The busy indoor season got under way with the opening exchanges in the EIBA National Top Club competition – and it was a particularly bad day for hosts Torquay United, winners of the Top Club in 2012, as they entertained Exonia in the first round.
The Exeter based club cast aside any home advantage that the Torquay team might have expected to enjoy by taking the first completed game of the day in the Ladies Two-Wood when Exonia's Helen Ellis pulled away in the second half of her encounter with Ella Crouch, an outdoor British Isles Under 25 international, to win 21-12. The first two points of the match had been neatly pocketed by Exonia
Ella Crouch (Torquay) and Helen Ellis (Exonia)
Elsewhere on the green, the only Torquay team looking at all comfortable were the pairing of former England international Barbara Bellamy and 31 year-old Jamie Walker, the 2023 World Indoor Bowls champion.
With a 22-2 lead at one point over the husband-and-wife duo of James and Cassidy Hampton, the four points always looked safe in Torquay's hands. And so it proved to be though Exonia did come back in the latter stages to close the gap to a more respectable 22-13 with just one end to play.
After Bryan Coad for Torquay lost his Two-Wood singles to Exonia's Scott Eveleigh 15-21 together with the two precious points that went with it, hope eternal now rested on the triples' and fours' disciplines.
But the current state of the fours game was already sounding alarm bells. From a scoreline of 6-6 on eight ends, Nikki Parsons, Amy Stone, her father Paul Stone and Kevin Phillips took the score on to 17-6 on 15 ends over the Torquay four skipped by Will Stevens. The four points looked to be headed Exonia's way and despite a bit of a Torquay recovery in the closing stages, that is where they ended up.
Could Ian Lesley's Torquay triple turn the tide as the home side trailed by four points to eight with only his game to finish against Simon Broom's three from Exonia? With Lesley trailing 13-15 and with still two ends to play, the home side's verdict was that even if Lesley did beat Broom, the mathematical calculation decreed that Exonia would still win on shot countback. And that remained the official verdict at the end of the day. Exonia went through 86-78.
Next on the list for Exonia will be Torbay after they overwhelmed the gallant Isca side by 10-nil.
But the official result does not truly reflect the match. The Exeter based side led in both the triples' and fours' disciplines at the moment that the Isca captain called time on the day's proceedings.
Marilyn O'Callaghan, Allan Thomas, and son Neil Thomas led the Torbay three of Pat Phillips, Sean Grice, and Gareth Foster by 16-15 with three ends to play at the same moment that Isca's Roger Fieldhouse, Eve Lugg, Neil Pond, and Gary Howland were maintaining a 17-12 advantage over the home four of Kate Asher, Sue Coffield, Sean Howard and Gerry Coffield with one end to play.
But the news was just a touch catastrophic elsewhere on Torbay's very new surface with both the Two-Wood Singles disciplines going to the home team when Rob Honeywell defeated Carl Newman 21-13 and Sue Bywaters for the Torbay ladies beat Gill Oakey 21-10.
Sue Bywaters - Showcasing Torbay's New 2024 Uniform
In the Pairs, the news was just as bad for Isca with Torbay's Sarah Vinnicombe and Alan Bowden recording a 25-16 win - and that was the end of the contest.
With the shot score standing at 94-62, Isca wisely conceded the match and the time for celebration was at hand. For Torbay at least!
The match between Torbay and Exonia in the next round promises to be an intriguing battle, albeit a long one. The Exeter green, which hosts the next round, has only three rinks on which to play the five disciplines. Somebody will have to wait until one of the rinks is free of competition.
Waiting for the winners will be the winners of the tie between Minehead and Kingsley in North Devon neither of whom have set foot on the green so far in this season's battle for the Top Club Trophy.