Midlothian were asked by team manager Frank Gray to show a higher degree of mental toughness in their play and the stars of the Dalkeith stadium gave him a tremendous response to outfight defending champions West Lothian in a thrilling climax to their indoor bowls premier league clash.
Home advantage did give Midlothian an extra edge but it did take an extra special performance to beat the three-in-a-row champions by six shots ((82-76) and given that the match was fought out on a knife-edge the bottle of the home side was severely tested. “We only fired on three of our four cylinders but a strong team ethic saw us through although the outcome was in the melting pot with us defending a slender 2 shot margin with two rinks left on the carpet playing their final end”, reflected Gray. “It was nail-biting time in both camps and a huge relief for me to see Colin Walker ever so neatly nudge a jack for a count of three shots then Craig Hodge playing third to our team captain David Peacock kill 4 shots against with a brilliant draw that survived onto the card”, he added. There are many wise heads in the Midlothian team but that didn’t stop Gray from emphasising in his pre-match talk that West Lothian would fight as ferociously as a wounded tiger following their most recent defeat at home to Blantyre. WL certainly had much to fight for in terms of staying in the front line of the A section and so keep their dreams of a fourth successive title very much alive and kicking, and there was also the motive of revenge for their shock defeat at home to Midlothian in the opening match of the campaign. Wins for the Midlothian rinks skipped by Billy Peacock, David Peacock, and Colin Walker combined to deliver the victory that the home team desired although that supremacy was endangered by a double figure defeat suffered by Ronnie Duncan. The flow of the match as depicted by the phase scoring shows the battle between two of the four top of the table clubs –Blantyre and Headwell were the others- to be of epic proportions with Midlothian winning the first seven-ends, 29-24, but losing the second, 26-21, before tipping the scales with a 32-26 win on the third. End 12 was a particular highlight with WL scoring 7-0 to cross into a single shot lead (42-41), then end 16 saw Midlothian register a 12-2 that rewarded them with a morale boosting 12 shot authority (66-54). WL were kept menacingly in the match picture by a strong performance from the rink of Bryan Cooper, Dougie Mitchell, Paul O’Donnell, and Neil Speirs who won the front-end battle allowing the back-end to inflict 29-13 punishment on Neil Watson, Andy Kelly, Kevin McDougall, and Ronnie Duncan. Speirs and Co were immense to race into a 20-4 lead after 13-ends then answered a fight-back to 20-12 with a big 3, 5, (1), 1 finish. Billy Peacock contributed the headline win for Midlothian having skipped Jamie Aitken, Ian Fleming, and Colin MacFarlane into a 9-0 lead then including a 4 and a 5 in a 24-15 triumph over Cameron Greer, Ian Drysdale, James Speirs, and Thomas Mann. David Peacock still had it all to do at 13-12 up after 12-ends but rose to the challenge with a strong second half to skip Jamie Macnab, Lindsay Plenderleith, and Craig Hodge to a 23-16 win over Richard Mark, George Sneddon, Craig Moss, and Calum Logan. Colin Walker slipped from 9-0 to 12-9 but made telling space to 19 with a run of 1, 1, 5 as he skipped Ian Forbes, AJ Knight, and David Munro to a 22-16 win over Paul Lynas, Raymond Logan, Jamie Gracie, and Mark Allison.
Lorna Smith of Linlithgow BC continues to answer her astonishing Commonwealth Games snub at the hands of Bowls Scotland/Sportscotland in the best way possible having just added the World Champion of Champion Singles title to her impressive career honours. The coveted Champion of Champions event is staged in New Zealand and Smith was representing the Scotland Banner for the second year running and nursing the strong ambition of going one better than losing the 2013 final to Karen Murphy of Australia. Smith finished in the top three of her qualifying section then reached the semi final stage with a tiebreak win over Helen King of the host nation (6-9, 8-6, 4-3), and booked her place in the final with a 14-0, 4-7, 4-2 tiebreak triumph over N Noor of Malaysia. The final saw Scotland’s champion make a strong start to lead Saskia Schaft of Netherlands, 7-1 then trade on that cushion to win the first set, 8-5, however her Dutch opponent held most of the aces in the second set to win it 6-4. Smith has demonstrated often enough in the past that she has a strong nerve under pressure and she lived up to that reputation by dominating the first end of the tiebreak to register a full house count of 4 than added a double at the second to trigger the title clinching victory salute. “It feel great to finally win a World Singles title having previously been the Silver medallist in this World Champion of Champions, The World Cup Indoor, and World Outdoor Singles”, said Smith “I have won many Gold and other Medals in International Events over the last 20 years but have always strived to add a World Singles title to my CV so I am over the moon at achieving that”, she added. The honour of representing the Scotland banner in the World Champion of Champions isn’t by a selection process but earned as a result of winning the national title and that means as the 2014 champion Smith is able to defend in Australia next year. Scotland’s women of course failed rather miserably to land any sort of medal at the otherwise successful Glasgow Games having opted to ignore the massive claims of a proven world-class performer that has become the first ever three-in-row national singles champion. Smith- born in the Seychelles and a product of South Africa Bowls- was cruelly judged by the Scottish system of selection not to be a team player despite her vast range of team-play honours and receiving the South Africa Sports Ambassador Award from Nelson Mandella. Meanwhile another questionable Commonwealth Games omission in the shape of Lanarkshire’s Iain McLean made it a glorious double for Scotland in New Zealand with the 2013 national champion landing the Gents title via knockout stage wins over Andy Walters of England, David Holt of Australia, and Fairus Jabal of Malaysia.