Thursday night at Ladywood saw Teams 1, 3 and 4 all in action. Colin Green, Greig McDonell and Brian Hunter were looking to build on their 5-5 draw with West Lothian from Week 6 as they faced Edinburgh International 1. Ed Int have been busy in the “transfer market” and in addition to regulars Marek Domagala and Babu Valaguruvan they turned up with new recruit Brian Wright. Brian, when on form, is a class act, and it was no surprise when he finished off an undefeated night with his three singles wins. Greig and Marek normally have long difficult matches and despite Greig starting out in ultra-aggressive mode to take a 2-0 lead it wasn’t really a surprise when this match went the distance – Greig just about deserved the win with his 14-12 fifth end win. Colin meantime came back from the loss of the first set against Babu to win in 4. Marek put the visitors on the brink of a point with his win v Brian before Greig won his second match of the night against Babu. Everyone knew the doubles was going to be crucial. Greig and Colin were back in action after a couple of weeks off and they kept their cool in a fifth end decider to defeat Brian and Marek (another 14-12 fifth end victory). The match was in the balance and there for the taking for the home side – Colin v Marek and Brian v Babu would decide the outcome – two wins for the victory, one win for the draw and surely they couldn’t lose both? Colin secured the draw with a 3-0 win v Marek while Brian struggled v Babu – the match didn’t go Brian’s way but much worse than that was the fact that he injured himself in the process – such a shame for Brian and Team 1 – just back from a season ending injury last year to now have a shoulder injury – hopefully he’ll be back by the second half of the season. Another 5-5 draw for Team 1, their third in a row.
Team 3 also faced Edinburgh International opposition. James Wighton, Hannah McDonell and Julian Taylor faced Ken Benjamin, George Oliver and Shashibhushan Girish in their division 2 encounter. When Julian got the team off to the perfect start against Ken it looked like this was going to be a straightforward night for the undefeated Team 3. James, however, struggled against George and despite coming back from 2-0 down, he couldn’t get over the line as he lost out 11-7 in the fifth. Hannah then looked in complete control against Shashibhushan – 2-1 up and 9-7 up, she was nearly there – she never recovered from losing four consecutive points in the fourth as she too lost out in five. 2-1 down and suddenly the pressure was on – James pulled the match level v Ken before a crucial five end match between Julian and Shashibhushan – this time the home player came out on top in the decider. When Hannah then had an excellent win v George the team had rallied to lead 4-2 going into the doubles. Hannah and James had won their last two doubles matches and when they made it three in a row Team 2 had secured at least a draw. Shashibhushan clearly likes getting his money's worth as he was involved in yet another five-end match – James this time unlucky to lose out 12-10 in the decider. With George taking care of Julian 3-0 suddenly the win rested on the match between Hannah and Ken – a first end loss for Hannah piled the pressure on but she held her nerve to triumph in four ends and with that Team 2 maintained their undefeated record with a tight 6-4 victory.
Team 4 were without Rachel Petrie so called upon Chamika Diyunugalge to join regulars Jim Jack and Bob Porteous as they faced West Lothian 4 in Division 3. Bob won the first match of the night but that was followed by three losses before Bob played again and brought the score back to 2-3. Jim then played some of his best TT of the season to win match 6 and to level the overall score at 3-3. Confident that Bob looked likely to win his last match, the home side knew that the doubles was crucial – a win and their first point of the season was almost guaranteed. Games and Matches change on the narrowest of margins – Team 1’s 14-12 fifth end win secured a point for them, but Jim and Bob just fell short – a terrific effort saw them lose their fifth end decider 13-11 – so close. Jim and Chamika lost their final matches of the night to give West Lothian an unassailable 6-3 lead before Bob won his final match in four ends as Team 4 fell to a narrow 6-4 loss – the signs are there, however, that performances are on the way up.
Before moving away from TT play, a quick mention of the Scottish National League second round of fixtures. Greig McDonell, James Wighton, Hannah McDonell and David Melrose travelled to Perth on Saturday for Matches 3, 4 and 5 of their division 4 campaign. The fixtures looked tough and before the day started Team Captain Greig had indicated that if the team could come away with 3 points out of a possible six, he’d regard that as an excellent day's work. In their first match against Knightswood, Greig won both his matches and David won 1 – Hannah needed to defeat her opposite number for an invaluable win – at 2-0 up it looked good for the Midlothian side but she lost the third and fourth ends 11-8, 11-3 and she looked in real trouble – hang on a minute though – she fought hard and got over the line 12-10 in the decider – a terrific 4-2 win for Penicuik to start the day. The second match was against League leaders Edinburgh University – hindsight is a great thing and perhaps the team ought to have rested David for this match, which was always going to be tough. He played with James and Greig and Greig was the only winner in a 5-1 loss. The final match v Drumchapel was a mammoth encounter – the team were virtually last out of the hall but secured a 3-3 draw with two more wins from Greig and one from James. So, in the end 3 points out of six which was the target at the beginning of the day – but the team left a little disappointed that they didn’t defeat Drumchapel. The good news is they lie just a point behind the league leaders and with two fixtures to go are already safe from the threat of relegation – and that was the goal at the beginning of the season. After 5 rounds of fixtures Greig has 9 wins out of 10, James and Hannah each have 3 wins out of 8 and David has 1 win out of 4.
And so, to our player of the week award for Week 7. The only undefeated player this week was Bob from Team 4 – but he was involved in losing the crucial doubles and his side lost 6-4 – sorry Bob! Hannah had another terrific week securing the win for Team 3 with two excellent wins – but she lost from 9-7 and 2 games to 1 ahead – sorry Hannah! Team 1 played some excellent stuff with both Greig and Colin winning two singles – the doubles was crucial and anyone who has watched the clip of the last few points can clearly see how Greig pulled his Aussie partner through to the win (or so he says) – add to that his excellent record in the National league and this week’s winner is none other than Club President, Greig – well done to him!
Finally, what about our controversy of the week section. The Playing-Up rule was causing havoc this week! Team 4 were in need of a replacement for Rachel. Most of our Team 5 players are new to the league. Patrick Shanks has had a terrific start to his first season with the Club in Division 4 – he was the obvious choice to play up in Division 3 – oh hang on a minute as a new player he wasn’t cleared to play up – let’s ask the Match Secretary to look at him. The problem here starts with the completely random initial rating given to a new player – for whatever reason, Patrick, like other players, was given a starting rating of 700. That’s higher than Bob, Craig, Phil, Aidan, Jim, Rachel and so on and so on. The only way that rating is going to take a tumble to a more realistic level is if he loses to a significantly lower rated player. Opening match of the season and he lost one match causing him to lose 171 points, but he picked up 85 for beating a 500+ player. Since then, he’s beaten a couple of 500+ players, lost to an 800+ player, defeated a couple of 400+ players and a couple of 300+ players. His current rating 669. That's been assessed as too high to clear him to play up in Division 3. Now hold on a minute. How can anyone say that his arbitrary rating having played mostly 300 and 400+ players is accurate. With no disrespect to Patrick or to his opponents, we have absolute confidence that if Rachel, Craig or Jim had been playing these 300 and 400 plus players they too would have won – the difference for them of course is that they are playing at a higher level and in Rachel and Jim’s case they haven’t been winning – even Bob who has played some terrific stuff and has won 60% of his matches in Division 3 struggles to sit ahead of Patrick in the ratings – he’s just under 700. The system is farcical – the only way to truly gauge Patrick’s comparative strength to the current members of Team 4 would be to let him play against similar rated players – and the only way to achieve that would be to let him play up in Division 3 and see how he gets on – but of course we can’t do that!
Week 8 here we come. And we’ve already got a couple of controversial moments lined up from the last couple of days!!