Compiled and written by Club Secretary David McCloy
Ards A Team had home advantage when they met Belmont B in their third match of the season. The last time these two teams met was in the final of the Irish Intermediate Cup when Ards won on all four rinks to record a comfortable victory by over 50 shots.
It soon became apparent that this was going to be a much closer contest. At the 5 end mark Ards were leading by 16 shots to 15 with Glen Brown to the fore as he played some great saving bowls to keep his rink in contention in their match against B Busby. After 10 ends there was still only 1 shot in it with Belmont B now leading by 34 shots to 33. By the 15th end this advantage had increased to two shots but worryingly for Ards the rink skipped by B Thompson was trailing D Bintley by 11 shots and even though there was still 6 ends to play this looked very much like a lost cause from a Ards perspective. This proved to be the case as B Thompson's rink lost by 14 shots and although the other three Ards rinks all won they could not amass enough shots to overcome this deficit. Belmont B won by 72 shots to 66 giving them 4 points with Ards picking up 3 points for their winning rinks.
Meanwhile in Division 5 Ards B Team had started the season with two wins and thus travelled to Albert Foundry quietly confident that a win on the road was a real possibility. At the halfway stage of the match a win still seemed possible as Ards B were leading by 35 shots to 33 with three rinks ahead. Over the next five ends the match swung very much in favour of Albert Foundry as they outscored Ards B by 32 shots to 9 to lead 65 - 44. J Crothers was now trailing by 17 shots but the rinks skipped by B Martin and R Fulton looked like they had a good chance of wins which would be good enough for 2 points. B Martin managed to pick up 3 shots on the last end to give him a share of the spoils and 0.5 points. Things took a dramatic turn in the match between R Fulton and N Spence. At one point the Ards rink lead by 14 shots to 5 but their failure to score for five consecutive ends, between the 10th and 14th ends, allowed N Spence's Albert Foundry rink right back into the match. Despite this lapse R Fulton's rink was 2 shots ahead with 2 ends still to play. These proved to be disastrous for Ards as they dropped 5 shots on each end to leave a final score of 24 shots to 16 in favour of Albert Foundry. The remaining Ards rinks skipped by J Crothers and T Thompson lost by 18 shots and 10 shots respectively. A match that at one point had promised so much for Ards ended up being a comprehensive victory for Albert Foundry.
In Midweek bowls the two outstanding teams in 2016 were Ards and Mossley. Ards won Midweek Division 1 with Mossley finishing as runners-up. Mossley won the Midweek Cup with Ards being the beaten finalists. No wonder there was so much interest in the first week of the Midweek League when the fixture list threw up Ards v Mossley.
There was nothing to separate the teams after 5 ends (20-20) and by 10 ends Ards had done just enough to establish a 1 shot lead. Ards cause was greatly helped when the rink of V Wasson, J Bell, G Hollinger and R Gibson picked up a maximum of 8 shots on the 3rd end of their match against D Thompson. This is a feat that is very seldom accomplished in competitive bowls. By 15 ends Ards still held a single shot advantage with two rinks holding what looked like match winning leads. L Wilkinson's rink was still in contention as they were trailing S Strange by just 4 shots. C Robson's rink was trailing by 8 shots but as they had only been troubling the scoreboard on an infrequent basis it seemed unlikely that they would overcome such a deficit with just 3 ends left to play.
These ends proved to be very low scoring on all rinks with Mossley just doing enough to edge out Ards by 3 shots (66-63). Mossley picked up 5 points with Ards securing 2 points for the wins by the rinks skipped by R Gibson and B Martin.
A playing record of one win and three consecutive defeats was not what Ards A team would have expected at this early stage of the season. While the latest defeat was by just 2 shots the dropped points means that it is imperative that Ards A get back to winning ways very quickly if they are to stay in touch with league leaders NICS who they are now trailing by 9.5 points.
Ards A went into their match against NICS without five regular players so there was new combinations of players on all four rinks. This didn't appear to have any impact on Ards as they held a 2 shot advantage at the five end mark and were still ahead by 40 shots to 39 after ten ends. The main reason that Ards were still very much in contention was due to the rink of A Robson, G Davis, R Dunbar and G McKee being ahead by 14 shots to 1. Indeed it was the 10th end before the NICS rink skipped by I Leonard managed on get on the scoreboard. P Thompson's rink was leading by 2 shots but the rinks skipped by N Dorman and G Brown were both trailing by 7 shots. At fifteen ends Ards were now trailing by 3 shots but this did not tell the full story of what was happening across the green. G McKee had extended his lead to 22 shots but the other three rinks were all trailing with the prospect of a win for the rinks skipped by N Dorman and G Brown now all but disappeared as they trailed by 11 shots and 10 shots respectively. P Thompson's rink was still very much in the match as they were only 4 shots adrift of the NICS rink skipped by S Hegan. The last six ends were always close on the scoreboard but despite the best efforts of G McKee's rink Ards could not do enough to claim the overall victory. G McKee's rink out bowled their opponents to finish comprehensive winners by 32 shots to 6 having restricted the NICS rink to three scoring ends. Despite picking up 6 shots on the 20th end P Thompson's rink finished 2 shots adrift as their inability to score on more than two ends from the 11th end onwards came back to haunt them. At the fifteen end mark the other two rinks looked like they were heading for comprehensive defeats and this turned out to be the case as they lost by a combined total of 26 shots. The final score of NICS 83 Ards A 81 gave NICS 6 points with Ards A picking up only 1 point for their efforts.
Ards B travelled to Larne in an Irish Junior Cup match very much as underdogs and knew that a top class performance was required if they were to progress to the 2nd round. Ards B were trailing by 1 shot after five ends but by the 10th end the deficit had stretched to 13 shots. Worryingly for Ards the rinks skipped by T Thompson and J Crothers were struggling to stay in touch. T Thompson's rink scored 3 shots on the 1st end but this was the only time they troubled the scoreboard as L King's rink won the next nine ends to take a commanding lead by 16 shots to 3. Over the next five ends Larne B increased their lead to 24 shots and with Ards B trailing heavily on three rinks the match was as good as over. The only ray of light for Ards was the performance of the rink comprising J Poots, W Smyth, A Wright and G Rodgers. They took the lead on the 1st end and never relinquished it and were now leading by 18 shots to 3 at the fifteen end mark. The last six ends were very much a dead rubber with Larne B claiming an easy victory by 95 shots to 59. G Rodger's rink was the only winning rink for Ards with T Thompson, J Crothers and C Ralph losing by 30 shots, 8 shots and 13 shots respectively.
The Midweek League Team travelled to Ballywalter and like most local derbies between these two teams it was hard fought with only a few shots separating them after eighteen ends. Ballywalter had the better of the opening exchanges and after five ends were leading by 19 shots to 12. Most of the games were relatively close with the exception being that between S Hedley of Ballywalter and B Martin of Ards. Hedley had scored 5 shots on the 3rd end and by restricting Martin to a single on the 1st end now lead by 9 shots to 1. The next five ends saw the game swing in Ards favour as they were ahead by 36 shots to 31. The rinks skipped by C Robson and L Wilkinson both held comfortable leads and with B Martin beginning to eat into the deficit things were looking good for Ards. By fifteen ends Ards had increased their advantage to 14 shots and a win and at least 5 points seemed to be in the bag. This turned out to be the final position as Ards got their 5 points but were made to sweat as Ballywalter outscored them over the last three ends by 18 shots to 8 leaving Ards winners by just 4 shots. C Robson and L Wilkinson skipped the winning rinks for Ards with B Martin making a great comeback to finish just 1 shot adrift of S Hedley. R Gibson's rink struggled for most of the game and having dropped four counts of 3 shots and one of 4 shots finished well adrift of the Ballywalter rink skipped by C Clarke.
The unpredictable nature of NIPGBL Division 2 continues as the results of the latest series of matches sees Ulster Transport take the lead for the first time this year with Ards moving up to 7th place just six points adrift. With no team able to put together a winning run it is likely that there will be many twists and turns before a winner emerges in early September.
Ards A faced Willowfield A at home knowing that a victory was essential if they were to remain in touch with the leading teams. At five ends it looked good for Ards as they had established a 17 shot advantage with C Robson's rink doing most of the damage. Robson's rink had won all five ends to lead C Childs's rink by 12 shots to 0. By ten ends Ards seemed very much in control as their advantage had now increased to 20 shots and they were ahead on three rinks. Over the next five ends Ards were left shell shocked as Willowfield outscored them by 25 shots to 3 to take the lead by 51 shots to 49. This exceptional comeback put a totally different perspective on the match with Ards now ahead on only one rink. With two rinks all square and N Dorman's rink trailing by 6 shots it was essential that Ards started to get shots on the board otherwise they were staring at a fourth straight defeat in a row. Sure enough the fight back came with all rinks starting to pick up shots . It was lead by A Adair's rink which won five ends in a row, including picking up 5 shots on the 19th end, to record a comprehensive 10 shot win over J Miller. B Thompson's rink went into the last end all square against J Moore but with only one bowl left to play Thompson was staring at a defeat as Willowfield were lying 2 shots. An inch perfect trail of the jack gave Thompson the shot he needed to record a win by 19 shots to 18. Having lead by 14 shots to 0 at one point C Robson's rink seemed a banker to pick up a point and while it did so they were made to sweat in the run in as C Child's rink fought back to finish only 2 shots adrift. N Dornan's rink never looked like winning their match against G Childs but the 6 shots they picked up over the last two ends proved crucial in securing the overall victory for Ards . A 78 shots to 70 win gave Ards 6 points and keeps them in the mix for promotion.
Even at this early stage of the season it seems that most teams in NIPGBL Division 5 are fighting for runners-up spot as Albert Foundry remain unbeaten and lead the table well ahead of the chasing pack. Wins on the road are essential in this Division so it was a relieved Ards B who travelled to Forth River and came home with the majority of the points.
Over the first five ends Ards B established a 7 shot lead with three rinks ahead and that of T Thompson just 2 shots in arrears. Fresh from their impressive performance against Larne in the Irish Junior Cup the rink of J Poots, W Smyth, A Wright and G Rodgers was once again to the fore as they had eased into a 6 shot lead. Neither team was able to pull away for more than a few ends and by the time the fifteenth end had been completed Ards still held a 7 shot lead. At this point J Crothers's rink looked likely winners as they lead J Gardiner's rink by 10 shots with T Thompson's rink looking like they had too much to do as they were now trailing by an identical number. The rinks skipped by G Rodgers and B Martin held slender leads but with three ends still to play were too close to call. G Rodgers duly held on to record a 18 shots to 13 victory but B Martin dropped 4 shots over the last two ends to lose by 1 shot to G McCullough. On the two remaining rinks a victory by 12 shots for J Crothers cancelled out the 11 shots to 23 loss suffered by T Thompson. A victory by 65 shots to 61 was good enough to give Ards 5 points and second place in the table.
The Midweek Team hosted Ulster Transport and they made home advantage count by racing into a 32 shots to 13 lead after just five ends. All rinks were ahead with both G McKee and B Martin having opened up a 8 shot gap against their respective opponents. The writing was on the wall for Ulster Transport as early as the 10th end for by this stage Ards had extended their advantage to 34 shots. Three rinks already seemed certain winners with only that skipped by G McKee being involved in anything approaching a close contest. The position remained unchanged at fifteen ends with G McKee now ahead by just 1 shot. The last three ends saw significant swings in the rinks skipped by G McKee and R Gibson. McKee had been unable to shake off N Dans for fifteen ends but four shots on the sixteenth end followed by a single and a double left the scoreboard 21 shots to 13 in his favour. The final score might indicate a comfortable victory but it was anything but. Meanwhile Gibson who had held a comfortable lead for most of the game dropped 2 shots on the sixteenth end followed by 4 on the seventeenth to go into the last end all square on 15 shots. He picked up the single he needed for victory to secure another point for Ards. L Wilkinson and B Martin were never really troubled in their matches and recorded wins by 17 shots and 8 shots respectively. A 79 shots to 45 gave Ards a full house of 7 points.
PGL Championships Singles G McKee played P Campbell of Belmont. For the first nine ends there was little in it with Campbell just doing enough to move ahead by 7 shots to 5. McKee then hit a devastating patch of form over the next four ends to record scores of 3,4,2 and 1 to take a commanding lead by 15 shots to 7. Campbell managed to claw back 3 shots but this was as close as he got as McKee picked up scores of 3,2 and 1 to run out a convincing winner.
In the PGL Championships Fours the Ards rink of G Mckee, G Brown, C Robson and B Thompson played the Belmont rink skipped by P Campbell. Thompson's rink got off to a great start as a single on the 1st end was followed by 4 shots on the 3rd and 5 shots on the 4th to leave the scoreboard showing 10 to 2 in his favour. However, by the 15th end this advantage had disappeared as the match was now all square at 15 shots each. The Ards rink closed the match out by winning the last six ends to record a victory 24 shots to 15.
At the start of the season Ards A team would have been considered one of the favourites to be fighting for promotion to Division 1 but an alarming dip in form now sees then sitting in 8th position and already a massive 13 points behind league leaders Ulster Transport. Their low point of the season was reached when they were overwhelmed by an Ulster Transport team that cruised to victory by 108 shots to 53.
There were early indications that Ards were facing an inform side when C Robson's rink dropped 6 shots on the first end and another 8 shots on the 4th and 5th ends to leave them trailing by 14 shots to 2. On the other rinks there was little between the two teams and certainly no indication as to how the match would unfold. By the 10th end Ulster Transport had extended their lead to 26 shots and apart from Robson's rink which was now trailing by 20 shots to 6 the rinks skipped by N Dorman, G Brown and A Adair still had a reasonable chance of victory.
Any hopes Ards harboured of turning the match around had all but disappeared by the 15th end as they now trailed by 82 shots to 39. With the overall victory long gone there was still a chance that Ards could pick up a losing bonus point as G Brown's rink was only three shots adrift of that skipped by S McCartney. Even the bonus point eluded then as McCartney had the best of the run in to win by 25 shots to 18. This performance does not augur well for the Irish Intermediate Cup encounter with CI-Knock and it would be no surprise to see changes being made for this match.
The race to catch Albert Foundry at the top of Division 5 is being led by Ards B and a victory over Belfast keeps then in the hunt for one of the two promotion spots and an immediate return back to Division 4.
Ards B fielded several new combinations with that of J Poots, R Orme, G Hollinger and A Wright gelling straight away as they raced into a 8 shot lead after just five ends. Another new combination of D Bell, R Gibson, H Douglas and B Lynn were struggling and could only register 1 shot and trailed the Belfast rink skipped by H Johnston by 7 shots. With the other two rinks all square Ards B held a slender 1 shot lead. By the ten end mark Ards had opened up a 8 shot gap mainly due to the impressive bowling of A Wright's rink. Now 14 shots ahead this was enough to cover the deficits on the other three rinks. The third quarter of the game saw Ards taking a commanding lead of 33 shots and with all rinks now ahead a full house of seven points seemed to be on the cards. A demoralised Belfast fell further behind with Ards B being good value for the win by 94 shots to 46. The new combinations were to the fore with A Wright's rink winning by 32 shots to 11 and B Lynn's winning by 22 shots to 14.
Ards Midweek team hosted Belmont A in the 1st round of the Midweek Cup and were favourites to progress in a cup which they won two years ago and finished as runners-up last year. Ards did not make the most of home advantage as they trailed by 3 shots after five ends with the rink skipped by G Rodgers already 10 shots in arrears. The next five ends saw Belmont increase their lead by 1 shot and at this point Ards were trailing on three rinks although G Rodgers was starting to get a few shots on the board. By the 15th end the game had swung in favour of the home team as Ards were now leading by 62 shots to 52. Rodgers and his rink of N Cush, B Lynn and R Fulton had made a remarkable comeback to lead by 5 shots and with B Gibson's rink dominating their match against G Fleming it looked like Ards had hit form just at the right time. Gibson and Rodgers continued to dominate the closing stages of the match and their combined advantage of 24 shots was more than enough to cover the deficit on the other two rinks. A local derby against Pickie A awaits Ards in the next round.
Irish Intermediate Cup: CI-Knock v Ards A
League Division 2: Ards A v Ballymena B
League Division 5: Malone v Ards B
Midweek League: Ards v CI_Knock