The Final Countdown - all the ups, the downs and some controversy!
So here it is, your final weekly instalment of the Mirfield Bugle! Due to work commitments returning to normal it’s also possibly the last weekly column I’ll write. I hope you enjoyed it. I’ve tried to write positive things. Sure, I’ve poked a bit of friendly fun here and there, but all in good humour. These last 18 months have shown us that there is more to life than bowls, but the Mirfield League has brought together many of the game’s finest, glad to be back in the saddle after the strangest of times. There will be ups, there will be downs, there will certainly be a bit of controversy this week. But stick together, folks, as we’ve surely been through worse. We’ve lost some of our own to this pandemic. Anyway, finger peg mate, let’s get this swansong underway!
League leaders and hot favourites going into the final round of fixtures were Lower Hopton WMC ‘A’, who faced a tricky away fixture amidst the aroma of battered bits of chicken in Crossgates. The ‘Gates had enjoyed a decent run, having dented Thongsbridge’s title hopes the week before, and again they produced. Ash Tattersley managed Hopton’s best card on 21-13 and crucially there were three other winners in the Hopton camp, not least Stuart ‘Juan’ King’s 21-19, which propelled the Bradford Mexican to numero dos in the league averages. Juan was last seen in the Station pub serenading the local east Leeds senoritas mariachi-style. Meanwhile Crossgates celebrated six winners of their own, James ‘Archie’ Wilcox producing a stunning 21-4 to gallop round the outside and sit numero uno atop said averages. Crossgates 8 Lower Hopton ‘A’ 4. Would it be enough for Hopton to reclaim the title?
2019 champions and title hopefuls, Thongsbridge, ‘travelled’ to Barnsley, Donny, Roth, wherever the heck Dearne is, for a difficult final fixture of their own. Six points adrift, Thongs filled their team with no less than seven players with big South Yorkshire connections, hoping local knowledge could swing the tie their way. It needed a big swing, though, the kind of result Dearne Sports just don’t suffer at home on Chappers’ back lawn. Sheffielder Andy Sorsby and Doncaster lad Mark Booth both got out 21-10 for Thongs. Two teammates repeated the act, but it wasn’t to be. Dearne held firm, led by Brummietyke Paul Bailey’s 21-7. Dearne Sports 8 Thongsbridge 4. Congrats to Hopton on their title and commiserations to Thongs.
Things were even tighter at the bottom, with Lower Hopton ‘B’ entertaining Denby Grange behind the pigeon hut. Going into the game the sides were level on points. Level! Winner takes all! The build up was so filled with rumour, politics and intrigue (who is allowed to play, who isn't) that it’s probably best not to mention the specifics. Denby went in heavy but their big guns couldn’t quite hit the target. Despite what came later, two Hopton ‘B’ cards from the first four swayed this game in the home team’s favour. Paul Arthurs’ mercurial 21-4 stood out, of course, but for me Wayne Hirst taking out Denby’s opening bat 21-12 was the crucial performance on the night. The debate will nevertheless rage on about the game at number 10, I’m sure. Taking an unbiased view, stating just the facts from both camps, here goes. From the Hopton ‘B’ perspective, they were within the rules and within their rights to pick Wayne Ditchfield for his first game this season. Wayne is a Hopton member and has played for Hopton ‘A’ for years (up to 2019). From the Denby perspective, Wayne hasn’t played for Hopton at all in the Mirfield this year, nor has he ever played for Hopton ‘B’. Whilst you debate that, I’ll tell you that the final result was Lower Hopton ‘B’ 7 Denby Grange 5. Hopton ‘B’ stay up by one winner. For me that winner was Wayne Hirst. Congrats on staying up, Hopton. Denby will surely be back.
Relegated with Denby are Ossett Flying Horse, which will come as no surprise given the fact that Fly have languished at the bottom since the opening weeks. Recent form has pointed to brighter times ahead down on Dewsbury Road and they came away from a tough away tie at Pudsey BC with a creditable four winners. Darren Atkinson from that theer Baaaarnsla gave the Fly kitty the chop with a 21-12. Special mention to Adam Ward, who is collecting the scalps of Yorkshire Merit winners on a seemingly weekly basis. For Pudsey Dave Poole responded with 21-5, but was outshone by Chris Hatton’s 21-4 in his first run out for Pudsey ‘A’ this season. Great to see you back, Chris. Pudsey BC 8 Ossett Flying Horse 4.
The final fixture in Division 1 was a mid-table affair between the two moors, Crosland Moor and Pudsey Littlemoor. The home team smashed in some big wins from Ray Whitwam (21-7), Terry Brook (21-6) and Mark Atkinson (21-4). For Littlemoor Martin ‘Fullofit’ Fulton bowled so close that the jack spontaneously combusted. Alas his 21-19 wasn’t enough to win the Littlemoor sweep, which belonged to Mark Allman on 21-16. Try to bowl nearer next time, Fullers! Crosland Moor 8 Littlemoor 4.
Positions after 18 games:
Lower Hopton WMC ‘A’ 135
Thongsbridge C&BC 129
Pudsey BC 127
Crossgates BC 126
Dearne Sports 116
Crosland Moor 100
Lower Hopton WMC ‘B’ 86
Denby Grange 84
Ossett Flying Horse 78
Kirkheaton Con finished their Division 2 campaign with a resounding 10-2 home win against relegated Harold Club. Kirkheaton finished ten points clear of nearest rivals Alverthorpe, who join them in Division 1 next season. Congrats to Kirkheaton and the Dougies! Leaving Division 2 in the opposite direction will be the aforementioned Harold Club and Pudsey BC ‘B’. Kirkheaton also dominated the league averages, with Josh Brown pipping teammate Dave Fox to the top spot.
Moving up from Division 3 to Division 2 will be Shipley BC, who pipped also promoted Dodworth MW by the narrowest of margins. Level on points, the title goes west rather than south due to aggregate. As the third was a division of nine teams I’m not sure how many will be relegated. Milnsbridge finished bottom by just one point, though Horbury WMC will have to wait to find out their fate. Cleckheaton’s Richard Toulson topped the divisional averages.
Division 4 was, as expected, won by Thornhill C&BC who finished nine points clear of runners-up, Farsley. Kirkheaton Con ‘B’ enjoyed a stunning 12-0 away visitor at Broad Oak to take third spot. Broad Oak will wait to hear their fate, second bottom in a group of nine. Denby Grange ‘B’ finished their first tough season in the Mirfield propping up the table but wiser for the experience. Old Bank’s Alan Procter was clear winner of the league averages.
Congratulations to Morton House, who began their long road back to where they belong, winning Division 5 by a mile. Almondbury Lib’s Kris Lunn pipped Morton legends Ady Leach and Mick Robby to the averages with a perfect season.
Thongsbridge ‘B’ ran away with Division 6 and Shepley BC Division 7, with the legend that is Ian Ross plus Simon Whitwham from those aforementioned clubs also topping the averages.
That’s all, folks. Win or lose, I hope you’ve enjoyed the season that might not have happened at all. Take care of yourselves, stay safe and see you next year!