Leeds & District’s first outing under their new moniker in national competitions ended in defeat as the men’s Denny Cup side went down by just four shots to New Earswick in the first round.
Leeds fought valiantly but found they were always fighting both their opponents and the scoreboard as, after a sluggish start, the side failed to overtake their opponents as the teams played down to the end of the game.
Leeds were winning away from home at five ends thanks to the rinks skipped by Stephen Bottomley and Cedric Briggs. The pair led their quartets to a three-shot lead over their North Yorkshire opponents.
Unfortunately, it was at home where the side was caught out by the early start, going down at the first checkpoint.
The rinks skipped by Alan Hirst and Ian Howard were eight down at that stage – leaving the club five down (22-17) with 16 ends to play.
Five down is nothing in a rink match where there is a possible 32 shots on offer on each end and it is always good to see a side fight back and restore parity at the next checkpoint of 10 ends.
But it was not to be, as both Bottomley and Briggs were caught by their opponents.
The travelling pair were down by one at 10 ends – still very much in the game, but needing the home eight to play to their strengths.
It was Hirst who did just that, wiping off the advantage of Brian Gray’s rink to lead by one and Leeds trailed by just one.
However, Ralph Tiplady, the travelling skip, managed to extend his lead to six shots over Howard and Leeds were now seven down.
There is a strange quirk indoors where from 15 ends the next check point is at 18 ends. It’s often surprising how quickly games change both from 10 to 15 and then 15 to 18.
At home Hirst continued to fly out from his poor start, putting six shots between his rink and his opponent. Ian Howard was also fighting; clawing two shots back to trail by just four shots – the home score had Leeds winning by two.
Unfortunately, the damage was now being done away from home, with Bottomley and Briggs caught on the same score of 14 – whilst their opponents had stretched out to 16 and 20 respectively.
Leeds were six down overall and it was looking increasingly like a heavy win for Hirst would be required if the side were to put themselves through to the second round.
And then, just like that, the game turned once more. At New Earswick the home bowlers stayed on top, edging their lead to 10. The Hirst juggernaut had stalled slightly at home, but the rink still held a comfortable six-shot lead – it was fellow homesters skipped by Howard that had turned things around to tie the scores at 15 shots apiece.
And that was effectively how the game ended. It’s easy to look at the Hirst rink score and note that had they gone from 15 to 18 in the same way that they went from 10 to 15 ends it might have sent shockwaves through the New Earswick camp.
They fought and they won – albeit by three shots.
Howard struggled to reach parity; his rink achieved it at 18 ends, but came up short in the end by two shots.
If this was a league game, the home bowlers would have done their bit – won one, lost one but took the aggregate. However, it was a cup match with winner takes all.
Briggs’ rink finished three down. They won the extra end and if the game had been tied Leeds would have won. Bottomley lost by two.
Leeds lost by four (82-78). They played 16 ends from the five end mark and only managed to pull one shot back from that original five-shot deficit.
That is the beauty/pain/joy/annoyance of indoor bowls.
What must be noted is that this is the newest of the Leeds teams. Three of the rinks had never played together before.
It takes time to gel, especially for a club that doesn’t really embrace fours.
They now have the Denny Plate, the supplementary competition for first-time losers.
If they are to challenge for promotion from Division Two of the County league they will need to beat Ryedale and possibly Huddersfield between now and the end of November to show the rest of the county that they can win when it matters.
Meanwhile, Featherstone had a 20-shot victory over Huddersfield and now face Scarborough in the next round, while Huddersfield meet Hornsea in the plate.
There was one good piece of news from the weekend, with Leeds beating Huddersfield in the first round of the Egham Trophy. They now face Scarborough, who comprehensively outplayed Harrogate, running up three figures against them.