3-1 down but there remained a degree of positivity that the match could be turned around. Game 5 was a turning point – having seen dad Julian defeat Dave, Sonny was full of confidence that he would do likewise – that confidence ebbed away slightly in the first set as Sonny lost out 9-11. Still reeling from that loss, the second end was a complete write off for the home player (2-11). Not to worry though, this match could still be turned around, or so Team 2 hoped. Credit to Dave, he stuck with his gameplan, and Sonny just had no answers as frustration got the better of him in a 3-0 loss. Suddenly 4-1 and the pressure was really on and when Julian then lost to Jeff, the best the home side could hope for was a draw. The doubles saw Gary and Sonny team up but by that stage the team looked dejected, and it was no surprise when they lost in straight sets. The final 3 matches were all about trying to take something positive from the night – nothing positive came to fruition, however, as all three were lost – a resounding 9-1 defeat and Team 2 are now very much back in the relegation dogfight with Corstorphine and Murrayfield 6. They started the match 2 points ahead of their opponents but within 5 days they find themselves 2 points behind after another Corstorphine win in early Week 18 action!
Fortunately, in such a quiet week we have the final round of National League matches to report on. Penicuik entered a team for the first time this season. The squad was made up of Greig McDonell, James WIghton, Hannah McDonell, Gary McDougal and David Melrose. 6 Divisions of 8 teams make up the national League, ties all played at one central venue (Bells Sports Centre, Perth). 48 teams from all over the country, from Inverness in the North to Dumfries in the south competed and it was quite a sight to see on average between 150 and 200 people in the hall. The atmosphere was great throughout the three weekends in October, November and February.
For our first season we were entered in Division 5. After the first round of matches in October we were thinking maybe Division 6 would have been better – a 5-1 loss to Knigtswood was followed by a 3-3 draw against North Ayrshire. 1 point from a possible 4 and we were struggling. The November weekend was far more positive, a draw against league leaders Edinburgh University was followed by two wins – 5 points out of 6 put us into third place in the table – this was a tight division with all teams, it appeared capable of beating each other. Last weekend saw Greig, David, James and Hannah in action, resplendent in their snazzy new Club shirts (still to be branded)! Greig and Hannah had worked out 35 different possible scenarios the night before and had come to the view that if other results went their way 3 points out of four on the final day would probably be enough to secure second place and promotion. The day started against fellow Edinburgh League rivals, Edinburgh International who sat 1 point behind Team Penicuik – David and Greig did the business in this match with two wins each in a 4-2 victory – that result put Edinburgh International out of the running – they couldn’t catch us. In the other matches, Edinburgh Uni defeated Haddington which we needed and North Merchiston did us a big favour by drawing with Knightswood. Joe Wilson TTC from Motherwell had a resounding 6-0 win over North Ayrshire and they were our final opponents. Those results meant that a point for us in our last match would be enough for second place (as expertly predicted) – a win for Joe Wilson, however, and they would leapfrog us potentially into second place on game difference – the match was a tense one. There was a crucial 5 end win for James in match 3 to give us a 2-1 advantage and then when Greig came back from 2-0 down in Match 4 to win in five, the point and promotion was secured. The pressure was off, and David won the final match of the day to secure Penicuik’s second 4-2 victory of the day. With 10 points from a possible 14 we ended two points behind League winners, Edinburgh University and two clear of third placed Knightswood. We said anything was possible and who would have believed that Haddington, who started the day with promotion firmly in their minds, and ahead of us in 2nd place, would end up relegated after two losses on the final day. A massive point for Edinburgh International against League winners Edinburgh Uni saw them survive on game difference (-2 compared to Haddington’s -4). That’s got to hurt!!!
We thoroughly enjoyed our National League experience and can’t believe we’ve never entered in previous seasons. Division 4 here we come - if any spaces become available let’s get another team in for next season!
Our player of the week award this week could be shared amongst all our National League squad – they all contributed important wins which resulted in valuable points – one of the highlights was Hannah’s win in the first round of matches against an experienced Veteran TT player who plays for North Ayrshire – her win secured a draw but more entertainingly, the loss to a “little girl” caused the opponent to break his bat in two in utter disgust! Not a very good example to set. But the award this week is going to someone who, let’s face it, isn’t going to win in any other week for playing with daughter Hannah in Division 2 of the Edinburgh League – Team Captain Greig won 13 out of 14 matches played over the 3 weekends of National League and James was adamant that he had to get recognition for that – despite that, James also broke the news to Greig that he was dropping him for this week’s Edinburgh League match – yeah thanks James! Well done to all our squad though on a terrific first season.
And finally, our controversy of the week section. Oh my goodness – umpiring again! In our crucial deciding fixture against Joe Wilson TTC on Sunday, tensions rose during David’s match against Joe Wilson’s number 1. David won the first end 11-8 but was warned by the umpire (an opponent) about his service – apparently, David was not throwing the ball up vertically enough! The rule is in the following terms:
“Service shall start with the ball resting freely on the open palm of the server's stationary free hand. The server shall then project the ball near vertically upwards, without imparting spin, so that it rises at least 16cm after leaving the palm of the free hand and then falls without touching anything before being struck.”
David was already mumbling and affected at the changeover and picture the scene when early in the second end the Umpire called fault on 3 separate occasions – David’s head was gone! The game was gone 11-4. At the change of ends further words were exchanged and Team Captain Greig tried to get David to forget about it and try and use a different serve. David did not accept that he wasn’t throwing the ball “near vertically upwards” – this must be one of the hardest rules to adjudicate on – what does “near vertically upwards” mean – without a protractor how do you judge it! Somehow, David managed to win the third end but when another fault was called on him in end 4 the writing was on the wall – despite his best efforts he lost in five and in David’s view this was all down to the umpiring decisions – interestingly, we didn’t see much change in David’s service style in the fifth but not one fault was given – maybe by that stage the umpire didn’t have the heart to call any more faults and in any event, the opponent had the upper hand! The match had become a bit toxic as David left the hall to calm himself down! Next match up saw James take on his opposite number. Penicuik to umpire. Hmmmm – this is interesting – the Joe Wilson player started every service with is hand and arm resting on the table and he threw the ball up from above the table and on the table side of the end line. Given that we are applying the rules strictly, says Umpire Greig, I’m going to warn you that your service is illegal and unless you rectify it I’m going to call a fault – what’s good for the goose……
A number of faults followed much to the irritation of the JW player – in fairness to their Team Captain who had umpired the previous game when his player tried to plead his case to him, he was told that the Umpire was right and he needed to keep the ball behind the white line – the relevant rule is:
“From the start of service until it is struck, the ball shall be above the level of the playing surface and behind the server's end line, and it shall not be hidden from the receiver by the server or his or her doubles partner or by anything they wear or carry.”
This was a much simpler rule to enforce – it was blatantly obvious when it was done. And it just goes to show that when you are used to doing something so much it’s difficult to change the habit. The player made a real effort to change – it can’t be that difficult surely – before you throw the ball up make sure your hand is behind the white line! In the fifth and deciding end and with the scores fairly tight, the player forgot about what he needed to do – as he threw the ball up he realised what he’d done and actually caught the ball in mid-air just as the word fault was about to leave the umpire’s mouth! And with that his concentration went and James proceeded to win the match. Like David, he too felt aggrieved by the umpiring decisions as his bat made it’s way swiftly onto the floor after the loss!
We like the guys from JWTTC – the match, however, had turned a little sour which wasn’t what anyone wanted – although it was not our turn to umpire, it was suggested that Hannah umpire the next match to take the heat out of the situation – she would let anything go – and so things were calmed down again by the youngest player in the match and her “I don’t know the rules and let the match flow attitude”!! And by the end, fist pumps were given, and all was forgiven – well by us anyway because we had secured promotion!!