Derek Oliver’s hopes of an extra morale boost ahead of his Gold Coast challenges at the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Australia was delivered in fine style as his East Lothian IBC triple captured the Triples crown for Scotland – in the finals of the British Isles Championships recently played at Paisley IBC.
Oliver and his high-profile front-two of Mark Johnston and 79-year-old legendary figure Willie Wood MBE lined up against Channel Islands in the final and led 9-7 after 11 of the 18 ends played then raised the roof with counts of 6 and 3 to stand 11 shots up with five to play. The abrupt loss of 1, 1, 2, 3 to 18-14 brought the Scotland champions under last end pressure that they answered with a single to trigger the victory salute (19-14).
Oliver skipped his front-two to a 16-12 win over Ireland in the prelim round action having made significant impact with a purple patch spell of 4, 1, 3 that thrust them from 8-7 down to 15-8 up then it was game management tactics over the remaining five ends. A stamina challenging quick return to the finals arena pitched East Lothian’s national champions against England and an energy dip may have been read into a 4-0 deficit after two ends however, Oliver and Co roared into action with a run of 3, 3, 2, 2 to lead 10-4. Coming under a touch of pressure at 12-10 the menace was answered by a strong finish of 2, 4, (1), 1, (1), 4 to win 23-12. “Absolutely delighted to win my second British title but it was extra special occasion for Willie (Wood) as remarkably it was his first British indoor title success and in his last competitive game at this level, not a bad way for the ‘auld yin’ to bow out, said a jubilant Oliver. It was also Johnston’s first British success after two failed previous attempts.
Meanwhile the East Lothian IBC senior four of Peter Fallen, David Pryde, Alan Morgan and BJ Smith failed to capture the coveted British Isles crown – but the national champions did exceptionally well to bask in the limelight of the reaching the final. The garden county stars thrilled the Scottish support with an encouraging 27-16 semi-final win over Channel Islands but in the final against Wales they started the game badly and with ten ends played they trailed 17-4. Smith & Co did make a spirited fist of things in the second half, but it was much too late to influence a 28-14 defeat.
East Lothian IBC men’s side hopes of etching their name on the Scottish Premier Division trophy for an eighth time were thwarted when the defending champions suffered an eight-shot defeat in last Sunday’s rearranged play-off final at Blantyre, as the host club captured the honours in a cracking encounter.
The final between two of Scotland’s finest teams lived up to its pre-match hype before Blantyre edged an 81-73 victory, always having command of the major scoreboard but the match was never a one-sided affair with East Lothian pressing on several occasions but never able to suppress an opposition who’s home carpet advantage was probably the deciding factor. “We came mighty close to achieving our dream of winning the title for an eighth time but in the end, we just came up short against a very good side,” said team captain Dougie Berwick afterwards.
Billy Mellors turned in a very impressive winning performance for the garden county but that was to be the only positive outcome in the final as the rinks skipped by Alex Marshall MBE, Derek Oliver and Scott Kennedy all suffered damaging defeats. Mellors skipped Mark Johnston, Dean Riva and Joe Mower to a spectacular 26-10 win over former Scotland captain Jim McCann. Marshall and his front three of Mark Yuill, Andrew Jeffrey and Dougie Berwick got off to the worst possible start and found themselves 16-7 down after 8 ends but to their credit they refused to cave in before eventually losing 24-18 to Brian Irvine. Oliver skipped Lewis Betts, David Sked and Jamie Higgins into a 7-1 lead after 5 ends, but disaster struck in the next three ends as they conceded 10 shots without reply and things never really got any better in a 23-16 defeat to Stewart Anderson. Ewan Fallen, Willie Wood MBE, Graham Robertson and Kennedy trailed 15-8 but then showed real menace and closed to 15-11 after 18 ends. However, it was to be a false dawn as they faltered badly on the final remaining ends and lost 24-13 to Ian McLean.
The side must now turn their attention to the Scottish Cup that resumes this Saturday at Headwell IBC in Dunfermline and the pathway towards a record extending eighth title celebration is an immensely tough one as the quarterfinal opposition comes in the shape of reigning holders, Falkirk. East Lothian have announced their battle plans for the pending clash and will be spearheaded by major generals in the shape of current international figures Billy Mellors and Scott Kennedy in company with former cap Graham Robertson and current junior cap Joe Mower. The influential pairing of Alex Marshall MBE and Derek Oliver are unavailable as they will be on route to Australia to start preparations for the upcoming Commonwealth Games while Jamie Gordon and Willie Wood MBE also miss out. Stewart Thomson and youngster Aaron Betts make returns to a slightly recast line-up that reads:- M.Yuill, D.Sked, D.Berwick (capt), G.Robertson skip M.Johnston, K.Cunningham, J.Higgins, J.Mower skip E.Fallen, A.Betts, S.W.Thomson, S.Kennedy skip L.Betts, A.Jeffrey, D.Riva, B.Mellors skip
On the international stage, the East Lothian IBC contingent of Billy Mellors, Alex Marshall MBE, Scott Kennedy, Derek Oliver and Jamie Higgins were members of the Scotland team that agonisingly just failed to stop England retaining the British Isles Men’s International Series 2018 at Paisley IBC.
Scotland, under the leadership of Alex Marshall as Team Manager and Billy Mellors as captain, were looking to reclaim back the prestigious Hilton Trophy and end England’s recent dominance of the championships. First up for the Scots was a clash against Ireland, and they made a very impressive start to the campaign with a 135-93 victory, with five of the six rinks winning. They then faced Wales and it was another good showing by the hosts as they cruised to a 148-93 win. Last up for Scotland was a winner takes all against England and after a very tight battle, England, won a tremendous battle 120-119. Captain Billy Mellors enjoyed a great series, as he was part of the rink skipped by Darren Burnett that boasted a 100% record in the series. Scott Kennedy played in a rink that recorded two good wins against Ireland and Wales respectively but suffered a narrow defeat against England. Derek Oliver and Alex Marshall combined as a formidable looking back end partnership but endured a frustrating series as they recorded just the one win against Ireland, a draw against Wales and defeat against England. Jamie Higgins was an unused reserve.
The ladies side from East Lothian IBC have yet to capture the ladies Scottish Cup title but there is rising optimism that the present stars from the Alex Marshall Arena can finally end the drought after starting their 2018 campaign last Saturday with an encouraging 10-0 points win over Falkirk on a neutral carpet at Bainfield IBC.
Falkirk represented decent opposition as a fellow premier league club but failed to cope with an East Lothian team that fired on all four cylinders with double digit wins across the carpet contributed by the rinks skipped by Yvonne Veitch (+24), Janet Fairnie (+20), team captain Lauren Baillie (+16) and Emma Logan (+13). “It was a pretty impressive performance from the whole team with Falkirk waving the white flag in surrender with a few ends still to be completed”, commented Team Manager Gordon Pryde. Next challenge for the ladies is a tough one as the second-round opposition on Saturday at Falkirk IBC is local rivals Midlothian. Icon figure Janet Fairnie is notable absentee with Scotland cap Dee Hoggan deputising for her at skip while opportunity knocks for stalwart figure Cathy Ward who is drafted in to cover the absence of Fairnie and she lines up at third to Yvonne Veitch. The team reads:- M.Murray, K.Hoggan, M.Kivlin, E.Logan skip M.Devine, B.Riva, C.Ward, Y.Veitch skip M.Penman, J.Russell, M.Thomson, D.Hoggan skip J.McFarlane, A.Berwick, Le.Baillie, La.Baillie skip/capt
On Wednesday, the senior side travelled to Whiteinch IBC in Glasgow to tackle Ayrshire outfit Ardrossan in the semi-final of the Senior Scottish Cup. The winners of the match will play Lanarkshire in the final at Headwell IBC in Dunfermline this coming Wednesday (March 28). Meanwhile the qualifying action in the Jock Brodie Senior Challenge Cup, sponsored by Norman T Craig and Plumbing and Electrical Services of Dunbar, has been hectic over the past fortnight with no fewer than six games being played at the Alex Marshall Arena. In the first batch of games played Bainfield were convincing 8-0 winners against Berwickshire while an all Dunfermline clash between Headwell and Abbeyview ended in a 4-4 draw. Last Wednesday saw a double header of fixtures and in the morning games, West Lothian inflicted 6-2 pain on Headwell while Midlothian thrashed Abbeyview, 8-0. In the afternoon action, East Lothian picked up a much-needed 6-2 win over Berwickshire while the other game ended in a shock 6-2 win for Bainfield against tournament favourites Perth.
Midlothian Indoor Bowling Club in Dalkeith will be a hive of activity this coming weekend as they showcase the semi-finals and finals of the national Senior Championships and there is a strong representation from East Lothian at the event. There is real excitement with the challenge being mounted in the Pairs by Lessel Middler and Willie Wood MBE. A strong qualifying campaign now pitches them into a last four battle against Edwin Riddell and Raymond Brown of Buchan on Saturday at 10am. The other last four tie features Inverclyde against West of Scotland. The climax to the Triples brings East Lothian into the picture in the shape of Billy Higgins, Alastair Russell and Tommy Young and they parade their exciting skills against Perth in the semi-finals on the 2pm session of Saturday’s play. The other semi-final is between Coatbridge and Blantyre. If there is no dual qualification, all finals will commence at 10.00am on Sunday morning.
East Lothian IBC staged the finals day of the SYIBA Pairs and Triples championships last Sunday but there was to be no national title success for the host club this time around despite a great effort from both representatives. In the pairs, Aaron Betts and Robbie Shields finished up runners-up, just losing out to Ardrossan in the final while the triple of Melissa Penman, Kieran Dodds and Danny Stevenson just missed out on the medals. All five players will be back in action this coming Sunday as the youth side head to Glasgow IBC for the finals day of the SYIBA Top Ten Championships. The semi-final draw paired the defending champions against Highland challengers Turiff while the other tie features Alloa/Stirling against Auchinleck. The action starts at 10am.
Turning attention to the fast-approaching outdoor season and members of Gifford Bowling & Sports Club should note that their AGM is being held on Tuesday March 27 from 7pm.
Bowls Scotland have announced Midlothian icon figure David Peacock and Paul Foster MBE of Ayrshire as team managers for the 2018 Home International Campaign and they will be assisted by Scott Kennedy (East Lothian), Robert Grant (Lanarkshire South) and Andy Meekison.