ten ends they were 8-15 down.  Against such good opponents this was always going to be very hard, and although the shots after that point were shared (at least until the last end, when caution was abandoned as we went for a seven!) the game was up.  Keith was as solid and dependable as ever, but over the piece our line and length were not up to normal standard, and the Haltwhistle trio deserved to edge it – crucially David Lee was able to cut down several promising heads to a single shot whereas the Haltwhistle counts … counted.  So Elvaston finished runners-up in the two knock-out trophies.

After Hexham House’s result last week at Alston we were playing for second place in the league as well this week, needing just a point against Prudhoe to overtake Haltwhistle.  It turned out to be a very close match, and with 14 ends gone it could have still been a result to cause blushes.  However, David Ashworth made sure Steve Doneathy’s week was not one of total contentment with a 17-12 rink win; Brian Elstob returned from holiday with his understated skip’s style and also steered his rink to a five-shot win (16-11); while Darren’s rink made the most dramatic story, winning only one of the first eleven ends but still managing to come back from 4-13 to win 17-15.  Blanche’s rink, having rolled and coasted through the evening, lost a four on the last end to lose 15-19, but thanks to the vagaries of the league scoring system our eight-shot aggregate win translated into a 6-1 points win.  (The final league table will be on our website until the New Year.)  This made us runners-up to three different West Tyne clubs in one week.

Of course, a few weeks ago we lost the Cup Final to Alston,so that was a fourth runner-up spot.  There was therefor something inevitable about the Gala Day, held at Alston on the League Chairman’s green.  This was the usual relaxed affair, albeit with everyone trying to win, and at the end of five rounds and some rapid calculations it emerged that Haltwhistle had won the event with four wins out of five while we came second – of course – with three wins.  All other teams had two wins on the day.  It was certainly a good way to end the season, even if our record of finishing second in five competitions may take some beating!

We must be mad…

Albert Einstein is widely (and wrongly, it seems) credited with the remark that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting different results.  He – or whoever did coin the phrase – would have seen clear evidence of insanity at Alston in this week’s West Tyne Cup Final, as player after player tried to make bowls bend on a green which was clearly not going to allow any such fancy notions.  Indeed, if you caught the wrong edge of the slight slope the bowl would go right against the bias and end up in more danger of finishing on the rink string than on the jack.

It was disappointing to see how much we struggled with that situation, especially as we had had a practice session in the league fixture.  Having said that, the Alston players were also struggling to make bowls obey instructions, and the basic point was that once a lead or second had put an early bowl in close it was highly unlikely that anybody would move or replace it.  And despite the effects of the straight hand, firing was not an option because the slope and bumps meant that any slight deviation was magnified – a lunar probe heading off into a distant galaxy simply because of a slight miscalculation early on.

Do you get the impression we lost?  Yes, of course we did.  We were well beaten, with two rinks losing and the third salvaging a draw on the last end; and we should have played (or rather, thought things out) better.  Alston had already seen off Hexham House in an earlier round and will be delighted to lift the Cup.  There is a good tradition in bowls that one doesn’t criticise other greens, and of course we shall respect that tradition.  The point remains that in a game of line, length and luck, we all accept the luck element, but usually in the sense of rubs or wicks – there shouldn’t be any luck involved as to whether a bowl continues on its chosen line or reaches the target area.

We certainly had no luck in the Nines this week, as the game was postponed after about 48 hours of non-stop rain – nothing very heavy, but persistent and showing no signs of improvement on the afternoon of the game.  So yet another game is added to the backlog, and we now have four Nines matches on four consecutive evenings starting 17 August.  The match reports for that week may seem a bit repetitive.

The rain had not been bad enough to stop the last remaining Triples team from playing a West Tyne semi-final at Hexham House on Monday.  Trevor, Keith and Brian played a team including Shaun and Richard Blaylock and despite losing a five quite early on managed to keep the scores close enough before securing a six and an overall lead of four with just three ends to go.  Shaun was left with the last bowl to score four to draw, but despite his “hit and hope” finale the bowls were so well spread and mixed up that only a burned end would have done.  He scored a one.

The ladies were at Benfield in the Collins & Shipley, playing their nearest rivals in the race to avoid relegation.  Calling it a must-win game would perhaps make it sound too pressured, but a win would nevertheless have been very handy.  In the event only one rink won and the whole match was lost by six shots on aggregate, so that it finished 10-2 to Benfield, who overtook us in the league.  We are now below the dotted line again, albeit with a game in hand on one of the two teams above us.  To make matters worse, Amble pulled off a spectacular 12-0 win against league leaders Bedlington, while Cowpen & Crofton beat Ponteland 11-1: the latter result in particular sent them way ahead of us in the table.  With four home games now to come the challenge clearly is to perform like those home teams at Amble and Blyth – you don’t have to be Albert Einstein to know that anyone can be beaten on the day.

Settling some Scores

Note: This report should have been published back in the middle of July, but for some reason I failed to hit “Publish”.  Sorry.  It’s out of date, but maybe still of some interest…   

There seem to be as many scoring systems in bowls as there are leagues – certainly the three league competitions in which our club plays all have different systems. For example, the men’s Nines league gives two points for each of three rinks, with an extra bonus of two points for whoever wins on rinks; on the other hand, the Collins & Shipley league, for ladies’ teams, also gives two points per rink but then throws in an additional six points for the side with the aggregate shots win.

With such radically different approaches you get situations where similar scores have very different outcomes. A couple of weeks ago our Nines team won 44-43 on shots at Ponteland but lost 2-6 on points because of winning only one rink; this week the ladies finished 49-47 ahead on shots against runaway league leaders Whitley Bay & Monkseaton and the resultant six bonus points meant a 10-2 win. When added to last week’s 11-1 win in a re-arranged match against Chirton that has really boosted their chances of promotion from Division 2.

Bowlers and scoreboard

One to us!

It was a terrific match on a lovely afternoon.  After 11 ends we were leading 29-24 on shots, with Jean’s rink well down but both Shelagh and Blanche ahead.  Then, in the space of two ends the visitors scored 12 shots to just one, so that Blanche was just one shot ahead and Shelagh level.  Suddenly we were five shots down, but there was a further twist as a three for Blanche plus a five for Shelagh changed things again. With those two rinks finishing 14 ahead, Jean’s task on the last end to finish was to keep the deficit to less than 14. A single on the last end did the trick, and showed excellent match management.


The same couldn’t be said for the Nines team in the match against Wallsend Park the night before.  The triples were soon 1-9 down, and never recovered, while the fours collapsed, losing 16-17 despite having led 7-0 and 10-3. The pairs won 28-10, but it was no consolation to say that under the Collins & Shipley rules we would have had an 8-4 win on the night; the bald truth is that we lost yet another winnable match, and the 2-6 result makes relegation a very real possibility. For weeks we were able to say that the absence of key players was holding us back, but this week there was absolutely no excuse.    At least we weren’t as bad as Brazil were, later in the evening, in their 1-7 humbling  by Germany – but that’s not saying a lot, is it?

The season’s run of bad results continued in the West Tyne league, as we lost 1-6 to local rivals Hexham House.  Yes, another scoring system, with one point for each of the four rinks, and then a bonus three for the shots aggregate.  It turned out to be a bit of a mauling, but in fact after 11 ends we were in the lead (36-31) on shots, and on two rinks.  It was after eleven ends that the ladies blew a fuse the day before, and by an uncanny coincidence this was the very point that things went wrong here. All four rinks lost the twelfth end, including a three against Darren and a five against Trevor, and the ten shots conceded really swung the match. However much we might have complained about the state of the green and the lack of swing, the fact that we were ahead after more than half the match does rather suggest we shouldn’t have let it slip away.  But we did.

On the subject of letting things slip away, Jean and Trevor played the semi-final of the County Mixed Pairs competition against a pair from Willington Quay who brought an impressive number of supporters.    It looked as if our pair were going to coast home as they were 18-10 ahead, and lying another one with only three ends to follow.  However, neither Jean nor Trevor was alert to the danger of having no back bowls, and the opposition skip rattled the jack through to score a six, and rouse the travelling support. Another two for us calmed the nerves, but the opposition made a real fight of it: lying two down on the last end, and needing three to draw the match, the skip ditched the jack to score two shots, with a measure needed to establish that the game wasn’t tied. But a 20-19 win was enough to reach the Final (at Alnwick on Sunday 20 July).  At least there will be no debate about the scoring system in that one!

Out for the Count

Last week’s tale of woe centred on the way the club had lost a couple of games after giving away big(gish) scores and not keeping it tight.  So you’d think we might be able to do something about it, right? Wrong!

The Nines match was at home to champions Backworth Welfare, never easy at the best of times and a particular challenge this year with a couple of first-pick players still out with health problems.  Despite this, Darren’s triples were making a great game of it, leading 10-6 but then losing a six and a seven on consecutive ends to go 10-19 down with only two ends to play.  It was the biggest collapse since Rory McIlroy’s implosion at the US Masters in 2011.

Meanwhile, Trevor and Peter were making a decent fist of the game against Ian Brown and young star Josh Minto, recovering from 3-11 to win five ends on the trot and reach 10-11, when a single shot against was followed by a five.  Suddenly the score was 10-17 with only four ends to go, and the asking rate was too much on a night when two shots was the maximum we were going to get on any end against really consistent opponents.  A few weeks ago, at Wallsend Park, our pairs were slightly flattered by a 20-12 scoreline; this week, you have to say that it was the Backworth pair who were flattered by the same score, although in truth the pressure was quite relentless and – however hard it is to say – they deserved the win.

With the fours going down to an 8-21 defeat that was never in doubt, it was yet another 0-8 drubbing overall.  After the first four matches of the season produced scores comparable to last year, the next batch has been nothing like.  All we can do is rely on an improvement with a full-strength side in the second half of the year, and hope for favourable results from the other bottom clubs.

The West Tyne League was no better, especially as we lost a couple  of players on the eve of the match for non-bowling reasons.  Brian Norman had kindly offered to stand in “if you’re desperate”, and we were, so he made his comeback a bit earlier than intended.  The Haltwhistle match which opened the season was a real hammering, and this was not much better, with two rinks conceding over 20 shots while not making double figures.  A special word has to go to Bill Nicholson, making his competitive début having barely joined the club – Darren’s rink went 12-4 ahead before suffering from vertigo and going down 13-16.  Bob Turner’s rink had a handsome 25-16 win against a strong home team, so it wasn’t all gloom and doom even if the 1-6 points result put any chance of a title challenge in the same category as England’s World Cup hopes after their match against Uruguay on the same night.

At least the ladies won this week, with a 10-2 victory over Ponteland on a glorious afternoon where several players were seeking the shade even during the match.  (The men will need to remember that result when taking on Ponteland next week in the Nines.)  Little news was forthcoming about the match, so we shall merely add that in a very enjoyable friendly we recorded our first win over Alnwick for several years, with four of five rinks winning and a 105-69 margin. Sadly, as in our big win against Consett last Sunday, friendlies don’t count for trophies or league status – but in view of the recent run of bad results we need to cheer anything we can!

A Win, at last

The season so far has featured a number of games in which our teams have lost narrowly on shots, but found themselves on the wrong end of a big defeat because of the bonus points awarded either for the number of rinks won or for overall shots. This week was no exception – in fact, it produced some of the most frustrating results so far.

The ladies were over at Tynemouth for their Collins & Shipley match, and ended up losing 42-45 on shots – a crucial gap when this league gives six of the possible 12 points to the winners on shots. Eileen’s rink came back well from 5-8 down to win six ends on the trot and win 16-9, but the other two rinks were running second for most of the game and ended up that way too.  One of the messages that came out was the need to keep ends tight and to limit the damage on ends that are lost.   The Tynemouth rink which won 18-16, for example, won only 8 of the 18 ends, but four of these counted 5,3,3,3 – that trio of threes coming in the last six ends.   The overall result was a disappointing loss (2-10).

Of course, it’s easy to analyse such scores but harder to do anything about it  when the pressure is on.  The men found the same thing in a narrow loss at High Heaton – narrow on shots, that is, but the 8-0 points margin to the hosts would make it sound anything but. Our pairs lost 16-19 for the second away game in a row – a particularly careless defeat as we were leading 13-4 after ten ends and by 14-7 after twelve.  At that point a three and a four to the opposition brought the scores level, and the mood changed.  The moral here was that there are ends where you might as well accept that you have lost a one, rather than try to “open things up” too early.

The fours lost 12-13 after going into the last end level – Richard Marshall once again filled in admirably and Bob Turner almost brought the ship home.  The triples meanwhile lost a seven en route to a four-shot defeat, so that the overall aggregate loss by eight shots hardly reflected the balance of play. We are not playing badly at the moment – but we are giving away too many counts.

Having said that, our single point in the course of the Bell Cup  (at Gosforth on 11 June) did rather reflect on the performance. The solitary draw from four matches meant we finished in fifth position of five on the day, and even allowing for the natural loss of motivation when it becomes apparent that there is nothing left to play for, this was a disappointing effort. At least Bernard won a raffle prize!  There had been a much better showing in the Challenge Cup, held on our own green the previous weekend, when we finished second out of five, but well behind the excellent Cramlington team who duly qualified for the finals.

At least the week ended with some good news, as Bob Turner, Darren and Trevor wrapped up a comfortable win in the West Tyne Triples.  Playing at Haltwhistle in the preliminary round they adapted quickly to a tricky rink, and despite finding themselves 1-5 down after four ends proceeded to win nine ends on the bounce to go 13-5 ahead; even more importantly they then kept things really tight to end the match 17-8 up.  The next match is against the other Elvaston team – David Barker, David Ashworth and Shelagh Carter had an excellent win the other week against a strong Hexham House side – so there shouldn’t be too much trouble arranging dates or travel.  On second thoughts, with all the games still to come in June, perhaps it’s only the travel that will be easy…