Lurgan A 108 (7)
Balmoral 58 (0)
Lurgan senior team’s hopes of promotion took a further step closer to realisation on Saturday with an emphatic win over Balmoral at Lurgan Park on Saturday.
With the visitors having been victorious in the corresponding away fixture earlier in the season, Lurgan knew that they would have to be on top of their game to ensure there were no slip ups this time round.
On Rink 1 skip Mansell Montgomery, lead Ronnie McCullough and third Jeff McCullough welcomed back Alan Briggs from his enforced lay off through knee surgery in the unaccustomed position at second.
Up against W Casements rink, Mansell Montgomery’s protégés maintained their dominant form from Whitehead last week and raced into a 16-1 lead at the seventh end. There was no let up in the Lurgan rinks dominance over the next number of ends and by the sixteenth end they had built an almost unassailable lead of 29-8. Perhaps sensing the match was won at that stage they seemed to relax slightly and allowed their opponents back into the game. Over the last five ends the visitors picked up 8 shots to double their score and finish the match at 29-16 in the Lurgan four’s favour. On Rink 2 skip Alan Roberts marshalled the same rink of Dick McClune, Davy Millar and Stephen Poots that had brought him victory the previous week at Whitehead.
Playing some steady and solid bowling saw the Lurgan rink establish a 10-2 lead at the seventh end. Having hit 13 on the ninth end it looked as the might fall foul of the ‘graveyard curse’ with the visitors picking up 4 shots over the next two ends. Only some well placed bowling from skip Alan Roberts prevented a much bigger and significant score. Three shots at the 12th end put paid to the Balmoral revival and heralded a purple patch from the home rink. They picked up 20 shots to Balmoral’s 3 over the remaining ends to seal a dominant display with a 36 -10 win.
Harry Cosgrove returned from holiday to skip Neil Sloan, Reece Millar and Jon Gilliland on Rink 3. Those three players had been bitterly disappointed by their comprehensive defeat at Whitehead the previous week and were determined to set things right. Balmoral initially established a 5-0 lead by the third end but two successive 3-shot scores on the 4th and 5th end saw the Lurgan rink nose in font by 6-5.
From there on the match became nip and tuck the whole way through. Balmoral went 10-7 ahead by the ninth end but Lurgan had re-established a single shot lead of 11-10 by the eleventh end. Balmoral were back in front 13-11 by the thirteenth end but a 4 shot score in the following end saw Lurgan in the lead at 15-13. Two ends later it was 16 all before Lurgan scored a crucial 4 in the eighteenth to take a 20-16 lead. Lurgan and Balmoral picked up two shots each in alternate ends to leave the score at 22-18 for Lurgan entering the last end. It looked like Balmoral might deny the Lurgan four but the home rink held their nerve and restricted the visitors to two shots and took a well deserved win at 22-20.
On Rink 4 Pete McGrail’s rink of Ivor Mitchell, Bobby Boness and Bobby Ruddell were paired against A Nixon’s rink. The first couple of ends were fairly even but more consistently accurate bowls from the Lurgan side saw them establish a lead 9-3 by the seventh end. Having got their noses in front the Lurgan rink was in no mood to let their opponents back into the match. Their accuracy ensured the visitors were always on the back foot and under pressure. At the turn they had stretched their lead to 12-5 and proceeded to outscore their opponents by 8 shots to 3 over the next 5 ends to extend their lead to 20-8 by the seventeenth end. Balmoral did pick up 4 shots in the next 3 ends but Lurgan applied the coup de grace in the final end and took a well crafted 21- 12 win.
Overall, this was an excellent team performance from the Lurgan A team. Each rink knew what was needed of them and every player contributed, thus ensuring the maximum 7 points was obtained. The team now have two games left, away to Newtownabbey next Saturday and then home to promotion rivals Dromore the following week. While Dromore are marginally ahead of Lurgan on points they have played a game more. If Lurgan wish to see their promotion dreams realised they know they will have to re-produce the consistency and accuracy of the previous two weeks. If they do then their promotion chances are in their hands alone.