With Colin Green unavailable, Greig McDonell (with his dodgy shoulder) was forced back into the team to join forces with David Melrose & Iain Johnstone as they took on West Lothian 3 in Division 1. With the first two matches played simultaneously, Team Captain Greig was a worried man as both games entered deciding fifth ends. Fortunately for the visitors, David and Iain pulled through and that seemed to knock the stuffing out of the hosts. Team 1 went on to record a 9-1 victory, Jamie Arnott defeating Iain in the last match of the night.
Team 2 had difficult matches on consecutive nights as they played at home to Edinburgh International and away to Murrayfield, both teams chasing down Team 1 at the top of the Division 1 table. Krzysztof Laszkiewicz, Charlie Brindley and Gary McDougal took advantage of Edinburgh International turning up understrength with both Ken Benjamin and Oscar Bi playing up. Despite three wins for Andrew Mannion, 2 wins from Gary and one each from Krzysztof and Charlie kept the hosts in the match. The crucial doubles match was won in 4 ends by Gary and Charlie resulting in a surprising, but well deserved, point for the hosts. The following night it was Team 2’s turn to play understrength as Sonny Taylor played up from Division 3 in place of Charlie v Murrayfield. At 4-0 down it looked like a very one sided contest but wins from Gary and Krzysztof got the nerves of the hosts dangling a little. It wasn’t to be, however, as the Edinburgh side ran out 7-3 winners after a great win in Match 9 by Sonny.
In Division 2, James & Abby Wighton were joined by Ian Hislop as they travelled to Bathgate to face a two man West Lothian side. Surely a guaranteed two points? Any slim hopes of gaining promotion this season were effectively finished as the visitors could only muster a 5-5 draw, all the more disappointing after the visitors won the first two matches of the night to effectively give them a 5-0 advantage. That must be worth an award for the comeback of the season for Barrie Hills and Joseph Tur. The doubles match saw Ian and Abby lose out 13-11 in the fifth and by such fine margins……
In Division 3, Team 4 of Julian Taylor, Tony Brentnall and Sonny Taylor hosted Edinburgh University 5 having defeated the Uni side 10-0 in the first half of the season. Maybe University have improved since that match or perhaps the hosts have got worse, but whatever the reason, this was a bit of a struggle and after a narrow 5th end loss in the doubles the score was 4-3 to Penicuik. Although Tony secured at least a point in Match 8, a surprise loss for Julian meant the match went down to the wire as Sonny pulled through in Match 10 for a 6-4 win, all three players winning two.
Team 5’s start to the second half of the season in Division 4 hasn’t been great. In one of the tightest Divisions in the League, they know that every point is valuable. Having suffered a bad loss to Fife in Week 17, they faced Haddington 4, themselves not out of the running for promotion. Craig Linton played up from Team 6 as he joined forces with John Bald and Craig Johnson. 3-0 down in the blink of an eye (two tables being used) and a miracle was required. An 11-9 in the 5th win for John and a terrific 3-0 win for Craig L in the next three matches reduced the deficit to 4-2. As with so many matches this week the doubles was to prove pivotal – a battling performance from Craig J and John to take it to 5 ends but alas a bit of a one-sided fifth saw the hosts take a 5-2 lead. A 12-10 in the fifth victory for Craig J was added to by a straightforward win for John and they were still in the match at 5-4 down. No pressure on Craig L then in the last match of the night, playing up and facing Haddington’s best player!! Had he converted a couple of chances in the first end (12-14) things may have been different but a 3-0 victory gave Haddington a 6-4 win and further dented Team 5’s title hopes.
Team 6 welcomed back Louis McLeod as he joined Rachel Petrie and Adam Woodhouse in their home fixture v Edinburgh International 5. This was a terrifically tight match – the visitors held 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 leads before the doubles victory for the hosts (Louis & Adam) gave Team 6 their first lead of the night at 4-3. A win for Louis in Match 8 secured at least a point but back came the visitors with a win for Mike Eggar v Rachel. 5-4 and the last match pitted Adam against John Bradshaw. From 1-0 down, Adam turned the match around to lead 2-1 only for John to sneak the 4th 11-9. The deciding end and Team 6 had blown it – Adam found himself 10-6 down. But hold on – great resilience shown by Adam as he stormed back to win 12-10 and with it a 6-4 victory for Team 6 – 7 points out of a possible 8 in their last 4 matches – oh if only they hadn’t had such a dreadful start to the season!
Finally, in a busy week, Team 7 of George Wilson, Hannah McDonell and Kristian Skotzen visited Haddington 5. Going into the doubles the scores were tied at 3-3. Hannah & George took a 2-1 lead but then the wheels came off and they succumbed to a fifth end loss. As George kept the visitors in it, Kristian had a mammoth 5 end struggle against Liam Govan with his new found chopping style. When Kristian took a 2-1 lead, he looked likely to secure at least a point for the visitors – an 11-4 fourth end loss put paid to that and in a tight 5th he lost out 11-8. Could Hannah rescue a point for the visitors against big bad Martin Hayman? In short no! Despite winning the first set she succumbed 12-10 in the 4th for a disappointing 6-4 defeat for Team 7. George was again star man with 3 singles wins and Hannah picked up the other victory for the visitors.
The player of the week decision this week is more difficult than last week. David and Greig from Team 1, Louis from Team 6 and George from Team 7 were our only undefeated players - George lost int he doubles so he's out of the running! The other three were all involved in doubles victories for their sides. We were asked to also consider Hannah who won every match she played at the weekend in the Schools Championships (11 out of 11) – but hey she was rubbish in the League – so sorry Hannah, you’re out of the running as well! But this award, as we say regularly, is not just about being undefeated. It’s about performing under pressure and winning when it matters most to the team effort – the undefeated night for Louis wouldn’t have been enough for the overall victory were it not for his teammate’s amazing comeback to secure a 6-4 win for Team 6 in the last match of the night at Ladywood on Wednesday. Louis himself was telling the tale at the Edinburgh Schools Championship on Saturday – 10-6 down and he was completely out of it – Rachel also commented on the excellent self-control and calmness in adversity (not to mention winning the doubles with Louis). This week’s winner is Adam – well deserved.
And finally, our controversy of the Week. We were struck last week by the number of matches which were played with understrength teams. It would be interesting for someone to analyse how many times matches have been played with players playing up from lower teams or with only two players – well interesting if you’re really boring and have got nothing else to do with your time – over to our winner of last week’s “most Boring Club Member Award” – whilst sunning yourself in Portugal maybe you could have a look at this for us! Anyway, we digress – In our own Club, Team 1 nearly pulled up someone from a lower team but in the end Greig had to grin and bear it and fight through the pain barrier (maybe he should get Adam’s award after all!), Team 2 played against Ed Int who turned up with 2 players playing up then themselves had to play up Sonny the following night, Team 3 played against two man opposition from West Lothian, Team 5 had to play Craig up from Team 6 and had Team 7 had anyone below them they would probably have called on someone for Thursday night at Haddington! Oh, hang on, our man in Portugal has been in touch – the leaders in this category are our friends from West Lothian with over 50 playing ups with North Merchiston and University in the 30s. He didn’t have time seemingly to go through the results to see on how many occasions teams have turned up with only two players. It is clear to us though that, at least part of this, must be due to Clubs taking the view that it’s not worthwhile trying to seek postponements of matches. If you can turn up with a team (however that team may be made up) just do it. And maybe that was the intention of the stricter enforcement of the postponements rule – if it was, the League have certainly achieved the outcome they had hoped for – given all of the above let’s just move on to the next natural step – yip you guessed it – just do away with postponements altogether.
At Haddington on Thursday night we were told of a match involving a Haddington team where there had been some real difficulties with certain umpiring decisions. Briefly put, the opposing team player seemed to effectively talk a very young and inexperienced umpire into making certain decisions. All very well for the League to tell us that Umpires need to take control but when a 12 year old child is being forcibly told by a much older player what to do, it is fantasy to think that the Umpire has any control – just look at Thursday night itself when Haddington’s big bad Martin called a let whilst playing 12 year old Hannah just as she’d hit a winner – he wouldn’t have got away with that if he’d been playing a more senior member of the McDonell family……
On we go to Week 20 – oh what fun.