They’re the undisputed top two teams in the thrilling race for this season’s Ballymena & District Indoor League championship.
But Broughshane Playing Fields Association ‘A’ and Michelin won’t be squaring up to contest the league’s major knockout event final.
That’s because the ‘Big Two’ will instead meet at the semi-final stage after both, as expected, reached the last four of the competition.
Indeed, Michelin did so without having to throw a bowl - their opponents Harryville Community Centre withdrew from the competition after suffering a heavy defeat in the first leg.
Broughshane were held to a surprise 45-45 tie by Antrim Indoor Bowling Club, albeit with the Antrim side having 20 shots on handicap, but Broughshane had done enough from the first leg to win the tie by 15 shots overall.
Antrim used their handicap allowance well and Alan Cahoon’s foursome was the only Broughshane rink to really dominate their game, winning by 16 shots to six against Darren McCullough.
The other three rinks were closely contested with just a handful of shots separating the sides, all of them in Broughshane’s favour. Doran Turtle and David Morrison each had three shots to spare, against Robert McCullough and Tom Evans, while Andrew Morrison overcame John Logan by a margin of four shots.
While the outcome of the Michelin v Broughshane tie is too close to call over two legs, the one certainty is that whoever does get through will be facing second division opposition in the final.
That’s because BIBC and Golf Seniors will be contesting the other tie in the penultimate stage of the competition after both sides held their nerve to eliminate first division opposition.
The golfers’ achievement is particularly noteworthy as they defeated Portglenone Community Centre by 22 shots overall, meaning they would still have gone through, even if they hadn’t been getting 10 shots on handicap in each leg.
There was nothing to separate the sides on three of the four rinks, with Ivan McMaster’s foursome just shading the verdict against Gerry McLarnon.
Two other rinks were unable to be separated at all, with Kevin O’Kane’s rink deadlocked at seven shots apiece against Ian Lecky, while Joe McErlean and John Nichols’ quartets battled out an 8-8 tie.
In the remaining game, it looked as though Donald Smyth’s rink were on course for a win over Eamon Cassley as they opened up a six shot lead after two ends. However, those were the only shots the golfers would claim as Eamon’s Portglenone rink won all the remaining ends to win 11-6.
BIBC complete the semi-final line-up after seeing off Old Bleach
Having won by 30 shots in the first leg, and with a further 10 shots to come on handicap in the second leg, ‘BI’ travelled to Randalstown with a comfortable margin and rarely did Bleach look like pulling off an unexpected revival.
They made a decent fist of it, though, with the highlight being a 19-6 win for Jonathan Millar over Danny McCullough, which included a ‘maximum’ of eight shots for Millar’s rink on one end.
Neil Booth and Bryan Magrath guided their rinks to wins over Roy Torrington and Tommy Hill respectively, while Nigel Robinson’s rink settled any ‘BI’ nerves with a seven shot success over Mervyn McDonald.
Portglenone Community Centre 34, Golf Seniors (+10) 30: K O’Kane 7, I Lecky 7; G McLarnon 8, I McMaster 9; J McErlean 8, J Nichols 8; E Cassley 11, D Smyth 6. Aggregate score - Portglenone 67, Golf Seniors 89.
BPFA ‘A’ 45, Antrim Indoor Bowling Club (+20) 45: A Cahoon 16, D McCullough 6; D Turtle 11, R McCullough 8; A Morrison 9, J Logan 5; D Morrison 9, T Evans 6. Aggregate score - Broughshane 103, Antrim 88.
Old Bleach 47, BIBC (+10) 36: N Booth 12, R Torrington 6; B Magrath 12, T Hill 3; J Millar 19, D McCullough 6; M McDonald 4, N Robinson 11. Aggregate score - Old Bleach 72, BIBC 91.
First Ballymena produced the most eye-catching result of the opening round of matches in the League Plate.
The third division side knocked out first division opposition in the form of BPFA ‘B’ - and they did it by more than the 20-shot allowance they were in receipt of.
Wins from Lyle McQuitty and Matt McPeake helped the church side to a three shot win on the night, despite wins for Broughshane from Noel Graham and George Davidson.
There was another instance of division three side knocking out top flight opposition as Eaton Park eliminated JTI, but the rugby club side’s victory owed a lot to the 20 shots they were receiving.
Timothy Rock and Len McIlroy’s rinks tried to make some inroads into that deficit in the first half as JTI led by nine shots at the break.
But in the second half, Graham Maybin’s JTI rink were only able to add another one shot win to their tally, while in the other game, Billy Lynn and George Reid’s quartets battled out a 7-7 tie.
A good week for third division sides continued as Round Tower eliminated All Saints, from the division above. Although Eugene McReynolds and Tony Dillon led Saints rinks to victories, wins from Michael Murphy and Michael Teer for Round Tower prevented the Ballymena side from getting too close as they eventually ended up eight shots adrift.
Glenravel’s improved run of form continued as they were able to see off West Church.
The decisive win came from Martin McKillop, who defeated Tommy Wilson by 11 shots as there was little to separate the other three rinks.
John McKeegan and Martin McKeegan each guided their rinks to single shot wins, while Martin O’Neill and Maurice Livingstone shared a 10-10 draw.
The all-Services Club battle eventually went the way of the ‘A’ team, although there was a hint of an upset on the cards at the interval, where, not only had the ‘A’ team failed to eat into that 10 shot deficit, they were actually one shot further adrift after the efforts of the first half ‘B’ team rinks skipped by Eric Smyth and Greta Coulter, even though the latter lost to the ‘A’ team rink skipped by Pauline Wilson.
But the ‘A’ team found another gear in the second half and ran away to victory as Mark Sahw and Bill Kitson outscored Bobby Parkhill and Roy Dickson by 30 shots to seven.
Services ‘A’ 50, Services ‘B’ (+10): 38: D McNeill 8, E Smyth 14; P Wilson 12, G Coulter 7; M Shaw 16, B Parkhill 2; B Kitson 14, R Dickson 5.
First Ballymena (+20) 61, BPFA ‘B’ 38: J Lilley 10, N Graham 13; L McQuitty 12, J Wasson 5; R Woods 7, G Davison 10; M McPeake 12, A Davison 10.
West Church (+10) 42, Glenravel 45: J Rainey 7, J McKeegan 8; V Mahon 9, M McKeegan 10; M Livingstone 10, M O’Neill 10; T Wilson 6, M McKillop 17.
All Saints 38, Round Tower (+10) 46: E McReynolds 13, H Totten 6; N Mitchell 5, M Murphy 12; T Dillon 12, J O’Neill 8; A Mitchell 8, M Teer 10.
JTI 40, Eaton Park (+20) 50: T Rock 15, B Hill 10; L McIlroy 10, J Carruthers 6; G Maybin 8, G Shaw 7; B Lynn 7, G Reid 7.