The tightest battle, certainly in terms of relegation, is in Division 1, and following Team 2’s disastrous loss to Corstorphine last week their Division 1 status is going to be decided by matches in the next couple of weeks. Their Week 23 encounter with runaway League leaders Murrayfield 3 was not a “targeted” match for their survival and so it proved. In singles play only 2 of the nine matches played went more than 3 ends, 4 end losses for both Charlie Brindley and Gary McDougal. A good doubles victory, however, for Charlie and Ian Hislop meant that Team 2 avoided a whitewash. With other results not going their way, Team 2 are in significant difficulty – more on that later.
After Team 3’s win v Haddington in Week 23, Iain Johnstone Krzysztof Laszkiewicz and James Wighton made a visit to the Gyle to take on Murrayfield 8. When Anna Porsche and Ben Jamieson won matches 3 and 4 on the night the tie was level at 2-2. Two good wins for the visitors relieved some pressure before James and Krys played out a mammoth 5 setter in the doubles. After an 11-4 third end win gave the Penicuik duo a 2-1 advantage, they looked in control, but the Murrayfield pairing won the final two ends 12-10, 11-9 to cut the deficit to 4-3 and when that was followed by a win for Ben in Match 8 suddenly the match was level at 4-4. Fortunately for the visitors the last two matches both went their way and a 6-4 victory was secured – 3 wins for Iain, 2 for Krys and 1 for James as they maintained second position in the Division 2 table.
Team 4 have had a tough few weeks in Division 2 and that continued as they faced Murrayfield 7 at Ladywood last Wednesday. 2-0 down in the blink of an eye before Team Captain Julian Taylor won a close fifth end decider against Richard Lo to get the hosts on the board. Wins in matches 4 and 5 for the visitors, however, put them firmly in the driving seat before Julian once again went the distance, this time against Masoud Nowbaveh, winning 11-8 in the fifth to keep the match alive. When he then combined with Taylor jnr for a 5 end doubles victory, Team 4 were in with a chance of getting something out of the match. Tony Brentnall couldn’t get anything from match 8 and Julian’s great run of five end victories came to an end as he lost match 9, 12-10 in the fifth, and with that the visitors had secured the win. Sonny won the last match of the night as the hosts fell to an unfortunate 6-4 defeat.
Finally, Team 5 paid a visit to the wonderfully named St Leonards Land as they took on Edinburgh University 4 in Division 3. The students look likely to pick up the second promotion place from the division and in Brian Ng and Louie Tsz Lun Wong they must have two of the most attacking and best players in the Division. The Girl Power combination of Rachel Petrie, Hannah McDonell and Older McDonell took on the students. Matches were played on two tables and Hannah was nearly finished match 3 before Greig had completed a mammoth battle with Brian in match 1 (Rachel having lost match 2). Young McDonell did her part as McDonell senior struggled with the all-out attacking skills of the student – what division is this?? A 5-end victory for Greig before he then took on Louie – an even better attacker it seems!! – A 5 end victory there as well. With matches 5 and 6 both going the way of the students, the tie was level at 3-3. According to the students they were pushed for time (unlikely) so asked to play a further singles match before the doubles. That was the crucial match of the evening between Rachel and the University’s number 3, Alex. Although Rachel won the second end, Alex won in 4 and with that it appeared that the chances of a point for the visitors were gone as the all-out attacking force of the students were pitted against Rachel and Hannah in the doubles. We can’t quite describe the looks of angst and fear on the student’s faces as Rachel and Hannah somehow got themselves into a 2-1 lead and 10-9 up in the 4th. A match point to, probably, secure the most unlikely point of the season! Ah it wasn’t to be – a 12-10 win in the fourth was followed by a comfortable fifth end win and when Brian won the last match of the night v Rachel a 6-4 win for the students was secured.
Only Iain and Greig were undefeated this week and we know the reasons why they can’t win our Player of the Week Award. Although in a losing team, this man did everything he could to keep Team 4’s match alive – 2 excellent 5 end wins together with a terrific 5 end doubles victory – well done to Julian.
And so to our Controversy of the Week section. Not the Heriot Watt scenario again is it? Only sort of! As we mentioned earlier, Division 1 sees an absolute dogfight taking place to avoid relegation. As far as we can see any two teams from 6 might fall out of the Division come April. There might even be an argument that Corstorphine 1 aren’t safe 7th from bottom! One of the teams in danger are Murrayfield 6 – they, however, have managed to pick up 4 points in their last two matches to move them out of immediate trouble. Last week they picked up a 7-3 victory against fellow club-mates Murrayfield 5. Now as far as we can see there’s not really anything controversial about that – the youngsters of Team 6 are capable of beating virtually anyone in the division on their day – the only reason we mention this fixture is because Murrayfield’s own reporting of this match on their Twitter page states:
“Team VI beat an understrength team V in tonight's derby match at the church hall.”
To an outsider looking in, does that suggest that Team 6 got a bit of an easier ride from their Clubmates than might otherwise have been the case? Had a different combination of players for Team 5 played who knows whether it would have made any difference? Our friends from Haddington took umbrage last year when our Team 5 went on a run with the help of players playing up from Teams 6 and 7 to try and ensure promotion from Division 4. Is it appropriate to put Club before Team?? We remember making the argument to our East Lothian friends that their last match of the season in Division 4 saw promotion contenders Haddington 4 take on their own Team 5 who had nothing to play for. Would it ever be conceivable that a Club would allow another of their teams ruin the chances of a team in that position – now we are not saying that the “outsiders” in such a scenario should deliberately throw the match or anything of that sort but taking the Haddington match as an example, lo and behold, Team 5’s highest ranked player at the time, Captain Martin Hayman, didn’t play. Did that make it easier for the team pushing for promotion to secure the victory – it must have done. Maybe it was just a coincidence that their best player couldn’t make that match? Is there anything wrong with choosing to field a weaker side, if anyone did that? That’s when things can perhaps become controversial…..
Now in fairness to Murrayfield, and before we get anyone from there thinking we’re trying to slur their reputation, we don’t actually see that the Derby match was anything other than a fair fight – we think the only controversial thing is Murrayfield themselves referring to their Team 5 as being “understrength” – 3 of the four players registered from the beginning of the season for Team 5 played – and in the first half of the season the score was 5-5 so this was always going to be a close match. Enough about that non-event. If Murrayfield 6 were to beat Murrayfield 3 in the last match of the season needing a win to survive – that would be a different story!!
What about players playing at a lower level than their rating score suggests – Iain Johnstone for example. We raised earlier in the season that Iain is not allowed to play doubles because his rating, at the beginning of the season, was more than 100 points greater than players in the team above. Young Charlie in Murrayfield 6 is an example of someone who is improving at an amazing rate. He is well ahead of all his teammates and more than 100 points better than all of Murrayfield 5 – indeed he is significantly higher rated than all of Murrayfield 4 and ahead of 50% of Team 3! Should we monitor ratings to that extent and when a player becomes clearly “better” than others in teams above then sanction that Club, as has happened with others at the start of the season? We think that would be taking things too far but the principle / rationale behind the rule is the same – if we are going to place significant weight on ratings and apply sanctions based on those ratings, then why shouldn’t the same rule be applied throughout the season??
And to end, the Edinburgh University Students were left with a comment by one member of our Team 5 last Friday that seems to have amused his teammates – what on earth are you guys doing playing at this level he said, pointing out that they were far too good to be playing Division 3 – the nerve of the man……