AFTER a string of victories over the past two years, Dorset eventually lost an Atherley Trophy game – at the all-important stage of a final – when defending their national title.

The game played at Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, proved to be a disappointment for the county, as hopes were high of a back-to-back final win, and a hat-trick of championships.

In a game which Nottingham-shire powered their way to a 21-shot advantage at the mid-point of the encounter – and were good value for their 69-47 lead – they had to contend with a fighting response from Dorset who inched their way back into the game.

At one stage, the Dorset champions were within an ace of taking the lead, when narrowly trailing 98-96 and holding strong heads on two rinks. It seemed that Dorset had fought of the Nottingham-shire challenge. The game then switched back in favour of the Midlanders, as they secured the vital rinks in which Dorset were in the ascendancy, and encouraged by their large contingent of supporters, gradually gained in confidence widening their winning margin to an eventual 13-shot victory.

Joan Halliwell named by team manager Frank Gwatkin as captain of the day responded well, by skipping her rink to an impressive 27-14 win, aided by team members Jean Arnaud, Linda Johnson and Brenda Steater against Elaine Haddon.

The only other Dorset rink to get a positive result was that skipped by Penny Cresswell, who was involved in a busy week at the championships, appearing in the ladies’ singles, triples, and fours.

Cresswell reached the quarter- finals of the triples and singles, and took her fours rink to a runner-up spot. The Atherley pairing with Nottingham skip Jayne Lee proved challenging for Cresswell and co, who trailed 8-0 before battling back to secure a very creditable 20-17 win.

Jill Bryant came within an ace of a win against the very formidable Nottinghamshire skip Pat Oliver – a former national and British Isles pairs and triples winner.

Dorset’s Bryant and her rink rocked Oliver when taking a 10-2 lead in a game, which was a battle royal right up to a final 18-18 result.

The remaining three Dorset rinks had to accept second best. Viv Mansell recovered from a perilous 13-1 deficit against Jenny Humphries to be level with two ends to go, both of which produced lost singles in a narrow 21-19 defeat.

Nottinghamshire inflicted punishing defeats on Dorset skips Kath Desmond and Feda Yates.

Desmond fell to Nottingham-shire’s Pauline Marples and co 24-10, and Yates could not stop the Pamela Ashley four from posting an equally crushing 27-14 result.

Dorset’s disappointment at the outcome of the game was tinged with the knowledge that the past six years had produced two national titles and one runner-up result.