Northants Federation bowlers had aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of winning the coveted Newton Trophy in 1967 with a repeat win on Sunday. But their hopes were dashed in the closing minutes of their clash with Humberside at Skegness.
With just a handful of ends to go in the 31-end final, the scores were level. But two Northants rinks dropped counts which proved crucial to the score and the county’s second-string team eventually went down 161-170 – despite winning two of the six rinks and drawing two others.
Nine shots difference over six rinks playing 31 ends – a total of more than 2,200 bowls delivered – underlined what a close and exciting match it was.
It was the pressure that told in the end as the Forterra-sponsored Northants’ bowlers found the tricky green more to their liking in the early stages, racing into 47-14 and 71-40 leads after five and ten ends respectively, before their opponents started to find their rhythm on the unpredictable surface.
Buoyed by the changing fortunes, Humberside reduced the arrears to just 12 shots after 20 ends and to five shots with six ends to play.
Peter Cox, Mick Humphreys and Roger Martin put the first points on the board 36-30 before Jeff Clipston, Cliff Watson and Paul Buckley forced a 25-25 draw.
However, the defeat of Jim Ruddy, Mick Greaves and Brian Bassam (20-35) proved a setback as Humberside began their fightback.
With the scores level overall, Darren Middleton, Bob Warters and Peter Jessop, struggling against a mystifying end rink which at times overpowered the bias of the bowls, had a chance to clinch vital shots on their final ends.
But their opponents proved too good with momentum in their favour. Conceding eight shots in the last two ends, Northants’ earlier 11-0 and 31-23 advantage was overturned into a 35-32 defeat.
Fred Addy, Tony Kemp and Barry Lawrence pegged back the deficit with a 26-23 win but Les Sharp, Malcolm Squires and Mick Duell had to settle for a 22-22 draw - not enough to close the gap after Northants’ unbeaten southern area campaign.
Commented Northants captain Cliff Watson, who had guided the county’s senior Adams team to a first success in 2015: “I can’t fault the team for their effort in a terrific campaign in the lead up to Skegness. And the level of support around the green was terrific.
“But Humberside carried their momentum over the finishing line.”
Results: Newton Trophy final (at Skegness): Humberside 170 Northants 161. (Northants names only): F Addy (Parkway), T Kemp (Conservative), B. Lawrence (Whittlesey Manor) won 26-23; P Cox (Langtoft) M Humphreys, R Martin (both City of Peterborough) won 36-30; J Clipston, C Watson (both Peterborough & District) P Buckley (Blackstones) drew 25-25; L Sharp (Yaxley) M Squires (CoP) M Duell (West Ward) drew 22-22; J Ruddy (WW), M Greaves, B Bassam (both P&D) lost 20-35; D Middleton (B), B Warters (Ketton) P Jessop (WW) lost 32-35.
Following the defeat of the Northants Newton Trophy team on Sunday, the news from Skegness didn’t get much better on Tuesday when the individual events began with the county losing in four of the first six disciplines.
The big disappointment was defeat of the former winners of the national two-bowl rinks from Blackstones, losing to the Radwinter trio from North Essex. Adam Warrington, Jonathan Earl and Martyn Dolby, who had combined to win the title in 2012, went down 12-22.
Later both Warrington and Dolby tumbled out of their respective 2-bowl singles and veteran’s singles 17-21 and 19-21, at the hands of Steve Botten (North Essex) and K Breame (Norfolk).
There was also similar disappointment for Northants women making their first Skegness appearances of the week.
In the 2-bowl triples Rita Downs, with Katie and Sharon Bailey (Blackstones), were defeated 13-20 by Chloe Brett’s Warboys rink.
Stamford brother and sister Stephen and Louise Harris were due to compete in the Under 25 singles yesterday (Thursday) for places in Friday’s finals.
For further details visit www.northantsbowlingfederation.co.uk