Derek Oliver’s hopes of an extra morale boost ahead of his Gold Coast challenges at the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Australia was delivered in fine style as his East Lothian trio captured the Triples title for Scotland in the finals of the British Isles Championships being played at Paisley IBC.
Oliver and his front two of Mark Johnston and Willie Wood MBE lined up against Channel Islands in the final and led 9-7 after 11 of the 18 ends played then raised the roof with counts of 6 and 3 to stand 11 shots up with five to play. The abrupt loss of 1, 1, 2, 3 to 18-14 brought the Scotland champions – victors over Ireland and England in previous rounds – under last-end pressure but they answered that with a single to trigger the victory salute at 19-14.
The EL Seniors Fours rink of Peter Fallen, David Pryde, Alan Morgan and BJ Smith failed to capture the coveted British Isles crown but the national champions did exceptionally well to bask in the limelight of reaching the final.
BJ thrilled the Scottish support by skipping his front three to an encouraging 27-16 semi-final win over Channel Islands having boosted morale when carding a super six on end 13 to lead 21-11.
If you accept that nerve and confidence plays a huge part when competing in a British Isles final then a positive start is a great settler so it came as an immediate setback that, after four ends, EL were looking down the barrel of a 9-0 deficit.
The leaders were a Welsh rink that had come from 13-9 down to defeat Ireland 21-19 in their semi-final and, having rocked their Scotland rivals onto the back foot, they took stronger command of the final with a mighty count of 5 on end 10 to stand 17-4 up. BJ and Co managed to get that 5 back but not until the 19th end by which time it was much too late to influence a 28-14 defeat.
Scotland’s Paul Foster (Singles), Jason Banks (Junior Singles) and Caroline Brown (Ladies Singles) reigned supreme in their respective finals. However, Emma McIntyre lost to Katherine Rednall of England in the Ladies Junior Singles.
• WHEN the chips were down it was the gents bowlers of East Lothian who delivered a high-calibre team performance to win their battle against fellow Premier League outfit West Lothian in the second round of the Scottish Cup.
Wins by Alex Marshall MBE and Billy Mellors, and a peel contributed by Scott Kennedy, combined to dwarf the narrow defeat suffered by Joe Mower.
However, the pathway towards a record-extending eighth cup celebration for EL is an immensely tough one as the quarter-final opposition on Saturday, March 24 at Headwell comes in the shape of the holders Falkirk.
• EAST LOTHIAN make one enforced change for this Sunday’s rearranged Play-off Final of the Premier League against Blantyre (noon).
Opportunity knocks for stalwart campaigner Andrew Jeffrey, who is drafted in to cover the absence of Stewart Thomson and the top-quality performer lines up at second to Alex Marshall MBE. Blantyre have home advantage so the confirmed presence of Marshall comes as a massive boost to an East Lothian team entering the lions den which has a long history of devouring oppositions. However, if any team has the quality to turn the tables, it’s East Lothian.
The draw for the final is Derek Oliver v Stewart Anderson; Billy Mellors v Jim McCann; Alex Marshall MBE v Brian Irvine; Scott Kennedy v Iain McLean.
• ALEX MARSHALL MBE reached the semi-final stage of The International Open at Blackpool last week but the record six-times world champion lost out to his fellow Scot, David Gourlay.
Gourlay went through on a tie-break then the celebrated head coach of Bowls Scotland captured the title in a thrilling tie-break victory over current world No.1 Greg Harlow of England.