Tag Archives: Gosforth

A Frantic Week

A late posting this week, not least because of the number and extent of fixtures. It’s been the busiest week of the summer and a bit of a blur, so where to begin? Ok, let’s start with the worst bit.

The trip to Centurion Park on Wednesday for the Clegg was definitely one to forget. The home team could manage only 10 players, which was a bit ironical in view of the lengths we went to in order to get a full team, so two of our triples played against pairs. This isn’t an excuse for a poor showing on the night, as one of those unbalanced rinks won, but it was somehow typical of a dispiriting evening. We lost quite heavily on two rinks, so that even with the penalty of one third of their shots on two rinks Centurion Park still won by some 18 shots overall, and we brought home just two league points. It’s quite a pity that the bad weather which caused postponement of the ladies’ Collins & Shipley game earlier in the day didn’t reach Wallsend too!

The absence of key players not just for that game but for the Challenge Cup on Saturday was regrettable, but in fact the performance of the deputies in the latter event was really impressive. In a four-club round robin we looked to have run out of energy and enthusiasm just before the lunch break, with both of our sides losing to Forest Hall; but then after lunch both sides really took off, reversing the form and results of the very first games and ensuring two wins. In the end we came second, losing out by seven shots to Forest Hall. Of course, at that point it’s always easy to isolate one bad end in an “if only” scenario, but actually there’s usually more to it than that – and for us the crucial thing is that it was a great learning experience for our newer players and a really enjoyable event on our own green.

Eight men were unavailable for the West Tyne game at Haltwhistle on Thursday night because of another event, and although this game was also – as always – enjoyable in sporting terms, the result was a disappointing 0-7, with a shots margin of 44-77 showing a large disparity. At least our team gave it their all, with some good individual performances, but Haltwhistle are clearly determined to win back the title this year and didn’t let amiable chat and banter get in the way of a solid win. Considering that we won the league last year, our current position of sixth in a table of seven clubs is quite the downfall: all we can hope for now is a positive shots difference!

The rest of the week was rather dominated by the word Gosforth. We started with a Nines game at home, where the champions and league leaders brought a very strong team, only one or two off their first pick. Craig and Steve were in no way overawed by playing against current and recent County singles champions, and raced into a 14-6 lead by half-way. Indeed, after the first two ends they only bothered with singles on two of their eight scoring ends while at the same time restricting their opponents to singles on five of their eight ends, so that the result was an impressive 23-12.

The triples were also up against three County players in a match that was a good deal tighter. The first time that Gosforth edged ahead (6-7) was on the tenth end, and even then we then made it 11-7 (the biggest margin in the whole match) before they came back strongly with a three and a four to make it 11-14 against us with just two ends to play. One shot on the next end didn’t seem to be enough, but – somewhat against the odds – the Gosforth skip narrowly missed his target three times on the last end, leaving three of our bowls sitting there for a one-shot win that ensured the bonus points.

A points score of 6-2 was already good, and in the excitement nobody had noticed what was happening over on the far side of the green, where the fours fought back from an early deficit of 1-8 (and 7-15 with five ends to go) to reach 15-15 going into the last end. This was a fabulous effort, and there was every chance of a famous maximum point haul until the Gosforth lead put in a front toucher that no one could dislodge, but despite the two-shot defeat this was a great performance.

Two days later we faced Gosforth again, this time in the round-robin format of the Bell Cup – like the Challenge Cup, two rinks for each club, with the scores aggregated. This proved to be quite an incentive, in that our A team lost by seven shots to Ponteland in the morning before a post-lunch revival saw the B team simply swat the Ponteland A team aside to win 18-3 and seal the win. The same effect applied in reverse against Gosforth: our B team had started badly in the first game of the day, conceding two fours on the first two ends and eventually losing by ten. However, in the final game of the day our A team ran riot, taking a 10-shot lead immediately and going on to lead by 12 with two ends to go. Sadly, Gosforth then scored a two and a one to reduce the deficit to nine shots, and therefore a one-shot win over the two matches. Another case of “if only”, especially as Gosforth emerged as winners on the day, with ourselves tied in second place, albeit finishing third on shots. It was, none the less, our best showing in the Bell Cup for many years.

“Best showing”…, “Gosforth”… – ah yes, where were we? Back at West Avenue, for the Centenary Invitation event organised each year by the Gosforth club, and where the ladies had two rinks of round-robin format just like those described above. This competition goes beyond the county, with Lyndhurst and Sunderland among the entrants. With three of our regular players away in Leamington it was a challenge but to the great credit of all involved the two rinks rose to the occasion, making clever tactical choices on things like jack length and carrying off the trophy for the first time in five years. It is fair to say they were all very happy, and so they should be. The week wasn’t all gloom and doom…

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A couple of weeks ago we noted that performances were getting better even if results didn’t always go our way.  Tonight (1 July) showed that we are getting the results as well.

In the Senior Fours, a new men’s competition, our team of Mark, David Boaden, Ken and Keith played a home semi-final against a strong Gosforth team comprising Steve Pallas, Jimmy Curtis, Richard Train and Steven Harvey.   It is no insult to say that (like the Lions in New Zealand earlier in the day) our side didn’t start as favourites – however, scoring a rather elegant sequence of 1,4,1,4,1 on the first five ends created an immediate buffer.  From then it was rather even, with the same gap of 11 after ten ends and then a lead of ten (22-12) after 18 ends – three ends to go, still.

Gosforth then scored a three, and were also lying three for most of the twentieth end, until Keith cut them down to one.  So the score going into the last end was 22-16.  When the first Gosforth bowl pulled up lame the chances of a six briefly receded, but their second, and third, and fourth bowls finished about a yard behind the jack.  Keith could see trouble brewing, but our bowls, while not far from the jack, kept finishing wide, inviting the trail.  By the time Steve Harvey bowled his first Gosforth had five bowls waiting, and when he just missed the trail that made six.  It really seemed impossible for him to miss again – but he did, and the teams shook hands with our last bowl not played.

Best wishes to the team (with Brian replacing Mark) in the final – more details for club members later.

The previous night Darren’s rink (with Brian, Keith and Malcolm C) also won, thus getting through to the County semi-final stage; that match, and also the final, will be on the same weekend as the Seniors’ game.   Friday’s match against a team from Gosforth Garden Village was well contested, with just a few shots in it but once again the buffer built up in the first few ends was enough to absorb later pressure from the visitors.

Two good results, then, to show that we can still make waves at County level.  It’s nice to be waving, not drowning…


Getting Better…

When the British and Irish Lions played the All Blacks at the weekend the result was depressingly familiar.  Despite playing out of their skins, and scoring one of the most thrilling tries you’ll ever see, the Lions finished on the wrong end of a 15-30 scoreline thanks to the crucial bit of extra skill and speed the All Blacks showed all through.  It was, in its way, a parallel for our Nines match with Gosforth on Tuesday.

Gosforth, with a startlingly young team, settled in very quickly on our green, even though the pace must have been totally different from their own, but our own teams all played really well, and much better than in recent weeks, so that the overall match was closer than the scorecards might suggest.

The pairs, for example, stayed within three shots all the way through the match until the fifteenth end, after which the score was 13-16.  On the next end they were lying shot until “former pupil” Craig Cooper, playing opposite brother Darren, drove the jack through to the back of the rink with his last bowl, picking up five shots and essentially winning the game.

The triples also fought hard, winning eight of the first 16 ends, and leading 7-5 after nine ends.  At that point a few loose ends, including a six against, allowed Gosforth to regroup, though a good four meant the score was 12-15 with four ends to go: sadly, Gosforth won all four of them.  The visitors just deserved to win, but perhaps not by the margin of 24-12.

The fours meanwhile stayed in contention early on, and when Malcolm Cooper trailed the jack to earn a six they had a good cushion.  With four ends to go they were leading 17-9, but here too Gosforth won the last four, fortunately with low scores on each so that the final count was 17-15 in our favour.

To go back to the rugby analogy, and to quote Stuart Barnes in today’s paper, “like so many teams who have faced New Zealand, the Lions wilted in the final quarter.”  To lose 1-2 on rinks, after playing well, shouldn’t be too bad, but the 2-6 defeat in league points leaves us in a precarious position at the halfway point of the season (albeit with a postponed game still to play).  The good news is that we are playing much better, with a lot of good teamwork – good signs for the second half of the programme.

There were more good signs in the West Tyne match, away to Hexham House A.  Two rinks won easily.  The “S” team (Susan, Sylvia and Steve) increased their lead consistently as the match went on: their lead at five, ten, fifteen and eighteen ends stood at 3, 5, 7 and 9 shots – they would probably have liked to carry on all night!   At the other end of the green, on a rink that both skips described as unplayable, Brian, Ken and David Ashworth won 23-8: after leading 6-0 after five ends they then basically scored two shots to every one marked up by the home team.  It is a compliment, not a criticism, to say that the rink took away a lot of the normal skill factor.

Those results were never really in doubt, but the same couldn’t be said of the other two. Blanche, David Boaden and Darren seemed to have the game sewn up at 13-6, but Hexham House had a great comeback to square it at 13-13 with four ends to play.  But that’s where the resistance ended, as we won those last four ends, all singles, for a 17-13 win.

For Christina, Jean and Trevor things were even tighter, indeed miserly.  After the fifth end there was never more than two shots between the teams, while after ten, 12, 14 and 16 ends the number of ends won had been exactly shared.  At fifteen ends our team were 9-11 down, before winning the last three ends to come through 13-11.

That last result, secured when the last Hexham House bowl missed its target by an inch, gave us a 7-0 league win – rare against those opponents – with a satisfying 73-43 shots margin.   In league terms it is still, or already, a case of who will finish second to Haltwhistle, who racked up the amazing total of 101 shots at Alston, but in view of recent disappointments the win was a big boost.

On Wednesday the ladies’ game in the Collins & Shipley league, at Burradon, was called off mid-morning because of heavy rain showers and what was described as a big black cloud.  Clearly the storms were worse over towards the coast, and as is the nature of such thunderstorms the rainfall would have been very localised.   These decisions are always very hard to judge, especially when you are having to let a travelling team know.  Here in Hexham it poured for an hour, but within twenty minutes you were out on slightly damp grass which was totally dry by midday, with various singles competitions going on through an increasingly warm afternoon.  There were some very good contests, which – together with a number of new visitors of all ages, trying out the sport – has given us a bit more optimism than we could manage a couple of weeks ago!

Ladies show the way

The final league game of the West Tyne season pitted us against Haltwhistle on an evening when warm sunshine turned to ragged grey rain clouds within minutes, and within minutes of the start.   Haltwhistle were unbeaten in the league, and although there was now no way for us to win the title ourselves there was at least something to play for in wanting to be the first team to beat them this year.

It was a very tight game, and although there were some large fluctuations on a couple of rinks the overall balance was close.  On David Ashworth’s rink there were all sorts of high numbers of shots, and having gone from 13-4 to 13-14 in the space of a few ends they came back to win by ten (26-16).  At the opposite extreme, on Trevor’s rink the score was just 8-7 after 13 ends, and two ends later we were leading 10-9.  Sadly at this point Trevor played a recovery shot which went wrong, leading to a loss of three shots, and this reverse was followed by an even worse outcome on the penultimate end, losing a four.  The net result of this bad collapse at the end was a loss by seven shots, and that was the margin also on Brian Elstob’s rink.

This put us four shots behind overall, and heaped pressure on Darren’s rink, who were finishing well behind the others after a lot of inspections of the head.  At 13-13 with three ends to go there was still a chance, but the Haltwhistle team played really disciplined bowls, with Micky Rogan drawing a brilliant final shot to scupper our chances  on the sixteenth.  This rink lost 13-16, so that we went down 62-69 on the night – not a disgrace, but less than we wanted.  The fact that we had been ahead on overall shots all night until the fifteenth end (55-53 at that point) made the late loss of shots all the more disappointing.

If that was a case of “nearly did it”, the ladies certainly did do it the day before, beating Morpeth 67-22 and 12-0 on league points.  This win ensured a second-place finish in the Collins and Shipley league (Div 2), so yet again we shall change divisions next year.  Over the three rinks the opposition won only 13 ends of the 54, and our overall superiority was even greater than in the previous week’s match against Ponteland B (57-29).  This week two rinks scored 22 shots and the third 23; the previous week two rinks each scored 21 shots, each limiting the opposition to single figures.  This was a really strong finish to the season after a decided wobble in earlier weeks, and came in addition to the excellent performance of the ladies in the County finals on the previous weekend.

There is still one delayed match to be played, but the 12-0 win against Morpeth puts us beyond reach in second place – and too far behind leaders Chirton to create any pressure on the result.

The men had another blank week in the Nines.  The previous week Gosforth called off with 24 hours’ notice, allegedly unable to field a team – this, from the largest and most prestigious club  in the county.  One can only suppose that “unable” equals “unwilling”.  Considering the effort which Brian had put into eking out a team of our own this was a really disappointing outcome; we shall hope that the clubs are both willing and able to find a team when the game is eventually played.

Feeling the Heat

The first league game of the week was a rearranged Collins and Shipley match against Gosforth West Avenue.  The original game had been rained off, but conditions this time could not have been more different – 30 degrees, in unrelenting sun. Players were more interested in how many drinks there were, not how many rinks, so it was very surprising to see how many started the match without a hat of any kind.  Indeed, it all got too much for one of the Gosforth players, who became more and more flustered until having to give up after 12 ends.  That Gosforth rink was winning 11-8 at the time, having been 10-2 ahead prior to her malaise, and now would lose a quarter of their score as well.

In fact, Betty’s rink continued their comeback so well that, despite having two Gosforth players with three bowls each, they won comfortably (17-12) even before the mathematical operation to reduce the Gosforth score to 9.    Our third rink was comfortably ahead throughout the game, all playing well and increasing the lead end after end to finish 21-11 up.  This gave a shots total of plus 18, and although Jean’s rink faced tough opponents they were able to limit the shots deficit to just four, so we won the bonus points for shots.  A 10-2 win was all the better for  knowing that Gosforth had beaten league leaders Chirton 12-0 the previous week, while Morpeth had lost 2-10 at home – our slip-up at Forest Hall might not have been the end of our hopes after all.

The Nines team played their home match against Hirst Park in conditions on a night when everyone at least knew there would be no need of any layers above the club shirts.  In fact, it might have been an advantage if there had been variation, as the two clubs not only have identical designs on their stickers but also club shirts that are so close in appearance that in any contact sport like football one team would have been asked to change.  Next year, Mr Treasurer: an away strip!

Hirst Park didn’t look like the away team in the fours.  After seven ends they were 14-0 up, and soon stretched that to 19-1.  However, at this point the home rink woke up, rubbed their eyes and started to play, with the result that they won seven of the last eight ends and took the score to 15-21.  “Another five ends and we’d have won”, was one verdict.  Yes, well…

The pairs recovered from the loss of an early three by scoring an excellent five thanks to a take-out by Darren, but in general things seemed very close, with the score 9-10 after ten ends.  At this point Darren and Keith really took charge (just like the fours, only without giving the opposition a start of 18):  they won almost all the ends after that, to come through with a 21-12 win.

Last week the triples almost lost a 16-7 lead after 16 ends, losing two fours on the last two. This week, after some really good bowling, they reached 16-9 after 16 ends, comfortably ahead all the way.  Surely they couldn’t let this slip.  After just a single shot lost on the seventeenth it was 16-10 with one to play.  Surely they couldn’t let this slip…  Oh no, they had to watch as Hirst Park piled shots in, falling just short of adding a sixth for a draw.  For the second week running Trevor elected not to bowl his last bowl with the score on 16-15.

Two rinks up meant six points.  It may not count for a lot in this horribly disjointed league, but it was a satisfying win all the same.  Even the shots ended up in our favour (52-48), not a relevant fact in league placings but a tribute to the fours for fighting back when they could easily have thrown in the towel.

With the ladies’ Wednesday game called off because of torrential rain, the only other competitive fixture was a West Tyne match at Hexham House, whose A team were clearly intent on reversing the earlier result at Elvaston, when we won 6-1.  In fact they did even better than that, with a whitewash that gets to sound worse when we record the shots totals: 31-84.  Ouch.

There was no disputing the quality of the opposition, or the comprehensive defeat.  Our closest rink was a 10-13 that proved really enjoyable for both teams throughout.  After 10 ends there had been eight singles and a no-shot, plus a three to Hexham House, who held an 8-3 lead.  Our own team pegged that back to 8-6, and were then lying seven shots after our first seven bowls when opposing skip Philip Telfer smacked into them and stopped for the shot – a brilliant shot considering the pressure.  Even after that reverse the score was just 10-10 after 16 ends, but we lost the last two ends to go down by three.

All the other rinks lost by 14 shots or more, and the record of scores through five, ten and fifteen ends would make a depressing graph with the Hexham House gradient a lot steeper than ours.  All we can say is that they didn’t manage to make 100 shots for the match, which is the milestone achieved on the same night by league leaders Haltwhistle.  Until tonight there was just the faintest glimmer of a hope that we could go there for the last game of the season looking to win the game (well) and maybe sneak the title.  Any such glimmer was extinguished tonight, but at least the result wasn’t close enough to allow for any lingering “if only”.



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.



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.

A Week Away

The Nines game this week was at Ashington, or to be more precise Hirst Park.  This was not a happy hunting ground for us last time (two years ago), and it wasn’t much better this time round.  In fact, it was their first full Nines game of the season, as the previous one had been called off because of snow, and the green was in poor condition, with daisies and  dandelions (some in flower).

The pairs started well (three-all after 5 ends) but six ends later it was 3-17 and the game was pretty well lost:  the final score was 7-22. Last week the big story was of how Darren had played a shot to turn a shot-against situation into a six for ourselves.  A similar scenario played out here, except that it went the other way!  He played his last wood to shift the jack and make a four, but unfortunately the jack flew off in the opposite direction and Hirst Park got a six. With the opposition pair both playing well, especially the skip, it was impossible to recover from that blow.

The fours also lost, and again there was a bad decline through to about the twelfth end. Although 2-0 up after two ends, our team was still stuck on 2 after 12 ends, by which time the score was 2-15. They then staged something of a comeback, to 9-18, but here too the result was never seriously in doubt.

This left the triples to salvage something from the evening.  This was a low-scoring match, with the score 5-4 in our favour after 9 ends before we pulled away to win 15-9.  The league points score of 2-6 meant that in our first four games we have scored 0,2,6 and 8 – almost the full set, though the chances of a 4 next time are pretty slim.

The chances of a win at Gosforth in the Edwardson Cup didn’t look a lot brighter when it became apparent that four of our regular starters in the Nines were unavailable and we raised the team of twelve men only after a lot of phone calls and kind cooperation from members.  And when roadworks meant that not all our team arrived on time it looked as though we might have to hand the game to Gosforth by default.  However, after doing our impression of the Manchester United team bus (albeit without any crowd trouble in Gosforth) we went out and surprised the hosts by taking an early lead on a couple of rinks, against strong opposition – more than half their team have played at County level or above.

The match was very even throughout, and by the sixteenth end the score was just 35-37 in favour of Gosforth – minimal in that Edwardson Cup games are decided on aggregate shots, not rinks.  Indeed, Brian Elstob’s rink had been leading 10-2 after ten ends, though Gosforth came back to manage a 14-14 draw.  Sadly, the other two rinks each lost a four in the course of the last two ends, and the overall result came out at 40-48, but in view of the opposition and the fact that several players were making their first appearance of the season in competitive bowls, this was a great result.  The Edwardson Cup always seems to cause us some hassle, including the postponement of a West Tyne match every year, and there has even been a suggestion that we should drop out of it, but then along comes a result like this and it all seems worthwhile again.

Within 18 hours of the end of the Cup match most of the men were back at Gosforth to take part in the annual mixed friendly.  This again turned out to be very close, which is great for friendlies – there are few things more embarrassing in bowls than a total mismatch.  In this case there was one drawn rink, we won three and Gosforth two; and only one rink had a winning margin in double figures (11).  The overall aggregate was 96-100, which in the context of six triples drawn from the overall membership of each club, is the perfect sort of margin.  As ever, the hospitality at Gosforth was excellent, and the day was enjoyed by all.

Quite apart from those Gosforth matches on consecutive days for some of the men, the ladies also had a long trip this week, for a league match at Seaton Sluice.  Quite how the first match of the season, at home to Chirton, was lost so heavily is still a mystery, as this time they won handsomely for the second week running, 10-2 on league points.  Other results are not yet known, but this win will definitely put us in the top three of the division, and possibly in the top two.

Four away matches, then, this week – we’d better get back to our green, or there might be buttercups and daisies there too.  (Sorry, David, only kidding!)


We’re back!

The 2016 season has got off to a slow start – not least because of the weather, which has limited play and caused the postponement of the first West Tyne match, due to be played on Thursday (28 April) but now delayed until probably mid-May.

The first Collins & Shipley game for the ladies will take place next Wednesday, so for now the only news is of our first game back in Division 1 of the Nines league, on Tuesday.

Any thoughts we might have had of “doing a Leicester” and upsetting the odds were dispelled pretty quickly when we saw the Gosforth team arrive.  Not only were they last year’s Nines champions, but of course had also won an all-England title last summer.  With their Pairs, for example, comprising a full international plus the captain of the England under-25 squad it is fair to say that the opposition was a little above the standard we might normally expect.

You know where this is going, don’t you?  Well, up to a point.  In fact, the match wasn’t as one-sided as might appear.  The Fours were level or thereabouts for the first half, and at the half-way point (nine ends) were actually leading 8-7; from then on in the greater experience of the Gosforth team told, and any luck we had had early on deserted us.  A 10-19 defeat wasn’t a disaster.

The Triples did even better, and were agonisingly close to a win.  With just one bowl left we were three shots down on the scoreboard but lying four on that last end.  In other words, just the situation that calls for a calm head from the skip, and former Elvaston member Craig Cooper showed how calm he could be by drawing close enough to promote a Gosforth bowl for the shot and a narrow victory.  That’s what skips are for, of course!

As noted earlier, the Gosforth pairs line-up was particularly strong, and despite very good play by our own pair the bottom half of the scoreboard kept turning over ominously early on.  After the half-way point it was rather more even, but the early damage was crucial and the result was another defeat.

So far from doing a Leicester we rather echoed a famously bad Sunderland result (0-8)! Of course, the scoring system of these sports is very different, so this was no disaster against the reigning champions – the first real test will be against Cramlington next week.





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?…