The Hertfordshire short mat bowling team kicked off their 2015-2016 competitive season in the brand new Inter County Team Fours competition, organised by the English Short Mat Bowling Association.
The match format is four rinks each playing 12 ends, with overall aggregate score deciding the winners.
In the qualifying round, Hertfordshire played Buckinghamshire, Suffolk and Surrey in a round robin qualifying group.
Although the county finished fourth in the group they only missed out on qualifying for the final stages on shots difference.
> Hertfordshire 47 Buckinghamshire 40
Buckinghamshire got off to a flying start, leading 14-1 after just two ends before Hertfordshire clawed their way back into the match and, at the halfway stage, were eight shots behind.
A key count of five shots on the seventh end for the rink of Jill Oakes, Rebecca Nightingale, Jeanette Gayler and Tony Gayler saw them take control of their game and, with two of the other rinks scoring, the gap closed to just three shots.
After eight ends, two of the four Hertfordshire rinks were ahead. Tony Gayler’s foursome finished first and posted a pivotal 14-9 win.
The rink of Audrey Fowler, Margaret Hare, Alan Hare and Brian Fowler were leading 8-6 after nine ends but they dropped a three on the penultimate end, tied the last end, and slipped to a narrow 8-10 loss.
Pauline Taylor, Dorothy Hill, Brian McGivern and Darren Stanford were four down after nine ends. A two and a three on the next two ends saw them take the lead for the only time in their game. They couldn’t quite close it out and lost by a single shot.
Meanwhile, Cherry Nolan, Eileen Prior, Margaret Regan and Michael West were performing heroically. Six shots down after six ends, they scored on all of the remaining ends - including four shots on the 11th end - winning 15-10 and carrying the whole team to a fine victory.
> Hertfordshire 40 Suffolk 69
The match against Suffolk started well, with all four Herts rinks scoring singles on the first end. The opposition quickly responded and after four ends were six shots ahead.
The fifth end was particularly painful for Herts as Suffolk scored 16 shots across the rinks against a single shot for Hertfordshire.
Cherry Nolan, Eileen Prior, Margaret Regan and Michael West carried over their good form from the first match. They were behind only once in their game and, with three 3s, finished with a 12-7 win.
The rink of Adrianne West, John Taylor, Ted Nolan and Liz Bradley won seven of their 12 ends but each time Suffolk scored they posted big counts and the Herts foursome went down 15-20.
After five ends Jill Oakes, Rebecca Nightingale, Jeanette Gayler and Tony Gayler were level at 3-3. Suffolk dominated the remainder of the game scoring on all but one end for a 4-18 result.
Audrey Fowler, Margaret Hare, Alan Hare and Brian Fowler managed to keep their game tight for the first four ends before dropping a seven and a four in succession. Following this setback, they fought hard to match Suffolk, only slipping a further two shots behind and finishing 9-24.
> Hertfordshire 34 Surrey 49
A win for Hertfordshire in the final group match would have seen them qualify for the finals but it wasn’t to be.
Michael West’s rink continued their winning ways. They began with an opening four-shot count before Surrey hit back with a three and a string of singles. After six ends, Surrey slipped ahead by a single shot. The Hertfordshire players responded positively, winning four of the last six ends and winning 12-8.
Darren Stanford’s rink had a very lopsided game, going six ends without scoring to trail by 10 shots at halfway. After a strong finish, with the only blemish being a tied end, they stormed back to lose by just one at 9-10.
The Gaylers and their team-mates won their first three ends but dropped a six on the fifth end and trailed by three at six ends. They got back within one shot but couldn’t quite close the gap and lost by a narrow two-shot margin at 8-10.
The final rink skipped by Liz Bradley suffered at the hands of a very strong Surrey quartet. Dropping a 5 and a 4 early on, they couldn’t prevent the opposition powering to a 5-21 score.
Surrey’s win was enough for them to go through as group runners up on shots difference.
> Event Summary
Having disbanded their Premier team, Suffolk had their Premier players available for this Division A competition.
They were clear favourites and showed it, winning all three of their matches to head the group on six points.
The other three teams all finished on two points and shots difference decided the final qualifying positions. The big loss to Suffolk proved decisive for Hertfordshire who finished fourth.
Hertfordshire team members: Jill Oakes (Greenwood Park), Rebecca Nightingale, Jeanette Gayler, Tony Gayler (St Margaret’s), Audrey Fowler (Greenwood Park), Margaret Hare, Alan Hare (Letchworth), Brian Fowler (Greenwood Park), Pauline Taylor (Harpenden), Dorothy Hill (Letchworth), Brian McGivern (Cuffley Hall), Darren Stanford (St Margaret’s), Cherry Nolan (Cuffley Hall), Eileen Prior (Harpenden), Margaret Regan (St Margaret’s), Michael West, Adrianne West (Cuffley Hall), John Taylor (Harpenden), Ted Nolan (Cuffley Hall), Liz Bradley (Harpenden)