Our star performers this week were definitely Jean Allen and Betty Boaden, who were in Leamington for the National Finals. Representing Northumberland in the Senior Pairs, they opened their account with an excellent 24-22 win over Oxfordshire, before losing 10-23 to Cambridgeshire. In the Singles, Jean had a tough first-round match against an opponent from Bedfordshire who had a good number of supporters, but held on to win 21-17. There was hardly time for a drink before going back on the green at noon for a match against a player from Cumbria, who won quite easily before herself being knocked out in the next round. At this point most of the players left were internationals of some description, so it was no disgrace to get so far – indeed, a great honour.
The only downside to these achievements was that it took Jean and Betty out of contention to play in the Collins & Shipley league, at home against Whitley & Monkseaton. This was not the week to lose two such experienced players, especially as we were also missing Shelagh Carter as a skip. Although two rinks were narrowly ahead just after half-way, the visitors applied greater pressure as the match went on and by the last end we had lost one rink quite heavily and a second by a good margin, with only a draw on the third rink. This draw was a highlight not only in providing our only point but also in the way it was achieved on the last end. We were two behind on the board and one shot down when Susan (as second) launched a perfect running shot to send the jack into the ditch and remain close to the lip. The opposition still had second shot, also a toucher, which of course had to be avoided, but – in the most difficult shot of the day – Christina came in firmly on the backhand to push our shot bowl into the ditch while remaining on the green as second shot. That bit of teamwork deserved more than a draw!
The Nines team had finally managed to get a game the night before – postponements and byes meant that we hadn’t played for five weeks, and that rather showed in a ring-rusty performance at Whitley Bay against lowly Forth. The triples even lost, having come back from a frail 6-13 after ten ends to level at 14-14 with two ends to go; despite that momentum both the last two ends were lost to a team which made a nonsense of their bottom-of-the-table position. The pairs had a big win after an unsure start, but the fours seemed determined to ensure a close finish, going into a good lead before losing a five to make it 18-16 in their favour with two ends to go. They were then two shots down until an excellent wood from Ken Hurst saved that end and with another two on the last they were home and dry by six shots. Six points on the night, too, and after the late scare for the fours you would have to say that the mood on the way home was relief rather than excitement. This week we have a visit from league leaders Heaton Victoria, so we need to up our game.
After those National Finals, then local leagues in midweek, we were at the level of in-house competitions this weekend, and Sunday saw the Glenwright trophy – always popular as a knock-out singles event based on three sets (first to seven) per match. It was especially good to see Jean and Betty turning out for yet another day’s bowls after spending so much time getting to and from Leamington. The green was running well, especially for Brian Norman, who followed up a semi-final win in the four-wood singles on Friday by winning this tournament as well. Nothing could put him off his stride, and he came from one set down to win the Final, finishing with a flourish and three bowls within a couple of feet. Roll on Heaton Victoria!