Bowls: Big two set for final-day showdown once again

The Yorkshire County Indoor League is fast becoming yet another processional march towards a season-ending clash between Featherstone and York.

Even with Featherstone's 18-0 result from the opening game expunged from the records due to Hull's early departure from the county scene, the signs are there that they intend to dominate the County League for the rest of the season.

The West Yorkshire side recorded a 14-4 victory over Huddersfield, followed last weekend by an 18-0 win over Redcar – who are struggling to make any impact in their first top- flight campaign for some time.

At the other end of the table, South Leeds are struggling much like Redcar – having gone down 14-4 to Scarborough and York and now 12-6 to Thornaby, a side they have beaten in the past.

The 12-6 scoreline, however, does suggest that there was more fight in the side this time around.

Rink wins for the quartets skippered by Mark Hughes and Ian Howard, a familiar sight of late, put the side within contention – only for them to lose by a narrow scoreline.

A turnaround on the Phil Hill rink saw a 14-1 losing margin reduced to just nine shots by the end of the match.

The other rink, skipped by David Harrison, also went down, but with a narrow enough margin to ensure the home aggregate points went the way of South Leeds.

So with three of the seven planned weeks of league action now complete, a familiar picture is emerging – one that even the most conservative of gamblers would have laid their house on at the start of the season.

Scarborough sit top of the league, as much by default through games played than anything else.

Featherstone's expunged early- season result leaves them in second spot with a game in hand over the leaders.

York, who also have a game in hand, lay in third place.

The league then has the usual suspects of Thornaby and Huddersfield occupying the middle sector of the division, with South Leeds, Redcar and the now defunct Hull propping up the bottom sector.

Where the league goes could be decided as much by what is happening away from the County League as it does within it.

York were due to play in the quarter-final of the Denny Cup on Saturday. That game has had to be postponed due to the late running of the previous round, caused by a backlog created by the adverse weather before Christmas.

Now before any Featherstone bowlers write in to complain about the next statement, the simple fact is that with York still in the Denny, any interest in the County League could be minimal for a number of York

bowlers at this stage.

There is the prospect of three games back to back for the North

Yorkshire side and with members still active in individual and national team competitions, there is always the chance that a few may opt to sit a league game out just to claw back some free time.

That in no way diminishes Featherstone's achievements in their previous or future games, yet if York were to field a weakened side at any time it should give Featherstone a clear run at the title until the last game of the season – when the county's two biggest sides meet.

In terms of the relegation battle, South Leeds have a slight six-point lead over nearest rivals Redcar.

In simple terms, as long as South Leeds keep that six-point advantage intact through to the penultimate game of the season, they will know that their fate is in their own hands.

With a game due to come against Featherstone at the end of the season, any points secured against the title challengers should increase that advantage – that is unless Redcar manage to overturn Thornaby.

South Leeds did manage to secure one win at the weekend, thanks to their revitalised Hebden Trophy side.

The second string made it three wins from three with a 16-2 victory over New Earswick.

With the top team moving into a period where they will need all the points they can get and the second string showing they have the match of their opponents, there is always the consideration of how any player movement will improve or weaken the respective South Leeds sides.

Ultimately, it is a big call to move a skip or three from a winning side to put them at the front end of a struggling, higher-level rink; an even bigger call to move a back end Hebden bowler into a similar position in the County League.