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Dorset's Atherley aces march on
KENT 105 DORSET 124
FOLLOWING their disappointing defeat at the hands of Devon in the South West Counties League, Dorset got down to the serious business of making further progress in the prestigious Atherley Trophy.
The pairing with Kent in the semi-final was always going to be a stern test as Kent had shaded two previous quarter-final clashes in 2010 and 2011, and were likely to fancy their chances of seeing off Dorset, who have far fewer clubs to choose players from.
However, Dorset have shown in recent years that small can be beautiful as demonstrated in 2009 when they became Atherley national champions for the first time in their history.
The latest clash was played out at the neutral venue of Lodden Vale bowling club, Basingstoke, and Dorset got the game under way and took their opponents head on.
First to put shots on the board, the county served notice that past results count for nothing.
Leading the six-rink charge was Dorset’s former international star Viv Mansell, who was well-supported by Julie Hudson, Mary Lucas, and Moonfleet regular Kath Desmond.
A first end pick up of five shots set the tone of Dorset’s determination to topple their illustrious opponents, and five more winning ends produced an anchor rink score of 11-0 with the Kent rink skipped by Sue Mc Clintock already on the back foot.
However, the adjacent Dorset rink skipped by Joan Halliwell – Jean Arnaud, Brenda Streater and Julie Leake – was not faring so well against Kent’s Sue Swann and trailed 7-1.
Another established skip – Ann-ette Hallett – was also being tested seriously by the experienced Kent player Linda Southby who was in control at five ends with an advantage of 8-3 which widened to 15-5 at the 10-end stage.
But for Hallett’s sterling efforts – she was playing with a heavy cold – the situation would have been far worse.
Relief for Dorset began to emerge when Val Farrant, Margaret Clapp, Isabelle Addison and skip Freda Yates began to demolish Kent’s Sheila Huggett.
Yates and co were soon 8-1 to the good and still firmly in control at 11-4 with especially polished performances coming from Farrant and Addison.
With Julie Eatwell, June Searle, Lyn Howard and Jill Bryant marginally ahead at 10-6 against the young and talented skip Amy Banes, and the sixth Dorset rink of Sally Williams, Wendy Brown, Sue Dadson and Penny Cresswell battling like demons to stay in touch with the Kent rink headed by Jane Cogle, the scene was set for a battle royal as Dorset held an aggregate lead of a single shot after seven ends.
Retaining the initiative, Dorset led 63-52 after 63 of the 126 ends had been completed, before Kent narrowed the gap to single figures only to see Dorset doggedly create another comfortable cushion.
Tension built as this pattern was repeated and soon it was a case of who would blink first.
For Dorset, Mansell stayed ahead, Halliwell overtook her opponent, Yates blossomed, but Hallett and Bryant continued to lose ground, with Cresswell keeping level.
With 40 ends to play, Dorset were well placed as they led 90-72, but Kent dug in and forced the difference down to just six shots at 108-102 with only 14 ends to play.
Just when it looked as if Dorset might be pipped at the post, a final surge lifted the final score to 124-109 to give them a hard-earned and famous victory with the prize of a second appearance in a national Atherley final in four years.
Cambridgeshire now stand in the way of the ultimate prize in a final to be played at Nottingham on Saturday, April 6.
Final rink scores; Dorset skips first: Halliwell 24 Swann 16, Mansell 29 McClintock 15, Bryant 17 Banes 21, Hallett 16 Southby 28, Cresswell 15 Coyle 17, Yates 23 Huggett 12.