East Lothian’s bowlers’ hopes of qualifying through to the knockout stages of the Scottish Counties Championship were ended on Saturday when they lost out to West Lothian by 15 shots in a high-octane encounter that was very high in entertainment value for the large crowd gathered at Haddington BC.

The East Lothian players played with heart and soul and gave their all in a pulsating 119-104 defeat but in the end the Garden County side just came up short and it was Edinburgh & Leith and West Lothian who claimed the two spaces up for grabs in the very competitive East section qualifying race.

The combined defeat of the rinks skipped by Ian Bell (-13), Billy Mellors (-6) and John McCrorie (-3) proved too much to be covered by the wins delivered by Derek Oliver (+4) and Scott Kennedy (+3), while team captain Craig Valentine battled hard to grab a deserved draw.

“We’re disappointed that we couldn’t get over the line but I would like to thank every single one of the squad and the guys who came in to help out,” reflected team manager Ian Bell.

“We were written off at the start of the campaign but with some great team spirit and a never-say-die attitude we very nearly pulled it off.” The under-25 brigade are preparing for a huge day of action on Sunday as they line up in the Scottish Under-25 League Cup finals day at Sighthill BC in Edinburgh.

The semi-final draw has pitched East Lothian against South section winners Ayrshire and the clash gets under way at 11am. The other last-four clash takes place at the same time and features Dumbartonshire versus Angus, with the final expected to commence at approximately 2.30pm.

Team co-managers Stevie and Michael Greenan have decided to refresh their line-up slightly and have handed seasonal debuts to Ross Irvine (Prestongrange) and Ewan Fallen (EL-Coop) and they will form a new-look back end. There are also a few positional changes that involve Craig Bell and Declan French.

Team: D. Riva (Giff), D. French (Elph), R. Cochrane (P/G), K. Frame (C/P) skip. C. Allison (E/L), J. Robertson (Tra), R. Thomson (ELCO), G. White (Abe) skip. Dec French (Elph), B. Inglis (Abe), E. Fallen (ELCO), R. Irvine (P/G) skip. L. Newlands (Ath), H. Robertson (C/P), S. Gray (C/P), J. Burnett (C/P) skip. C. Brock (Hadd), R. French (Elph), C. Bell (Hadd), S. White (ELCO) skip. F. Pringle (C/P), K. Yule (P/G), M. McWilliams (Hadd), G. Blair (Hadd) skip/capt. Reserves: A. Martin (Ath), C. Innes (P/G), B. Forbes (ELCO), S. Newlands (Ath), C. Darling (Giff), K. Simants (Dun), S. Johnston (Orm).

Bus pick-up times are as follows: Haddington (Corn Exchange) 8.45am; Tranent (Police Station) 9am; Prestonpans (Hasties Garage) 9.15am.

Any player selected who is unable to play is requested to contact Stevie Greenan immediately on 07712 277681. Any supporters wishing to travel on the coach should contact Greenan to check on availability of seats, which are priced at £5.

The East Lothian seniors held a trial and practice day at Haddington BC last Monday and another is scheduled for this coming Monday, again at Haddington BC, in a prelude to the start of this year’s Matt Purdie Trophy.

Some new faces made a great impact on the mind of selector and convenor Andy Burt, vice-president of ELBA, who said: “The new ‘old’ guys blended in well with the commitment and experience of the men who attended and will in my opinion feature strongly in this year’s team.” The next practice match starts at 10am and it is hoped that those on holiday will return and the team will be picked on that day.

This year’s section opponents are Edinburgh and Leith, West Fife and West Lothian so it’s a very tough group to win. The games are home and away and the first is at Haddington BC next Monday (July 6) at 11am.

Spectators will be made welcome, refreshments available.

On the international scene, the talented Baillie sisters from Cockenzie & Port Seton BC, Lauren and Leanne, were last week part of a Scotland Senior Ladies side that had to settle for runners-up spot behind winners England in the Ladies Home Internationals Series played at Royal Leamington Spa in Warwickshire.

The Scots opened against Ireland and were pushed all the way before recording a 127-111 victory, but lost their next match to defending champions England, 124-103.

In their third match they tackled Wales and bounced back to winning ways posting a 127-97 win to keep them in the title hunt.

In their concluding match against Jersey, Scotland required nothing less than a 41-shot win, then hope Ireland could do them a massive favour by beating England. The Scots did their part by registering a 148-87 victory but at the same time England powered to a 149-101 triumph to retain the title.

Tranent are the new table toppers and they have thrown down the gauntlet to defending champions Haddington in Division 1 of the East Coast Carpets-sponsored East Lothian Leagues.

“Whilst there is extra pressure in leading from the front it is an encouraging position for us to be four points ahead of the chasing pack going into the second half of the campaign,” said a Tranent spokesperson.

In fixture 9 of the 18-match campaign, Tranent celebrated a 6-2 away win at foot-of-the-table Dunbar, while long-time leaders Haddington slipped up away at East Linton as they went down 6-2.

EL-Coop remain in third place but are now 10 points off second place after they lost ground on the leaders after being held 4-4 at Castlepark, while Castlepark A remain in the relegation zone but will be delighted after departing West Barns with a 4-4 scoreline.

Cockenzie & Port Seton looked on course to register an away victory at Gifford but once again suffered a late collapse and had to settle for a 4-4 share of the spoils.

In tonight’s action, Graham Robertson and Dean Higgins make welcome returns to first-team duty for Tranent and it is a timely strengthener for the Division 1 leaders, who face a stiff challenge at home to arch rivals EL-Coop. Haddington should be capable of bouncing back to winning ways when they visit strugglers Dunbar.

There is a middle-of-the-table clash with Port Seton at home to West Barns but both sides will be missing key players, as home side star Derek Oliver and the visitors’ duo of Scott Kennedy and Billy Mellors are on Scotland Senior side duty this weekend at the British Isles Home International series.

It should be quite a night at Castlepark as their first and second sides go head-to-head for a second time, while East Linton will hope to build on their excellent result last week when they play host to Gifford.

All club secretaries are requested to ensure all league and cup results, including shots aggregate score, are phoned into ELBA match secretary Keith Fender on 01620 860217 or via text message 07786 110416 immediately after each match.

It’s congratulations to EL-Coop Bowling Club after they scooped the second silverware of the domestic season when they lifted the ELBA County Cup after the host club edged a thrilling encounter against Tranent in Sunday’s final.

EL-Coop looked dead and buried when they trailed their great rivals by a whopping 21 shots but a sensational comeback over the final few ends saw them snatch a memorable single-shot triumph.

In the earlier semi-final action, EL-Coop ended Haddington’s hopes of winning the title, while Tranent stopped Prestongrange’s assault on the prestigious trophy.