Welsh Bonspiel – final

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Thirds in the head

Third players in the head as Woolston (l) and Horton (far r) throw skip stones

The deciding match of the Welsh Bonspiel was set up between the teams skipped by Andrew Woolston and Ken Horton. Andrew’s team qualified from the Red section with a perfect win-loss record, and an impressive shot difference (+27). Ken took one peel from the Green section matches, going into the final with a 7-2 win over John Brown’s rink to give them a 1-end advantage over Graeme Adam.silver plate and 4 miniature wooden curling stonesThe final started with Ken Horton having last-stone advantage, but he was unable to make great use and the first end finished with the Horton rink taking just a single shot.

In the second end, Ken was hampered by the right-hand side of the sheet playing straight, something that Andrew tried to take advantage of. As they went into the last stones, Horton (playing with the blue stones) was lying shot, but the stone pulled up short and dived towards the centre line, leaving Andrew a space for a raise – but the straight ice meant the stone stayed too wide and Ken Horton stole a 1.

The third end started with Ken Horton’s lead drawing into the house before Andrew Woolston’s (Lauren Baxter) removed them again. There were four of Andrew’s white stones in the house when Ken sent his own first stone down, an impressive takeout that removed three and only missed perfection by rolling out of the house. Andrew Woolston then drew his stone behind the guard to once more lie 2, Ken removed the unguarded shot stone and then Andrew had a shot to remove Ken’s shooter but caught the stone thin and rolled out, meaning he was left with just a single shot from the end.

End four started well for Andrew, with a good centre line guard, but the straight ice meant the second stone was not properly hidden. They were not punished straightaway, as the ice again meant the opposition’s takeout went past the edge – but the fall took the following guard too far from the centre, leaving a port for Ken’s second to take out the shot stone, leaving Ken lying shot. Martin Gregory’s attempt to follow the takeout fell away from the centre, and Ken then got his second t o block the port. Lesley’s raise-takeout attempt just hit the object stone too wide and both cleared the house leaving the shot stone untouched.  Lesley’s second stone cleared the guards but did not take out the shot stone.  There was an opportunity for Andrew Woolston when he played his first stone, when one of Kate Enderson’s guard ran on into the front ring – and Andrew’s shooter did the most important job – removing the shot stone – before being removed itself by Ken. Andrew then played a hit-and-roll, which worked well and left him lying shot with one of Ken’s blue stones in the 12-foot, but Ken played a well-executed raide-takeout to take 2 shots and lead 4-1.

The fifth end started slightly messily, and led to the seconds trading takeouts in the house. A draw by Lesley Gregory was only partly buried behind the guard, and was removed straightaway, but her second stone removed that blue stone and the guard covering it as well. Ken’s first skip stone in the fifth end was too heavy and removed his own shot stone, and was left slightly visible for Andrew, who played a draw towards the blue stones at the back, but it ran on too far and the late swing brought it across the face of the the blues. Ken’s second stone then ended close to the button, leaving Andrew a draw for one with the hammer – which had too much weight behind it and ran on to the backing, giving Ken Horton a steal of 1.

End six began with Ken Horton’s lead putting a draw wide in the house, which Andrew Woolston’s then managed to outcount, but the tap knoced it slightly towards the centre, leaving it open for a takeout.  The attempt only removed the blue stone, but the shooter did roll in far enough to apparently out-count the white stone. Lesley Gregory then attempted to remove the blue, but only served to knock it towards the button. Her second shot cleared the guard on Ken’s shot stone, before and when Ken sent his first skip stone down, the only other one in the house was one of his own blues in the back 12-foot. It ended up on the button, and Andrew’s attempt to tap that sone back stayed wide, ended exposed in the 4-foot, an invitation to Ken to remove it which he did not turn down. With Andrew’s final stone removing the shot stone the deficit was cut to 5-2.

The seventh end started well for Andrew, but guard was only partly covered the white shot stones, and a double-takeout later the seconds were trading shots to leave Lesley a draw behind the guard, which was executed very well. Andrew called for a draw after the previous blue stone ended up out of contention, but Lesley’s shot was too heavy and went out the back, and after the guard was removed, Andrew’s first stone caught on the white already at the front of the house.  Ken then removed both whites, Andrew’s attempted draw did count, despite running on after passing the blue stone by millimetres, and Ken’s takeout then reduced Andrew’s score for the end to 1.

As they started the Eighth end, Ken led 5-3, and Ken had the early advantage after his lead ticked a guard and the shooter rolled into the house, and the second guard was dealt with in a similar manner – though Ken knew he was lucky for the blue stone to spin back into the house in its last moments!  Another white centre-line guard came, and was hit clean out with a small roll to take the blue stone out of the 4-foot path, and the next guard disappeared too.  The next guard stayed put, with the blue stone sailing through the port between the uard and the previous blue stone, giving Lesley a chance to get into the house, which curled into the 4-foot and ended well-guarded.  The guard quickly disappeared, and Andrew’s first stone pulled up in the 12-foot to leave blue still lying second shot. Ken missed with his takeout by a couple of inches to still leave Andrew a chance for a two, which he improved with a draw onto the shot-stone on the button.  Ken’s final stone also sailed past, to leave the scores tied at 5-5 after eight ends, and a ninth was needed.

Martin Gregory (2) congratulates skip Andrew Woolston with a pat on the shoulder

Andrew Woolston’s team of Lauren Baxter, Martin and Lesley Gregory leave the ice congratulating one another on their win.

The tension in the clubroom’s viewing gallery was palpable as End Nine began with a standard centre-line guard, before the blue number one stone went straight through the house. The second white stone ended up almost frozen on the first, and the second blue finished up in the back 12-foot. Martin Gregory’s first stone drew well behind the guard, leaving Ken no option but for a takeout – which surprised everyone by removing not the guards but the shot-stone!  Martin then had an attempt for a similar draw, but it was left exposed, and was quickly removed.  With blue lying 2, Lesley Gregory removed the front stone but missed clearing the one at the back of the house.  One guard was cleared, then Lesley drew behind the guard, but it turned too far and one side was exposed for a takeout attempt, which was successful.  Andrew’s first stone drew behind the guard, and was both above Tee and well buried.  Ken then sent his penultimate stone down, just clearing the guard, but only catching the edge of the shot stone and rolling out of play, leaving Andrew still lying shot as he sent his final stone down. That was a front 12-foot guard, leaving Ken a chalenge to try and get one for the title.  A double-takeout was the attempt, but the shot was just inside the line, and only removed one stone – giving Andrew the match, and Welsh Bonspiel title, by one shot.