Saturday 4th & Sunday 5th May brought the 25th Celtic Challenge to the Wheatsheaf Inn, Llanhennock, nr Newport, Wales.
We were welcomed at the piste on the Friday night for a practice on the challenging surface (bare, hard and sloping car-park) followed by a buffet and musical entertainment. A nice welcome after our long journey.
Saturday arrived and the customary opening ceremony was held in the morning mist. Play started a little after 9 am with Scotland facing Ireland first. Scotland took a commanding lead following 3-1, 3-1, 4-0 and 3-1 victories in the first four rounds. Indeed after the final round against Ireland teams 1,2 and 3 from Scotland were unbeaten. After 4 rounds the scores read: Scotland 13, Wales A 10, Wales B 6, Ireland 3.
During the lunch interval the presidents of all three associations decided to complete seven rounds on Saturday to give more time on Sunday for preparations for the dinner. More on that later.
Up next for Scotland were Wales B. With three rounds to be completed this was an opportunity for Scotland to put down a good lead overnight. And so it proved to be, when play finally finished (at 9pm under floodlights) Scotland went into the overnight break having secured 3-1, 4-0 and 3-1 wins against Wales B. However, Wales A also had a good 3 rounds against Ireland and therefore the scores overnight were: Scotland 23, Wales A 20, Wales B 8, Ireland 5.
Scotland took round 8 first thing in the morning on Sunday with a score of 3-1 meaning the scores with just four rounds to play the scores were Scotland 26. Wales A 24, Wales B 9, Ireland 5. It would all therefore be settled in the head to head with Scotland and Wales A in the final four rounds. It is worth noting at this point that Scotland 1 (Johnny, Robbie & Paul) and Scotland 3 (Shirley, Lynn and Richard) were both unbeaten.
Then a hammer blow as Wales A took round 9 with a score of 4-0 over Scotland and took the lead. Round 10 was not much better with Wales bagging the round 3-1. This left Scotland with only the slimmest of hopes of retaining the title. With the head to head score at Wales A 31, Scotland 27 a big come back would be required. With round 11 tied at 2-2 the contest was effectively over with Wales holding a 33-29 lead with vastly superior points difference. However, pride was at stake and, with 10 wins from 11 so far Shirley, Lynn and Richard were within touching distance of being the weekend’s top team – but they would need to beat Wales 4 in the final round.
Scotland won the final round 3-1 but sadly Shirley, Lynn and Richard didn’t manage to beat Wales 4 and lost out on the top team prize. Final score Wales A 34, Scotland 32, Wales B 17, Ireland 13.
A big thank you to the Welsh Petanque Association and the Wheatsheaf Inn for being fantastic hosts. We very much look forward to welcoming everyone back to Scotland in 2014.