Crowned national champions in 2011 the West Lothian IBC rink of Bryan Cooper, James Speirs, Thomas Mann, and Glasgow 2014 gold medal hero Neil Speirs have carved out an opportunity to achieve a repeat success in the 2015 edition of the Scottish indoor bowls Fours Championship
The domestic champions from the Inveralmond Stadium in Livingston competed in the play down section at Whiteinch IBC last weekend and took the Glasgow venue by storm to produce four great winning performances. Triumphs over Cowal, Falkirk, Galleon, and Edinburgh club Bainfield secured Speirs and Co a place in the Last Four line up at Lanarkshire IBC where they are joined by immediate opponents Lanarkshire, East Lothian, and Elgin on the weekend of March 28. Reaching the section final at the expense of Cowal, Falkirk, and Galleon was a bit of a dawdle for a West Lothian rink firing on all four cylinders but the head to head against Chris Downie, John McDermott, Colin Hutchison, and Gavin Smith of Bainfield was an epic encounter that went right down to the wire. In fact Bainfield made the most impressive impact in the early stages with the front-end of Downie and McDermott dominating the build up play over the first nine ends resulting in a 6-3 lead. But therein lies the hidden story of Smith and Co being restricted to six singles by some brilliant damage limitation contributions from the WL backend of Mann and Speirs. “We could have been out of sight but for them”, said Bainfield skip Gavin Smith later “and just entering the second half of the game we paid a stiff price when conceding a hefty count of six that saw us fall behind for the first time”, he added. The six was the WL reward for a superb head of bowls clustered closely around the jack and the immediate bonus for Speirs and Co was a lift in their belief that this was indeed a game-changing moment. And it proved to be with Bainfield soon forced on the defensive and challenged by a six shot deficit with just two ends to play however Smith and Co revived their hopes with a magic count of 3 then held 3 for a peel on the next. Smith had neatly squeezed the jack a few inches to hold the three shots needed to take them into an extra-end decider but Bainfield were denied that life-saving opportunity when Speirs attacked the head with his final bowl and cut one bowl out to clinch a nail biting 18-17 victory. “we were the better unit over the first 10-ends but West Lothian fought like tigers to keep us at bay then pounced on us to just tip the scales in their favour”, summed up a hugely disappointed Smith. WL had launched their campaign with a 23-12 win over Cowal in the prelim round then followed up with the 25-13 scalp of Falkirk and a 24-5 demolition of Galleon. Bainfield’s first round clash with West of Scotland was a dramatic one with Smith and Co winning an umpire’s measure at an extra-end to edge a 19-18 victory but that was followed by a thumping 22-3 win over Abbeyview.