Ayr-some national title win for sisters
Lauren and Leanne Baillie of Cockenzie and Port Seton Bowling Club clutch the Ladies Pairs trophy after yet another win at Ayr Northfield
Cockenzie and Port Seton sister act Lauren and Leanne Baillie proved beyond doubt their standing as Scotland's top pairing in women's bowls after clinching an incredible third national title in four years at Ayr Northfield on Sunday.
The Port Seton BC duo successfully defended the Ladies Pairs title they won at the Scottish National Bowling Championships at the home of Scottish bowls last year with a 17-13 triumph over another pair of sisters in Michelle and Maryanne Cooper of Blacklands and District in Kilwinning.
But there was heartbreak for the East Lothian men, as the Gifford duo of Alex Marshall and David Sked were beaten on an extra end in their semi-final to end hopes of a national gents title returning to the county.
The Baillie sisters had begun the defence of their title in the best possible fashion by crushing Buckhaven 26-8, including scoring a maximum eight on the second end.
They found life somewhat tougher in their second match against Invergordon, but they managed to establish themselves and claim a 16-11 victory to go through to the weekend's crunch ties.
Local side Crosshill were thumped 25-6 in the quarter-final and the Baillie duo then held the lead all the way through their semi-final against Ellon despite being taken to the wire by their Aberdeenshire opponents when they pulled the score back to 12-11 after 12 ends.
However, a five on the next end kept the East Lothian pair in charge and helped them win 21-12.
The final against the Ayrshire club's Cooper sisters was not as close as the final scoreline suggested.
Lauren and Leanne dominated from the off, taking an 11-1 lead which was to prove more than enough to carry them over the line, despite the loss of four on the final end to earn their opponents a degree of respectability.
"It's very special to take the title and we're absolutely delighted to have won it two years running," Leanne, the younger of the two at 27, told Courier Sport.
"We just take every game as it comes and we were quite comfortable in the final."
Leanne and 30-year-old Lauren, both of whom live in Cockenzie and Port Seton, were also delighted that their mum Anna was able to make it to cheer them on after recovering from illness.
"We were treating it as another game of bowls and once we got going it felt pretty safe from then on," added Leanne.
"We didn't take anything for granted, though, and it did not feel like anything was certain.
"We are absolutely delighted and glad mum was well enough to make it to the final to watch us as she was ill during the week."
The success of the Baillie sisters helped make up for county disappointment at Marshall and Sked's agonising semi-final exit at the hands of Hyndland, who had earlier denied Marshall the chance to test himself against best friend and former East Lothian team-mate Paul Foster, who with playing partner at Troon Portland Barry Nixon had been expected to face the East Lothian men in the last-four.
The clash between Marshall and Foster, World Indoor Pairs champions as a pairing the last two years running, had been billed as one of the highlights of the tournament but was never to materialise.
Marshall and Sked had initially seemed set to suffer a shock first-round defeat when they found themselves 8-1 behind against Rosehearty but they turned the tie on its head to go 16-8 up and eventually won 25-20, following that up by dispatching Condorrat 20-9.
After an exciting 15-10 win over Abbeyview in the quarter-final came the Gifford pair's clash with Hyndland and great drama ensued.
Marshall and Sked led for most of the match but at the last Hyndland tied the scores 13-13 to force the match into an extra end, which the Glasgow men proceeded to score two on to eliminate the Gifford pair.
The only other East Lothian interest in the semi-finals had come from the West Barns triple of Kevin Thomson, Callum Gordon and Alister Kennedy, who opened up with a crushing 22-6 win over Muirhead and Birkhill before being given a much sterner test by Almond Valley before triumphing 17-14.
A dramatic 15-14 successh over Kilwinning in the quarter-final followed in an exciting match, but West Barns' semi against Kirkcaldy West End proved one-sided. At 12-10 down the East Lothian men had a chance but the Fifers eventually ran out 21-10 winners.
There had previously been early exits for all East Lothian's other representatives in the competition.
In the Gents Singles Ronnie Branley of Cockenzie and Port Seton carried the county banner but suffered a 21-11 first-round defeat to Polmaise man Aaron Hazel.
Grant Thomson of East Linton looked strong in the first round of the Junior Singles, easily seeing off the challenge of Lockerbie's Richard Linton 21-10 with accurate bowling, but he struggled mightily against Hurlford's Craig Burns in his next match and lost convincingly 21-9.
In the fours the Cockenzie and Port Seton quartet of Craig Valentine, Gordon Baillie, Steven Morgan and Derek Oliver triumphed 17-11 against West Netherton but lost 21-12 to Port William in the second round.
The Senior Fours from the same club also suffered early defeat, Willie Doran, Sinclair Thomson, Arthur Duncan and Alex Jamieson losing 13-12 to Alloa East End in the first round.
Castle Park in the Ladies Triples, represented by Agnes McLeod, Margaret Thomson and Janet Fairnie, thrashed Bothwell 22-9 in their first match but were edged out 12-11 by Baillieston in last Friday's second round.