The gringos are gathered in the Cheeky Chilli Taverna in downtown Madera Flota. Outside, a family of listless vultures doze upon the bell tower of the village church as the sun beats relentlessly down upon the shabby village square. A curtain at a window of the taverna is pulled open, revealing the worried face of the Cheeky Chilli captain Chris as he scans the rutted track leading out of the village.
“No sign”, he says as he turns to face the members of the Cheeky Chilli darts team gathered around him.
“How long have we got?” asks Chico, his hot headed vice captain.
“Not long”, replies the captain, as squad members Luck, Vin, Bernardo and Britt pointedly avoid eye contact with their tequila infused opponents lounging upon the rickety bar.
Finally, Pancho Dardos, captain of the Burrito Bandits turns his one-good eye in the direction of Captain Chris. Removing the soggy butt of a cheroot from between his blackened teeth, Pancho whispers menacingly, “Five minutes gringo and we claim the game.”
For, with the league title hanging upon the outcome of this crucial game in the Acapulco 301 League and with the scores tied at 3-3, still has the last man of the Cheeky Chillies failed to make an appearance. The finger on the minute hand of the clock above the bar clicks threateningly nearer to the deadline, as the barman pours another round of celebratory drinks into the glasses of soon to be crowned champions, the blathered Burritos.
Suddenly, the somnolent vultures upon the bell tower begin to squawk in consternation as the sound of thundering hooves upon the rutted track fractures the tense atmosphere within the bar. The Chilli contingent throw open the door of the taverna, shading their eyes against the setting sun as a horsemen gallops frenetically in their direction. With the clock reading a minute to go, the tousle haired tungsten slinger leaps from the saddle and strides into the bar, as his team mates whoop and holler with delight.
Minutes later, young Danny O’Duggan has despatched hapless opponent Juan Direction in seven emphatic darts. His opening first throw of 71, is rapidly followed by a 180, the victory assured when his next dart thuds satisfyingly into the bulls eye. Little wonder that the headline in the Acapulco Daily Bugle reads;
“Bandits Defeated In Local Village Shootout By Magnificent Seven!”
A century and a half later, there is a distinct feeling of déjà vu in the air as we reach the penultimate week of what has been an enthralling winter campaign. And nowhere more so than at the Highbury Club, where two of the teams still vying for the league pennant come together in a match of immense importance.
Things seem to be going the way of the local ‘A’ team as Ray Connolly gets them off to the best of possible starts. But when Mark Smith snatches a share of the spoils on double nine in game two, thus saving his colleagues from a 2-0 deficit, suddenly the impetus swings dramatically in the direction of table toppers Dockers ‘A’.
A 102 finish by Lee Shewan helps the visitors into an unassailable lead before last man Tom Duggan strides to the oche with the points already safely in the bag. Minutes later, young Tommy has despatched his opponent with seven emphatic darts. His opening first throw of 71, is rapidly followed by a 180, the victory assured when his next dart thuds satisfyingly into the bulls eye, thus mirroring events in the Cheeky Chilli all those years ago.
This defeat for the Highbury outfit brings to an end their gallant pursuit of the league title for another year, whilst victory for Dockers ‘A’ star Adam Blyth moves him to the top of the league averages for the first time this season. Still though is the destination of this year’s league title remain in doubt, as second in the table Fleetwood Cons remain just a solitary point in arrears as Jeff Walkington leads them on their way to a comprehensive 7-1 demolition of the Blasted Heathens.
Awaiting the Cons on the final Friday are the fourth placed Olympians, this after Cavan Thake helps them to a 7-1 victory in the Land That Cabs Forgot. A solitary win for Cannonball Carnell is all the aged ones manage to muster, albeit that his win over Dave Coulborn sees the Mount player drop back into a three way Champion of Champions tie with teammates Steve Riley and Andy Parry Jones.
Elsewhere, the Collapsible Comrades manage to chalk up a fortuitous 6-2 victory over hostesses, the Femme Fatales. Jonathan Bridge is best this week for the victorious visitors, with Tracey Cunningham a dynamic darting dazzler for the luckless lasses.
No joy to report this week for the Bowling Boys, this after sliding to a 5-3 defeat at the hands of the Square Legs. Cricketer Tony Kemp is delighted to spend a little time in the metropolis, this after being stuck in the suburbs of mediocrity for the majority of the campaign, whilst Arthur Armstrong follows up his bowls win earlier in the evening with a successful foray to the oche for the befuddled biased boys.
Dockers ‘B’ finally get a win under their belt this week, a tonic indeed as they look forward to having a say in the title race against Neighbours from Hell Dockers ‘B’ on the final Friday. Chris is the best of the Blyth’s this time out as they record a 5-3 victory over Deaduns, for whom Tony Brogden is cap, head and shoulders above the rest of the Juggernaut.
After much wailing and gnashing of teeth of late, the Chinese Telephone Directory at last manage to field a full squad this week. Accordingly, they record a Brian Wilson inspired 5-3 victory over visitors the Fuzzy Ducks. Andy Gratrix is, not for the first time this season, the ripest Strawberry on show in a disappointing punnet.
Our final match this week takes place on Beach Road, where once again the much-improved Bobby Walker takes centre stage for the hosts. John Shaw is on top of his game for a triumphant Highbury ‘B’ outfit, for whom Geoff Ward is also suitably ebullient after rattling in a 102 finish and thus securing his second win of the evening upon the oche and green.
This Friday is semi finals night in the knockout competitions with the Kings Own taking on the Fleetwood Cons at the Mount and the Rossall Tavern playing the Mount at the Dockers in the Team Knockout. In the Plate, the Bowling Ladies will be trying to make it through to the final in their first season as they take on the Strawberry Gardens at the Cons, whilst at the Bowling Club the Cricket Club will be playing the Ashley.
Good luck to all eight teams and thanks for reading.