England came away from the 4 Nations weekend with 2 Trophies - the Tom Ballantyne for beating Scotland's men by 58-45 and the Turnbull Cup for pipping Ireland 25-24. The other two trophies were lost to Scotland's ladies who retained the Connie Miller Trophy by 25-8 and to Wales who won back the Kay Trophy by 33-19.
The weekend got off to bad start when the snow which hit the South of England affected flights and road travel and meant that 4 of our team (Jean Robinson, Susan Young, Sandra Moorcroft and Charles Murphy) were unable to travel. Snow in the hills of the Borders also accounted for Peter and Hilary Bowyer. The loss of 4 women, including three skips, meant that we struggled all weekend to field enough women in each session and we twice had to field just 3. Help from the local organisers filled some of the gaps and we are grateful to Alison Cunningham, Corrie Lawrence, May Steel and Sheelagh Fulton for playing.
With Scotland fielding their ex-Champion Gail Munro it was inevitable that the inexperienced Debbie Hutcheon would struggle in the Connie Miller Trophy, but a great display in the first game, when Alison Cunningham threw last stones saw them with a deficit of 4-8 to take into the second game. However, facing just 3 players in the second game, Gail dominated and after missing a chance of an 8 at the 4th end (she just got a 6) she sealed a 17-4 victory with a 7 in the 6th end and hands were shaken early.
In the Tom Ballantyne Trophy there are 8 games played across 4 sessions and so the final result accumulates slowly until the last three games are played. After the first session of 3 games it was 22-19 to Scotland, the 4th game then made it 27-25 to England and the 5th game brought the gap down to 34-33 to England. So it was all to play for in the last session of 3 games and here we managed to stretch away with three victories by 9-4, 9-4 and 9-6 to win overall by 58-45, our first win in the Ballantyne for 3 years, our biggest win for 12 years and our 3rd biggest win of the 13 times we have won it.
All the games were close, the highest victory margin being 5 shots. There was a tie for the Gold Medals for England with both John Sharp (with Gordon Lyon, James Gibb and Ross Barr) and John Brown (with Bruce Bowyer, Kerr Alexander and Stuart Brand) winning 9-4. Tommy Campbell (with Gordon Lyon, Doug Andrews and Jim Marmont) close behind having won 8-3. On Scotland's side their biggest winners were John Paul, Richard Stevenson, Malcolm Patrick and Ed Baines who won 7-4 against John Sharp.
One of the features of recent years has been the strength of the Welsh teams who participate in the 4 Nations. In the first 19 meetings between England and Wales the latter were victorious in just 2 of them and also retained the trophy one year by playing out a tie. In the last 6 years Wales have won 4 times and their victory this year by 33-19 was second only to the 36-15 drubbing they handed out at Fenton's two years ago. Their win was achieved across all three forms - mixed, men's and women's and only Alastair Fyfe's 6-6 peel with Hugh Meikle stopped them from winning across all 4 games.
For many years the draw for the 4 Nations weekend has had England playing Ireland in the last session on Sunday afternoon and this year yet again it brought the weekend to a nail-biting finish. A bit of history - Ireland and England have played each other 16 times and in 6 of those years (1999 (I), 2003 (E), 2005 (E), 2008 (I), 2011(I) and 2012 (I)) the overall margin of victory over 4 games has been just one shot. Last year famously the Irish came back from a 12 shot deficit after the mixed games to win by 1 shot thanks to a 16-0 victory for their women. In Ayr the issue was tighter the whole way through with England leading by just 2 shots after the mixed games, 14-12. This year it was the England men who struggled and lost 10-3 while the English women were 8-1 up playing the last end, which meant that the 2 shot margin was still there as the women played their last end. When Irish skip Marie O'Kane came to play her last stone she was lying one and so needed to squeeze another one in to draw the match and let Ireland retain the Trophy. We breathed a sigh of relief when she was short and the Turnbull Trophy returned to England after 3 years.
Add a super meal and disco (deejayed by Gail Munro's husband John) into the mix and a great time was had by all who beat the weather. Ironically there was no snow in Ayr all weekend!!
ALL THE SCORES
Connie Miller Trophy (v Scotland women)
Debbie Hutcheon 4 Gail Munro 8
Debbie Hutcheon 4 Gail Munro 17
Tom Ballantyne Trophy (v Scotland men)
John Brown 10 Alan Russell 8
John Sharp 4 John Paul 7
Kerr Alexander 5 Alan Durno 7
Tommy Campbell 8 David Jones 3
Alastair Fyfe 7 Alan Durno 8
John Brown 9 James Carswell 4
John Sharp 9 David Jones 4
Michael Sutherland 6 Alan Russell 4
Kay Trophy (v Wales)
Doug Andrews 7 Andy Tanner 12
Alastair Fyfe 6 Hugh Meikle 6
Michael Sutherland 3 Andy Tanner 8
Debbie Hutcheon 3 Lesley Gregory 7
Turnbull Trophy (v Ireland)
John Sharp 7 Bill Gray 5
John Brown 7 David Whyte 7
John Brown 3 Peter Wilson 10
Alison Barr 8 Marie O'Kane 2