Bowls: Craggs and Middlemass secure Champion of Champion titles in tight finals

Champion of Champions winners Rob Craggs (Whitburn), left, and Eddie Middlemass (Hylton Colliery Welfare), right, with Sunderland & District president David Simpson (Usworth)
Champion of Champions winners Rob Craggs (Whitburn), left, and Eddie Middlemass (Hylton Colliery Welfare), right, with Sunderland & District president David Simpson (Usworth)
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Whitburn’s Rob Craggs and Hylton CW’s Eddie Middlemas secured their first ever Sunderland & District titles in the Champion of Champions finals night at Usworth.

The main final was a thrilling spectacle as Craggs held his nerve to take the title, beating North Biddick’s Malcolm Thompson 21-20.

Thompson, however, will be left rueing a match-winning position only for Craggs to catch a wing bowl to keep the game alive.

In the seniors’ final, Washington’s Trevor Joicey faced Middlemass.

The Hylton stalwart gathered momentum and looked the winner leading 19-11, but Joicey battled back to get within a couple before the sprightly Middlemas collected the required single to seal a 21-17 victory and a first ever District title.

As the outdoor season enters the final furlong, only a few league issues were left to be decided.

In the Earl Cup, Barnes West End’s 6-1 win over relegated Houghton Town ensured they finished runners-up in Division One, albeit only on shots difference ahead of Roker Marine.

West End’s 29½-shot win secured second place by just eight shots and is just rewards for a cracking season.

The second promotion place in Division Three was also up for grabs, and third-placed Washington’s 6-1 win at Sunderland was enough to leapfrog Ryhope to finish second by a single point.

As expected, the Swan Cup title went to the wire.

In their final game, leaders Roker Marine lost 5-2 at home to Houghton Town, while holders Houghton Dairy Lane won 5-2 at Barnes Park.

Those results allowed Silksworth to open up a two-point lead at the top following their 6-1 success against Usworth.

The league title was decided the following day, in a rearranged winner-takes-all clash, as Dairy Lane defeated Silksworth 6-1, by seven shots, to finish top by three points and retain the title for a fourth consecutive year.

Meanwhile, the earlier Houghton Town result, combined with Usworth’s defeat, ensured that, despite all the issues with their home green, Houghton Town saved themselves from relegation as they leapfrogged Usworth.

In Division Two, South Hylton finally secured the remaining promotion spot with a 6-1 home win over Roker Park.

The battle to avoid the drop in the Harold Howey Trophy was decided when some outstanding games were played this week.

With Chester-le-Street already down, the remaining place was between three teams.

Bottom-of-the-table Thompson Park B gave themselves a chance of escape with a 3-1 win over Washington. They then needed to beat Ryhope B in their final game to survive, however a 3-1 home defeat saw them relegated by half a point.

The remaining Second Division promotion spot was secured by Whitburn, with a 3½-½ win at Pemberton B enough to hold off Wearmouth.

The Storey Bowl title was already in Seaham Town’s care, but holders Hetton Workmen’s will be left thinking what might have been as a 7-0 win over Wearmouth left them just half a point behind the champions.

Roker Park finished off with a 6-1 win at Pennywell, which leaves the latter bottom. Houghton Town beat Dawdon 6-1 and Hylton Colliery had a good 7-0 win at Thompson Park.

The delayed Burkett Shield final will take place at Usworth on Tuesday (5.30pm).

Hetton Workmen’s Peter Harding and John Purdy will be looking for a double after their Silver Jacks Pairs win.

Terry Murphy completes the Hetton line-up as they face any three from Silksworth’s Eric Downes, Phil Dixon, Gary Farquhar and David Bolt.

The indoor season at Houghton gets under way on Friday with the Ladies Triples league.

There are currently a few league vacancies – Ladies Monday 2.30pm Pairs (x2), Ladies Friday 2.30pm Triples (x2), Mixed Triples Wednesday 4pm (x4), Men’s Fours Sunday 10am (x2). Anyone interested in filling one of those slots can contact club secretary Margaret Nicholson.

There are a few rule changes this season.

Nationally, the Denny, Yetton, Egham and Liberty Trophy revert back to 21 ends or a four-hour time limit. At county level, the men’s Inter-Club League reverts to 21 ends or three hours, with one shot on the first two ends, and the Vets’ Inter-Club stays at 16 ends or two hours, but now it is one shot on the first two ends.

At club level, all Houghton club competitions now have a no dead end rule and the jack is to be re-spotted.

There is also a mobile phone rule whereby all mobiles must be switched to silent mode to prevent disturbance to other bowlers. Club subscriptions must be paid before competing in a league game, otherwise the result will be void.

These are now being collected between 10am and 12.30pm.

The first of the season’s Open Singles Circuit events takes place next Saturday at South Shields.

A field of 64 players from around the county and further afield will battle it out for the £750 first prize.

Spectators are welcome, with the action starting at 8.30am and the final due to start around 9.30pm.