Tag Archives: Ponteland

Going Strong

maga hat_editedBy this point in recent seasons our competitive games have been limited to league games and sporadic progress in one or two cups. This year has been different. Quite apart from an extra league, and the interest of being top of that division, we are still in the Top Club competition, with a game in Whitehaven on 7 July – a date which sadly clashed with the Final of the Jubilee Cup, where we had to scratch.

Meanwhile in County competitions, Steve Bennett is in the quarter finals of the singles and (with Malcolm Cooper) the pairs; in the triples, Keith,Matthew and Philip had a great win at St George’s on Friday to reach the semi-finals.  On the women’s side Shelagh is a finalist in the 2-wood singles, and (with Jean) in the semi-finals of the pairs after beating Burradon, while Jean, Betty and Susan are finalists in the triples. As a little bonus, both the Bell Cup and Challenge Cup first round days were washed out in early June, so we still have a chance there when they are finally played. The summer still has plenty of interest.

Pride of place in league reports this week has to go to the ladies. Away to Chirton, they were stretched to the limit in getting a team together, but thanks to a lot of goodwill and logistical work we put out a full team of 12 – ironically, the home team managed only eleven. Shelagh’s rink went well ahead early on to reach 14-4 at half-way, and maintained that advantage to win 24-10. Betty’s rink took longer to get going, just one shot ahead at the half-way mark and then, one end later, one shot down at 6-7 (though Chirton were going to lose a quarter of their score). This indignity clearly sparked a revival and they then won six ends on the trot to establish a 17-7 lead, and even though Chirton won the last two ends it would never be enough to come back. On a low-scoring third rink Jean supervised a closer affair altogether, 8-8 after 12 ends and still close with the score on 12-10 with one end to go before a single made sure of the points.

There is one more little statistic to record, thanks to Match Secretary Susan MacDonald. The Collins and Shipley team have now taken 54 points of the 108 available so far this season, thus obviously conceding 54 as well. That, as Susan points out, must be the perfect definition of a mid-table team. But given the doubts that were prevalent before the season started, and some suggestions that we might not be ready or fit for Division 1, this comfortable position is really very impressive.

There is of course only one division in the Nines, where we hosted Ponteland hoping to improve on our 7-1 win against them at the start of the season – a win which gave us so much confidence in the early weeks. Unlike that night in May when darkness seemed to be falling almost from the start, this was a nice sunny evening even if the top layers were on quite early. The fours got off to a perfect start, with Terry Boon playing an outstanding game, and after 11 ends were 15-2 ahead. At this point there was a slight lull as an element of cautious consolidation crept in, but had it not been for a three dropped on the last end the final score (17-11) would have looked a lot better. However, once again it is a mark of improvement that we can now feel disappointed with a six-shot win over such opponents.

The triples and pairs each had a difficult patch, at different times in the game. The pairs were 5-6 at half-way (nine ends), at which point a four and a two gave them a cushion which allowed them to sit very comfortably ten ahead going into the last end. Like the fours they then took their eye off the bowl to lose a four, but this was another six-shot win (18-12). The triples also had to work really hard in the first half to lead 8-6, before a couple of good ends gave them a healthy 16-7 lead with five ends to go. At this point Ponteland came back into the game strongly, with seven shots in the next three to make it 16-14, and were then lying three on the penultimate end before Phil bowled a perfect runner to edge off the shot bowl and slice the jack away for two shots. That put paid to the resistance, and if wasn’t literally a match-winner for the whole fixture it did confirm the full eight points – another excellent result.

Having half a dozen people away on the Gosforth Bowlers’ tour had not harmed our Nines team too much, as our pairs and triples were basically unaffected by the loss. But needing twelve players for the Clegg league the next night was altogether more problematic, and we should be very grateful to all those who put aside domestic duties or simple relaxation to turn out for the game at Throckley. The team turned up to find the Throckley green marooned in the middle of a building site, and two hours later the match result was to show that our own efforts to develop a wide playing base are still a work in progress. The heavy and rather unpredictable nature of the green gave the home team quite an advantage, but despite this we competed well, with several of those new to the sport once again getting involved.

Craig’s rink was the stand-out success, romping into a 16-4 lead at about the halfway point, and then easing off only slightly for a 23-14 win. Malcolm’s rink was almost the reverse image, being 6-16 at that mid-point and eventually coming back to 16-21 thanks to a three on each of the last two ends. Until that late spurt the problem had been in the range of scores, with only one end scoring more than a single on our part and the majority of ends for Throckley being multiples.

The other two rinks were closer – neither side on either rink scored on more than two consecutive ends. Indeed, on Trevor’s rink neither side scored more than a two at any point, and neither was ever in the lead for more than two ends; the lead changed hands eight times. Unfortunately this was not a game of 18 ends (12-11 to us) but 21, and when the music stopped we were the ones holding a 13-14 scorecard. In another close game Steve Benson’s rink got to 4-3 after seven ends, but once they fell behind they stayed behind except for one end level at 9-9. The final result here was 13-17, so it was an unlucky 13 on two rinks.

Overall, then, we had been 31-34 down after 11 ends; 56-55 ahead after 18 ends; but then 65-66 down after the full 21. As ever, the fact that we had shaded the number of ends won was irrelevant, and only a minor comfort – the basic point was that we didn’t score well enough on the ends we won, as it was so often just a single, isolated shot. At least we had gone into the game some 20 points clear at the top of the division, so a rather sad 2-12 defeat in terms of league points won’t have changed the position even though it has dented our averages.

Speaking of averages, we can surely learn something from the relative success rates of the teams this week. (It’s often easier to learn from defeats than from victories.) Leaving aside the issue of who exactly was playing, and the quality of the respective opponents, there is a nice stat that stands out. If we discount the first two ends, which are limited to one shot anyway, we can usefully look at the ends from the third end onwards for each rink to see how many winning ends were earned by a single shot. Ready?

Against Ponteland, where all three rinks won, we scored a single on 14 out of 29 ends, in other words, a smidgeon under 50%; the one winning rink against Throckley similarly scored singles on five out of ten, bang on 50%. So, since we were pleased with that clear win, and delighted with the result in the Nines, it suggests that that ratio is a good one. This is actually confirmed by the ladies’ excellent win, which showed an almost identical pattern, with 14 out of 30, or 47%.  So that is all remarkably consistent. But if we now look at the three losing rinks at Throckley the number of ends won by a single shot rises to 19 out of 26, or 73%. Obviously the precise percentage isn’t crucial, and there can be no exact figure to aim for, but what the calculation makes really clear is the importance of getting more than one bowl in the head, both when building a score and to prevent the opposition from dislodging a single, vulnerable bowl.

Here endeth the lesson…

Well, it would have done, but on Sunday another big game came up – the Top Club match at Whitehaven which we referred to in the first paragraph.  Twitter users will need no telling about the result, but no account of the game could fit into 280 characters, so here’s a summary.

On a cloudless afternoon we went on to the green to a huge cheer, which unfortunately was from the neighbouring Rugby League ground, where Whitehaven were at home in a top-of-the-table clash: we had to make do with half a dozen local members or family supporters, boosted by reserve and ace photographer David Robertson.  The green was not quite as fast as it looked, but giving good results except that (for both sides) there was an area a few yards from the ditch where the bowls would run on, whatever speed they were doing.  At least the frustration was shared.

As usual, the singles used the same rink, and in the opening two-wood Keith showed his usual accuracy in holding off a late challenge from the home player – they went into the penultimate end at 12-12, at which point a two put him well in control and he wrapped it up on the final end to give us the first point.

At about this point the other three rinks were also doing nicely – around the half-way stage both the triples and fours reached 10-6, with the pairs on 10-8.  But strangely, it was the home team which had started slowly and then seemed to adjust to the green.  The pairs lost a three and a four to go from 12-8 to 12-15, soon becoming 14-18, while the fours also lost the early momentum which had seen them win seven ends in succession to go from 1-6 to 12-6.  In fact, they then lost seven on the bounce, to be 12-17 down as the home side found their preferred length.   Things were not looking good.

They were looking even worse in the singles, where Craig was 4-11 down early on, with the same margin held through to 11-18. Maybe not our day after all…  While all this was going on the triples also saw their lead disappear, but did really well to never let the home team get ahead despite being level at 13-13 and then, with one end to go, 14-14.  So it was a last-end shoot-out, and although each side held the shot in the course of the end Phil didn’t even have to bowl the last wood as we had scored a two to make it two wins.

The fours and the pairs were still behind by a few shots each, but, out of the blue, over on the far rink, Craig rallied from his position of 11-18 to score a four and then, next end, another four, to suddenly be in front, and in no time at all he had finished off the game and seal the overall win.  The cheer from the rest of the team might not have matched the rugby, but it was the biggest we’d heard on the green for quite a while!

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Taking it Seriously

IMAG3874The picture was taken on Opening Day at the Dunbar Club in Vancouver, a really friendly and welcoming club where despite the rule for whites on Sundays the atmosphere is very relaxed – so much so that the club doesn’t play in any leagues, and has just one friendly each year.  (As you will see, in common with most other clubs in Vancouver they use fabric mats to protect the green, whatever the weather.)

Quite how our own members would manage without the extra edge from league and cup fixtures, and with such a high degree of internal competition, is a matter for some conjecture.  However, at the start of the week we were maybe not so keen on league activity ourselves, as early results were disappointing.  In fact, the Nines came very close to a win in their opening fixture, against Ponteland.  The pairs had an excellent win (27-4 shots), while the fours went down by 6-24. However, in the Nines league shots don’t count, so although the triples came within two shots of a win (19-21), thus ensuring a 52-49 lead on overall shots, the fact that we had lost two rinks meant that we took only two points from the night.  This was still a very good performance with a couple of regulars missing.

Despite having a second consecutive home game, against Whitley & Monkseaton, the ladies ended up with a rather similar scores profile, losing two rinks to one.  The trouble was that in the Collins & Shipley league six of the 12 points are decided by aggregate shots, and whereas our one winning rink led by seven (19-12) one of the others went down by 11-28;  although the third rink came very, very close (14-15) even a narrow win wouldn’t have been enough to earn the bonus points.

After those two setbacks it was important not to slip up in the West Tyne league against Allen Valley, especially as league leaders Haltwhistle are making such a strong start to the season.  In the event, the match was close enough: none of our three winning rinks was hugely ahead and we lost one rink by three shots, finishing with an aggregate win by 76-56.  At the same time Haltwhistle were racking up another 40+ margin, with maximum points, so we need to do all we can to stay within touching distance at the top of the table.   After all, we want to be a competitive club…

 

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”.

 

A Quiet Week

The way the Nines schedule has worked out the men have three consecutive byes, and following the withdrawal of Fossway from the league it means there will be four Tuesdays on the trot without a game.  This Tuesday was the second such blank week, and as there were no other matches to re-arrange the evening remained blank.  However, with temperatures the way they have been lately not too many people were complaining.

The ladies continued their surge up the table with another 12-0 win against Seaton Delaval.  With this rich vein of form it’s doubly unfortunate that next week’s match against Ponteland has been postponed due to our agreeing to host the Bell Cup this year, following the late withdrawal of Morpeth St George’s.   But one week off shouldn’t hurt as much as the four weeks for the men.

The West Tyne match this week was an away game against league leaders Haltwhistle.  If you had to choose a match in which to lose half a dozen regular players this wouldn’t be it, but that shouldn’t take anything away from Haltwhistle, who have won all their other games this season.  They duly won this fixture 6-1: our only winning rink won by just two shots, and although one of our other rinks lost only by a single shot the overall.result was never in doubt.

The result on the “an” rink (two Brians and a Susan) was a remarkable affair, with the mere scorecard doing no justice to the way things went.  Elvaston got the one shot allowed on each of the first two ends to lead 2-0. We then dropped an amazing 19 shots over the next 5 ends (4,4,3,3,5).  When we then managed to get the shot on the eighth end the tactic was to try a longer jack, with a different mat placing also. This worked so well that our team won the next eight ends to go 21-19 up. At this point there was another very bad end –  six against -and although we won the final two ends the match was lost 25-26. There was no bonus for winning 12 of the 18 ends!

We referred at the start to the ladies having a game against Ponteland postponed next week; by concidence the men had their friendly with Ponteland cancelled at the last minute as the visitors could not raise a team.  That made for an even quieter week – though with the Bell Cup taking place at our club and the Challenge Cup being held on Saturday, next week looks like having plenty of activity.

A Win, a Defeat, and a Draw

There are an awful lot of bowls bowled in the course of a league match: in the case of the Nines league there are precisely 900 in the evening.  It was remarkable, then, that on Tuesday the whole result boiled down to the fate of the 900th!  Let me explain.

Wallsend Park “A” were playing their first game of the season, after two byes, but they were certainly not rusty, going into a lead on two rinks before being pegged back.  Our fours repeated their first result of the season, coming from behind to win quite comfortably – scoring a six half-way through didn’t hamper the cause, and in fact counted as most of the eventual winning margin.  The pairs, meanwhile, also had a similar experience to the first week, making up a deficit and going into a good-looking lead before two bad ends (losing half a dozen shots) allowed Wallsend into the lead – all the more galling in that the visitors finally won by a single shot.

So that was one rink each.  The triples, meantime, had been in a tight game all night, with the margin between the teams never more than two shots until the sixteenth end, when it stretched to four (15-11) in our favour.  But the Wallsend skip had earlier predicted it would go to the last end, and so it proved.  On the last bowl of the penultimate end, with our team four ahead and lying one, he managed to send the jack right back to where their lead had put three dreadful bowls at the start of the end: three shots to them, and now only one in it.

On the last end another weighted shot gave Wallsend a winning position of three shots, but we cut it down to one and almost pinched the shot as Trevor’s second bowl stopped half a centimetre from the jack – unfortunately Wallsend had one literally touching it!.  And that’s where the 900th bowl became decisive – clipping either of the bowls on the jack would probably give us the match 6-2, but hitting them too hard might give away more than one shot and end up 2-6.  In fact, Trevor’s approach was just too careful, and fell short, which with everyone watching was a bit of an anti-climax!  Overall, it meant the points were shared 4-4, and on the night, you would have to say it was a fair result – even the ends were split 27-27.

The ladies played against Ponteland “A” the next day, and once again put up a good fight with the bare bones of a team.   Shelagh and Christine did really well at the back end on their rink and pulled off an excellent 17-10 win.  On the last few ends especially they frustrated the opposition by getting in for the shot when all seemed lost – on the fifteenth end Shelagh magicked two on the last bowl to make it 14-10, then two ends later Christine effectively won the game by stealing the shot when Ponteland were lying three good shots.

Blanche’s rink lost by six shots, with Thelma in great form as lead and Lesley Lofthouse making a very impressive début – it was great to see some coloured bowls on our side in a Collins and Shipley match!  Over those two rinks, then, we were just one ahead, and Betty’s rink had kept in touch so well that a three on the final end would actually have tied the scores.  The words “would have” give the story away, don’t they?  It didn’t happen, and it was another 2-10 defeat – but considering the number of County players in the Ponteland squad this was a good showing.

After last week’s West Tyne Cup win against Haltwhistle it was strange to see much the same people turning up again for the league match on Thursday.  Once again we had just managed to put together a team – but with so many new members this year (either new or experienced bowlers) it looks as if the days of scratching around for a team will soon be over.

As it happened, those who did play put in an even better performance than last week’s.  Last year Haltwhistle came to our green on the first night of the league and absolutely hammered us.  This time there was a notable turn-round, although as ever Haltwhistle gave us a really good game.  In fact, two rinks of the four were very close throughout: at the half-way mark the scores on these two were 8-7 and 7-6 in our favour, and one end later the scores were 8-11 (David Ashworth) and 7-9.(Darren).  From here Darren went on to win 16-14, while David just failed to make the comeback and lost 12-16.

On Trevor’s rink Christina Auld made her West Tyne début and had a super match as lead.  This rink struggled with the weighted shots played by Haltwhistle, and (like the other rinks noted earlier) it was close for a long time – at the half-way mark 9-7 and then 9-8 after ten ends.  However, once it got to 12-10 things really went our way: after sharing the first twelve ends equally we then won all the last six ends to win 24-10.  The scoreboard maybe wasn’t lying, but it was being economical with the truth.

George Rockett has brought great experience as well as skill since joining this year, and his rink was comfortable after gaining a 13-1 lead.  They may have won only ten of the 18 ends, but the numbers were consistently big, including an early six, and the final result was 24-12.  On this rink and on others everyone seemed to be playing in positions they liked, and that undoubtedly helped the result. The overall result for the match was 6-1, with a 76-52 shots margin – but that makes it sound a bigger win than it felt like (we won just 38 ends to Haltwhistle’s 34). Never mind: the memory of last year’s thumping was well and truly banished.

Not all Doom and Gloom

At last the competitive season has ended.  For the Nines team it has been an awful slog, with relegation from Division 1 a certainty for the last few weeks, making it just that bit harder to get motivated.  In the event we did pull ourselves off the bottom of the table to finish eighth out of ten teams, but the bottom three go down so the trap door opened.  At least we were a decent number of points (16) behind the seventh team – it would have hurt a lot to miss out by just a couple!

The last home game was against Ponteland, and at last, for the first time since the end of May, we got a win. An 8-0 win!  Why on earth we couldn’t have played like that against the lesser teams I don’t know, but anyway all three rinks played really solid stuff, and although there was a tight finish in each game the result reflected well on our determination against strong opposition.  Particularly encouraging was the way that every rink held on to leads which were being whittled away by strong comebacks by Ponteland.  For example, the pairs were pinned back from a 14-3 lead to just 14-10 with two ends to go, and then two shots down, at which point Peter Durnell drew an impossible shot to within an inch of the jack and the only task then was to protect that shot.  We did, and the result was a formality after that. 

The fours did almost the same thing – twice!  They raced into an 11-2 lead, which then became 11-7 three ends later, before re-establishing the nine-shot lead at 16-7.  Another three bad ends followed, and suddenly it was 16-15 with two ends to go.  This was the sort of position from which we had lost games all season, but this time a couple of twos completed a 20-15 win.

The triples, not to be outdone, managed to let a 7-2 lead disappear completely, so that after 14 ends they were 10-11 down.  If there was any worry here it didn’t show, as they then scored a five, and although they added only one to that it was enough for a 16-13 victory. 

Our re-arranged match with Gosforth should really have been sponsored by local business Down to Earth. We were a bit unlucky in that Gosforth needed to win the game well to make sure of winning the league title, and we realised the sized of the task when we arrived to find a team packed with County champions and international players.   The triples had a torrid time of it, saved from a seven on the second end only by the “one shot on first two ends” rule but then promptly conceding another seven soon after. After six ends the score was 16-0 and the game was up, thanks largely to the astonishing accuracy of the Gosforth lead.

The pairs put up a good fight without ever threatening to win.  Whatever we did, ex-Hexham skip Craig Cooper had the answer.  If we were lying two or three he would burn the end; if we put the jack in the ditch he would draw to within a couple of inches of the ditch; if we left a gap he would thread a bowl through it to draw shot.  It was terrific to watch, let’s be honest, and a bit of a masterclass.  If the score (9-22) was a bit harsh, the result was absolutely right.

The fours had an even closer outcome, going down 14-17 after being well behind early on but chipping away at the lead.  Unfortunately, against teams like Gosforth the chances of a count are very small, and so the ones and twos were never quite enough.  However, to come off the green irritated at not being able to clinch a win shows how close the fours were to pulling it off.  Disappointment was softened by the fact that Gosforth is the only club in the league with a bar, and it was good to have a chat there afterwards, especially as four of their nine are former Elvaston players.  It’s a pity they had to leave us after last season in order to further their County aspirations, as we lost a third of our team at a stroke, quite apart from the temporary loss of two other key players for health reasons.  We never recovered this year, but we just have to accept our place in the food chain, which for next season at least is nearer plankton than big fish.  We’ll be back!

Something to Cheer About

The Ladies went to Ponteland for their final Collins & Shipley match knowing that not only did they have to win but Seaton Sluice had to lose (or at least get four points fewer).  At least the first part of the equation was in their own hands, and it turned out to be a close encounter. One rink won 22-11 while a second lost 11-23, so everything depended on Shelagh Carter’s rink, which once again finished two ends behind everyone else – this certainly ensured a good number of very interested spectators.  When this rink finally got off the green it was with a 16-11 win which ensured a four-shot victory overall (10-2 in points, in this competition).

News soon came through that Seaton Sluice had not only lost at Whitley & Monkseaton but had been trounced 12-0 (no friendly neighbour act there!).  So after weeks of calculations and scenarios promotion was guaranteed, achieved with a margin of six points.  It was a great effort over the whole season, and all the sweeter for having missed out last year by one point.

There is a school of thought that the constant changing of team formations among the ladies is a disadvantage compared to the men’s strategy of keeping the same groupings each week.  You wouldn’t give this theory much room if you looked at the relative results this year – as the Ladies have gone up, so the men have been relegated from Division 1 of the Nines league, bottom of the table for the last few weeks and hardly able to win a rink, let alone a match.  That position wasn’t helped this week by having to go to champions and league leaders Backworth.

Backworth Welfare Club

Although we shall miss playing at Backworth’s superbly maintained green next season we shan’t at all miss the patronising attitude exuding from their teams.  Last night was a good example of both aspects.  First, there was a green that was beautifully cut and running true, set in front of the elegant Miners’ Welfare building.  But as we waited to start the match one of the opposition players came across to their pairs with the very audible advice that they should remember they really needed shots tonight for the league race. In other words, the eight points were sewn up, and only shots mattered.

To rub things in, there was a good deal of banter between the Backworth rinks during the game, although they didn’t deign to speak to the visiting bumpkins.  All in the name of more shots, I suppose.  Well at least we gave them a good run for their money, despite the triples leaking more shots than the South Yorkshire Police.  The heavy defeat was largely due to some superb bowling by the Backworth front end, “relentless” in the words of our long-suffering lead, though it included a seven which was maybe a bit careless. A pity, that, as the other rinks were quite close – especially the fours, with Darren putting in a great effort despite being clearly unwell. On the sixteenth end we scored a two to make it 12-12, then added a single to take a lead into the last end. At this point the Backworth boys could see not only shots but two points disappearing – to the extent that you could see anything in the fading light. David Barker produced a great first bowl, Ken Hurst followed it with an even better one, so that we were lying two halfway through the end.  We were still lying shot with only the skips to play, but somehow John Cleverlely got a bowl to hold a straight line when it looked certain to be lost, and it pushed our bowl out to leave Backworth with two shots and the game.

The pairs were always up against it, losing 10-15 in the end, but when you consider that the skip was one of several Backworth players to have been at the National Finals in Leamington the previous week, and preparing to go down again next week, this was another good performance on our part.  The damage was done over four early ends as a 3-2 lead slipped to a 3-9 deficit.  From that point, however, it was pretty close – at 6-10 we were lying three until the skip burned the end, and the margin was just four with four ends to go –  but even our best bowls weren’t good enough to beat opposition of this quality.  So it was indeed an 8-0 win for Backworth, and one can only hope they were satisfied with the shots count.

Meanwhile we still have a game to play at title challengers Gosforth, so for all our disappointments this season we could still end up as kingmakers, perhaps…