On the table, we have a number of new look teams this season and 5 of our 6 teams were in action in Week 1. The season kicked off for the club on Tuesday 19th September with away matches for Teams 2, 4 and 6. Team 2 deservedly took their place in Division 1 after their runners-up finish in Div 2 last season. Returning for them are James Wighton, Hannah McDonell and Ian Hislop – they are joined by David Melrose, back in action after some time away from competitive TT. They faced Edinburgh Sports Club in what looked like a difficult start, although in fairness all their matches look tricky – just ask our Team 2 from last year who were relegated with 2 wins from 22 matches! This game was effectively decided by three consecutive matches that went the distance to 11-9 fifth end deciders. Match 4 saw David claw back a 2-0 deficit against Alexander Asyunkin to force a fifth end. He held his nerve for a terrific 11-9 win. Match 5 then saw Chris Shaw stroll in to a 2-0 lead against Ian. But like David before him, the Penicuik player hit back and secured an 11-9 fifth end victory. Match 6 saw Richard Lo take a 2-0 lead against James – when James then won ends 3 and 4 history was repeating itself! On this occasion, however, it was the home player who got over the line for an 11-9 fifth end victory. Those 3 matches summed up how close the match was, and it was fitting in the end that a 5-5 draw was secured. David won 3 and Ian added 2 for the visitors. Alex won 2 whilst Chris Shaw and Richard won 1 each for the hosts who secured the draw with a win in the doubles.
In Division 3 Team 4 made the trip to Haddington with a new look trio – after missing virtually all of last season through injury it was great to see team captain Craig Linton back in action and he was joined by Aidan Craig, promoted up a team after an excellent first season in the league last year, and Kristian Skotzen returning after a couple of seasons away, with new dodgy rubber in tow! They faced Haddington 5 of Don Holden, Liam Govan and Neil Mackinnon and got off to a fantastic start, not dropping an end in the first three singles matches. When that feat was repeated in games 4, 5 and 6 the match was over as a contest. Craig and Aidan combined for a 3-0 doubles victory, and it was 7-0. Only two matches on the night went beyond three ends – Match 8 saw Aidan lose ends 3 and 4 against Liam Govan, before being more aggressive in the decider which he won 11-7. Kristian won the first end of Match 9, 11-2 but Neil then worked out the “funny rubber” losing the second 12-10 before winning the third 14-12. Kristian had too much though and won the fourth 11-9. A perfect start for Team 4 was then completed as Craig won match 10 – a terrific start to Team 4’s Division 3 campaign.
Our newly formed Team 6 could also be found in Haddington on Tuesday night as they took on Haddington 7 in the newly created Division 5. Good to see the league looking so healthy and needing to introduce a new division. Roscoe Cairney, Ian Millar and Mat Dyluk took to the table for Penicuik. This is our most inexperienced team in the league – Mat’s first ever competitive TT match and Ian has only played half a dozen competitive games having played for the first time last season. Team Captain Roscoe isn’t exactly a veteran of competitive play either – only 11 games under his belt! This match was about gaining experience for this trio. For Mat and Ian, they had set themselves points targets and they can be pleased that although no ends were won by them, they both secured some good individual game scores. If Roscoe can convert his practice form into matchplay, we are sure he will prove to be a difficult opponent for anyone. He was unlucky in match 7 to lose out in 5 ends but got his revenge in Match 10 coming back from 2-1 down for an 11-9 fifth end victory. So, a 9-1 defeat for Team 6 but positives to take into the rest of the season.
Thursday saw our first home matches of the new season as Teams 3 and 5 were in action. Relegated from Div 1 last season as Team 2, Krzysztof Laszkiewicz, Gary McDougal and Charlie Brindley all return this season and they are joined by one of our players of the year from last season, Bob Porteous who had an excellent first season in Division 3. They started their Div 2 campaign against Edinburgh Sports Club 2 promoted from Div 3 last season. Bob’s first ever Division 2 match against Anand Sundaram went the distance, 2-1 down he turned the deficit around and crept over the line with an 11-9 fifth end win. Former Premier League player, Keith Walker then faced Gary and his experience told as Gary fell to a four-end defeat. Team Captain Krzysztof then made hard work of Euan Rae in Match 3 – maybe the fact that his new bat (first one in 20 years) actually had some "non-dead" rubber caused him some issues – from 2-0 down Euan forced a decider, but the home player came though 11-4. Match 4 also went to five ends, Gary unlucky to lose out to Anand as the scores were tied at 2-2. Bob then won in four ends to restore the lead and when Krzysztof then defeated Keith, the home side had a two-game advantage for the first time. That became a 3-game buffer when Bob and Krzysztof won the doubles and a win for Gary in match 8 secured the victory. The last two matches were shared as the hosts ran out 7-3 winners – 3 for Krzysztof, 2 for Bob and 1 for Gary to add to the doubles victory. Some really tight matches on the night and Team 3 realise that Division 2 is going to be tricky!
Finally on Thursday night Team 5 started their division 4 adventure as Rachel Petrie, Patrick Shanks and Chamika Diyunugalge faced Haddington 6. The first two matches of the night were to prove crucial to the outcome of this encounter. The young Randall brothers (Fergus and Blair) were involved in two fifth end deciders – first up Blair took on Rachel and after Rachel won the first end 11-2 this looked like one way traffic. The youngster improved in the second but still lost out 13-11. Unfortunately for Rachel, the improvement continued for Blair as he won the next two ends 11-8, 11-9 and he had the momentum in the decider winning 11-6. Patrick then faced Fergus and an equally impressive first end for Patrick saw him comfortably over the line 11-4. He lost a tight second 11-9 but won the third 11-7 to put him back in control. In a topsy turvy affair the Haddington youngster then won the fourth 11-7 before securing another great win for the visitors with an 11-8 fifth end win. The brothers were the difference on the night, undefeated in their other matches as well and combining for a win in the doubles. All three home players picked up a win against Haddington’s third player as the visitors ran out 7-3 winners. Team Captain Jim Jack, absent from the first match, didn’t want to point out that generally youngsters improve more rapidly over the course of a season than their elder opponents do! He’ll maybe be busy for the return in January.
And so a very balanced week for the Club – two wins, two losses and a draw! What about our first player of the week award? 5 players were undefeated in singles play this week – well done to all of Team 4, David from Team 2 and Krzysztof from Team 3. In terms of importance of the victories to their team we can look no further than David – 3 wins in a 5-5 draw. In terms of the most comfortable wins of the night though then Craig walks that one – 9 ends of singles played 9 ends won – and a 3-0 win in the doubles. Craig though couldn’t even win the player of the match award – that went to Kristian- maybe the Haddington opposition liked Kristian’s style of play or the fact that he’s such a nice guy – unlike Craig of course who can be really difficult to get along with!! In the end coming back from 2-0 down in the battle of the two number 1's for an 11-9 deciding end win swung it for us - well done David.
And finally, our controversy of the week section. It’s only week 1. It seems everyone was on their very best behaviour. The only thing that’s possibly controversial, or at least has the potential to be, is the fact that the league has done away with the playing-up restriction rules for the beginning of the season. They have indicated that they will be more flexible with team registrations and the 100-point rule will be relaxed. And play-ups are being allowed for new players in order to assess their strength more quickly. Thus, as we start the new season, for the first time in many years, there are no play-up restrictions. In fairness the League has indicated that may change if obvious anomalies exist. We suppose this could lead to clubs strengthening lower teams with higher rated players but in reality, we can’t see clubs really bending the rules that much? The area where this relaxed rule could cause more problems is where multiple teams from the same club exist in one division. Balance out the playing strength across the teams?? We don’t have that problem with 1 representative from the club in each of the six divisions.
The only other thing that’s new for this season seems to be that all clubs are being issued with red and yellow cards! Oh dear – talk about a recipe for disaster. We’re taking bets now on who is going to be the first umpire to use them??? The money from Penicuik is on Colin probably red carding one of his own teammates - he’s got history!!!
Oh what fun lies ahead - it’s great to be back.