DORCHESTER Ladies' hopes of reaching their first national final in the Yetton Plate were dashed, losing 71-67 in an agonising finish after a titanic struggle against Kent's Ashford Bowls Club.

Played at the neutral venue of Lodden Vale Bowls Club, Basingstoke, the game began in encouraging style with Dorchester taking an early lead with plus scores on two of the four rinks.

It was gradually apparent that the game was not going to be a stroll in the park for Dorchester as Ashford began to show their class, gradually assuming control on three rinks to build a healthy double-figure lead.

But Dorchester hung on and showed true grit as they whittled away their opponents' lead and eventually drew level.

Having fought back so well Dorchester then disappointed by letting Ashford back into the game to forge ahead once more.

It appeared that Dorchester could not achieve the necessary breakthrough against such determined opposition, but despite all indications they hit back for a second time and with three of the four rinks finished the overall shots score was tantalisingly locked at 67-67.

First out of the blocks for Dorchester were Ros Gwatkin, Julie Corbin, Linda Hill and Margaret Cullip skipping who established a small lead of two shots which gradually increased throughout the exchanges, to finish 11 shots clear at 23-12 against Ashford’s Chris Palmer.

Hopes were now pinned on Dorchester acquiring an advantage on a second rink, with the successful quartet of Ronnie Stevenson, Carol Baker, Sylvia Lawley and their skip Barbara Lacey out to get the better of the Ashford rink skipped by Gwen Howard.

This proved difficult with both sides grafting for shots. In a game where the gap was never more than three shots it was the Ashford four who kept ahead to win 18-15.

Barbara Redpath, Isabelle Addison, Eve Peavoy and Freda Yates held a slim 7-6 lead at nine ends with Yates fighting off a heavy cold. The Ashford skip Carol Morton then took three consecutive ends to open up a 13-7 lead and finish ahead at 19-13.

With the three rinks completed and the scores all level at 69 shots each it fell to Sue Maggs, Joan Narraway, Di Lunn and Sue Jennings to decide the final outcome.

Jennings and co had struggled against their opposition but had clawed back from 14-4down to reduce the deficit to just two shots at 16-18.

The first of their two final ends produced a single to Ashford for a 70-69 match position.

The final end saw Ashford nail the jack which Jennings and co were unable to remove and in chasing for the outright win dropped a three count and the season was over for the gallant Dorchester squad.