In a tense but sporting all County Durham final in Nottingham, a Hartlepool quartet of John Harris, David Fenwick, Glenn Skipp and Vinnie O’Neill were cruelly denied top honours in the national men’s indoor fours championship.
Stanley’s Brian Harris, Steve Angus, David Bolt and Gary R Smith edged to victory, 17-16, and brought the title to Durham for the sixth time since the event was first played in 1967.
Opening their bid with a 25-11 win over Kent club Dartford Stone Lodge, Hartlepool added wins of 27-17 over Kingsthorpe (Northampton) and 15-13 over Leicester, before reaching the final by beating Clacton, 20-13.
Stanley seemed to have things sewn up when they opened up a lead of 10-2, but some skilful and defiant play from Hartlepool stemmed the tide, and closed the gap to 11-8 by the 12th end.
Scots-born O’Neill, in particular, was outstanding, performing some brilliant feats with his bright yellow bowls, and a superb count of four shots on the 14th end tied things up at 12-12.
Stanley got their noses in front again with two doubles, but, on the last end, Hartlepool were actually holding three shots for a tie when Smith just managed to cut the count to two for the narrowest of victories.
“It was hard to bear,” said O’Neill.
“We gave them too big a start, but when we came on to form in the second half, I thought we deserved to win, and the difference was a couple of good results that Gary obtained.”
Finishing the final last night at 11pm, the Hartlepool contingent promptly hit the road north – as Skipp, who is a delivery driver for Halfords, was starting work at 6am this morning!