Men

RESULTS:


REPORTS:


TRIPLES LEAGUE: A-TEAM REGAIN PRIDE IN KNOCKOUT
RARELY HAVE the Abington A-side been faced with such a stark prospect. Defeat in this quarter-final and the last chance to redeem a middling season with at least a sprinkling of glory was gone.

Even if they can salvage a top-half finish in Division 1, they will have fallen short of expectations in the Monday league. The knockout triumph of last year was supposed to herald a proper title challenge in this one. Instead, the squad has found itself turning to the same competition to salvage their reputation.

Thankfully, they have managed to do so with a stunning triumph over a Kingsthorpe A side brimming with the quality that so often takes them to the championship. How apt then that Abington's best performing rink was skipped by the man who transferred from that Kingsthorpe team to ours, Phil Reeve.

Reeve's triple produced a superbly controlled performance to practically dominate a set-up skipped by an England international. As their lead steadily became more and comfortable, it catalysed the rest of the team to produce a similarly wondrous gathering of shots. Even though Reeve's rink almost undid their night's work with a lost five on the final end, the rest of the team had settled into too good a groove to let it destabilise them at the death.

By that point, John Freeman's rink had already confirmed an 18-14 win for them. This game began in bizarre fashion. In the first five ends, Abington scored an eight but then dropped nine from four. Thankfully, their defensive play improved later on and after going six up with a four on the 12th end, they subsequently restricted their opponents to just one shot at a time.

A place in the semi-final was sealed by the captain's rink. Jonathan Brown's men had feared they were in for a pounding after dropping two fours on successive ends, but they recovered superbly. Only one end went against them in the second half. Their score was turned on its head across the last four ends.

That was unlikely to happen on Tony O'Leary's rink, but their contribution cannot be overlooked, as they fought back after a disastrous opening period. If their game had continued in the vein of the early avalanche which left them 2-14 behind after six ends, then this report would have had a wholly different tone. Instead, they did not go meekly and played their part in the overall win, fighting back to make their score respectable, and restricting Kingsthorpe's aggregate.

So the As have finally confirmed their own claims of quality. The challenge going forward is to produce it on a regular basis and not just save it for special occasions. Which is just as well, as the semi-final will be an opportunity to repeat this display over the pretenders to Kingsthorpe's Monday night throne.

Scores:

A-team
Adam Hawkings, Terry Brown, John Freeman 18-14 N McKee
Adam Brown, Alan Coleman, Phil Reeve 18-12 A Manton
Chris Beck, Dave Fage, Tony O'Leary 12-19 V Gearey
Colin Barnes, Alan Dunkley, Jonathan Brown (capt.) 14-11 M Sharpe

Agg: 62-56


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TOP CLUB DREAM SENT TO COVENTRY
SOME MIGHT SAY that Abington began to lose this match as soon as the previous one ended. Almost immediately, it became clear that two of the regular players would be ruled out of action for the National Top Club 4th round trip to Avenue BC in Coventry.

Nevertheless, Adam Brown deputised effectively for Alan Coleman in the 2-wood, and in turn, captain Jonathan Brown declared that this was the best performance given by the rink in the whole run. It was simply an upgrade in the class of opposition too far on the day.

Abington at least kept the contest alive for a good while. The younger Brown was selected to replace Coleman, attending a function for a dying friend, following his promising qualification for the latter stages of the county tournament. The night before the trip to Coventry, he fulfilled this promise with a display of breathtaking bottle to reach the national finals. And he followed it up again here with a consummate drawing display to put himself double figures up after two-thirds.

Despite his opponent raising his game and pulling a few shots back, Brown wound down the clock, settling for second to restrict any inroading, before pouncing on the 19th to settle the point. It was the first time Avenue had lost the 2-wood during their run so far. They had not had to deal without that comfort blanket before.

As Brown retired to support the rest of his team, his main hope was that now the point was secured, it would spark an outbreak of shot-scoring. After the opening ends of the team games, Abington were trailing in each, but there was a long way to go yet. All eyes were on Tony O'Leary, who this time only began his singles game after the conclusion of the 2-wood. Another point here, and it would only require a spurt from the pairs, triples or fours to seal the deal.

Oddly, O'Leary chose to lead off the opposite side of the same rink to Brown, a decision seemingly made as the straighter side became an ever more attractive proposition as the unceasing drizzle rendered the green ever soupier. Just getting the woods to the other end became the priority. Sadly, it would be Abington who paid the price for not doing so.

The Top Club doesn't usually turn on a single end, seeing as the aggregate shot score is irrelevant, but the triples' 13th end felt like a decisive blow. Up until then, John Freeman's trio had looked like Abington's best chance of overall victory (provided O'Leary got the second point). They'd jostled for the lead throughout and were playing with confidence. They had just lost five shots in two ends, but a three-shot deficit was easily surmountable in six ends. An 11-shot deficit in five was much less so.

Adam Hawkings and Terry Brown's failure to disturb the head - all but one of their bowls landing well short, the other well through - allowed the Avenue players to not only sit a potential bucketload, but also crowd all potential routes. Freeman would have to drill his way through if he was even to tourniquet the damage, but he couldn't do it either. Those ends where nobody bowls even one good wood often prove fatal and so it was here. In an instant, the triples were effectively condemned. They never recovered a single shot for the rest of the night.

Perhaps this was made redundant after O'Leary's opponent Keith Wooding stunned the Abington man with some masterful drawing and a seven-shot salvo to settle what had been an even game. Then again, maybe it was precipitated by the triples' own sudden collapse, boosting the determination and concentration of Avenue's man considerably. Whatever the cause, the 4-wood singles was gone in another flash, and the triples meekly followed soon after. Now everything rested on both the pairs and the fours coming good.

Both had determination spades, but were ultimately outdone by that little bit of extra quality. It was almost impossible to count the number of times excellent Abington heads were turned around by some world class bowling from Avenue (a problem that did to be fair, stunt the earlier efforts of the singles and triples as well).

For Colin Barnes, this game was a retread of the Rugby match from two rounds before. The closer he got at lead, the better the opposition skip played in return. The decisive run of ends was between the 12th and 16th in which Barnes and Alan Dunkley scored one and dropped 10. The match when they did. So the fours also shook hands. We'll never know if they could have performed a little miracle and overcome a seven-shot disadvantage in two ends, though they had already recovered admirably from the pain of not scoring until the 10th end. For skip Jonathan Brown, the deep irony was that the substitutes, Mick Taylor and Dave Fage, were playing better than the men they had replaced, and Dave Vernon's performance levels were also towards a peak. The scoreline didn't reflect the percentage of good bowls, but as we all know, the key to this game is playing them at the right time.

Abington are slowly rebuilding into an effective force, and can beat anyone on our day, but it won't yet happen a majority of the time. That extra-special level of player is needed to get the rest of the team there as well.

Scores:

2-wood: Adam Brown 16-10 S Burch
Singles: Tony O'Leary 14-21 K Wooding
Pairs: Colin Barnes, Alan Dunkley 14-25 G Ashby
Triples: Adam Hawkings, Terry Brown, John Freeman 10-26 C Jacox
Fours: Mick Taylor, Dave Vernon, Dave Fage, Jonathan Brown (capt.) 11-18 C Merrett

Agg: 1-4



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A-TEAM STRIDE PAST GRANGE IN TOP CLUB
GRANGE BC in Rugby was unfamiliar territory for most of Abington's Top Club A-side, but that mattered little as they turned in a performance equal parts tenacious and dominant.

The two singles players required the former characteristic, with neither Alan Coleman nor Tony O'Leary in the lead until the moment that they had won. Both games were practically identical in their scoring pattern, with the home player making an instant breakaway, our player responding, their man countering to leave himself but one or two ends from putting a point on the board, before a scintillating late charge brought about a smash-and-grab success for Abington.

Coleman, playing the 2-wood, had been level at 10-10 with five ends left, but found himself requiring all of his last four woods to count (without recourse to an extra end). They all did. O'Leary's in the 4-wood was an even greater fightback though. When his opponent reached the position of potentially claiming victory on the next end, the Abington man only had 10 of his own. There was surely too much to do, a pessimism enhanced as the score steadily inched to 18-11 and 19-14.

O'Leary's final wood of the 17th end changed everything though. In a classic case of 'hit or bust', he had no option but to drill into the head and hope he wasn't still game down when the dust settled. He smashed into the target, and the jack was squeezed high into the air. For a moment, it looked like it would clear the ditch and fly into the hedge, but at the last moment, it dipped and landed precisely in the ditch. O'Leary's live bowl ran through to join it to claim shot.

Bob Page, the Grange player in question didn't recover from this and O'Leary picked a low-hanging three on the next end to close the score right up. On the end following that, Page blinked hard and fired at an OLeary shot bowl. Not only did he miss that wood, he took his nearest bowl out, giving our man enough to complete a stunning win.

Even with the struggles of the solo men, there had been little cause for panic as Abington took a sizeable lead in all three of the multiplayer games, but at least they could breathe a little easier. It had seemed as though they would all need to be at peak performance, but sudden turns of events meant whoever won first would finish the match.

The triples, skipped again by John Freeman, were due to finish first and had enjoyed the best start of any rink. Unfortunately they relaxed a tad too much and had by some distance the worst finish, scoring just one shot in the entire second half. Over that period, they dropped 12 to be pipped at the post by one.

Thankfully, the same mistake was avoided by the pairs and fours. Colin Barnes and Alan Dunkley, playing the former, outscored their opposition at a rate of 2-1 for the whole game, but it was team captain's Jonathan Brown's rink that delivered the decisive blow. A couple of early big scores - and some class bowling from all concerned - afforded them a double-figures lead, which they maintained to the finish, shaking hands with an end to spare.

Scores:

2-wood: Alan Coleman 14-13 D Knee
Singles: Tony O'Leary 21-19 R Page
Pairs: Colin Barnes, Alan Dunkley 21-10 P Bale
Triples: Adam Hawkings, Terry Brown, John Freeman 14-15 G Wilkinson
Fours: Adam Brown, Dave Vernon, Phil Reeve, Jonathan Brown (capt.) 26-17 B Humphries

Agg: 4-1



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A-TEAM KNOCK OUT TOP CLUB GIANTS
EVERYONE KNOWS the first emotion that washes over you in the aftermath of a great sporting success is not pride or ecstasy, but relief. The real celebration comes a little later. But it was even more delayed than usual for Abington's Top Club A-side after a tortured conclusion to their encounter with Rugby.

For well over an hour, the situation was clear. The fours would decide everything. Abington had taken the 2-wood thanks to a brilliant display from Alan Coleman, not dropping after the 10th and sealing it with four ends to spare. Sadly, Tony O'Leary was unable to hold on to build on a narrow 15-11 advantage in the 4-wood and eventually succumbed 19-21.

The triples was an almost neverending stream of Abington shots, and the pairs likewise for Rugby (despite the valiant efforts of Colin Barnes at lead, the international quality of opposing skip Tom Millership turned nearly every head). So, it all came to rest on the shoulders of the fours, who narrowly trailed as O'Leary shook hands, with eight ends to go.

No-one could have predicted their immediate response - a seven! In the blink of an eye, their game had turned on its head. And it has to be admitted, perhaps due more to an inexplicable collapse in the Rugby rink's form than an upswing in their own. A handful of that seven were more than a yard away from the jack. Still, having been gifted a life raft, they were in no mood to return it to their now floundering opponents. Steadily increasing their advantage, Jonathan Brown's men went into the penultimate end only needing to score to guarantee progress.

However, that proved to be merely the start of the marathon. With the final wood of the 20th, Rugby's skip had no option but to drill through the wall and find a route to the two Abington shots. Seeing the bowl veer tight out of his hand, everyone turned to shake theirs, only to look round and find the shot had been fluked. Some skips would still have given up at this moment, needing a seven to tie, but the reasoning was sound enough - if they can score that many at once, so can we.

In the eventuality, that scenario was never in danger of happening. The Abington front-end continued to out-draw their opposite numbers - but they had to do so three times as the jack was continually killed. It was a supreme display of stubbornness on the Warwickshire club's part, but one they would be made to pay for. Halfway through the third attempt to just get the bloody match concluded and go for a drink, the heavens opened with a week's worth of wet stuff in five minutes!

Just as everyone was fearing this spectacle would continue all day, a now-necessary towel was thrown in. Abington were through, and they had knocked out one of the Top Club's best performing teams of recent years.

Before this season, this probably wouldn't have happened. Relying on the fours to get the side through against a team of star quality would have been a near-fatal state to be in. The rink has traditionally been the format to suffer the most for the squad's previous lack of depth. However, with the new additions, hope and inspiration can now be found across the green. And who knows what might be possible...

Scores:

2-wood: Alan Coleman 16-7 L Pearcey
Singles: Tony O'Leary 19-21 C Carter
Pairs: Colin Barnes, Alan Dunkley 5-19 T Millership
Triples: Adam Hawkings, Terry Brown, John Freeman 22-5 C Wells
Fours: Adam Brown, Dave Vernon, Phil Reeve, Jonathan Brown (capt.) 25-16 B Boardman

Agg: 3-2


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TRIPLES LEAGUE: OVERDUE DOUBLE WIN FOR ABINGTON
IT'S TAKEN until the fifth game, but Abington can finally toast a victory for both the A and B teams in the Monday evening triples league.

After a couple of chastening setbacks, the As were thankful of an opportunity to refresh against Bugbrooke at home, and most of them took it gratifyingly. Only captain Jonathan Brown suffered a dropped rink point, despite having led until the 12th end. They briefly regained it before a dropped four on the penultimate end demoralised them.

So, the team selector, defeated in all five games so far, seems unable to pick himself a winning rink. At least the rest of his picks proved up to the task. Both Tony O'Leary and Terry Brown took a rare opportunity to skip with aplomb, their rinks each winning by 13. Both were consistent scorers rather than relying on big ends, the most either managed in a single head being four. Three was a common score than one or two though, accounting for both rinks reaching 20 shots.

Conversely, Alan Dunkley's rink did manage the big scores, but not the consistency. Nevertheless, those sizeable returns kept their heads above water throughout. Unlike the captain, they didn't succumb to the pressure or allow the funk of recent losses to destabilise them, and finished the job.

It's a lesson that the B-team could expound on at great length themselves. Having lost their opening two matches, the Bs now seem to be in the process of mounting a bid for glory. This win at Brackley was their third in a row and shoots them up the Division 2 table. And in a way, it was a microcosm of their season so far

Only a handful of ends had been played, and Brackley already had a decent lead of nearly 20. But the Abington side are no longer pushovers. Captain Mick Taylor takes the plaudits yet again for another big win (and becoming the first player on the team to reach a century of shots for this campaign.) A seven on the sixth end changed the entire complexion of the game for both his rink and the team entire, and they eventually won by 13.

Taking this as their cue to spring into action, both Dave Brawn and Peter Milburn's rinks steadily inched their way back into the tie over the rest of the first half, before squeezing into the lead at the start of the second. Brawn's men suddenly burst away with a four on the 10th end at 7-7. They maintained that advantage to the finish.

Milburn's trio couldn't quite hold on to the climax, but they salvaged a draw on the last end, a single shot that proved absolutely vital. If it had gone the other way, Brackley would have taken the tie 4-2, enabled by the one bad result of the evening on Reg Jones' rink. As it was Abington B snatched an extra two and a half points with just that one shot. The margins in this league are so thin they're practically invisible. More than enough incentive then, to keep plugging away through the harder periods.

Scores:

A-team
Adam Brown, Alan Ward, Jonathan Brown (capt.) 14-18 D Jones
Colin Barnes, Pat McAlwane, Alan Dunkley 18-16 R Rigby
Adam Hawkings, Alan Coleman, Terry Brown 22-9 M Spruels
Chris Beck, Dave Fage, Tony O'Leary 20-7 G Hayter

Agg: 5-1 (74-50)

B-team
Walt Thompson, Trevor Aston, Mick Taylor (capt.) 27-14 R Blencowe
Alan Chapman, Alan Mann, Dave Brawn 17-14 R Somerton
John Higginbottom, Peter Kneeshaw, Pete Milburn 15-15 G Prior
Allen Johnson, Reg Jones, Mick Hall 6-21 R Moorland

Agg: 4.5-1.5 (65-64)


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TRIPLES LEAGUE: B-TEAM DESTROY HARPOLE, A-TEAM SPUTTER AT DESBOROUGH
IT'S NOT only in the world of politics where you can both win and lose at the same time. Abington have managed that most weeks in the Monday evening triples league so far. And 12th June was a key example of this disparateness.

The B-team have never recorded a win quite like it. 88 shots for and only 41 against. Positively a landslide result... on shots. Somehow, despite annihilating Harpole A on the aggregate, they still managed to drop two points. Both Dave Brawn and Mick Hall looked fair set to complete an Abington clean sweep, but their rinks allowed a sense of complacency to set in over the last few ends.

Brawn, usually Mr. Reliable, let slip a halftime advantage of 13-5, eventually going down 15-18. Hall, making his first appearance of the campaign, dropped four on the final three ends. Both rinks were undoubtedly aware that the tie overall was effectively already over.

Peter Milburn's rink returned to winning ways with a clinical thrashing, in which they dropped only three ends, and as many shots. This was a great triumph for consistency, as they never put together a big end-score, never straying above three shots in one go.  If they'd felt as prolific as captain Mick Taylor's rink - who took a five and a four on the first two ends, later added another one of each, plus a six, to win by a majestic 37-5 - Abington B would have been looking at treble figures.

Abington A were a long way from that. Desborough may have fielded a couple of their stars, but to be beaten 5-1 by a side who had yet to scent victory in their nostrils until this game will go down as a great disappointment. Ollie Kirkwood's rink salvaged a point with fantastic late comeback charge. 12 shots on five of the last six ends ensured the night wasn't a total wipeout. But there was little to no joy elsewhere.

Captain Jonathan Brown will perhaps be the most disappointed with his rink result, even as they threatened to better Kirkwood's fightback, with eight shots on three ends pulling the deficit from 10 to two. Phil Reeve and John Freeman - respectively beaten comfortably and very comfortably indeed - at least had the caveat of facing off directly against Pete Ward and John Haines, two of the best bowlers this league has to offer. Nonetheless, if Abington A are serious about challenging for the title again, there can be no room for an inferiority complex.

Scores:

A-team
Pat McAlwane, Dave Vernon, Ollie Kirkwood 18-13 P Mellor
Rob Archer, Alan Ward, Jonathan Brown (capt.) 11-17 R Chambers
Chris Beck, Tony O'Leary, Phil Reeve 9-20 P Ward
Adam Hawkings, Alan Coleman, John Freeman 8-24 J Haines

Agg: 1-5 (46-74)

B-team
Phil Boseley, Trevor Aston, Mick Taylor (capt.) 37-5 T Golding
Walt Thompson, Pete Boulden, Dave Brawn 15-18 D Hartgrove
Alan Mann, Reg Jones, Mick Hall 14-15 R Firminger
Alan Chapman, Peter Kneeshaw, Pete Milburn 22-3 D Billingham

Agg: 4-2 (88-41)


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NO UPSETS IN TOP CLUB, BUT B-TEAM PROUD IN DEFEAT
IT'S NOT clear if 2017's experiment with a second Abington team in the National Top Club will continue for 2018, but in this writer's opinion it should be recorded as a qualified success.

Travelling to Express - to stare down a team containing county and national champions - for their prelim, little was expected from the result. The aim was just to put a few feelers out there. But in the event they came away with a story of a heart-breaking near-miss

Perhaps if Chris Beck had claimed the final end of the 2-wood singles, then the extraordinary would have transpired. Alas, the final shot of a roller-coaster scrap went to his opponent Neil Rolfe and Abington B's best hope on paper of a point was extinguished early.

So often the 2-wood shapes the rest of the game in this multi-format team competition. The first point on the board settles jangling nerves elsewhere. The A-team saw this in effect after a shockingly dire start to their prelim at home to Heyford. Alan Coleman himself was briefly affected by this himself but regained his composure just in time to win the 2-wood with two ends to spare.

And once that was sealed, the rest of it settled down into the cakewalk that was expected. Tony O'Leary surged to a 21-7 thrashing, the new-boy pairing of Colin Barnes and Alan Dunkley regained their double-figures advantage of the early ends and held it to the finish and Phil Reeve's four came back from 2-10 down to romp home 27-13 (with one end not played). John Freeman's triple took all this sudden upsurge and distilled it for themselves on their 10th end to register a seven. Ironically, it was the only time they scored more than one shot, but it allowed them to win by four, and in doing so, claim the honour of delivering the decisive blow.

It's to the great credit of the B-team then that a total reverse of this did not come about after Beck's excruciating loss, even though Dave Brawn in the singles and Trevor Aston's fours rink were defeated comfortably. Both the pairs and triples fought on whole-heartedly for pride's sake and the latter - skipped by Pete Boulden - even managed a win against a high-quality trio of county-level players.

The pairs, Rob Archer and Pete Milburn, were forced to lay down their arms with two ends to spare, but only one shot down. So, just a couple of shots either way and Abington could toast a magnificent triumph. Hopefully, there will be a second chance afforded to these players next season.

Scores:

A-team
2-wood: Alan Coleman 16-8 M Freeman
Singles: Tony O'Leary 21-7 R Holland
Pairs: Colin Barnes, Alan Dunkley 22-11 M Moulton
Triples: Adam Hawkings, Terry Brown, John Freeman 16-12 G Allen
Fours: Adam Brown, Dave Vernon, Jonathan Brown (capt.), Phil Reeve 27-13 T Goodchild

Agg: 5-0

B-team
2-wood: Chris Beck 13-14 N Rolfe
Singles: Dave Brawn 13-21 R Lemon
Pairs: Rob Archer (capt.), Pete Milburn 16-17 I Bland
Triples: Reg Jones, Peter Kneeshaw, Pete Boulden 16-15 C Bland
Fours: Phil Boseley, Harvey Fruish, Alan Mann, Trevor Aston 12-23 D Graham

Agg: 1-4

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TRIPLES LEAGUE: B-TEAM OFF THE MARK AT LAST, A-TEAM DESTROYED
LET'S BEGIN with the A-team, if only to ensure this report does not leave a tragic last impression.

Gameweek 3 of the Monday night triples league on May 22nd was shaping up to be an early portent of the hopes and aspirations for both Abington sides. For the As, a win over West End A would put them top and with it would flow the inspiration that they could just do it this year.

What actually happened was almost the complete opposite. Abington A were reduced to crawling away on their bellies, paying deference to an overwhelming bowling display from their hosts. The night was summed up by the travails of Phil Reeve's rink. Those under his charge prior had conceded just seven shots from the opening two fixtures. After only nine ends at West End, they had shipped the same amount again - multiplied by four!

28 shots. Including a four, two fives and a six. The match was barely a few ends old before it was made clear that a 3-3 draw was the best result Abington A could possibly achieve. But as the evening wore on the other rinks all meekly accepted their fate too. The typical pattern was an exchange of scoring ends, but with Abington picking up meagre returns and West End looting multiple shots at once.

Making the most of home advantage on a green with many tricky running tracks, the quality of West End's attacking play was simply overwhelming. As indeed, does the scale of trying to rescue a title bid now seems after this mauling.

Thankfully, the B-team provided a moment of good cheer by moving off the bottom of Division 2 by beating the side who replace them in that non-vaunted position, Roade. It is perhaps not a coincidence that Abington B's return to winning ways came on the same night that last year's merit table winner Dave Brawn made his first appearance in 2017. Carrying on where he left off, Brawn and team-mates recovered from a dodgy first couple of ends to immediately tie the score to 5-5 and then gradually ease away for the remainder of proceedings, eventually winning by 10.

It wasn't all smiles and sunshine though. Peter Milburn was on the receiving end of the match's biggest win margin. Just one shot from the first five ends was soon followed by dropping a five and then a three. The deficit of 11 remained to the finish. Meanwhile, Peter Boulden's rink will have gone home kicking themselves having seemingly retrieved a point from the fire - eight shots in three ends putting them 15-13 up - before blowing it again at the death to lose by one.

Thankfully, captain Mick Taylor continued his good form and his rink's undramatic 17-9 win got the B-team over the line in front. Let's hope the team takes inspiration from their leader.

Scores:

A-team
Adam Brown, Tony O'Leary, Jonathan Brown (capt.) 7-13 A Ashby
Dave Fage, Ollie Kirkwood, Phil Reeve 7-35 M Walker
Alan Coleman, Terry Brown, John Freeman 9-20 J Walker
Colin Barnes, Dave Vernon, Alan Dunkley 7-18 W Walker

Agg: 0-6 (30-86)

B-team
Phil Boseley, Trevor Aston, Mick Taylor (capt.) 17-9 D Agaite
Alan Chapman, Alan Mann, Dave Brawn 18-8 T Hartwright
John Higginbottom, Peter Kneeshaw, Pete Boulden 15-16 P Martin
Harvey Fruish, Reg Jones, Pete Milburn 10-21 S David

Agg: 4-2 (60-54)


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DOUBLE RINKS: ABINGTON ALL OUT BEFORE SUMMER
ABINGTON'S INTEREST in the National Double Rinks was ended in one dull blow of the axe on the morning of Sunday May 21st. Both the B and C-teams were simultaneously culled on their own surface by Whyte Melville and Bugbrooke respectively.

There was not even the saving grace of any individual rink wins, though a couple could justify themselves unfortunate in this regard, in particular that skipped by Ollie Kirkwood in the B-team. A six-shot swing would have been enough to take the home side through, and they looked poised to nab them all after taking six shots between the 15th and 18th ends.

This wrested back control of the tie after a prolonged wobble in the middle of the match had undone their superb start (nine shots from the opening four ends without reply). And at the exact same moment, their team-mates next door, skipped by team captain Dave Vernon, were also putting together their first - and to be fair, overdue - decent scoring run. In no time at all, a double-figure deficit had been reduced to a solitary shot difference. With the chasm condensed to a mere crack, it seemed as though Abington B would soon be over the horizon and into the next round.

So, it was puzzling indeed to see the match just fizzle out. Kirkwood's rink only held shot momentarily over the final three ends. What few top-class bowls they did produce only served to incentivise their opponents from Melville to beat it.

But at least their game did build to a climax. Abington C saw the writing was on the wall about an hour before the end. Peter Boulden's rink - also featuring captain Mick Taylor - were the fall guys, losing their grip completely at the beginning of the second half with 11 shots dropped between the 12th and 15th ends.

Up until that portentous period, Boulden's rink had been competing just as fiercely as Pete Milburn's, who took a blistering five on the 13th end to try and counter what was starting to unravel next door. But likewise with the Bs, there was to be no superheroics. Seven more against on the 18th and 19th ends confirmed that Boulden's lot were being stuffed out of sight. Consequently, Milburn and company gave up the ghost as well, slinking quietly to a 20-22 loss of their own, which at the very least did show a sense of solidarity.

Scores:

B-team
Rob Archer, Pat McAlwane, Terry Brown, Dave Vernon (capt.) 15-18 M Courtney
Adam Hawkings, Bill Roberts, Dave Fage, Ollie Kirkwood 20-22 S Coles

Agg: 35-40

C-team
Alan Mann, Reg Jones, Chris Beck, Pete Milburn 20-22 M Spruels
Harvey Fruish, Peter Kneeshaw, Mick Taylor (capt.), Pete Boulden 12-26 D Jones

Agg: 32-48


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TRIPLES LEAGUE: A'S BEAT WHYTE, B'S FIND DAVENTRY HEAVY GOING
THE A-TEAM turned in a somewhat schizophrenic performance in their first home game of the Monday evening triples league on May 15th. Two rinks winning by enormous margins, the other two conspiring to prevent Abington from an early lead of the table, and giving Whyte Melville A two of the six points.

Phil Reeve's 22-4 result caught the eye, following on as it did from last week's 29-3 smashing of an Earls Barton trio by the same combination, of Dave Fage, Tony O'Leary and Reeve. A better way to ingratiate yourself amongst new clubmates is barely possible to imagine. Two games into the league and this particular line-up have still yet to concede double figures.

Even more incredibly though, it wasn't the best rink result of the night. John Freeman and company pipped Reeve at the post, winning every end after the seventh. It was a run of nine consecutive scores that matched the other winners' best on the night - but returned more shots. Walking off the green, Freeman's rink had posted one extra shot on Reeve's.

Perhaps the seeming effortlessness of the two winning trios bred a sense of complacency in the other six men, when they should have been knuckling down. Though this soon turned to desperation and eventually resignation. Even when they did score, neither rink rarely managed more than a single, and almost never scored on successive ends.

Ollie Kirkwood's triple were only two down after nine, but immediately dropped a four, and a three soon after that left them with too much ground to make up. For the second week running though, it was captain Jonathan Brown's rink who were the biggest disappointment. They never recovered from losing five of the first six ends and a three on the 14th likewise did for them, leaving the skipper with plenty to ponder before next week's crucial game at West End.

B-team captain Mick Taylor would be much gladder of Brown's problems than his own though. For the second week running his side managed only one point, leaving them dead last in the Division 2 table. However, the seemingly convincing Daventry win could easily have been converted into something better. Peter Milburn's trio's final deficit of 21 was the same as the aggregate score's. If only a couple of the other rinks had maintained their energy levels to the finish, Abington B could have at least received a share of the points.

Daventry's heavy surface makes a tiring slog of any game, and sadly the rinks skipped by Reg Jones and Peter Boulden started to falter and wheeze just as the chequered flag hove into view. With three ends to go on each, both were in front. Then, between them, they conceded 17 shots. It was only this that swung the result to the home side.

So it was left to Taylor, selector-in-chief himself, to claim Abington's sole point of the night, following an embattled performance topped off with seven shots across the last three ends. It was a marginal offsetting of the damage done by Jones and Boulden's late collapse, and the largely poor return of Milburn (who somehow tallied nine shots from just three scoring ends), but he will clearly be looking for the opposite kind of performance in the weeks ahead.

Scores:

A-team
Colin Barnes, Alan Coleman, Ollie Kirkwood 10-17 S Ramsden
Dave Fage, Tony O'Leary, Phil Reeve 22-4 M Linnell
Rob Archer, Adam Brown, Jonathan Brown (capt.) 6-15 M Courtney
Pat McAlwane, Terry Brown, John Freeman 23-4 S Coles

Agg: 4-2 (61-40)

B-team
Phil Boseley, Trevor Aston, Mick Taylor (capt.) 17-8 D Mitchell
Bill Shelton, Alan Mann, Reg Jones 13-19 B Spreadbury
Allen Johnson, Peter Kneeshaw, Pete Boulden 20-23 D Welch
Harvey Fruish, Walt Thompson, Pete Milburn 9-30 D Bellis


Agg: 1-5 (59-80)


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TRIPLES LEAGUE: ROUTINE WIN FOR A-SIDE, B-SIDE BEATEN BY HEYFORD
IT WAS a brisk return to Earls Barton for Abington, in more than one sense. Only a couple of weeks after kicking off the Saturday season there, the Monday triples league A-team began their campaign at the same venue on a shiveringly cold May evening.

Thankfully, they came through largely unscathed, with victory by the required healthy margin. And none healthier than that from our brand new skip Phil Reeve, whose rink only dropped shots on three ends. 9-0 up before letting the first slip and 17-1 up before dropping the second, a final score of 19-3 confirmed a merit-table topping debut.

John Freeman's more established trio (of Adam Hawkings, Terry Brown and himself) were not to be outdone by too much though, delivering their standard decent performance. Their defences were a little leakier than Reeve and company's but some big-scoring ends early in the second half flattened their opponents' chances.

The other new recruits wouldn't have things so easy, but they displayed their tenacity to fight back from a difficult opening and withstand a narrow finish to seal another point by three shots. A middle-period run of 10 shots in six ends proved crucial.

For a while, it looked like being a perfect return, but that was without reckoning a bizarre reversal of fortune for captain Jonathan Brown's rink. From 10-2 up at half distance they only scored one more shot for the rest of the game and eventually trudged off having been bested 11-14.

Even more unfortunately, it was not balanced up by the reverse happening to Reg Jones back at Abington. He was 2-10 down after seven ends, but in his case it just kept getting worse and worse. A couple on the last end only flattered them as their score was raised to five, and the deficit to negative 21.

It capped off a difficult night for Abington B. Being battered on your own surface by Heyford pretty much the opposite of the desired start. Even the sole winning rink, skipped by Pete Milburn, lost their footing a tad, conceding on five of the last six ends to throw a speck of doubt over a win that began with eight shots from the first two ends.

Neither of the other two rinks lost - skipped by Pete Boulden and captain Mick Taylor - by a great amount, but it was notable that they wilted as the cold, dark night closed in. At halfway, they had both been marginally ahead but as the temperature dropped so did their likelihood of scoring. With warmer evenings on the horizon, here's hoping for some warmer results to match.

Scores:

A-team
Adam Brown, Dave Vernon, Jonathan Brown (capt.) 11-14 D Wright
Dave Fage, Tony O'Leary, Phil Reeve 19-3 T Williams
Adam Hawkings, Terry Brown, John Freeman 20-11 A Jeyes
Colin Barnes, Alan Coleman, Alan Dunkley 14-11 N Gould

Agg: 5-1 (64-39)

B-team
Allen Johnson, Walt Thompson, Reg Jones 5-26 T Goodchild
Phil Boseley, Alan Mann, Mick Taylor (capt.) 10-15 M Moulton
Harvey Fruish, Chris Zouch, Pete Milburn 16-12 M Boyson
John Higginbottom, Peter Kneeshaw, Pete Boulden 10-18 G Allen

Agg: 1-5 (41-71)


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DOUBLE RINKS: A-SIDE TAKE THE FALL, B-SIDE ASSUME MANTLE
THE OPTION was available, but Abington would rightly never have countenanced switching the teams around. Therefore, the club's notional A-side entered the national double rinks by assuming that title and withstanding the hardest of the three draws we had been handed.

Unfortunately, they also paid the heaviest of prices. An immediate exit against the stars from Kingsthorpe A, on a May night that seemed climatically late by at least four months, was far from the ideal way to blood the three glittering new recruits Colin Barnes, Alan Dunkley and Phil Reeve. However, within some pockets there could be found gold lurking.

Barnes and Dunkley in particular departed with plenty of optimism for the upcoming county fours. But for the international class of opposing skip Andrew Manton, their first game in a rink with Adam and Jonathan Brown could have been a comfortable victory. On another night, they would have at least doubled their early advantages of 10-2 and 12-4 before the rest of the Kingsthorpe rink had got a foothold.

However, Manton's decisive contribution first quelled the threatened Abington breakaway, and then inspired his front end to counter our men's efforts. And as they clawed their way back, so the other Kingsthorpe rink also took a firm grip of proceedings against John Freeman's quartet, going from 9-all to 9-17 in just four ends. The fight was slowly squeezed out of Abington as the favourites eventually lived up to their billing. Even Brown's rink eventually succumbed as the unlikeliness of progression became starker.

Nonetheless, spirits remain high. It was for the most part a noble performance against one of the few sides in the vicinity who would still out-rank ours. It also did not go unnoticed that our level of support from the sidelines was at least a match for the host side's. And this was reciprocated a few days later when the B-team played their prelim at St. Crispin's.

With the new signings filling out the A-side, the B-side is also stronger this year. Previous A-list alumni Terry Brown, Dave Fage, Ollie Kirkwood and captain Dave Vernon, who made up the back-ends between them, all impressed as Abington B fairly cruised to an unsurprising place in the first round proper.

They were set up though by some steady front-end play, the made-over rinks gelling well. Above all else, it's the unified spirit that makes Abington stand out right now, and for evidence one can simply point to the coordinated joint rallying that greeted the only sticky patch of proceedings. After Vernon's rink lost a five on the ninth end, they hit back with nine of their own on the next three, while Kirkwood's hit the same amount across the next five. The advantage only grew from that point on.

Scores:

A-team
Adam Brown, Colin Barnes, Alan Dunkley, Jonathan Brown (capt.) 18-21 A Manton
Tony O'Leary, Alan Coleman, Phil Reeve, John Freeman 13-23 V Gearey

Agg: 31-44

B-team
Adam Hawkings, Bill Roberts, Dave Fage, Ollie Kirkwood 30-12 P Odell
Rob Archer, Pat McAlwane, Terry Brown, Dave Vernon (capt.) 24-21 N Beirne

Agg: 54-33