ALTON Social ladies have been flying the Bowls Hampshire flag at the National Championships held at Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire over the last fortnight.

First up were Lesley Johnson and Margaret Holden, attempting to defend their senior pairs title.

A rare achievement very nearly became a reality as wins over Essex (29-11), Oxfordshire (21-11), Berkshire (24-15) and Nottinghamshire (24-22) took them to the final, where they met Durham.

The match was in the balance for 19 ends, with Social trailing by two shots going into the 20th and last. The loss of four shots put the match beyond the Social pair and more shots were lost as they tried to kill the end, making the 12-21 scoreline a distorted reflection of an evenly-fought final.

Alice Atwell, Brenda Plumpton, Hazel Marke and Margaret Holden were up against Norfolk in the first round of the fours and although Social gave a good account of themselves, Norfolk won through.

There was more disappointment for Margaret Holden in the singles. She held game-shot twice against Leicestershire’s Carol Dixon, only to be edged out 21-20.

Hazel Marke and Margaret Holden have formed a highly successful partnership in the pairs and were back at the nationals for the third time in four years. They began their campaign with a 23-11 win over Essex and won much tougher contests against Dorset (19-16) and Bedfordshire (18-14) before easing past Durham 18-7 to reach the semi-finals where they met a Lincolnshire duo skipped by England’s Amy Gowshall.

The Social pair surpassed themselves by winning 25-22 to make the final.

Suzanne Cotton and Diana Jones had defeated Devon’s international pairing in the other semi and it was the Yorkshire pair who made the stronger start, building a 17-4 advantage before Social got a foothold in the match and began to eat into the deficit.

The last end arrived with Social still five shots adrift and Holden had one wood left to convert one down to five up. The jack trembled as the wood passed by and Social went down 16-22.

Lesley Johnson, Brenda Plumpton, Hazel Marke and Margaret Holden are back in Leamington this week for the senior fours.

Back home, Alton Social plucked victory from the jaws of defeat against Cove to reach the semi-finals of the Hampshire mixed Top Club. Hazel Marke and Adam White recorded wins in the county singles, while Dick Holden and Brenda Plumpton turned a 10-shot deficit into victory in the pairs. John Kellow’s fours rink won through, but Social lost in the triples.

Margaret Holden reached the Hampshire Champion of Champions semi-finals by defeating Caz Harris (Basingstoke Town) 21-14.

Reece Graham, Dick Holden and Adam White are through to the area final of the county two-wood triples. Marjorie Rowledge and Brenda Plumpton have reached the county Golden Girls semi-finals.

Marc Gorman and Adam White are in the final of the Basingstoke & District pairs and Social have two teams in the North Hants ladies’ semi-finals: Pru Pointer, Marjorie Rowledge and Caroline Goodeve in the triples; Alice Atwell, Flo Ward, Margaret Holden and Brenda Plumpton; Lesley Johnson, Pru Pointer, Marjorie Rowledge and Caroline Goodeve both in the fours.

Alton Social finished runners-up in the Basingstoke Fours League Division One and topped their section in the Stan Hardman League.