First up was the trio of Rachel Petrie, Roscoe Cairney and Ian Millar as they travelled to face Corstorphine on Tuesday evening at Napier University. This was a first for new league players Roscoe and Ian but they had a defending champion in their team, Rachel having been a vital part of the trio who won the cup last season. They faced a difficult trio of Tommy Sutherland, Bill Batten and Douglas Morton. Rachel took on Douglas first – 6 of a start for Rachel in a race to 13. Having lost the first set 13-9, something seemed to click in the second end as she ran out a 13-4 winner. She was a strong favourite when she picked up the next set 13-8 but a terrible fourth set seemed to knock Rachel’s confidence as she succumbed to a five end loss. Bill v Roscoe was a straight fight to 11 with Bill getting a one point start somehow! Roscoe did well in the first losing narrowly 11-9 but didn’t really get going in the next two ends as he fell to a straight sets defeat. The biggest handicap margin of the night saw Ian hold a 12 point start in a race to 16 against Tommy. Tommy showed his experience against our Newbie with a straight sets victory. 3-0 and the visitors were in big trouble. Rachel briefly gave the visitors hope with a four set win over Bill but neither Roscoe nor Ian could win their second matches as the Midlothian side fell to a 5-1 defeat.
Next up on Wednesday evening was a trip to Gullane for Greig McDonell, Jim Jack and Aidan Craig. Gullane is a lovely place on a sunny summer afternoon – not quite so nice to get to on a rainy miserable night in October – this trio surely pulled the short straw with this tie! They faced three new players to the league all with high handicaps. A word on our opponents – they were terrific hosts and very good sports. After the match it was tea and biscuits all round - a practice which died out a good few years ago – well done Gullane for bucking that trend. And so to the game – Aidan started off giving a two shot lead to his opponent in a race to 11. Aidan showed lovely composure and patience as he picked up the first match 3-0. At the same time Jim faced just a one point deficit but lost the first end 11-8 – by the time Greig looked round again though normality had been restored as Jim won the second end 11-4 and was surely coasting – oh hang on a minute – the next two ends went the way of the Gullane player by 11-4 score lines. Greig then took to the table 0-16 down in a race to 21 and managed to overcome the deficit to give the visitors a 2-1 lead. Aidan then picked up where he left off and made the score 3-1 before Greig lost out in his second match from 0-16 down – a five set loss left Greig asking why he hadn’t just lost in straight sets. Jim then picked up a crucial straight forward win to give the Midlothian side a 4-2 lead. That left Greig and Aidan to play simultaneously and both were able to secure wins to give Penicuik an excellent 6-2 win.
Finally, Thursday evening and the joy of being at home for James Wighton, Hannah McDonell and Chamika Diyunugalge as they faced Herriot Watt. This was Chamika’s first competitive match and he went straight on against a +6 player so only had a one point start – he got better as the match went on but lost out in three straight sets. James then faced Max Tuma (a fellow Division 2 player) but had to give Max a 7 point lead in a race to 14. This match was to prove crucial – a 13-15 loss was followed by a 14-12 win before an 11-14 loss was followed by a 16-14 win – the tension was there for all to see in the deciding fifth end and with the assistance of a net and an edge Max ran out a 14-10 winner – the hosts were in trouble. Hannah then faced another Division 2 player, Dominic Perry, and gave him a 4 point start in a race to 12. She got the hosts on the board with a good four end win. When James then won his second match the hosts pulled level at 2-2 before Dominic defeated Chamika to restore the student’s advantage. Match 6 was a classic - Hannah looked in real trouble at 2-1 down and 10-2 down in the fourth to Max. She came back remarkably to win the fourth end 13-11 before winning the decider 12-10. 3-3 overall and the match was back in the balance. Hannah and James then played simultaneously and Hannah completed an excellent night for her personally with a straight sets victory – could James provide the important fifth win? It wasn’t to be as Dominic won in three straight ends to force a deciding match between Chamika and Max. Only 3 of a start for Chamika and against Heriot Watt’s best player on the night he was a massive underdog – and so it proved – some great rallies but Max’s experience got him over the line in three straight sets and with that Heriot Watt claimed a narrow 5-4 victory.
And so, to our player of the week award for Week 5. Two players were undefeated in Handicap Cup Week – Hannah and Aidan. Now Aidan’s been in the running for this award about three times already this season (and never won it). This week he was playing with El Presidente who could see first-hand the progress he’s made – surely it’s his week this week?? Hold on though – Aidan umpired the game Greig lost and lo and behold Greig started at 16-0 down and it wasn’t until after the game was finished that it was noticed that actually the score should have started at 0-15 – it’s only one point but every point in the Handicap Cup is vital – was that the umpire’s fault?? Could that take away an almost certain player of the week award? Meanwhile Hannah won her 3 on a night when she had to give starts to all her opponents and came back from the dead to keep the match alive – but ultimately her 3 wins were in vain as her team lost – we can’t overlook him again! Some terrific positive play, a great deal of patience against a decent defender, a good temperament and he laughed at El Presidente’s jokes (well most of them) – well done to Aidan on his first ever Player of the Week Award – well deserved.
Finally, what about our controversy of the week section. Last year the Handicap Cup proved very controversial with one of our teams claiming a match after their opponents didn’t turn up – that story rumbled on for weeks and there had clearly been a miscommunication which led to us expecting our opponents to show up at Ladywood on our “normal home night” of handicap cup week. To try and resolve issues of organising Handicap Cup Games, we had made a proposal to the AGM to change the rules so that when your team is drawn at home, it is taken that the match will take place on the home night of that team – so for example even though we mix our teams up, if Penicuik 1 was drawn at home all the opponents have to do is look at the home night for Team 1 and turn up that night in Handicap Cup Week. Much to our surprise the rule wasn’t passed at the AGM. But hey not to worry – it was of course a very sensible proposition so at the start of this year’s competition, the Handicap Cup Secretary pointed out the position exactly as had been proposed by us (but rejected at the AGM)! Lo and behold, we turned up at Gullane and Corstorphine and the students turned up at Penicuik without any need for phone calls back and forward, emails, offering two dates, unavailability of players etc. The controversy? Why bother with rules – if they don’t get voted in just pretend they have been.
Back to league action in Week 6 with all five of our teams in action. Can’t wait.