Gary Smith grabs his golden chance

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DURHAM’S Liberty Cup squad performed a great escape in their quarter-final against Northamptonshire at Leeds.

They looked down and out with only four ends remaining – trailing by 11 shots with only three rinks left on the green.

But Vinnie O’Neill and John Thurlbeck both collected trebles and then last man standing Gary Smith collected a double.

It left Smith needing a three on the game’s last end to force an extra end.

With Smith lying a shot down, the former Sunderland star produced a terrific bowl to ditch the jack and follow through to remove the Northants back bowl – to hold three.

Northants skip Neil Corbyn ditched his first attempt at saving, allowing Smith to add another and hold four shots.

With all eyes on the Northants skip, the five feet he had to save must have looked like inches – and the pressure got to Corbyn as he dropped well short, sparking a mass celebration from the Durham lads.

In the semi-finals, Durham will face Leicestershire, who defeated Lincolnshire 110-106.

H It has been a disappointing seven days for both the Sunderland senior squads.

The A team went down to there nearest group challengers South Shields 4-1 (38-36).

John Smith, George Simpson, Jimmy Coundon and John Jones went down 10-7 to Geoff Driver while Pat Collins, Billy Hearne, Joe Flett and Tommy Jopling also lost 14-12 to W.Owens.

The remaining rink of George Brown, Ronnie Robson, Fred Knubley and Ray Robinson looked like they were going to do enough to win the overall game but a disastrous last end dropped six left Robinson 17-14 winners instead of 17-8. So with only two games remaining, the A team still lead the group by two points from Shields, who have a game in hand.

The B team suffered two defeats to almost end any play-off hopes.

A trip to Park View resulted in a 4-1 (43-38) defeat. The only success came from Bobby Usher, Keith Ford, Billy Conway and Dennis Hulley, who defeated N.Herbert 17-13.

The other two rinks were lost. Peter Duke, Tony Grimes, Alf Ferguson and Terry Todd went down 14-11 to C.Chapman, while John Banks, Tony Wood, Billy Roberts and George Gibson slipped to a 16-10 defeat at the hands of Eddie Henry.

The second defeat saw the B team snatch defeat from the jaws of victory at Crowtree. Despite leading by nine shots overall, the remaining six combined ends saw them suffer a 13-2 return to finish 3-2 (37-35) down.

Tony Grimes, Eddie Cook, Billy Conway and Dennis Hulley had a fine 17-12 win over Derek Craig and Bobby Usher, Peter Duke, Tom Jones and George Gibson defeated Ray Newton 12-11.

The remaining rink of Bobby Adams, Tony Wood, Alf Ferguson and Terry Todd were a touch unlucky to go down 14-6 to Billy Bell.

H In the County Champion of Champions pairs, Sunderland’s Dan Todner and Pat Thomson moved into the semi-finals after a good home win over Spennymoor’s S.Matthews.

In the triples, Houghton’s Peter Harding moved into the semi-finals after a win over Shildon’s E.Coatsworth.

In the senior singles, Tommy Jopling eased to a home 21-6 win over Consett’s J.Agnew but Jopling went out in the senior fours, losing at Stanley to G.Dews.

H Due to unforeseen circumstances, the planned 20/20 Pairs at Crowtree has been moved forward a day from Sunday, January 29 to Saturday the 28th at 12.30.

The are also plans to hold an Australian Pairs competition during April with a cash prize.