Hans’ first task on arriving at Gravesham was to surrender the cup he won, last year. We left (this year) with it in the custody of another club, but we came so close to retaining it. And our three newcomers to the tournament all gave good accounts of themselves, too.

Bruce C had a titanic struggle with Alex, from Bexley, in the first round – both players led at various stages, Bruce led 9-7, playing the final end, and set a long jack, but for once he could not find the length with any of his three woods and Alex took two, taking the match into an extra end, where it was Bruce who took shot – which carried him into the next round. He was drawn to play Fred W - a three time former winner of the competition - and Bruce pushed him harder than the score of 6-14 might suggest. He had shot taken from him, several times, with Fred’s final wood … he was fractions of an inch from more points and, altogether, it was a great debut against a vastly more experienced player.

Geoff C, also, played an experienced bowler in James, last year’s beaten finalist and a former winner. James led 7-2, after five ends, but then Geoff got into his rhythm and, after six more ends, he was 14-7 ahead and James was forced to concede. The next round saw Geoff up against John F, who was to prove the eventual winner of the Cup, this year. Geoff actually led 6-2 and was looking strong, in the rhythm of his previous match. But John got back into the match, found some momentum of his own and Geoff’s line began to falter. John went on to win 15-9, but he had been given a scare and Geoff, like Bruce, will be the better for the experience. And it is always good to lose, if you have to lose, to the eventual winner.

Penny G had been nervous of playing, but was determined, as usual, to enjoy herself. And she breezed through her first game, against Christine, winning 12-4, and whilst all matches here are played in a good spirit, this was the rink from which you heard laughter. Geoff, the tournament organiser, was on the rink, the first time I have seen that, I have to guess he was drawn by the infectious joy Penny brings to the proceedings. Her reward for this outstanding display? She was drawn against our very own Marian R, who had won her first round match, 17-1, after eight ends, as emphatic a win as could be. Their encounter was a decent match to watch, as well, Marian superbly consistent in grouping her woods around the jack, but Penny - producing a lot of excellent woods herself - to stay in the match to the end, losing only 8-12. It was a pity they had been drawn to play each other at this stage, as Penny’s level of performance suggesting she might have gone further in the competition, but at least we had Marian, in excellent form, through to the semi-final.

Where, sadly, we had another RBBG clash, with Hans. Hans had begun with a 14-5 first round victory, finding some good form after what was for him an indifferent period, and in the next round he had beaten Richard, the winner two years ago, 13-5, for the second match winning inside the allotted number of ends. These were really good performances and he was looking looking near to his old self on the green – but Marian had struck an even richer vein of form. She was consistent, in both line and length, taking all three shots in the first end and leading, 10-1, after six. That is a huge lead, but Hans made the adjustment he needed to come back hard and won three ends in a row to cut the deficit to 6-10, with some near perfect bowling. But Marian was still bowling well and it only needed a dip in Hans’ high level of accuracy for Marian to come back, again, two shots for 12-6. Hans now needed 3-0 wins in the last two ends, a tough assignment at the best of times, near impossible with Marian in this form. He took the next end, but with just a single shot, so that it was Marian through to the final.

The final is played over fourteen ends and for the first six of those it see-sawed, John taking two singles for 2-0, Marian pulling it back, spectacularly, in the third. In that end John had started by running the jack and sitting no more than two inches to the side. All the woods ended up within a yard of the jack, but Marian’s last picked up the jack and took it to another of her woods for two. Three shots to John took it to 5-2 in his favour, then Marian took shots to level, at 5-5.

Both players were bowling well, but John took the next few ends, favouring thirty-one yards or thereabouts and looking to be taking charge, at 12-5. But Marian, again, stepped up, advancing to 9-12 - and holding three shots in the twelfth end - as John delivered the final wood of the end – which was superb and this, effectively, was the match winner. It had looked odds on to be 12-12, with two ends to play, but instead now, it was 13-9, to John. Marian took shot in the penultimate end, but at 10-13, it was a tall order to get all three shots to tie. She did take the end, but lost 11-13, still a very good performance and she had so nearly made it. Our congratulations to John, and to James who took the Plate in the parallel competition.

The trophies were presented for this, the 35th year of the Gravesham Tournament, 21 of those being run by the present organiser, Geoff Dutton. Superb work by Geoff and his team to give us a very special day, the matches played competitively, but in great friendship. We may not have taken the Cup away, this year, but we came close and every one of our bowlers could be proud of their efforts.

Event photos to follow, when processed