First time club champion George Kyle of London Road Foundry has reached the semi final line up in the Edinburgh & Leith Champions of Champions competition for the much-coveted Tait Trophy – a title won in the past two seasons by his clubmate Scott Mackintosh.
Kyle (57) produced a strong performance in the quarterfinals at Colinton to see off the challenge from his Whitehouse & Grange counterpart, Mark Hewitt, cheering up his LRF support with a 21-10 win in 19 ends. Hewitt started well enough to nose into a 6-5 lead after five ends but Kyle crossed to 10 with a run of 2, 1, 2 then the LRF champion answered the loss of a single with a game changing purple patch that yielded him 2, 1, 3 to establish command at 17-7. Kyle traded a single to 18-8 then captured three of the next five ends with singles to reach the last four in impressive style.
Bernie Callaghan is a past president of the E&L and keen to carry the Corstorphine banner as far as he could in the Tait but the 62-year old had his hands full against junior cap Neil Watson of Parkside – and made a 21-15 exit in 20-ends. Watson didn’t get things all his own way though with Callaghan leading 9-7 after nine ends but a change of gear saw the Parkside challenger accelerate to 15-11 with counts of 2, 1, 3, (2), 2 however Callaghan stirred the melting pot with a 3 shot reply to14. The Callaghan dream suffered a shattering blow with Watson carding 3, 1, 1 to 20 but the underdog showed unyielding menace with a hold of 3 at the next – only to see Watson wreck the head with a strong drive then card the winning single on the replay.
Graeme McIntosh expected a tough test from fellow well seasoned campaigner Jim Hutchison of Goldenacre whose paths must have crossed many times but the Maitland champion got things all his way in a runaway 21-3 win in 13-ends.
Tanfield champion Mal Higgenbotham is bidding to celebrate etching his name on the club honours board for a magnificent seventh time by winning the Tait for a third time and that campaign continued at the expense of his Brunstane counterpart Martin Lewis. Lewis stepped up from dark horse to headline maker with his second round win over five times Tait legend Colin Mitchell but it was a result that alerted Higgenbotham to be on his toes. Higgenbotham hit the ground running with a full house 4 at the first then he added two singles to six but Lewis rocked him back onto his heels with a strong reply of 4, 1, 1, 1, 1 to cross 8-6 after eight ends. The former Scotland cap was being asked questions and found the answers in the shape of a 2, 1, 2, 1, 1 response to 13 then tested again by the loss of a 3 countered with a 3 to lead 16-11. Higgenbotham dropped a single to 12 but has a strong sense of the finishing line and hit it with counts of 3, 1, 1 to triumph 21-12 in 19 ends.
Tonight’s top of the table clash between Queensberry at home to Parkside in Division 1 of The Alpha Trophies sponsored Edinburgh Bowling League sets the scene for an exciting climax to the 14 match campaign. Parkside enter the final fixture with a 5.5 points lead so are firm favourites to capture the blue riband title of the EBL for a third time; but with nine points up for grabs and home advantage there is much to encourage a strong challenge from Queensberry. Queensberry have strong motivation as they have yet to be crowned champion club in the 17 season’s that have passed since the formation of the EBL but in that time they have celebrated top of the table highs in Division 2 on two occasions- 1998 and 2007. Parkside have seldom been out of the top two places in recent seasons so have the experience to cope with the pressures they face an have the confidence of going into tonight’s clash with ace player Alex Hurry sitting on the bench. Hurry missed the penultimate fixture due to circumstances and Parkside have decided to stay with his late replacement, Ian Fleming in an otherwise unchanged team. Queensberry haven’t been publicity shy all season but have decided to keep tonight’s team under the wraps which might signal a lack of confidence however their spokesman did issue the war cry “It’s the biggest fight of our EBL history and we are up for it”.
Craigentinny – the holders and record seven times champions – can’t touch Parkside but in the event of them finishing on a high at Maitland could pip Queensberry for second place; but that is unlikely and would be rough justice for the Division 1 shock-troops.
Division 2 also has a melting pot climax for the second place promotion honours with Pilrig (64), Postal (61), Goldenacre (58), and West End (58) all in the mix.
Pilrig are at home to Goldenacre; Postal at home to Wardie; and West End at home to foot of the table Willowbrae.