John Brown reports on the English Senior Men’s Championship:
John Sharp had been trying for three years to win the Senior Men’s Championship and each time he had been thwarted, principally by Michael Sutherland, and so when Michael retired at the end of last season it must have seemed to John that now was his time to take over as England’s representative on the World stage. He recruited Tommy Campbell from the Sutherland team and brought in new ‘young’ blood in the shape of Keith Wilson to join Alastair Fyfe and Mike Robinson. The other two in the reigning champion team, John Summers and Charles Jackson, formed a new team with ex-champion Phil Barton and new boy David Sillito and travelled South to Fenton’s at the beginning of the December in unseasonably mild weather, at least after they had managed to escape the storms hitting Scotland.
With just two entries it was a best-of-5 rubber to decide the winners. With both skips called John, and with initials JS, I will call them by their surname I think for the rest of this piece. Sharp started off winning the hammer with an LSD of 7.6cms and used that advantage to take 2 at the first end, quickly followed by a couple of stolen singles before Summers got on the board with a 1 at the 4th. Summers then stole a 1 and a 2 to peel the game 4-4 after 6 but a change of tactic by Sharp brought him a 5 and the game ended at 9-4 to Sharp.
Game 2 began with neither skip getting a stone in the house for the LSD but a tossed coin gave Sharp the hammer again. This time, however, he was unable to use it and lost 2, though he quickly replied with a 4 at the second end before Summers scored 3 at the 3rd to lead 5-4. This looked likely to be a high scoring game but 3 ends later they had only advanced to 6-6. Sharp blanked the 7th and then took 1 at the 8th to win 7-6 and take a 2 games to 0 advantage.
Game 3 and at least both skips got their LSD in the house and Summers, with a distance of 66.8cms, took the hammer which he then used to his advantage to score 2 at the first end. An immediate riposte from Sharp equalled the score and he then forged ahead with 2 stolen singles only for Summer to reply with 2 singles of his own and yet again it was all square, 6-6, after 6 ends. When Sharp took a 2 at the 7th it seemed that the title was nearly his but a total miss with his last stone gifted Summers a 3 and the victory and we all had to return on Sunday for more games.
The 4th game was the most one sided of the weekend though it started off close with the score reaching 3-3 after 4 ends. With the hammer, Summers then took 2 at the 5th and then further 2s for him at the 6th and 7th ends saw hands shaken early at 9-3 for Summers and all to play for in the decider.
Apart from Sharp’s LSD of 7.6cms in the first game the standard of drawing for this crucial part of the game had been pretty low but, in a taste of what was to come, in the 5th game Sharp drew to 29.2cms to be followed by Summers who drew to 29.3cms! So close to needing another toss of the coin to decide the hammer. In this game Summers had the upper hand for much of the time – Sharp only took a single with the hammer at the first end and Summers then went 3-1 up after 3, and then 5-2 up after 5 and looked pretty much in control until a disastrous 6th end saw Sharp take a 6 (and it should have been 7) to take an 8-5 lead.
In the 7th end there were 5 Sharp stones in the house and it definitely looked like game over until Summers played a great hit and roll to steal 1 and send the game into a tense last end – so tense in fact that the umpire was called to adjudicate when it was realised that Phil Barton had thrown 3 stones! The call there was that Summers would only play 1 stone when it came to his turn, but in reality by that time the game was lost, an ambitious double raise was never really on and Sharp won by 8-6 to earn the right to travel all the way to Dumfries in Scotland to play in the World Senior Men’s Championship in April.
They will be joined there by a Women’s team consisting of Jean Robinson, Susan Young, Judith Dixon and Debbie Higgins with a 5th player still to be confirmed.