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Top club challange

10.00 am on Saturday 25th September saw the start of what turned out to be an incredibly close challange match on the Gildredge greens. Gildredge ladies' Top Club team had thrown out a challange to the men's team for an end-of-year showdown. John Morris had very generously donated a beautiful glass vase for the winning team of what is hoped will become an annual event between the two Top Club teams.

2021 has seen an increase at the competitive end of the club's bowling activity with both the men's and ladies' teams entering the national and county Top Club competitions. The ladies' and men's National Top Club competitions work over slightly different formats - preliminary discussions led to an agreed format for Gildredge's ladies versus mens match. It was to take place over five rinks with the winners decided on the number of rinks won. The scene was set for a very friendly, celebratory match where neither side worried if they won or lost (or was it a very friendly but super-competitive match where neither side was going to give away a single point and wanted bragging rights for the year?). A good crowd of supporters cheered on their favourites and enjoyed some high quality bowling with a result that could have gone either way right to the last end.

The two teams line up for the match

From the off the competition was fierce. The ladies' team started strongly and moved ahead on the majority of rinks but the men fought back. The results were balanced one apiece as the singles matches headed to completion with Cathy Greenwood out-pacing Alan Wenham to reach 21 points in the four wood singles with a vitctory of 21:8. The two wood singles was tight right to the 21st end with Tony Ryan pipping Carole Forge 16:13. Ros Pickering and Ellen Strevens played superbly with a controlling win over Andy Seymour and George Murray in the 18 end three wood pairs by 19:14. The reverse was seen in the 15 end two wood fours where John Morris, Arthur Strevens, Chris Willing and Colin Couch took a steady16:11 victory over Linda Henderson, Carol Heasman, Marilyn Doust and Eve Goldsmith.

"It's in" says match referee Dorothy Bromiley as a short jack is challanged.

As the games headed towards the finish, the running score was showing two rinks all, meaning the 18 end triples would form the crucial difference between winning and losing. The ladies' triples of Sandra Mckay, Jill Seymour, and Jenny Townsend had taken an early lead but the men were not going to concede. They fought back to nudge ahead and a good final two ends led to a 19:16 victory for Jo Doust, Duncan Pickering and Rob Ramsden.

Club President and match referee Dorothy Bromiley presents John Morris, representing the winning men's team, with the Gildredge Park Bowls Club Top Club Challange trophy.

The victorious men's team

After the match, over half a shandy and a small white wine (or six) in the bar, everyone agreed the inaugural competition had been a great success, played in a spirit that combined intense competitiveness with friendliness in a celebration of a good bowls and a good year. The rinks score gave a narrow win to the men by 3:2 so by the match rules they claimed the victory and trophy. But the points score was 80:73 in favour of the ladies team which showed just how finely balanced a morning it had been. "We'll get 'em next time" an anonymous member of the ladies' team whispered as everyone agreed to a re-match in twelve months time. Good luck to the ladies' and men's Top Club teams next year in the national and county competitions. They have done the club proud in 2021.

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