The climax to the finals of the national indoor bowls championships at Lanarkshire IBC produced a nightmare experience for East Lothian in the gents Fours but in contrast triggered a fantastic high for their West Lothian opposition.
West Lothian celebrated the crowning glory after extra-end drama that saw the rink of Bryan Cooper, James Speirs, Thomas Mann, and Neil Speirs orchestrate a spectacular escape to victory having trailed East Lothian by eight shots after 16 ends played of the regulation 21. East Lothian had performed like demons from the off with Billy Mellors skipping Andrew Jeffrey, Scott Kennedy, and Derek Oliver into a 14-5 lead after 11-ends, an astonishing scoreline given the quality of an apposition that had reigned as national champions in 2011. WL did raise a cheer from their suffering support on the crowded banking when on end 12 Speirs and Co carded a mighty 5 that brought them back into the big picture however it was short lived when forced onto the back-foot once more with an EL response to 19-11. “Given that we were playing well as a rink and the flow of the games was in our direction I must admit the thought in my head was that defeat was improbable with just five ends to play”, said Scott Kennedy later. End 17 was to spark a West Lothian revival however and it came with the count of a 2 that moved them onto the 13 mark, usually seen as a graveyard figure psychologically difficult to escape from but Speirs and Co didn’t dwell on the thought of it. End 18 produced another count of 2 for WL, closing the gap to 19-15 then the momentum gathered pace in the shape of landing a one, two that hiked up the match tensions on both rinks with EL now defending a slender 19-18 lead. End 21 developed into the promised cliff-hanging situation and presented EL with a chance to arrest their slide and clinch the title however Mellors fell an agonising foot short of playing the hero role resulting in WL carding a single to 19-19.
The final went into an extra-end decider and although played out on a tightrope situation the pendulum did seem set to swing in the direction of EL with the head building up in their favour in the shape of a hold of two shots. Speirs had the last bowl of the final and it brought the 2014 Commonwealth Games Gold medal winner one of his finest moments in a career of many highs with the 36-year old attacking the head with a fierce rocket like strike. “Neil exploded on his target with pin point accuracy sending our two shot bowls and the jack spinning away from each other and once the dust had settled and I had rubbed my eyes for a second time I found that WL were holding the title winning shot”, reflected Kennedy with a whince. “I remember the events of the extra- end vividly but the five –ends previous to that are just a blur to me other than Neil (Speirs) played like Roy of The Rovers and was instrumental in the West Lothian revival”, concluded Kennedy.
The semi final action saw West Lothian produce a spectacular performance to conjure up a magic 29-12 win that included runs of 4, 3, 1, and 2, 1, 5, 6 2, 2 against the strongly formed host club rink of Mark McGowan, Steven Hume, Robert Gordon, and Robert Grant. East Lothian also shaped up well with Mellors and Co delivering a magnificent 23-7 win over Norman Barker, Andrew Barker, Graeme Donaldson, and Mike Stepney of Elgin. Both losing semi finalists capitulated after 17 of the regulation 21 ends.