Bowls: E&L succumb to a ferocious South Lanarkshire fightback

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Edinburgh & Leith started exceptionally well to force Lanarkshire South on to the back foot at the halfway stage of Saturday’s final of the Cities & Counties Championship at Montrose.

But the opposition showed they had the x-factor plus by staging a tremendous fightback from 16 shots down to capture the title by the commanding margin of 22 shots, winning the 21-end battle across the six rinks, 130-108.

“We led 66-50 after ten ends and I was greatly encouraged and hoped we would kick on. However, just two ends later it was all square at 69-69 having been outgunned 8-2 and 11-1,” described E&L team manager Willie Watson.

James Hogg and Mal Higgenbotham performed boldly to skip their E&L rinks to winning performances and it was only late submissions that cost Robert Marshall and Paul O’Donnell single-shot defeats.

But the rinks skipped by Willie McDonald and team captain Billy Mellors could do little to stop the onslaught by joint Lanarkshire South team captains Ian Campbell and Robert Grant.

Grant, who has 15 caps to his name, was nominated as the ‘man of the match’ by Watson, who also singled out Campbell – 33 caps – as the commander-in-chief of the Lanarkshire South charge to victory.

“Campbell took his team by the scruff of the neck and inspired them back into the match when they could have folded. Although he has hurt me badly, it will always be a fantastic memory the way he dominated the whole green with the force of his personality,” said Watson.

Campbell does it all with a smile on his face and that is a great advert for the sport and the reward he gets is that major players like Grant, Jim Meikle, Ian McLean, Alex Kelly, Scott Forrest, and the others raise their game to amazing heights.

“Grant was phenomenal against Mellors and it was brilliantly judged stroke play as opposed to hash-bash that did us all the damage,” reflected Watson.

The final started well for E&L with a 12-4 count on the first end and they kept their head in front to capture the first 7-end phase, 44-34. However, Lanarkshire South changed the landscape with a 55-30 domination of the second, then won the third 41-34.

The match highlights included a spectacular start by James Hogg to lead David Gardner 18-0 after nine ends, while ninth end drama saw Mellors card a magnificent 7 against Grant.

McDonald was on the end of a tidal wave run of 3, 1, 3, 3, 1, 2, 1 by Campbell to trail 26-9, while Mellors was chinned 3, 3, 5, 3, 1 by Grant to trail 30-11.

The multi-talented Lanarkshire South proved they are the leading team in the land, having etched their name on the coveted Hamilton Trophy in 2006, 2008, 2010 and now 2012.

Rink scores: J Hogg 24 D Gardner 16; M Higgenbotham 20 S Forrest 17; R Marshall 16 J Simpson 17; P O’Donnell 17 J Meikle 18; W McDonald 14 I Campbell 28; W Mellors 17 R Grant 34.