(after extra end shootout)

ALL-CONQUERING Dorset are through to the final of the Atherley Trophy and on course to retain the title for the second year after winning one of the most thrilling games ever seen in the competition.

Their semi-final encounter against Kent began in dramatic style with their opponents taking five shots on two of the rinks and a single on the third.

In normal circumstances, this would have put Dorset on the back foot but they responded with five, four and three on the other rinks to take an unusually high-scoring opening end 12-11.

Julie Hudson, sub Sandi Smith, Sheila Baker and Moonfleet skip Kath Desmond posted a four on the first end and led 7-4 after five ends against the Kent rink skipped by Cheryil Palmer.

Showing great character and determination, Desmond and co moved clear at 24-18 with one end to play. This was to prove critical in the overall outcome of the tie.

Bridport’s Frances Hewett and Pat Cornick played alongside Janet Emmerson and skip Viv Mansell in a bruising exchange with former England Under-25 international Amy Banes.

Mansell shook off an opening reverse of five to battle back to 12-12, but Dorset trailed 28-16 going into the last.

The all-Bournemouth rink of Jean Arnaud, Linda Johnson, Brenda Streater and Joan Halliwell retained their unbeaten record for the season, triumphing 30-16 over Ann Hill’s four.

However, Kent were fighting back on two of the other rinks.

Their four skipped by Sue Swann were 14-13 down to Dorset’s Val Farrant, Margaret Clapp, Isabelle Addision and Freda Yates before storming through to win 29-14.

Margaret Hooper, June Searle, Lyn Howard and skip Jill Bryant fared marginally better against Kent captain Linda Southby but slid to a 19-12 loss.

To compensate for this uncharacteristic display, it was left to international trialist Penny Creswell to keep her county afloat.

Creswell, Sally Williams, Wendy Brown and Sue Dadson took the initiative against Jane Cogle’s four to win 21-10 – but their work was not over.

The aggregate score was 105-104 in Dorset’s favour after 18 ends, but with four rinks finished they were three shots behind and staring defeat in the face.

However, the game took another dramatic twist as Desmond secured a two-count and Mansell scored the all-important single to level the match.

Both sides won three rinks, both had 63 winning ends and, at the end of normal play, the scores were level at 120-120.

Creswell’s four were nominated to play the extra end against Cogle’s rink for a place in the final against Cambridgeshire or Nottinghamshire on April 12.

In the end, it all came down to the skips.

Cogle fell short with the first of her two bowls, allowing Creswell to nestle her first inches from the jack.

With the arena in hushed silence, Cogle saw her final bowl go agonisingly past the head, meaning Creswell didn’t have to bowl her last delivery.