Ten years on from etching his name on the coveted Tait Trophy for the first time, Mal Higgenbotham is celebrating the start of a third reign as the Edinburgh & Leith Champion of Champions.
The Tanfield bowler, 44, adding to his conquests of 2005 and 2007 with a dramatic 21-17 victory over former clubmate Graeme McIntosh – now of Maitland – in an entertaining 24-end final played at Mayfield.
The final went down close to the wire with the outcome hanging in the balance at 17-17 after 22 ends.
The result of end 21 had left Higgenbotham disappointed following a hold of three shots that failed to make the card with McIntosh enjoying a piece of good fortune via a saving effort that was well enough directed but needed a rub to flick its way into the head for a single.
McIntosh played a positive 23rd end where a hold of two gave him the chance of a title-winning 4 but was unlucky in nudging the jack the wrong way resulting in Higgenbotham producing a brilliant ‘chap and lie’ for a three-shot reward.
Higgenbotham was in the better frame of mind entering end 24 and it showed with him dominating the build-up and triggering victory with a comfortable single.
The early exchanges saw McIntosh make the stronger start to lead 7-2 after six ends then the spotlight switched to Higgenbotham whose fightback of 1, 1, 3 suggested that a thrilling encounter was about to develop.
McIntosh stopped Higgenbotham in his tracks with a purple patch spell of 1, 2, 1, 3 that accelerated him firmly into the driving seat at 14-7 at which stage Higgenbotham later reflected: “I knew I had to dig deep and grind my way back into the game.”
The grind became a roll in the shape of Higgenbotham sharpening up his lead bowl and the benefits yielding counts of 2, 2, 1, 2 that moved him off the back foot and onto the front foot with a first time lead at 16-15.
Higgenbotham said: “I feel good about taking the Tait Trophy back to Tanfield as, although the club is not the force it once was, it is back on the rise with promotion to Division 1 of the Edinburgh Bowling League.”