The quality of the opposition made West Lothian’s 81-67 win over Blantyre in the playoff final of the indoor bowls Premier League at Falkirk on Saturday all the more memorable.
Wins on the rinks skipped by Neil Speirs, Calum Logan and team captain Thomas Mann tipped the scales after a hard-fought battle that saw Alex Kelly prevent the clean sweep with his success over Mark Allison.
While West Lothian came into the final as holders and five-times previous winners of the most sought-after team title in the sport, they knew it wouldn’t be easy, having lost last season’s head-to-head with Blantyre in the final of the Scottish Cup.
West Lothian also took to the carpet in the knowledge that they had never won the Premier League title back-to-back.
Blantyre boast the likes of Jim McCann, Iain McLean, Brian Irvine, Alex Kelly, Gerry Sullivan, Jim Meikle and Mark O’Hagen, whose reputations and images reach beyond the domestic scene at Blantyre.
While Bantyre had their heads in front at the half-way stage, the match analysis shows that WL had their measure on all three phases, edging the first seven ends, 26-25, then dominating the second, 31-20, before nudging the third, 24-22.
The significant change of fortune that swung the match in the direction of West Lothian happened on ends 11 and 12 with the defending champions carding 9-3 and 7-0 to transform the major scoreboard to 50-40 in their favour.
Speirs led that swing across the carpet with a 5 and it also triggered a purple patch for him that brought a 2, 2, (1), 4 reward to skip Bryan Cooper, Dougie Mitchell and Des Hagart into a 19-10 lead, and on to a 22-14 win over Iain McLean.
Logan was 12-9 down to Jim McCann after 10 ends, but conjured up a magic response of 3, 2, 1, 1 to skip Jamie Gracie, Blair Mackie and George Sneddon into a 16-12 lead then onwards to a battling 22-20 win.
McCann held a potentially match-changing 5 shots on the 20th end, but Logan dramatically killed the head then carded 2 on the replay (his last end).
The anchor performance for West Lothian, however, came from Mann who skipped Cameron Greer, Ian Drysdale and James Speirs to a 24-14 win over Brian Irvine.
Mann’s chief highlight came with a seven-end run of 1, 1, 1, 2, 1, 1, 1 that stretched him from 10-7 to 18-7 then, with Blantyre still in with a chance at only 73-67 down on the major scoreboard, added a 3, 2 finish from 19-14.
Allison and his front three of Paul Lynas, Raymond Logan and Stuart Johnston did lead 8-7 at the ninth, but were mostly against the collar and lost 19-13 to Alex Kelly.