With the way Team 1’s free weeks have fallen, the last time Greig McDonell, David Melrose and Iain Johnstone played together was about 6 weeks ago. It has been much much much longer though since there was a derby match between the Club’s top two teams (we think at least 15 years!) Team 2 called up James Wighton from Team 3 to join Krzysztof Laszkiewicz and Gary McDougal as they looked to spring a surprise on Team 1. After the first round of singles matches, a surprise result looked about as likely as there being nothing controversial to report this week as David, Iain and Greig all secured fairly straightforward victories. In the next round of singles there were further wins for Greig and Iain. David came up against an in-form Gary (who had taken an end of Iain in his first match) and David looked bewildered by Gary’s funny bat “attacking play” as he lost out in 4 ends. Greig decided he needed a closer look at Gary in the doubles so chose himself and David to face Krys and Gary and a three-end victory resulted. The match was over as a contest with a 6-1 advantage to Team 1. Fresh from viewing Gary up close, Greig then realised that it maybe wasn’t just David’s inability to play unorthodox players which cost him the win as Gary stormed into a 2-0 lead. The match was pulled back to 2-2 before Gary, who never stopped attacking, secured another terrific win, leaving Greig shell shocked. Wins for David and Iain rounded off an 8-2 victory for Team 1, a result which returned them to the top of the Division 1 table.
As the 1 v 2 Derby match was taking place, in the other half of the hall, Team 5 of John Bald, Craig Johnson and Stuart Bennett took on Team 6 of Louis McLeod, Rachel Petrie and Adam Woodhouse. Team 5 knew that a win was essential to get their momentum going again after a disappointing defeat to WL 8 the previous week which had resulted in them losing top spot in the Division 4 title race. Louis has been a stalwart for Team 6 in recent weeks and he started the night off with an 11-9 in the fifth victory against John. Three wins on the bounce followed for Team 5 to give them the advantage before Louis was victorious against Craig. Match 6 between Stuart and Rachel was always going to be pivotal. When Rachel took a 2-1 advantage it looked like the match score was going to be levelled at 3-3 but back came Stuart to level at 2-2. Rachel got off to a cracking start in the final end and changed sides at 5-2 up and looked in control against a dejected Stuart. From there, however, something changed as Rachel won only one more point as she went down to an 11-6 fifth end defeat and Team 5 secured a crucial 4-2 lead. The doubles was equally as close. Rachel and Louis pulled back from 2-1 down to force a fifth end but seemed to run out of steam in the 5th losing 11-7. A point secured for Team 5 and that was quickly turned into two points as Craig defeated Adam in Match 8. In the end Team 5 comfortably won 7-3, Louis providing the three wins for Team 6 – but this match really could have been very different if matches 6 and 7 had gone the other way.
Team 5's win briefly put them back to the top of the Division 4 table but they needed a favour from Team 7 to keep them there. They travelled to Bathgate trying to prevent WL 8 from returning to top spot. Having lost 7-3 to WL 9 the previous week, hopes were not too high for Team 7’s chances. Perhaps WL 8 took them too lightly as well – in what must be one of their best victories of the season, George Wilson, Phil Daly and Kristian Skotzen secured a fantastic 7-3 win to ensure that by Thursday morning Team 5 had retained their position at the top of the table. George’s form of late is worthy of special mention – he’s won 23 out of 27 matches whilst playing for Team 7 and has played up twice for Team 5 winning six out of six – that’s 29 out of 33 singles matches won this year compared to last season where he finished with 29 wins for the whole season – what a terrific improvement and if he can keep it going he’s surely in with a chance of being our “player of the Season” by April.
Staying in Division 4, Team 6 had the opportunity of putting their derby disappointment behind them as they faced Edinburgh International on Friday night. And it was a positive bounce back performance by Team 6 as they secured an 8-2 victory against a two-man side. Another undefeated night for Louis was added to by wins from both Rachel and Craig Linton.
Team 3 faced a trip to Edinburgh Sports Club in Division 2 and for the second match in a row they were involved in a tight tense affair. James Wighton was joined by daughter, Abby and Chris Markey and when Abby lost a tight five-ender in Match 1, the visitors knew they were in for a tough night. Wins for James and Chris gave the Midlothian trio a 2-1 advantage before ESC then recorded two wins out of the next three matches to bring the scores level at 3-3. A win for James and Chris in the doubles saw Team 3 once again hold the advantage only for Match 8 to go the way of the home side – 4-4 going into the last two singles and the match was in the balance again – a win for Abby secured a point in Match 9 but James couldn’t quite pull off the victory as the spoils were shared between the teams – probably a fair result in a match where neither team ever held more than a 1 game advantage.
After winning last week’s award for the most shambolic team, Team 4 had a point to prove as they took on ESC 4 at Ladywood in Division 3. Julian Taylor, Tony Brentnall and Sonny Taylor were in fine form as they raced out of the blocks and never looked back. In probably his best performance since returning to the Club, Tony was in terrific form in not dropping a set whilst Sonny bounced back from a couple of difficult matches as he too was undefeated. Going for a 10-0 whitewash victory, Team Captain Julian stumbled at the last hurdle as ESC won match 10 on the night. A terrific 9-1 victory for Team 4 returned them to third place in the Division 3 table.
And so to our Player of the Week Award for Week 13. Iain, Tony, Sonny, Louis and George were all undefeated this week in singles play. We’ve already commented upon the terrific play from George this season and he was crucial in Team 7’s win against then League Leaders WL 8 – but he lost the doubles! (and you won the award in Week 4, George – don’t be greedy!) Special mention also goes this week to Louis who has won 25 out of 30 matches for Team 6 – without him, Team 6 would have taken some real batterings – but Louis, you also lost the doubles so you’re out of the running! Tony and Sonny were both undefeated for Team 4 – Tony never dropped a set – but hold on, ESC voted Sonny as Player of the Match – what did you do to antagonise your opponents Tony?? Sonny also won the doubles, but wait a minute, we think Tony played a better match than you Sonny so you’re both out of the running! That only leaves Iain – he never played in the doubles – it would be unfair to award it to him! This award is not just about being undefeated – two players stand out from the crowd – in the Division 1 Derby match not only did Gary play some fantastic TT in defeating two players rated much higher than him (allegedly 300 and 200 points behind Greig and David respectively), but he did so whilst completely maintaining his control whilst his opponents were losing theirs! He had the confidence to keep on attacking and the concentration to ignore some mind games from the other end of the table – a terrific night for Gary and you were so nearly our player of the Week! That award, however, goes to a player who hopefully has made a breakthrough in match play over the last few weeks. His two wins were not just hugely important to his own team’s victory, they were also crucial to keeping Team 5 at the top of the Division 4 table and who knows how important that might be at the end of the season! He also defeated a player rated more than 200 points higher than him and unlike previous matches, he managed to pull through two tight five-enders – Well done to Kristian, Week 13’s player of the Week.
And finally, our controversy of the week section.
Umpiring again came under the microscope at Penicuik on Wednesday. In Team 4’s match v ESC, there were issues raised regarding the service rule and what amounted to a legal service. This first reared its head during a game umpired by ESC involving Julian. Julian was pulled up as it was indicated that he wasn't serving from the flat of his palm and it looked like the ball was touching his fingers. After a slight re-adjustment he just carried on with the game, aware of the apparent issue. According to Julian this may have actually ended up putting off his opponent more than him. So, an Umpire who had clearly been reading up on the rules! Well maybe not – in a chat afterwards with said Umpire it was seemingly mentioned that the only reason Julian had been pulled up was because Chris from Team 3 had pulled up said Umpire the previous evening when he had been playing up in Division 2!! Team 4’s view was that this, and another incident when Sonny was pulled up by another ESC umpire, somewhat spoiled what was otherwise a well-tempered game.
But hey, if there are infringements to the service Rule, they should be pulled up. The problem, as we see it, is that there is so much inconsistency about the enforcement of this Rule that it causes ill-feeling when it is raised! If everyone took the same view on the Rule, then at least serving in general would probably improve. As it is, those who do bring it up are viewed as pedantic and are seen to be argumentative and confrontational. People get upset by being told that they are doing something illegal – they shouldn’t but it’s a natural reaction. Of course, the other thing we need to all accept is that the Umpire is always right! It’s his / her job to enforce the Rules. Challenging the Umpire, a la John McEnroe, doesn’t help and is not conducive to a happy atmosphere – just ask Krzysztof – he had to put up with our President’s various challenges to his Umpiring errors this week (sorry decisions not errors!) The Umpire is always right – unless it’s not in your favour!
Only one week of league play left before the first half of the season comes to an end – where has the time gone?? Roll on Week 14.