Northants men have booked their place in the Newton Trophy final at Skegness for the first time since 1991 following an emphatic 213-128 defeat of Hunts at the City of Peterborough club.
Requiring just five points to claim the southern section title, they duly underlined their supremacy in the truncated competition – North Essex and North Cambs withdrew their teams – with a fourth straight win and a maximum 22 points haul.
They are now set to meet unbeaten Humberside from the northern section as they attempt to add to their only trophy success in this competition achieved back in 1967.
Commented team captain Cliff Watson, who also steered Northants to a first-ever Adams Trophy triumph in 2015: “What can I say? I asked for 100 per cent commitment to qualify in style and that’s just what they did.
“I am very proud of the way everyone performed. Now we just need to go ahead and win it.”
Indeed Watson was also in the 1991 side beaten by Durham, so has a particular passion to ensure Northants return with the trophy.
Not in that team, but in the Northants side that lost to Notts in the 1986 final was Parkway stalwart Fred Addy, who completed an awe-inspiring 300 county appearances in helping Tony Kemp and Barry Lawrence to a 34-25 win against Hunts.
He received his commemorative tie from English Bowling Federation president Paul Bennett before the match.
Though the overall scoreline was convincing enough, one rink went down to the wire, with Jeff Clipston, Watson and Paul Buckley scoring three shots on the last end to win 27-26.
Elsewhere, Peter Jessop celebrated his birthday with a 30-23 victory alongside Bob Warters and Martin Stokes – an able stand-in for the unavailable Darren Middleton – while rinks skipped by Mick Duell and Brian Bassam had outstanding wins.
But the individual honours went to Peter Cox, Michael Humphreys and Roger Martin.
They trailed 9-11 after 10 ends, but a switch to Humphreys to lead proved key to their runaway 47-17 win.
The county’s Adams team were only able to salvage two drawn rinks in a 2-20 points defeat by a strong Hunts team, where internationals Nicky Brett, Lewis Baker and Ed Elmore were representing the visitors and helping them to a 177-153 victory.
Adam Warrington, Dick Noble and Martyn Dolby held Brett’s rink to a 30-30 draw, while Stephen Harris, Steve Lander and Martin Welsford dropped two shots on the last end in a 28-28 stalemate.
The Adams team complete their campaign away to North Essex on Saturday.
Northants 153 (2), Hunts 177 (20) – (Northants rinks only):
Roger Stevens, Tony Mace, Rod Maplethorpe lost 21-32; Jack Corney, Steve Roden, Peter Brown lost 27-31; Stephen Harris, Steve Lander, Martin Welsford drew 28-28; Adam Warrington, Dick Noble, Martyn Dolby drew 30-30; John Holroyd, Tony Belson, Graham Agger lost 23-28; Wayne Morris, Paul Bailey, Jon Earl lost 24-28.
Northants 213 (22), Hunts 128 (0) – (Northants rinks only):
Jeff Clipston, Cliff Watson, Paul Buckley won 27-26; Les Sharp, Malcolm Squires, Mick Duell won 30-21; Fred Addy, Tony Kemp, Barry Lawrence won 34-25; Jim Ruddy, Mick Greaves, Brian Bassam won 45-16; Bob Warters, Martin Stokes, Peter Jessop won 30-23; Peter Cox, Michael Humphreys, Roger Martin won 47-17
There was double disappointment for the Northants women as they suffered home defeats at the hands of Norfolk, winning just one rink each.
It was a first reverse of the campaign for the Silver Jubilee Vase team as they slipped to a 95-128 defeat at the City of Peterborough club, the rink of Veina Slater, Doris Flowers and Liz Barr responsible for their only rink success.
It was a similar story at Whittlesey Manor, where Norfolk took 16 of the 18 points on offer with a 116-89 victory, the Ketton rink of Carol Warters, Shirley Suffling and Chris Ford gaining their only success.
Both teams are in action away to Suffolk next Wednesday.
DONALD STEWARD TROPHY
Northants 89 (2), Norfolk 116 (16) – (Northants rinks only):
Carol Warters, Shirley Suffling, Chris Ford won 21-16; Fiona Richardson, Elizabeth Wallace, Julie Masters lost 18-20; Liz Hext, Tina Tinklin, Sheila Craig (Conservative) lost 18-24; Kathy Browning, Gill King, Norma Squires lost 17-28; Margaret Linnell, Rita Mace, Sue Moir lost 15-28.
SILVER JUBILEE VASE
Northants 95 (2), Norfolk 128 (16) – (Northants rinks only):
Veina Slater, Doris Flowers, Liz Barr won 25-19; Pat Collicott, Joyce Needham, Hazel Bass lost 21-26; Carol Grief, Linda Toms, Joan Padley lost 19-21; Jean Kendall, Jessica Phillips, Wendy Humphreys lost 16-39; Terri Handley, Marlene Osbourne, Myra Landsburgh lost 14-23.
In the Northants women’s county competitions, both Chris Ford (Ketton) and Julie Masters (Parkway) booked places in a second singles final with victories in the semi-finals of the two-bowl singles at the expense of Louise Harris (Blackstones) and Andrea Cox (Langtoft Pearl) respectively.
In the county men’s club championship for the Dan Duffy Trophy, the semi-final line-up sees holders Blackstones entertaining City of Peterborough, and last year’s beaten finalists Parkway facing Whittlesey Manor.
Parkway are through to the fifth round of the Bowls England club two fours competition following a 49-32 victory away to Higham Ferrers which sets up a visit to either Wellingborough or Heyford.
In the county competitions, the rinks of Trevor Collins (Parkway) and Lindsay Swannell (Warboys) will contest the inaugural final of the over 55 rinks event, the winners going forward to the national finals at Leamington next month.
Hunts men complete their Middleton Cup programme on Saturday with the visit of Northants to Brampton.
Hunts are currently involved in a three-way tie at the bottom of the section and so will be looking to end the season on a high note by following up their victory at Suffolk last time out.