Ballymena Seniors went in to last week’s games with only an outside chance of reclaiming the NIPGL Senior League Division 1 title for a fourth consecutive time.
They trailed Belmont by 12.5 points but Belmont had played 2 extra games and they also trailed Dunbarton by 12 points who had played one extra game. The Seniors entertained Dunbarton last Tuesday night knowing that only 6 or 7 points would be good enough to keep them in the title race.
The evening was going according to plan for the Braid men as at the half way stage of the contest all 4 rinks were in the ascendency however as the night progressed the Guilford men fought back on 3 rinks to claim 3 of the 7 points on offer. On Saturday the Ballymena men travelled to Ulster Transport and in a disappointing performance they could only claim 2 points to fall further behind Dunbarton and Belmont.
Ballymena Seniors (88) Dunbarton (82): On rink 1 James Gaston, Graham Wilson, Steven Falls and Nigel Robinson were in superb form against A Hughes and they dominated this game right from start to finish. Both teams scored a single over the first two ends but the Ballymena men won the next 9 ends and with the help of a count of 7 shots on the 10th end Robinson’s men opened up an 18 shot advantage. Seven ends later the visitors had cut the arrears to 15 shots however the Braid men added another 9 shots to their score over the final 3 ends to claim an excellent 32-8 victory.
J R Nicholl, Jimmy Hodges, Alistair Coleman and Steven Coleman took on D J Wilson on rink 2. The home rink started steadily and with 5 ends played they had opened up a 5 shot lead. Eight ends later the advantage was still 5 shots however that was as good as it got for the Braid men. The visitors scored 7 consecutive singles to lead by 2 shots going in to the final end and 2 more shots on the final end gave the men from Gilford a 18-14 win.
Two singles over the first 2 ends got Rod Coleman, Sammy Allen, Andrew Morrison and Jim Baker up and running against C McCartan on rink 3. Two 3’s and two 2’s over the next 7 ends however gave the visitors a 2 shot lead. The Braid men hit back and between the 10th and 14th ends they got their noses back in front with the score board reading 13-12. Unfortunately all the hard work was undone over the next 2 ends when the Dunbarton rink picked up consecutive counts of 3 to open up a 5 shot advantage. Baker’s men did their best to get back in to the game and going in to the final end they trailed by 3 shots and had an outside chance of victory, however with the Braid men chasing the game they dropped a count of 6 shots to go down by 25 shots to 16.
Alan McAuley, David Duncan, Mark Torrington and Andi Duncan made a dream start against M Greenfield on rink 4. The Braid men opened up their account with a count of 6 shots on the first end and when this was followed by a single on the 2nd end and 5 shots on the 3rd end it looked as though Duncan’s men were well on their way. With 7 ends played the difference between the two rinks was 11 shots and this was still the margin 7 ends later. The game changed on the 15th end when the visitors picked up a count of 6 shots. This stunned the Braid rink but with 4 ends remaining the Ballymena men still held a 7 shot advantage. The Guilford men then picked up 4 shots on the 18th end to narrow the gap to only 3 shots and a single on the 19th end and another count of 4 shots on the penultimate end gave the visitors the lead for the first time. The momentum was now with the Dunbarton rink and 3 shots on the final end gave them an unexpected 31-26 victory.
Ballymena Seniors (71)
Ulster Transport (85)
Rod Coleman, Sammy Allen, Mark Torrington and Jim Baker were involved in a close game against R Fiddis on rink 2. Scores were level at 5-5 after 5 ends, 15-15 after 15 ends and 18-18 after 20 ends and so the outcome of this game would be decided on the final end. The Braid men built up a good head and they were able to hold on to the shot right up until the final delivery had been bowled to win by 19 shots to 18.
On rink 3 J R Nicholl, Jimmy Hodges, Alistair Coleman and Steven Coleman made a decent start against B Johnston and 4 shots on the 2nd end got them up and running and after 3 ends they lead by 5 shots to 1. Unfortunately the Braid men could not build on this good start and they could only win 1 of the next 8 ends as the home rink took control of the game. Any chances of a Ballymena win evaporated on the 13th end when the Transport men picked up a count of 6 to lead by 12 shots. The remainder of the game was evenly contested and 12 shots was still the margin at the end of the game with the final score 26-14.
James Gaston, Graham Wilson, Steven Falls and Nigel Robinson continued where they left off on Tuesday night when they took on D Fiddis on rink 4. The first part of the game was quite close and with 9 ends completed the Braid men held a 2 shot advantage but from then on the visitors took control of the contest. Two 2’s extended the Ballymena advantage to 6 shots and they repeated the dose on the 14th and 15th ends to further extend their lead to 8 shots. Robinson’s men continued to hold the upper hand over the remaining ends and in the end they were well worth their 25-13 victory.
Alan McAuley, Michael Wilson, Andrew Morrison and Andi Duncan came up against the Transport rink skipped by M Devlin on rink 5. The visitors started well and 5 shots on the 2nd end helped them to a 7-4 lead after only 4 ends. The home rink however were in good form and over the next 11 ends they were able to restrict the Ballymena men to scoring only 5 single shots while they accumulated a total of 14 shots to open up a 6 shot lead. The Braid men conceded 10 shots over the next 3 ends and even though they picked up a single shot on the final end it was the Transport rink who claimed the victory by 28 shots to 13.
Next Thursday Ballymena Seniors face Belmont in the final of the NIPGL Cup at Larne and then on Saturday they entertain Falls.