Heartbreaking Liberty Cup final defeat for Durham

The mixed pairs finalists at Houghton Bowling Club. From left: Joan Baker and Fred Fletcher with Bill Laidler and Joan Watt
The mixed pairs finalists at Houghton Bowling Club. From left: Joan Baker and Fred Fletcher with Bill Laidler and Joan Watt
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Bowls by Richard Mckie

Durham’s Liberty Cup dream was dashed by a heartbreaking 111-109 defeat in a dramatic final to end the National Championships.

The showdown with Kent promised to be a classic and it duly delivered.

Sadly for Durham, despite having three rinks up and one level, their hopes of a 12th Liberty title were ended as Kent edged home.

The early stages saw Durham make their usual slow start as Kent raced into a 17-shot lead which was extended to 19 shots at the halfway mark.

As in previous rounds, Durham started a second-half comeback, notably Phil Smithson’s quartet turning round an 8-1 deficit to lead 15-12 and Gary Smith reversing a 7-4 deficit to lead 14-7 against former world champion Andy Thomson.

By the 18th end, Durham had crawled back to within four shots and they even got it down to a single shot, however they just could not get their noses in front.

Darlington’s Andy Kirtland trailed 17-5 but battled back to finish 22-16 down against Shaun McCaughan, while South Shields’ David Bolt was always playing catch-up and finished 23-12 down against Ian Honnor.

Phil Smithson (Shields) steered his quartet to a hard-fought 19-18 win over Perry Martin, Hartlepool’s Paul Hartley defeated Mark Johnson 25-18 and the third winning rink saw Gary Smith finish 20-13 up against Andy Thomson.

The final rink left on the green was Hartlepool’s Paul Mosley, who was left needing a three on the last end to force extra ends but had to settle for a single and a 17-17 draw against Duncan Hanmore to leave Kent the winners by a couple of shots.

The ladies’ equivalent competition, the Atherley Trophy, was won by Norfolk.

Earlier in the week, South Shields’ David Bolt’s hopes of adding the indoor singles title to his 2011 outdoor success were dashed in the last eight as three-time world champion Greg Harlow (City of Ely) recovered from 16-14 down to record a 21-16 win.

Previously, Bolt had defeated Malvern Hill’s Ryan Atkins 21-11 and Wellingborough’s James Walker 21-11. Harlow also ended the other North East hope, Hartlepool’s Paul Mosley 21-17, in the last 16.

Harlow went on to lose in the semi-finals to the eventual winner, Spalding’s Martin Spencer,

There were more club finals completed at Houghton this week.

The men’s pairs final saw Jack Harrison and Billy Piggott face holders Billy Roberts and Frankie Froud.

The defending champions looked in trouble as Piggott led 14-9, but, on the 11th end, the momentum changed as a Froud fire ditched the jack for a five which was immediately followed by another five on the next end to push the holders 19-14 ahead.

The high-scoring affair continued for the rest of the game as the 29-27 final score in Froud’s favour demonstrates.

There was some consolation for Harrison and Piggott as, earlier in the week, alongside Arthur Baker, they took the triples title with a comfortable 27-11 win over George Noble, Bill Laidler and Billy Holmes.

The fours final saw Bryan Henderson jnr, Joe Sutherland, Jimmy McAdoo and Brian Henderson snr take on Colin Brown, Dave Armstrong, Ian Whorlton and Alan J. Dunn.

The early exchanges saw Henderson lead 6-1 and 17-9. On the 16th end, Dunn got back into the game with a cracking count of five to get back to 17-14, but the Henderson quartet regrouped and saw out the remaining ends to record a 22-15 victory with one end left unplayed.

The final of the Over-60s pairs went to an extra end after Bill Laidler and Billy Holmes were tied 19-19 with Michael Carr and Jeff Wilson. In the end, Wilson held on for the all-important shot to take the title.

In the Over-60s triples, George Noble, Bill Laidler and Billy Holmes opened up a 16-5 lead after 10 ends against Joe Sutherland, Freddie Fletcher and Alan J. Dunn.

A count of six to Holmes on the 13th end was the signal for Dunn to call it a day, with the score at 23-6, with five ends left unplayed.

Ellen Faith completed a clean sweep of the Ladies competition’s as she partnered Margaret Metcalf to the pairs title.

In the final, Faith defeated Maureen Hall and Norma Stephenson to complete a unique treble. The mixed pairs title went to Joan Watt and Bill Laidler, who defeated Joan Baker and Freddie Fletcher in the final.

The English Indoor Bowling Association’s Premier Three’s roadshow rolled into South Shields this week, with a 16-man field packed with well-known local bowlers.

As usual, the quickfire format was televised and a couple of two-hour highlight packages will be broadcast on Monday on British Eurosport 2 and British Eurosport 2 HD (10am-noon and 3.30-5.30pm).

Draw, Section 1: Michael Laydon (South Shields) v Peter Duffy (West Denton), Josh Minto (The Parks) v Alan Lawton (Shields), David Bolt (Shields) v Brett Arkley (Stanley), Paul Hartley (Hartlepool) v Billy Ferry (Shields)

Section 2: Gary Smith (Shields) v Phil Smithson (Shields), Phil Dixon (Shields) v Michael Bennett (Stanley), Ian Riches (Shields) v Shaun McIntosh (Shields), Gary Farquhar (Shields) v Mal Peach (Shields)

The outdoor season gets underway on Thursday, with the opening fixtures in the Harold Howey Trophy.

Last season, Silksworth secured the First Division title by just half a point and another competitive season is expected this term. The holders open their defence away at Chester-le-Street, while last season’s runners-up, Barnes West End, have a bye.

The two promoted teams, Roker Marine A and Thompson Park A, are at home to Seaham Town A and away to Ryhope A respectively.

Full fixtures, Div One: Barnes Park B v Hylton CW B, Chester-le-Street v Silksworth, Hetton Workmen v Dawdon, Houghton Dairy Lane A v North Biddick A, Roker Marine A v Seaham Town A, Ryhope A v Thompson Park A, South Hylton v Roker Park A, Thompson Park B v Ryhope B, Washington A v Houghton DL B

Div Two: Grindon Mill v Houghton Town A, Houghton Tn B v Barnes Park A, Hylton CW A v New Herrington, North Biddick B v Roker Marine B, Pemberton B v Hetton Park, Roker Park B v Pennywell, Seaham Town B v Pemberton A, Sunderland B v Sunderland A, Wearmouth v Whitburn

The local bowls scene has sadly lost three well-known names. Silksworth stalwart John Hall (88) was a regular spectator at most of the major local events and an avid follower of the fortunes of the Silksworth players.

Norman Gray (82), although not seen on the bowls scene for more than a decade, was a much respected player at the now defunct LNER club, while Stan Turner (87), a long-time member of the defunct Services bowling club, was a respected player and one of the game’s great characters of the eighties.