Tag Archives: Hexham House

The Prize is Right

On the day that the BBC came in for heavy criticism because only a third of its top earners were women, HEBC managed the same proportion in the West Tyne game with Hexham House: four of the 12 players were female, one on each rink.  At least all were on the same pay scale as their teammates.

One in particular deserved to be a top earner:  Christina played what she happily agreed was her best game ever, nailing the jack so often that we almost needed to send for extra supplies of chalk.  A few early ends went against us, so that after eight ends we were leading just 7-6, but once Christina started sending in her guided missiles we won all the next ten, scoring 20 shots for a 27-6 win.

David Ashworth’s rink had almost as big a win, also being 14 shots ahead after 15 ends, but this lead was pegged back a bit in the closing stages so that it finished 25-14.  Here too it was in the middle period that things clicked, with David Boaden getting the hang of his borrowed bowls:  the score went from 9-7 to 22-8 in the course of five ends.

The other rinks were much closer – in both cases the teams went into the last end level.  Brian Elstob’s welcome return to action had promised well (his was the only rink to be leading after five ends), but Hexham House caught up, and with the scores on 13-13 our rink was holding shot until the last bowl of the match, when Pat Thompson drew the shot.

Darren’s rink finished well after all others, partly because of some confusion about scores and measuring, not to mention a burnt end.  They were tied 13-13 after 15 ends, then 14-14 going into the last but after a relatively low-scoring match suddenly lost a four to make the defeat look bigger than it should have been.  However, with the overall aggregate safely in our favour it was a 5-2 win on the night against the only side now able to chase us for runner-up spot in the league.

The Friday night saw our Senior Fours play in the County semi-final against Portland, at Gosforth.  The forecast had been for gloomy and damp weather, but as the match started the sun came out, making life a bit tricky for anyone not wearing a cap, at least in one direction.  That problem was not as difficult as the rink – not because of any imperfection, but because of the extremely fast pace.  Portland, of course, play on a fast green themselves, and settled much quicker than our team.  The score was soon 1-12, but to the great credit of the HEBC four they came back to 10-14.  In the next ends a few crucial shots went against them, and the “run rate” went up until it meant getting a five on the last end simply to draw – and some well-placed bowls by Portland ruled that out.  It is fair to say that, on the night, the better team won, but reaching the inaugural Final of this competition was still a great achievement.

Brian and Keith were back for more on Sunday, at Alnwick, in the semi-final of the County fours with Darren and Malcolm.   In fact, they almost had a fruitless journey, as it was raining so hard on arrival that they had to shelter in the car for a while, and when play did start the conditions became bad enough for the players to come off the green. At that point our team were leading, but after the resumption they fell behind for the first time in the match (14-17).  At this point they scored a four, then added a few more over a couple of ends, so that their opponents from Morpeth needed a five on the last end to draw – a precise re-run of Friday’s finale, in reverse.  Not only did our team avoid the five, they scored one themselves for a 23-17 win.  This puts them in the final next weekend – Darren will be playing against his brother Craig – and it also guarantees a trip to Leamington Spa for the national finals.  Well done, all.

On an adjacent rink two of the winning Portland team from Friday were in a semi-final of the triples, and leading all the way through until they lost a seven – and the match – on the last end.   Well at least they’re already booked for Leamington…

While all this was going on we had a friendly at Consett, where the rain arrived rather later but allowed us – just – to finish the match.  Soaked as we were, it was an enjoyable game with a magnificent spread afterwards.  Our top rink comprised new member Isobel Adamson, Christina Auld (clearly unstoppable just now) and Richard Hart-Jackson, whose joke-telling at the après-match tea was as impressive as his bowling.  They each received a miniature bottle of wine for their efforts – so at least HEBC can say that our ladies get equal rewards for doing the same job!

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Up for the Cup

With temperatures in the high 20s and bone-dry playing surfaces,this has been a brilliant spell of weather for bowls.  Unfortunately our performances haven’t been red-hot.

As it happens, several scheduled games were postponed or cancelled, so there hasn’t been too much action to report.  That explains the lack of match reports lately.  But in fact, it was just as well that the games were delayed, as several of us were suffering from bowls fatigue, with matches coming not just one per day but sometimes even more!

One such event came about after we received a request to supply some of our players to make up numbers in a special match on our green between the Friends of Bowls England and Bowls Northumberland.   Of course we had been delighted to host the event, and honoured to be asked, but the result of providing about five men in addition to several ladies who had already been due to play was that three of the nine men who played in the league on Tuesday night had already played 21 ends in the afternoon – not to mention rushing home without the après-match meal and then going in to Newcastle.  It was striking that Brian and Darren fell behind in the latter stages of the league game against Heaton, looking worn out in the heat, while the triples team (none of whom had played earlier) won handsomely.

The match against Heaton was as close (overall) as usual.  At about the half-way stage we led 9-3 on two rinks (pairs and triples) and were down 3-9 in the fours.  From that point the fours continued to fall behind to lose 9-21 while the triples exploited jack length very well to push home their advantage, winning 30-6.  The pairs saw their early lead pegged back, and despite all their efforts towards the end lost 11-17.

Only two league points from that match, and it was the same story – though for different reasons – next day for the ladies, who lost 2-10 at home to  Chirton, with just one of the three rinks winning.  And while that was happening, the two men’s rinks in the Bell Cup were proving to be the whipping boys once again, losing all five of their round-robin ties.  The day can be really punishing, especially when it is clear by lunchtime that you have no chance of winning the event: with a 10.30 start and the last match finishing around 18.00 it wasn’t good for morale.

We were quite relieved to hear that the West Tyne Cup game against Hexham House B, due on Thursday, was to be postponed until the following week.  The friendly against Alnwick was then cancelled as the visitors couldn’t field a team.

Perhaps if that event hadn’t been on the calendar fewer people would have ruled themselves out of a trip to Sunderland on Sunday for a friendly against Roker Marine: it certainly felt like a case of being “never knowingly underbowled”.  However, the match took place thanks to having the help of six good friends from other West Tyne clubs, plus half a dozen players from Roker Marine, who play only two friendlies each year and therefore have quite a lot of people eager to play whenever possible.  It was another glorious day in a beautiful park setting, and although Elvaston finished ahead on the scoreboard (just) we could hardly count it as a win in view of the number of guest players.  The other notable feature was the very generous prize of a half-bottle of whisky for each member of our top rink – the only one to have as many as three Elvaston members, so well done to Sheila, Jean and Sylvia.  And do you really want that whisky?

On, then, to the delayed Cup match with Hexham House B, played tonight on their green. Malcolm and Darren Cooper each skipped a rink, and both found themselves level for at least half the match, before both of them drew ahead, with wins by 18-10 and 18-11 respectively.  This Cup competition is decided on rinks won, so the actual shots weren’t too important – and after those results, totally irrelevant.  However, if either had slipped up we would have been in trouble, as Trevor’s rink lost an early 12-3 advantage when the opposition lead shortened the length by taking the mat up, whereupon Hexham House won seven ends on the bounce, moving to 14-12.  Trevor then nicked the shot on each of the next two ends to make it all square going into the last end of an excellent match, but Hexham House got the winning shot for a 15-14 win.  However, we are now through to the semi-final, against Haltwhistle, and at last there was something to cheer about.  Just as well, as the next league game is a Nines match against Gosforth…

 

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!

 

Home by one shot

The return (home) leg of our two-leg contest with Hexham House for the Courant Vase trophy took place on Friday 9 September.  We don’t usually cover friendlies in any great detail, but this one is a little special not only in having an actual prize, but for being the last of the season.  It was also exciting enough to merit a little description.

The match started at 5.30 pm, with a threat of rain and a thoroughly grey sky.  Right from the start it was obvious that we had made the right choice in bringing the start forward from 6 pm, as it’s now getting dark early on the best of nights, and this wasn’t one of them.

The game, reduced to six rinks of triples, started with our club fourteen shots down after the earlier match at Hexham House.  If we were hoping to make rapid inroads into the deficit we were disappointed: not least because of the usual rule about one shot on the first two ends we were just 24-22 ahead after five ends.  By the tenth end, however, this lead had increased to 63-54, the sort of lead which a Sky Sports graphic would have shown to be on target for finishing in front.  But bowls rarely works like that, and after another four ends the position had changed entirely, so that we found ourselves 82-83 down over the six rinks.  Fifteen shots down with four ends to go – a tall order now.

Several good ends followed.  Steve Benson’s rink won the last four ends, picking up eight shots, while Shelagh Carter’s rink scored 3,2,4 on the last three ends. The result of this – and all the other activity – was that after 17 ends we were ahead 104-93, therefore needing to win the last end by a total of four shots to win the whole match.  Some won, some didn’t, but apart from Shelagh’s obtaining a most spectacular draw (19-19 after having been 1-9 down after a handful of ends) it all came down to Steve Benson’s rink, still playing the last end after everyone else had left the green.  They were leading by two shots going into the last end but with the other five results showing us only 11 ahead on the night they still needed one more for an overall draw. This didn’t look likely when the Hexham House second put a bowl on the jack, but Betty launched a brilliant Exocet that took out the bowl and moved the jack into an even darker area of the green.  Thankfully Steve could still see this, and he bowled two of his three woods to count, and produce a 20-16 win that gave us a win by fifteen shots.  There was at least one recount in the pavilion, but once the various scores had been confirmed it became clear that we had won 112-97, and by one shot over the two legs.

Whose shot had done it?   A silly question, of course, in bowls, especially when you think that over two legs 3,672 bowls had been delivered!  But whether it was John Lambert and Jean ensuring a 14-shot win on their rink, or the two rinks which each won by one shot, or Shelagh’s late comeback or Steve’s “shot in the dark” – or even the fact that our one losing rink kept the game so close – it was a great team effort that showed how exciting bowls can be when played as a team game across several rinks.

All in all, as a semi-competitive match (half-friendly, half-trophy) it was a very fitting end to the external season.  Our own internal season ended the next day with a Gentlemen vs Ladies match which – it was later tactfully agreed – the ladies allowed the men to win, and which was followed by a meal and then the Presentation of Prizes for the year.   There’s no need for a report on this game, of course, and match reports are now over until 2017.  Thanks for reading.

Symmetry

After so many consecutive byes we had to remind ourselves of the rules in the Nines competition – one shot on each of the first two ends – as we played our last scheduled match, against Hexham House.   This home game was a repeat of last year’s final fixture, and once again it ended in near darkness despite the 18.30 start.

Dark it may have been, but our mood was considerably lighter.  We started the night six points ahead of Hirst Park, who lay bottom of the division, and badly needed another win to stay ahead of them whatever they achieved against Cramlington.  If that match was a near-derby our own game was very much one, and as ever the rivalry was intense but the general spirit very positive and friendly.

It didn’t look as if we were going to do very well at the outset: the pairs were soon 0-5 down while the triples let a 5-0 lead evaporate to fall behind; on a middle rink between the others the fours were 1-8 down after five ends, so all in all the scoreboards  were looking bottom-heavy.

The pairs gradually pulled back, however, and took charge between the tenth and fifteenth ends, moving into a lead of five. As the light faded Darren and Keith got stronger, and with two ends left they led 15-11, such that they were quite happy to accept the loss of a single on the penultimate end – not only was it the safe option, but it also gave Darren the last bowl, if needed.  In fact, it wasn’t, as we scored two and despite Clive Knott’s great efforts to shift the jack towards his back bowls the result was ours 17-11.

The fours had meanwhile gone down by more than 20 shots in a game where very little went right.   A visitor from another planet might deduce that to have four Davids in one team is not a good omen!  In fact, of course, they all tried as hard as they could, but it didn’t work on the night and that’s all there is to it.

After the triples lost their early lead they really struggled for several ends, but managed to keep the deficits down on each end, so that when – out of the blue – they bagged a six it took the score to 13-10 in our favour.  From this point it was again nip and tuck, although we did have a potential five snuffed out by Norman Brotherton’s excellent saver, which even earned him the shot.  By the same token, we went into the last end 17-13 ahead only to find ourselves four down as the skips went to bowl.  By a mixture of luck and judgment our final “pressure bowls” produced the right result and we were also happy to drop just one shot on that last end.

The result was therefore two rinks to one in our favour.  Under the scoring system used in the West Tyne or Collins and Shipley leagues we would have lost the game as a result of a bad result on one rink, but the Nines go on rinks won and that’s all that counts.  One oddity about the result was that whereas in the game at Hexham House (21 June) our pairs and triples lost narrowly while the fours won well (17-4), tonight was exactly the opposite – so in each fixture the home team won 6-2 on points despite losing on overall shots because of a large defeat for the fours.

The ladies had played their last (rearranged) match in the Collins and Shipley on the same day, but there was no need for any maths on the shots as all three rinks lost.  With promotion assured it was maybe a case of being mentally “on the beach” as the footballers say, but for whatever reason Seaton Delaval ensured that they exacted full revenge for the 12-0 score we enjoyed back in June.  You could have got good odds on a home win: before the game we were second in the league, with plus 118 shots; Seaton Delaval were second bottom with minus 116.  This symmetry of shots and league position was maintained after the result.  Thankfully the ladies won the games that really mattered, most notably against Morpeth, and they can now start preparing for life back in Division 1. Pre-season training starts on 1 March…

A further bit of symmetry involved the coincidence of our two winning skips in the Nines playing one another in the final of the men’s singles.  This was arranged at the last minute, so that even Jeremy Corbyn could have found a seat, but on a calm, sunny evening the few spectators saw Trevor beat Darren 21-13, having never been behind.  Darren did score two consecutive threes to bring the score to 11-10 against, but from then on he was restricted to singles. After a good deal of use for various competitions in recent days the green was running very well – a little ironic with the season about to end, but a credit to all David Ashworth’s unseen work.

With Trevor and Darren’s winning rinks each having scored 17 shots on Tuesday it was mildly intriguing that the pair then scored a total of 34 shots in their singles final.  But that number was due to reappear, as we played a friendly at Haltwhistle on a night that could have offered a definition of the word murky.  Only one of our four sets of triples won (making David Ashworth feel a lot better!), and indeed it was the only team to make double figures. Such was the struggle that we totalled only 34 shots across the four rinks – the trouble being that Haltwhistle scored 34 on rinks one and two, and exactly 34 more on the other two. Well, they are the league champions, cup holders and Gala Day winners, after all!  Just wait till next season…

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”.

 

Momentum

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.