Bowls: Blantyre do it again to West Lothian

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West LOTHIAN IBC found themselves playing second fiddle to Blantyre for a second time in a bowls final this season when the favourites for the Scottish Under-35 League Cup crashed to a 77-71 defeat at Auchinleck.

Blantyre’s triumph followed hard on the heels of them beating the Premier League champions by a single shot in the final of the Scottish Cup proper.

West Lothian’s Under-35 team is a powerful one with four players of international status in their ranks plus two who have just recently been crowned as members of the title- winning British Isles rink.

The presence of Neil Speirs, Thomas Mann, Calum Logan, Cameron Greer, Bryan Cooper and James Speirs provide quality and experience that most club selectors can only dream of.

The awesome reputation of their rivals may have commanded respect from Blantyre but certainly not fear from a team that had its own personality players in the shape of internationalists Iain McLean, Brian Irvine and Caroline Brown.

A win for the rink skipped by Neil Speirs was the best West Lothian could manage in a hard-fought match that saw Irvine, Brown and McLean all deliver for Blantyre.

The first seven-end phase was fought out on a tightrope with the scoring shared 25-25, however, Blantyre engaged a higher gear for the second phase and accelerated to a 31-18 lead that was to prove significant.

All four West Lothian rinks were in deficit on that second phase proving Blantyre were flying and going to be difficult to peg back.

West Lothian entered the third and final phase with a 13-shot deficit to wipe out and they did give it an exciting go but their 28-21 effort fell short of turning defeat into victory.

Irvine and his rink proved to be the Blantyre heroes over the crucial final three ends, as West Lothian showed great menace and fighting spirit with returns of 6-0, 5-2 and 4-1. However, Irvine destroyed that revival with a 7-0 punishment of James Speirs.

Team captain James Speirs and his front three of David Wilson, Liam Fairley and Cooper tumbled from 17-15 up to a costly 22-17 defeat.

In a thrilling to climax to the final, Neil Speirs finished like a train carding 1, 2, 3, 1 and almost coming to the rescue of his older brother by skipping Ewan Wilson, Stuart Affleck and Paul Lynas to a 19-14 win over Mark Radigan.

Logan and his rink of Claire Watson, Scott McMaster and Greer had staged a magnificent fight-back from 10-18 to 18-18 before conceding a single to lose 19-18 to McLean.

Mann and his rink of Ryan Duffy, Scott Logan and Blair Mackie trailed from start to finish in a 22-17 defeat from Brown.