Several players involved in multiple championship play-offs at Federation finals
After a gruelling campaign - and three successive defeats - Northants' Adams Trophy team at last chalked up a win, taking all but two of the 22 points at stake at North Essex.
They are out of the running to win the southern section of the title they claimed in 2015 for the first time in their 90- year history but Jonathan Earl's team will be buoyed by the victory as they take on Norfolk at Holt tomorrow (Saturday) in the final game of the season.
The picturesque, beautifully prepared Radwinter green proved the perfect surface for fast, touch bowling which suited the Northants players many of whom perform well on slick indoor carpets during the winter months.
Indeed, Northants were rarely stretched, establishing an early 32-19 lead before extending it to 98-54 at halfway in the 31-end encounter. They led 125-72 after 20 ends before finally establishing a 187-124 victory margin.
For the third successive week Brian Martin and Stephen Harris took the rink honours, this time joined by Tom Fielding in a 41-15 rout.
Les Sharp, promoted from the Newton side, finally achieved his Adams flash for completing six appearances - though it has taken one of the county's most loyal servants nearly a decade! He helped Paul Bailey and Adam Warrington to a 28-16 win.
Mick Linnell, also guesting from the Newton team, joined Mick Humphreys and Earl in a comfortable win while there were other victories for rinks skipped by Paul Buckley and Martin Welsford.
For Wittering's Ally McNaughton the afternoon was bittersweet.
He was awarded his county badge after completing his first three appearances for the Adams team but, with Trevor Smith and John Holroyd, lost on the last end, conceding three shots when the jack was deflected after leading 22-20.
Results (Northants names only): Adams Trophy (at Radwinter): North Essex 124 (2 pts), Northants 187 (20). M Humphreys, M Linnell, J Earl won 34-23; L Sharp, PBailey,A Warrington won 28-16; S Roden, G Agger,M Welsford won 29-25; T Smith, A McNaughton, J Holroyd lost 22-23; B Martin, S Harris, T Fielding won 41-15; R Stevens, B Warters, P Buckley won 33-22.
In their bid to reach the final of the prestigious inter-county Donald Steward Trophy for the first time in 25 years, Northants' women bowlers kept up the pressure on their rivals with an emphatic defeat of North Cambs.
In their 144-93 victory they won on four of the five rinks and drew the other to claim 17 of the 18 points available following the 16 they picked up at Barnack defeating previously unbeaten Norfolk.
It means that Norfolk and Suffolk, who top the southern section with 43 and 36 points from four and three games respectively, will be looking over their shoulders at rejuvenated Northants, who have 33 points from two, with games in hand.
After a relatively slow start, Northants stepped up the pace thanks chiefly to the rinks skipped by Wendy Harrold (who switched with Myra Landsburgh after only a handful of ends) and Sue Moir who led 20-5 and 18-2 after 10.
By 15 ends Northants had increased their lead to 35 shots and, with just five of the 25 ends remaining, the match was beyond reach for the visitors who were almost 50 adrift.
It was then just a case of how many points Northants could muster in their chase to make the finals at Skegness which they last won in 1994 when they beat Nottinghamshire.
And credit here to the combination of Terri Handley, Julie Masters and Elizabeth Wallace who picked up singles in the last three ends to draw and the Yaxley trio of Marlene Osborne, Kath Browning and Gill King shuffling every position in the game - as Federation rules permit - to claim eight shots in the last five ends and win 30-23.
The rink honours were shared between Ketton's Carol Warters, Shirley Suffling and Chris Ford who won 35-18 and the rink of Fiona Richardson, Landsburgh and Harrold who won 31-14.
Results (Northants names only): Donald Steward Trophy (at Ketton): Northants 144 (17 pts) North Cambs 93 (1): Fiona Richardson, Myra Landsburgh (City of Peterborough), Wendy Harrold ( Whittlesey Manor) won 31-14; Tina Tinklin, Liz Hext (both Conservative), Sue Moir (Langtoft)won 28-18;Terri Handley (Deeping BS), Elizabeth Wallace (Ketton), Julie Masters (Parkway) drew 20-20; Carol Warters, Shirley Suffling, Chris Ford (all Ketton) won 35-18; Kath Browning, Marlene Osborne, Gill King (all Yaxley) won 30-23.
Northants travel next to Suffolk on Wednesday (July 3), play Hunts at St Ives on July 10 and finish with a re-arranged home game against North Essex at Ketton on July 17.
The Donald Steward team v Suffolk at Borough of Eye BC shows only one change with Norma Squires replacing Wendy Harrold in a rink which includes fellow City of Peterborough bowlers Fiona Richardson and Myra Landsburgh.
Team: C Warters, S Suffling, C Ford; F Richardson, N Squires, M Landsburgh; K Browning, M Osborne, G King; T Tinklin, E Hext, S Moir; T Handley, E Wallace, J Masters. Reserve: D Flowers, captain J Robinson.
The Silver Vase team which plays at St Botolph's at Botesdale is: M Holden, J Padley, J Cooper; C Grieff, C McCarthy, H Bass; J Needham, L Toms, W Humphreys; V Slater, A Cox, V Hempsall; W Stevens, W Harrold, G Day. Captain A Cooper.
The finals of the Northants men's and women's Federation finals at Blackstones on Sunday, July 14, are taking shape with several players involved in multiple championship play-offs, providing a likely scheduling headache for the organisers.
One of the most hotly contested will be the mixed triples in which Blackstones-based Martin Stokes and Paul Buckley - together with Shirley Suffling (Ketton) - will play the holders, Tristan and Sophie Morton and Simon Law (Parkway).
The Buckley rink beat Sheila Craig (Conservative) and Brian Bassam and Mick Greaves (Peterborough & District) 18-15 while Morton's trio took on Blackstones’ Paul and Katie Bailey and Mal Smith at City of Peterborough with their own green unavailable.
The Blackstones trio quickly fell 0-8 behind in the first two ends but fought back to within two with four to play before the home side extended their lead to 23-16.
Despite losing his four-bowl singles to Under 25 finalist Stephen Harris 21-18, Buckley could reach two other finals if his mixed pairs semi-final with Suffling against Mick Duell and senior pairs with Trevor Christie against Malcolm Squires are successful.
In the veterans pairs final, the winners will meet Vanguard combination Malcolm Mann and Mike Ramsden, who conceded four shots on the 21st end, then won 16-15 on the extra end against Dave Corney and Greaves (P&D).
Mann is due to play 2016 national winner Duell in the vets singles semi-final today (Friday) at Whittlesey Manor for the chance to play Roger Stevens - a 21-19 winner over Kevin Vinter (Stamford Town) - in the final.
In the pairs Ally McNaughton and Dave Burton (Wittering) host Harris and Jon Earl (Blackstones) at Sunday lunchtime for the right to play Morton & James Harford (Parkway) or Steve Roden & Pete Brown (Whittlesey Manor) in the final.
In the women's events, the Ketton club is featuring strongly with Shirley Suffling and Chris Ford entertaining Blackstones' Katie Bailey and Louise Harris in the pairs tonight, having played each other in the 4-bowl singles with Ford emerging a 21-9 winner against Suffling.
Ford meets Tina Tinklin - a comfortable winner over Conservative club-mate Linda Kemp - in the final.
Elsewhere, Ketton's Elizabeth Wallace & Carol Warters reached the final of the senior pairs with an outstanding 20-9 win at City of Peterborough against Fiona Richardson and Norma Squires.
They will meet the Parkway combination of Val Newson and Pat Reynolds, 17-15 winners over Joan Robinson & Marlene Osborne (Yaxley), in the final.
The Under 25 singles final is between Louise Harris and Sophie Morton who beaten Helen Holroyd and Katie Bailey 21-16 and 21-11 respectively.
In team competitions Ketton scored a convincing 76-65 defeat of Crowland in the Dan Duffy four-rink trophy and will host Parkway in Thursday. Blackstones travel to Whittlesey Manor having beaten West Ward 83-71.
Langtoft's Sue Moir has reached two singles finals, after beating Helen Holroyd in the two-bowl 21-19 and Fiona Richardson in the seniors discipline 21-13.
Stamford bowlers also feature in both men's triples finals. In the two-bowl Richard Allam, John Holroyd and Kevin Vinter beat Jack Corney's Whittlesey trio 18-17 and Blackstones' Martyn Dolby, Jon Earl and Adam Warrington, former English two-bowl champions beat Stuart Reynold's Parkway rink.
Despite a home tie with old rivals Melton, Stamford Bulls are still without a win in the English Indoor Bowls Association's 'Fantastic Fives' competition.
After a bright start, full of anticipation, having won both singles and fours, they faltered and eventually had to share the eight points at stake.
Alan Romaine set the pace with with an 11-10 win in the singles over John Robinson having trailed 3-8, before June Brennan, Glenys Edwards, Tony Barwell and Peter Edwards added the fours with an 8-4 shots win.
Sadly, as Melton became more used to the faster surface, the pairs (Romaine and Barwell), having won the first two ends, lost 4-11 with the triples skipped by Peter Edwards also losing out 5-17.