The bowling world looks forward to the first weekend in May and the start of the BCGBA Endsleigh Insurance County championship.
Reigning champions, Warwick and Worcester, had a tough contest with Staffordshire with the result in some doubt for much of the game. In a game which had 8 single figure wins and at the half way stage it Staffordshire in the lead and it required 9 of the last 12 blocks in the champions favour to claim the win. All in all the 59 point win at Ye Olde Knowle gave Warwicks’ the win as their normally all conquering away side suffered a 31 defeat at Hammerwich BC.
The other teams in group 4 are Cumbria and North Midlands. It was the midlanders who claimed win after taking 16 of the 24 games. What was looking like a comfortable away win at Hawcoat Park BC in Barrow in Furness almost slipped away after a spirited fight back by the Cumbrians almost brought them level. However the other half of the match, held in Coventry at the Dunlop club, was much more straightforward. North Midlands claimed 10 of the games on the way to a 77 point win to lead the group.
Last year’s runners-up, Cheshire, suffered a 35 point loss to Wales who won both legs of the contest. The 24 individual matches were shared but the Welsh men had more single figure wins and closer losses which proved decisive. Cheshire will be unhappy to lose at home at Knutsford BC which had previously provided clear wins for them and the long journey to Colwyn Bay RBL was always going to be challenging.
The win for Wales leaves then in 2nd place in the group following Yorkshire’s comfortable win over Lancashire. This fixture was first played in 1893 between 2 counties who have proved to be the most successful in the history of the competition. Lancashire’s home venue normally produces good results but it was the visitors who claimed 8 of the 12 games on the way to a 22 point win. The Yorkshire home game was played on Ossett Flying Horse which had a more than uncertain future a few years ago. Thankfully its future was secured and a venue which can give you 10 wins out of 12 is a great asset The overall win by 81 points put Yorkshire top of group of the oldest bowling associations.
The closest match of the day was in group 1 between Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire. Greater Manchester claimed 13 wins out of 24 and had more single figure wins but it’s the aggregate that counts and this is where South Yorkshire triumphed by 2 points. Greater Manchester claimed 6 of the last 8 wins and the Yorkshire men will be happy to have hung on for victory. A loss by 29 at the tricky Ashton Cricket Club was overcome at the equally tricky Crookesmoor Recreation Club by the smallest or margins.
The other game in this group saw a more comfortable win for Shropshire against Potteries. Potteries used Birches Head Hotel which itself was saved from closure a few years ago and had 7 wins out of 12 on the way to a 21 point home win. Shropshire used Newport BC in a ruthless home performance to claim 11 out of 12 wins and a 63 point win.
Isle of Man joined the county championship last year and had a close game against Merseyside. A good start to the game by the Merseyside men, who claimed 6 of the first 8 games, helped keep them ahead of the Manx men throughout. The Isle of Man home venue of Onchan saw them record a 5 point win but this was more than overcome by a 27 point win at Unison BC in St Helens.
The last game to report was the close game between North Lancs & Fylde and Derbyshire. This was a game was ultimately decided by who could best use of their home green. The North Lancs men had 10 winners out of 12 at Bamber Bridge Catholic Club on the way to a 35 point home win. Derbyshire will be happy with most of the games at their home game, they used the tricky Stretton BC, and it was only at the end of the match that the game got away from them. The loss of 5 of the 12 games at Stretton ultimately costing Derbyshire the win much to the delight of the North Lancs men.
The next games are played on the first Sunday in June.
Group 1 – Gtr Manchester v Potteries, South Yorkshire v Shropshire
Group 2 – Derbyshire v Merseyside, Isle of Man v North Lancs & Fylde
Group 3 – Cheshire v Yorkshire, Wales v Lancashire
Group 4 – Cumbria v Warwick & Worcs, North Midlands v Staffordshire