Tag Archives: Heaton

Best Week in Ages

The week started with the first round of the County Senior Fours knock-out competition – well over 250 years of age in aggregate on our side anyway, though we all like to think (with some justification) that the game keeps us young.

Opponents Hexham House drew ahead in the early ends, with the emphasis on “drew” as they genuinely found their length better than we did. But they never got more than four ahead, and with almost all ends being singles the score was just 6-9 after 12 ends. At this point we scored a three by removing their shot bowl and were all square. They won the next end, but we levelled to 10-10 after 15 ends; they got another single and again we levelled to 11-11 after 17 ends. At least this significantly reduced the chances of an extra end! We then held the shot from the first bowl of the last end, but it was a vulnerable side bowl, and skip Richard Blaylock narrowly failed to take it out with his first bowl before pushing one of ours in with his second so that we scored a two for a 13-11 win. This was the only time in the match that we had been in front – the best time to do it! No doubt Hexham House thought they were hard done by, but overall, with nine ends apiece and 13 ends resulting in only a single shot, we would have felt the same if we had lost – it couldn’t have been closer.

The return of our thirty-somethings for the Nines match at Heaton Victoria the following night considerably reduced the average age of the team, but here too the result could hardly have been closer. The pairs started very well in the pairs, going 8-2 ahead after six ends, but after another six they had been pegged back to 9-9. From there they did get to 10-10 but then lost the last five ends to finish 10-17 down. The fours also got a good start, 6-0 after three ends, but they too were pegged back: after the lead changed hands a couple of times they were level with two ends to play before losing a shot to a fluke (it could have been worse, as the fluke initially left Heaton lying three!). But for the second night running Brian Norman got a pressure bowl in on the last end and we actually scored four for a 17-14 win.

This of course left the match in the balance, with the triples 15-13 ahead but with two ends still to play. Two shots on a very tight end gave us a four-shot lead going into the last, and although the Heaton skip rattled the head and moved the jack with his final bowl it was not enough to change the outcome. In blog posts in previous years we have had cause to comment on the closeness of games between Heaton Victoria and ourselves, and this was no exception – one of those where our 6-2 win could so easily have been 2-6, or even 0-8.

We then had to come to terms with a different scoring system for the Clegg league game on Wednesday. Here there are four rinks of two-bowl triples, with two points per rink and a large six-point bonus for the team winning on shots: 14 points in all. The visitors were Gosforth Central, and this time there was nothing close about the match at all, except for one rink which.we lost by one shot. The others more than made up for this, with a spectacular 34-3 win for Darren’s rink, and a total shots score of 98-43. Apparently we were in the Clegg league many years ago, but our re-entry in the bottom division represents a first experience for most people. The two-bowl format takes a little getting used to, and the importance of getting early bowls in the head is amplified. We shall certainly need a few more games before we can form a proper view of how well we are coping.

Chirton were the visitors for the ladies’ first home game of the season in the Collins and Shipley league, still in the format of three rinks of four despite various attempts by league clubs to reduce it to triples. Again just one rink won, and not by enough to make a difference on shots, so it was another 2-10 defeat. We just hope the season will echo Newcastle’s football progress – after a really poor, winless start they developed some confidence and picked up enough points to beat the drop with something to spare. Who’s going to play the part of Rafa Benítez here?

Certainly Rafa would have been pleased with our defensive organisation in the West Tyne game against Prudhoe Castle on Thursday. It wasn’t a runaway victory – certainly not compared to the massive 118-41 racked up by Haltwhistle on the same night – but we kept things tight on all rinks and limited Prudhoe to 48 shots in all. Our total of 72 was very respectable, but as in previous years it was the ability to keep the opposition scores low which made all the difference. On both Trevor and Malcolm’s rinks Prudhoe won eight ends but only nine shots, while our own sides scored 16 and 26 respectively. The other two rinks finished 16-14, one for each club, and even if it was vaguely disappointing to see us lose that one rink you simply had to feel pleased for the Prudhoe skip, proud to be still playing at the age of 94. As he should be. And to think that the senior fours thought they were doing ok for their age…


Postscript:  It was interesting that within days of our description of a super-senior player, The Times carried an obituary of Gerry Ells, over-85 tennis world champion in singles and doubles, and – while in his nineties – still playing two hours of tennis daily and cycling on his own.  His widely used nickname was “the Freak”, and while no one would wish to use this word, however affectionately, for our friend from Prudhoe, the performance is still very noteworthy.

One Shot is Enough

arizona asphalt beautiful blue sky

Photo by Nextvoyage on Pexels.com

This report (totally reliant on details provided by roving reporter Brian Norman) is sent from British Columbia, just after reading a report on the Vancouver Whitecaps’ recent “road game” in Texas.  Texas?  Road game!  I mean, the nearest big city from Vancouver is Seattle, in the States, only 140 miles but two and a half hours by road, so quite how that expression comes from is a mystery.  Anyway (or “anyways” as they say here), Heaton Victoria in the Nines definitely is a “road game”.

After last week’s 100% record in competition the chances of a repeat this week were a little less than 100%, but the Nines made a good start. The triples had a sense of being hard done by early on, as the Heaton skip kept nicking the shot so that we were 1-7 down after six ends. However, the next six went 17-2 in our favour, to give us an 18-9 lead, and from there it was easy to see the game out at 20-12.  The fours were equally, or even more, impressive.  Here the score was 3-3 after five ends but 17-3 after fourteen! The final score was 20-7.  So the match was won, and the question was, by how many points.  The pairs had led 3-1 after four ends, then slipped behind at 4-11 before fighting back to 12-all with three ends to go. They then dropped a one and a three so were 12-16 down going into the last end. They managed just a three to lose 15-16.

So one more shot could have made it 7-1 on points, but in the light of early defeats, and several defeats at Heaton over the years, the 6-2 was very acceptable. The overall shots score was 55-35, which is pretty good for a road game!

The West Tyne match was a top-of-the-table game against Hexham House B.  Each side won two rinks, but in this league shots count for a lot.  Our two defeats were by seven and ten shots, though it must be said that the seven margin was a great effort after the rink went 0-9 down after just five ends.

Our first win was a tight (indeed, miserly) match, with five shots scored on the first five ends, 12 in total after ten, and ourselves in the lead 10-8 after fifteen ends.  True to form, only three shots came on the last three ends, and we won 12-9.   This low score was the main reason why this fixture had the second-lowest shots total of the season so far in the West Tyne league.

The last rink also saw a tight match: we were leading 3-2 after five ends and then just one shot down (7-8) after ten; at 17-12 after fifteen ends it looked like a case of “job done” but Hexham House came back and we were probably relieved the game finished after 18 ends with a one-shot win (18-17).   But that was enough to give us a rink point, and make it 2-5 in league points on the night.  At least that meant that Hexham House are now ahead of us only on shots.

It was a punishing schedule for some, as the men had a friendly at Portland on Friday afternoon, with one of our triples (Brian, Mark and Keith) playing there in the evening as well in a County triples.  Naturally they made sure they played together in the afternoon and had a handy 21-6 win in a match that was reduced to fifteen ends because of a heavy and prolonged shower.  Steve Benson’s rink did even better, 28-6, against useful opposition, and it is fair to say that with a score of 72-33 after fifteen ends, there would have been no way back for Portland even if the rain had relented.

None of the Portland trio in the evening game had played in the friendly. Because everyone was on site the game started 45 minutes early, although this didn’t help our cause.  It had stopped raining but the green was still saturated – presumably because the green was so baked from recent good weather.  Our team got off to a terrible start and were 2-15 down around the half-way stage, but then fought back to 14-16 and were lying shot on the penultimate end until the Portland skip got the shot with his last wood to make it 14-17 rather than the rather more likely-looking 15-16. So we needed four on the final end.  After Brian and Mark had bowled we were indeed lying four as Mark neatly took their nearest wood out. This left the jack about an inch behind one of Brian’s woods and Portland had plenty of back woods. The skip could have drawn for third shot but decided to try to hit Brian’s wood and send the jack back. He missed.  Three times.  So we won 18-17: one shot is all you need.

Oh, and it was Portland, Newcastle, not Portland, Oregon.

road trip

Mixed Fortunes

Two top-of-the -table teams came to Elvaston on successive days this week.  For the ladies it was a visit from Bedlington Dr Pit, who arrived on a lovely afternoon with the green looking a picture.   Given that most observers would have seen the result as a foregone conclusion the home team played really well, and were entitled to feel hard done by in not getting a point.

At one stage, after about 14 ends across the board, we were actually leading on two rinks and level in the third.  However, it was at this point that the visitors’ experience and class told: there was no panic, just the same determination and relentless approach, so that we were on the back foot all the time.  This was best summed up on the penultimate end, when Jean (playing skip) came to the mat five down, then managed to rest on the shot bowl to make it one to us, before seeing that bowl in turn sent flying to make it five to the visitors again.  With her second bowl she hit the jack and sent it through to the “back pack”, but of course it ended up sitting on an away wood for a one-shot deficit.  That was an awful lot better than a five, but it still meant we were down.  The final result here and also on Blanche’s rink was 13-15, with similar near-misses: again near the end Moira put the first wood of the end on the jack, where it stayed undisturbed until the very last bowl of the end, when the visiting skip pushed it out to take the end.  With Betty’s rink losing by six it meant a ten-shot aggregate defeat, but in truth this was one of the best performances of the season and even one of the best results, bearing in mind the standard of the opposition.

The Nines team welcomed Heaton Victoria, who in many ways are the team most like us in the Division – always a good game, well contested and hard-fought  between clubs that have been yo-you clubs over recent years.  This one ran true to form, although we came out of it very well on points, with a 7-1 win that wiped out Heaton Vic’s six-point lead at the top of the table.

On the ground the story was different, though.  The Pairs had a close match throughout, although progress was difficult to chart as they were over on rink 6 while the other two games were on rinks 1 and 2.  Four shots up after five ends, and also after ten, they eventually won by five – obviously close all the way.  The Triples had a big win which was a counterpoint to the defeat suffered in Newcastle back in June.  On each night one team came away with a heavy defeat having played perfectly well, and this week it was our turn to feel pleased with a 21-9 win which no one would have predicted with the score at 8-7 after ten ends.

The fours, meantime, were at that same score after only five ends, thanks to losing a six and winning a five.  It seemed reasonable to imagine a high-scoring game, but not even the most enthusiastic spread-better would have wagered on the eventual outcome, which included conceding an eight while leading 16-10,.immediately followed by a five to be 18-23 down with three ends to go.  So 19 shots had been conceded in just three ends.  That might (and probably should) have been the end of the road, but the fours showed a similar attitude to the Bedlington ladies and came back to win the last three ends, including a great final bowl from David Ashworth, to wick gently in to seal a two on the last end, and somehow scrape a draw, 23-23.  This might well have been the largest aggregate score for any rink in the Nines league this season.

On Friday we may have scored the lowest such aggregate, although what the history books won’t record is that this is because the match at North Shields was reduced to 12 ends because of bad weather.  In fact, there was a lively debate before the match as to whether we should try for the 18 or else set the limit at the start.  The argument that a set number of ends would stop any, er, arguments won the day, but in the end we wished it hadn’t, as we lost two rinks for our first defeat of the season.

The fours started well enough but let a lead slip so as to go into the last end one shot down.  A few short woods on that end made life tricky for skip David Ashworth, and the trickiest problem of the lot was a clever blocker from the home team – sure enough, he hit it with the last wood.  The pairs were also ahead, 10-5 at one point, but North Shields not only drew level but took a three from the last-but-one end, so that a single to us on the last was of no use.  The triples had a good win, 14-5, with the opposition scoring only on two ends in the middle of the game; this game was notable for John Lambert’s league début, and he took to it like a duck to water – an appropriate simile on a damp night.  Despite the early rain it was a good enough night, though, and as it turned out the problem might have been early darkness rather than wet conditions.  It’s a long way home from North Shields when you’ve lost!

It was the final week of the West Tyne League, with so many different matches that they are best grouped in another post (to follow on Sunday).