THE quality of opposition made East Lothian Indoor Bowling Club men’s side’s 98-65 win over Falkirk in the playoff final of the Greengauge Scottish Premier League at Turriff IBC on Saturday all the more memorable.

Wins on the rinks skipped by Derek Oliver, Alex Marshall and Scott Kennedy tipped the scales after a hard-fought battle that saw John McHutchison prevent the clean sweep with his single-shot success over Billy Mellors.

While the Garden County came into the final as six-time previous winners of the most sought-after team title in the sport, they knew it wouldn’t be easy, having lost to Falkirk on two occasions last season.

While Falkirk had their heads in front in the early exchanges, the match analysis shows that East Lothian had their measure on the remaining phases of the match.

The significant change of fortune that swung the match in the direction of East Lothian happened on end 11, with them carding 11-1 to transform the scoreboard 59-41 in their favour.

Bowls Scotland elite squad member Oliver led that swing across the carpet with a mighty 5 and it also triggered a purple patch for him that brought 3, 2, 2, 5 reward, to skip his vastly experienced front three of Mark Johnston, Willie Wood and Graham Robertson into a 24-13 lead, and on to a 29-15 win over Steven Allan.

World-stage star Marshall was 10-9 down to former Garden County star Steven ‘Kinch’ Glen after 11 ends, but conjured up a magic response of 2, 4 (1), 3 to skip Ross Thomson, Stuart Thomson and Jamie Higgins into an 18-11 lead, then on to a 25-15 win.

The early-game inspiration came from Kennedy, who skipped Andrew Jeffrey, Dougie Berwick and Glenn Blair to a 24-14 win over Gary Flynn. Kennedy’s chief highlight came with a run of 5, 1, 1, (1), 3, 1, 1 that stretched him from 7-4 to 14-5.

Mellors and his front three of Calum Darling, Lewis Betts and Joe Mower did lead 17-9 after 14 but then suffered a late collapse and lost 21-20 to John McHutchison.

“The opening exchanges were tight, but once the master scoreboard started turning in our favour the result never looked in any doubt,” reflected team captain Graham Robertson.

“The quality of the players coming through the junior ranks, along with the quality and experience we currently have in East Lothian, augers well for the foreseeable future. Saturday was a brilliant win and the team and supporters celebrated in style.”

Meanwhile, the ladies’ side from East Lothian IBC marched into the quarter-finals of the Ladies Scottish Cup with a commanding 8-2 points victory over Stirling at Bainfield, with wins on three rinks supported by an aggregate supremacy of 126-53.

“Another tremendous result for the ladies and there is a real buzz and belief around the camp that we could go far in this year’s competition,” said team manager Sheena Currie.

Recent World Bowls bronze medallist Lauren Baillie emerged the headline star for the Garden County with a rock-solid performance to skip Margaret Murray, Jean Russell and Megan Kivlin to a superlative 40-11 win over Jane Dowell.

Janet Fairnie showed her class to skip Hazel Fender (debutant), Cathy Ward and Alicia Irvine to a 39-10 win over Margaret Holden, while the rink of Melissa Penman, Muriel Hamilton, Nancy McNeil and Yvonne Veitch beat Shona Neaves 28-11. The rink of Pat Turner, Rose Mackintosh, Irene Gray and Gillian Mackintosh had a ding-dong battle with Rose Smith before being edged out 21-19.

East Lothian’s opposition in the quarter-final will come in the shape of Bathgate side Balbardie on Saturday, March 18, at a neutral venue still to be decided.

Paisley Indoor Bowling Club will be a hive of activity this coming weekend as they showcase the semi-finals and finals of the national senior championships and there is a strong representation from East Lothian at the event. There is real excitement with the challenge being mounted in the pairs by Lessel Middler and Willie Wood. A strong qualifying campaign now pitches them into a tough last-four battle against Martin Kostigovs and Gordon Porteous of Ardrossan on Saturday at 2pm. At the same time, Peter Fallen, David Pryde, Alan Morgan and Brian J Smith carry the banner and title hopes of East Lothian in the fours, and their semi-final pitches them against Coatbridge. The climax to the triples brings East Lothian into the picture in the shape of Jim Neilson, Brian Bissett and Tommy Young, and they parade their exciting skills against Ardrossan in the semi-finals on the 10am session of play.

If there is no dual qualification, all finals will commence at 10am on Sunday, otherwise the pairs and triples will commence at 10am, with the fours following at 2pm. The supporters’ bus leaving from East Lothian IBC on Saturday will depart the stadium at 8am.

After a lengthy break, the youth side returned to East of Scotland Junior League action on Saturday at the Alex Marshall Arena and the Garden County young brigade celebrated a fine 5-2 points win over local rivals Midlothian. Kieran Dodds, Beth Riva, Robbie Shields and David Young (skip) won 20-3; Aaron Betts, Melissa Penman, Cameron Shaw and Megan Kivlin (skip) won 13-6; and Chris Robertson, Callum Henderson, Danny Stevenson and Robbie Buchanan (skip) lost narrowly 10-7 against Midlothian star player Jack McNab.

The fixtures now come thick and fast as the side is again back in East of Scotland Junior League action on Saturday (8am) when they host title favourites Abbeyview. On Sunday, they make the long trip to Arbroath IBC to tackle Turriff in the quarter-final action of the SYIBA Top Ten.

Turning attention to the outdoor season and members of Gifford Bowling & Sports Club are reminded that their AGM will take place on Sunday, March 19, from 2pm. Meanwhile, bowling members of Cockenzie & Port Seton Bowling Club should note that their AGM will take place on Tuesday, March 20, at 7pm.

The AGM of East Lothian Bowling Association takes places at Haddington BC on Wednesday, March 22, from 7pm. Two representatives from each affiliated club are formally requested to attend the meeting.