B team clinch promotion to join club-mates in the top flight
If further evidence was needed that bowls is that rare phenomenon where the game can be played on equal terms by both men and women, the final of the Northants Federation Under 25 singles proved it beyond doubt.
Recently capped England Under 25 international Stephen Harris (21), representing the Blackstones club, was matched against Stamford Town's Helen Holroyd (23) and, though a young player with great potential, she was not expected to trouble a bowler who has held this county title both indoors and outdoors for several years.
How wrong the dozens of assembled spectators at Stamford IBC were. Helen, who is currently qualifying for her coaching badges, was outstanding against an adversary named England player of the series on his recent debut in Aberdeen.
In the two-bowl singles contest, she trailed 6-8 at nine ends and 9-10 (12) before asserting her authority on longer jacks to lead 13-10 and 19-13, conceding the 23rd send to a single.
Helen finally clinched it with an unbeatable front bowl to win 21-14.
At the other end of the age scale, playing on their home indoor rinks were Martyn Dolby (Blackstones), celebrating his birthday, and Christine Ford (Ketton) in their respective veterans and senior singles.
Dolby saw off the keen challenge of Northants president Dick Noble (West Ward) with a 21-9 victory, while Ford beat Conservative's Sheila Craig 21-13. Turning point came on the 13th end when Ford picked up a maximum to stretch clear 19-10.
Both Dolby and Ford also went on to win a second title each in their respective men's and women's two-bowl triples.
Dolby joined with Blackstones colleague Adam Warrington and Jon Earl to defeat Peter Edwards rink - who had taken a 12-0 lead - in a thriller that went to an extra end.
For Ford, June Brennan and Jan Want, it was far more straight-forward against Hazel Bass, Marlene Osborne and Penny Hart - and 15 shots in an eight end spell soon took them out of reach.
But a Dolby/Ford combination came unstuck against brother and sister Stephen and Louise Harris in the mixed pairs, conceding eight shots in the last four ends.
The men's blue riband event - the four-bowl singles - went to former carpet bowler Paul Dalliday who just had the edge over Parkway club-mate James Harford.
The duo also opposed each other in the two-bowl pairs where Harford gained revenge with partner Simon Law.
Men's veteran four-bowl singles - Dick Noble (West Ward) lost to Martyn Dolby (Blackstones) 9-21; women's senior 4-bowl singles - Sheila Craig (Conservative) lost to Christine Ford (Ketton) 13-21; Under 25 Open singles - Stephen Harris (Blackstones) lost to Helen Holroyd (Stamford Town) 14-21.
Women's two-bowl pairs - Marlene Osbourne & Hazel Bass (Yaxley) lost to Louise Harris (Blackstones) & Helen Holroyd (Stamford Town) 6-28; men's 4-bowl singles - Paul Dalliday (Parkway) beat James Harford (Parkway) 21-17.
Mixed two-bowl triples - Alan Romaine (Vanguard) Carol and Bob Warters (Ketton) lost to Moira, Helen & John Holroyd (Stamford Town) 14-20 ; men's 2-bowl pairs - Dalliday & Tristan Morton (Parkway) lost to Harford & Simon Law (Parkway) 14-16 ; mixed 2-bowl pairs - Ford (Ketton) & Dolby (Blackstones) lost to S & L Harris (Blackstones) 12-20.
Women's four-bowl singles - L Harris lost H Holroyd 18-21; men's 2-bowl triples - Adam Warrington, Jon Earl and Dolby (Blackstones) beat S Harris (Blackstones), Cliff Watson (Peterborough & District) & Peter Edwards (Ketton) 21-19 (after extra end); women's 2-bowl triples - June Brennan (Ketton), Jan Want (Ryhall), Chris Ford (Ketton) beat Penny Hart (Whittlesey Town), Marlene Osbourne & Hazel Bass (Yaxley) 21-7.
With a 110-79 defeat of Skegness, Stamford B are assured of promotion from the second division of the Lincolnshire Men's League and will play their A team for bragging rights next season in Division One.
Two more points added to the 14 they claimed at Skegness from the home fixture with bottom of the table Louth B on Saturday (March 23, 1.10pm) will assure them of the Division Two title.
Only Horncastle can spoil their championship hopes but the north Lincolnshire club will still need maximum points from two remaining fixtures against Spalding - and then only if Stamford stumble horrendously.
Stamford's victory at Horncastle was chiefly down to the star rink of Tony Barwell, James Hebden, Martin Hewitt and Keith Gentry who demolished their opposition 33-11, while Ron Blake, Dusty Miller, Mark Hebden and his father-in-law Trevor Christie, scored a convincing 27-14 win.
Results (Stamford names only): Lincs Men's League Division Two: Skegness 79 (4 pts) Stamford B 110 (14). p Linnell, C Jones, D Heffernan, K Vinter lost 18-20; Mick Smith, D Veasey, D Middleton, M Owens lost 12-16; R Blake, D Miller, M Hebden, T Christie won 27-14; D Howarth, D Henchsaw, A McNaughton, D King won 20-18; T Barwell, J Hebden, M Hewitt, K Gentry won 33-11.
Representing Stamford IBC in the Lincs Women's county fours, Elizabeth Wallace, Denise Mackie, Sue Moir and Glenys Edwards put up a battling performance to lose to a quartet from Louth on the last end.
They trailed 7-22 early on but fought back to tie the scores and even held three shots on the last end before the Louth number three edged their nearest bowl out for a winning shot.
Christine Ford will represent Stamford in the county Over 60 Open singles semi-finals on March 30 at Horncastle (1.30pm) when she plays Trevor Bannister (Sleaford) for a place in the finals at Boston.
Malcolm Smith and Martyn Dolby became the fourth Stamford team to reach the English Indoor Bowls Association finals at Nottingham in April when they beat Billy Hobart and John Cooper from Barwell in the Area 5 final of the Over 60 pairs at Melton IBC.
They won 20-11 and will play a pair from either Westlecot (Swindon) or York at 2pm on April 10.
The match was tight until the ninth end when Smith drew his four orange Taylor Blaze bowls close and Dolby added two more for a crucial six count count and a 12-5 lead.
Former England international Hobart called on all his experience to dominate the next few ends to pull back to within four shots (10-14) before the Blackstones pair added two and again drew four bowls close on the 16th end which Hobart was unable to move and forced a concession.
Also through to the Nottingham showpiece on April 8 (9.30am) are Jan Want, Sue Moir and Christine Ford, who play West Denton (Newcastle) in the over 50 triples and Bob Warters, Cliff Watson and Keith Rippin in the men's equivalent (April 8, 2pm) against North Wilts.
And chasing the Over 60 Fours against Adur (Brighton) will be Mal Cullingworth, Tony Scarr, Trevor Collins and Jeff Newson (April 6, 9.30am)
Stamford's women bowlers have missed a chance to challenge for the top of the A Division of the Lincolnshire Trudy Bates League, losing by just one shot at home to Skegness.
A maximum score of 16 points would have taken them within a point of league leaders Boston with one match to play but the seaside visitors shattered their hopes with an 89-88 win at Stamford to take 12 of the points at stake.
With 66 points Stamford trail Boston by 13 and will need victory at Spalding on March 28 for an outside chance of a play-off against runaway B League champions Lincoln.
The experienced quartet of Rosemary Roberts, Janet Dye, Stella Henshaw and Peggy Birch took the rink honours for Stamford with a 21-9 win while Flick Rogers rink also picked up two points.
Results (Stamford names only): Lincolnshire Trudy Bates A League: Stamford 88 (4pts) Skegness 89 (14). E Wallace, H Holroyd, S Moir, G ?Edwards lost 15-21; M King, J Brennan, S Suffling, C Ford lost 20-25; J Want, M Holden, C Warters, D Mackie lost 13-19; J Lonslow, R March, M Broadbelt, F Rogers won 19-15; R Roberts, J Dye, S Henshaw, P Birch won 21-9.
Louise Harris, Helen Holroyd and Shirley Suffling were members of the Lincs women's team which retained the Midland Counties title by beating Warwickshire at Rugby Thornfield 121-104.
Stamford's rejuvenated Over 60s team, competing in the second division of the Lincolnshire League, are already assured of promotion and now just need victory at home to third-placed Boston B on Wednesday (March 27) to clinch the league title.
Even then, they still have a home match against lowly Lincoln C in April to secure any points they may need. After ten matches they have 129 points - 16 clear of Lincoln B.
Stamford mixed entertain Dunholme on Sunday (March 24, 1.10pm) in their penultimate Division Two fixture with promotion looking just out of reach.
Next season they will likely compete in a seven-club league including newcomers Skegness B.