Two of our five man winning squad from last season, David Melrose (-10) and Craig Linton (+3) were together again and they were joined by Krzysztof Laszkiewicz (-5) as they travelled on Monday night to take on Edinburgh Sports Club comprised of Alan Nisbet (-11), Faye Leggett (-14) and Euan Rae (+3). When Euan and Faye won comfortably against Krys and David respectively, the signs weren’t good for the visitors. Craig, however, with a 14-point start recovered well from a 22-20 loss in the first end to win against Alan in 4 and when Krys battled to a fifth set win v Faye the match was tied at 2-2. In a straight fight to 11, Craig then came out on top v Euan and with a one point start David won in 3 tight ends v Alan. On the brink of victory, Faye kept the hosts in the match – she was too strong for Craig, before the win was sealed by an excellent three end victory for Krys v Alan – 5-3 and a great start to the week for Penicuik.
Wednesday evening at Ladywood saw our other three teams in action. There was great Club spirit on show with all teams and supporters encouraging each other. We had 18 players in attendance, 3 other Club members, our Head Coach, a wife, a girlfriend and a couple of kids who all added to the electric atmosphere throughout the night! Our President was heard to comment that if we had been playing as an away side we would have probably found the atmosphere to be quite intimidating!
Colin Green, Abby Wighton and Rachel Petrie ventured a little into the unknown as they hosted Heriot Watt University. All 3 Uni players played of -3. Warming up, all three looked like they would flourish with such a handicap. As it turned out, however, Abby playing of the same handicap as her opponents was too strong in the two matches she played and Rachel playing of +6 thoroughly enjoyed her night winning her two matches. Colin had a mountain to climb in his two matches – his first match against the very talented Kaining Cao was the match of the night, filled with quality attacking play from both players. Colin lost that in 4 but that was the only loss as the home side recorded a comfortable 5-1 win.
After 4 months out through injury, Hannah McDonell (+4) joined Sonny Taylor (-1) and James Wighton (-2) as they hosted last year’s Runners-Up, Corstorphine. This match was tight from beginning to end. A loss in Match 1 for James was followed by a win by Hannah before a crucial match 3 went the distance. Sonny was trying to recover from a 0-7 deficit in a race to 12 and when he lost the first end 12-4 those watching were wondering how the handicaps could be so wrong! He lost the second as well but this time only by a scoreline of 11-13. The third end was crazy – Sonny caught his opponent at 10-10 before the players traded points back and forth until Sonny eventually won 20-18! In the fourth he also caught his opponent but once more having caught him, points were traded until Sonny won 14-12. The decider was surely going to be more comfortable after Sonny went into a 10-8 lead. But back came his Corstorphine Opponent to unbelievably hold a match point at 11-10 before Sonny pulled out a critical 13-11 win! When Hannah then lost in 5 ends the scores were tied again and the visitors then took the lead as James lost in 3 straight ends. At 3-2 down, Sonny won in four before Hannah took to the table for her final match of the night giving her opponent a two-point start in a straight race to 11. Tied at 1-1 in ends, Hannah suddenly lost the third end 11-1 and the writing looked on the wall for her. Up stepped Abby to give some coaching advice – whatever she said worked a treat as Hannah came back to win the next two ends, putting the home side on the brink of a good victory. Sonny couldn’t quite finish the job, agonisingly losing in five long ends. As throwing out time rapidly approached, the Corstorphine player needed a toilet time out! Really? Were they playing for time? James remained calm and with 10 pm having well and truly come and gone he fortunately finished the match off in three to give Penicuik a 5-4 win.
The final team in action saw Greig McDonell (-13), Julian Taylor (-1) and George Wilson (+1) take on the North Merchiston side of Eddie Scott (-11), Geoff Hunter (-10) and Nick Thomas (-4). Nick posted a good report on the North Merchiston Facebook page of his take on the match – well worth a read. The short version is that after Greig and George gave the hosts a 2-0 lead, NM fought back with 3 consecutive five end wins – Eddie winning twice v Julian and Greig and Nick somehow recovering from the dead to defeat George. Julian then had two comfortable wins v Nick and Geoff before Eddie rounded off an unbeaten night with a straightforward win v George. 10pm and Greig had to play Geoff in the decider – this pair are not exactly known for their fast attacking play and short rallies – just what the hosts needed! Contrary to NM’s suspicions the Ladywood Manager was not tied up in his office to allow this match to play out – he was accidentally locked in a storage cupboard and it took a while for us to find the keys that must have dropped out of his pocket! When Greig won the first two ends and the clock showed 10.15 pm it looked like the win was going to be achieved – but hold on a minute – starting at 0-3, Greig lost 8 of the first 11 points in end 3 to trail 11-3. He decided to concede game 3 and walked round to Geoff’s side saying you can have this end! Oh no says Geoff – you can’t do that – you need to play the points out to a finish. Tick tock tick tock. Greig returned to his end of the table returned the next two serves above Geoff’s head and served off at game point! 3 points in about 20 seconds was exactly what was needed. Some energy saved, Greig won the next end 14-9 for a 5-4 overall victory thus completing a fantastic night for the Club.
Only 2 players were undefeated this week. Rachel and Abby both played 2 and won 2. But this week (sorry Abby and Rachel) we’re not giving a Player of the Week award - every single player who played in the handicap Cup is due a massive pat on the back – each of our 12 players who played all contributed at least one win as we matched our achievement from last season of getting all four entered teams into Round 2 – well done to everyone!
And finally, to our Controversy of the Week section.
There are always some “Bandits” around when it comes to Handicap Cup and there’s probably little (if anything) that can be done when there are new players in the League and players who are improving rapidly. Unlike the old system where the Handicaps virtually stayed as they were from Round 1, there seems to now be a practice of updating the handicaps before each round based on Ratings Central (not that the Rules say this can happen – but hey who cares about the Rules!) We were getting ready to moan about one very talented Heriot Watt player who thus far hasn’t lost an end in the League and at the recent National League Event showed his true class by defeating players rated significantly higher than him. But why bother – they lost the match and he lost to Rachel who was playing off +6! The only thing worthy of note last week related to the time it takes to play Handicap Matches. We still think back to having to concede a quarter final to big bad Murrayfield a few seasons ago - 4-4 when the clock beat us. With a 6.45 start, three matches on so no space to play on two tables, and games running to five ends, we were lucky that on this occasion the Centre Manager was feeling generous and didn’t throw us out – two of our 3 matches ran on well past our closing time, even though one of those matches switched to two tables as soon as it was feasible! Oh, if only we had our own premises! We can but dream.....