Bowls: Midlothian ladies set new Premier League mark

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“We are record setters not record breakers,” said team captain Shona Johnstone as she reflected on Midlothian IBC retaining the ladies’ indoor bowls Premier League title and, in doing so, completing a hat-trick of wins since its inception in season 2009/2010.

Midlothian’s latest celebration was sparked by a battling 84-69 victory over East Fife after a thrilling encounter in the play-off final at Ardrossan on Saturday, and it came only one week after losing to the team from Methil in the Scottish Cup.

“It was a major challenge for us to try and bounce back from such a recent defeat but our motivational team talk on the bus taking us through to the final worked wonders as our team ethic and team spirit were both exceptional on the day,” added Johnstone.

“Encouragement of each others’ efforts and a loudish level of enthusiasm were the key motivations for us as we new we had the basic skill base and self-confidence to play like the Premier League champions we wanted to be.”

The challenge from East Fife was every bit as tough as expected, but, cheered on by a strong travelling support, the ladies from the Dalkeith stadium set the pace for almost all the match, albeit having to cope with the challenge of several high-pressure moments.

“We did manage to get our lead into double figures on five of the first 20 ends but otherwise the final was fought out on a knife edge and it took two magic moments to settle the issue with Carol (Ashby) carding a 5 and Gaynor (Blair) a 4 on their last end.”

The phase scoring shows Midlothian benefiting from an 8-1 contribution on end six to establish a 28-17 lead after seven but East Fife showed their mettle with a 31-24 on the next seven before the holders raised their game to win the third phase 32-21.

Wins on the rinks skipped by Gaynor Blair and Carol Ashby tipped the scales for a Midlothian team that saw Johnstone and Sandra McLeish suffer very narrow defeats.

Blair emerged from a very tight situation at 16-14 up after 15 ends to skip Megan Grantham, Dorothy Millar and Janette McVicar to a 32-14 victory over A Fyall.

“We did manage to react to the pressure of going behind for the first time (two shots) on the scoreboard after 15 ends and our 2, 4, 3, 1, 2, 4 finish made it a very exciting experience for us,” said Blair.

Ashby was the first to finish and in doing so provided a major uplift on the tension-filled climax to the match with that mighty 5 on the last – she also carded a 5 at the second end – to skip Doris Dempsey, Mary Clement, and Stacey Laidlaw to a 21-17 win over Lynn Stein.

Johnstone and her rink of Kelly McDougall, Sandra Wilson and Lorraine Grant did have Celia Smith in their grip at 13-8 up but slipped to a 15-15 defeat.

McLeish and her rink of Joyce Green, Norma Shillinglaw and Dot Low were 10-2 ahead but suffered a 21-16 defeat from Kate McAndrew.