Old Bleach had mixed fortunes during the semi-finals and finals of the PGL Championships held last week at Forth River Bowling Club. Monday night saw Sam Barkley take on Adam McKeown (Mossley) in a repeat of last year’s final. Adam got of to a good start taking a 9-2 lead. Sam then claiming a shot brought the mat out and shortened the head and had soon clawed back the deficit. The game saw both players share the lead during the second half of the game with nothing separating the two players. At 20 shots all it was all down to the last end and it was Adam who came away the victor 21-20. Sam was very unfortunate with his last bowl not to push the jack through the head and claim the shot himself and it was no doubt disappointing having battled through such a competitive game. Whilst this match was going on there was also a pairs match two rinks over featuring Michael Nutt and Stephen Kirkwood, playing against Smyth and Hynds from Shaftesbury. It surprised many that the two Shaftesbury players had reached the semi-finals but after seeing off the likes of Witherspoon and Bell (Larne), Cavan and Horner (Belmont) and Duncan and Duncan (Ballymena) they were certainly not there by accident. Their form carried over from the earlier rounds in to the semi-final with the game once again a nip and tuck affair between both pairs right the way through so much so going in to the last end the score was 16 shots each. The Old Bleach pair managed to clinch their spot in the final by a single shot margin 17-16.
On Tuesday Sam joined up with Tom Rainey, James Talbot and Michael Nutt to do battle with the rink from NICS – Stanley Hagan, Artie Rice, Ian Leonard and Alan Montgomery in their semi-final match. Once again this proved to be a close fought battle with the NICS rink seeming to get the upper hand towards the closing stages. With four ends to play and a 16-20 down the Old Bleach fought their way back to take a 24-20 lead going in to the last end but almost lost it again with NICS lying 5 shots and Michael having just one bowl left. Michael drew third shot but left the bowl in precarious position giving Alan Montgomery the opportunity to remove it to claim the match. Ultimately Alan’s last bowl did not find the mark and the Old Bleach four progressed to the final 24-22.
Saturday morning saw the first of two finals for Old Bleach with the fours taking place at 9.30 am again the rink from Belmont – Simon Cavan, Robin Horner, Simon Martin and Stuart Bennett. Old Bleach got off to an early start going 6-2 up and playing well before the Belmont rink slowly fought their way back and take the lead. Belmont threatened to get away on the Old Bleach rink but some hard fought ends brought the game back to 15-14 in Belmont’s favour. With Old Bleach lying well in the closing stages it was a well executed bowl from Stuart Bennett to draw the shot with 3 or 4 against him that turned the game in Belmont’s favour and taking the match and the title 20-16. There was of course the small matter of the pairs final in the afternoon with Michael having a busy day pairing up again with Stephen to take on the Trainor brothers Sean and Martin from Dunbarton. The first end saw Old Bleach drop 2 shots but then in the second something clicked and they replied with a haul of 7 shots of their own to take and early lead. This was a lead that they would enjoy for the rest of the game. The Dunbarton pair fought their way back in to the match but every time they got close the Old Bleach pair managed to score over a couple of ends to just keep some scoring distance between them. The Old Bleach pair saw out the latter stages of the match in style going in to the last end 11 shots up and despite dropping a 2 they came away with the title 25-16 winners. Congratulations from everyone at the club to Michael and Stephen on their fine win and we wish you all the very best in the Irish Championships at the start of September.