Team 2 have struggled in recent times and went into their penultimate fixture against promotion chasing Murrayfield 4 rooted to the bottom of the Division 1 table. Only a point behind Murrayfield 6 and with a better game difference, the Midlothian outfit knew that a draw would push them into 2nd bottom – and with Murrayfield 6 having completed their season, that would be enough to ensure they finished above the Edinburgh side. Murrayfield 4 also needed a point to secure promotion – Our Club President tried to get agreement at the beginning of the night for the teams just to call it a draw, but Murrayfield Team Captain Colin Clark was having none of it!! First up for the hosts was Sonny Taylor v the green pimpled rubber of Murrayfield new recruit, Tomasz Bracha – Sonny did well to win a game but fell in four ends. Gary McDougal then faced Stuart Wilson and when he won the first end 11-1 he looked to be on easy street – Stuart had other ideas as he came back to take the next two ends before Gary forced a decider with a 13-11 fourth end victory – the decider was tight and as his teammates watched on, Gary just did enough to claim a 12-10 victory. Julian Taylor then faced Colin Clark and looked in complete control at 2-0 up – Colin adjusted well to Julian’s style, however, as he stormed back to win in five, much to Julian’s frustration. Gary then lost to Tomasz before Sonny defeated Colin – 2-3 down and Julian’s game against Stuart was massively important. Julian likes getting his money’s worth – another five ender which went the distance, but this time Julian held on to win the decider 11-9 and to level the scores. The hosts fell behind again after a disappointing doubles and with Julian’s loss to Tomasz, both Gary and Sonny knew they needed to win their final matches to secure the draw. A little nervy at times but the result was never in doubt!! Two four end wins for the home pair and, a little surprisingly perhaps, the point needed to avoid bottom place was secured for the hosts – well done to them.
Meanwhile, Team 3 were in action against Edinburgh University in their last Division 2 match – they knew that a point for them would secure a 4th place finish in the division. With Abby working, Greig McDonell joined daughter, Hannah, and James Wighton to face the students. In Jakub Kara, the University have an excellent player – long pimples on one side and short on the other – he uses them well and going into the match he sat 2nd in the Division 2 individual averages. James faced off against him in Match 1 having lost to Jakub on their previous two meetings in the League and National League. A 13-11 first end win for James was followed by a 12-10 second end loss – when he lost the third end 11-5 and trailed badly in the fourth the match looked over – but James dug deep and somehow managed to come back from the dead playing some terrific attacking table tennis to win the last two ends 12-10, 11-9 – what a start for the hosts. Hannah was unlucky in her first match – she also won the first end before losing the second – at 7-1 down in the third she looked dead and buried but came back to narrowly lose out 11-9 – the fourth end swung one way then the other before Yu Xia triumphed 17-15! Greig won his opening encounter before Jakub got on the board v Hannah. James was then involved in a tricky match with Enrique Calisto who seemed to up his game significantly – some great rallies in a four end win for James. Greig won Match 6 and going into the doubles the home side led 4-2. This was going to be the week for Hannah and James to convert good play into a win – and they had numerous chances to do so – a 16-18 loss in the first end was followed by a 13-11 win in the second. There was never anything in this match – the next two ends also went the distance, but the students played the bigger points better winning those ends 12-10, 11-9. 4-3 as Hannah and dad Greig took to the tables simultaneously for their final matches of the night, Greig not looking forward to playing against Jakub’s funny bat! Hannah took the pressure off dad by winning in three straight sets to secure the point for the home side. Greig was 2-0 up and upon seeing Hannah win appears to have over-relaxed as he lost the next two ends – another five-ender for Jakub – a shocking start for him, however, saw Greig over the line 11-4. It was then left to James to bring an excellent season to a conclusion for Team 3 as he won the final match in 4 ends to give the home side a terrific 7-3 victory.
Away from the League, James Wighton, Craig Linton and Charlie Brindley were due to face Corstorphine in the Handicap Cup Quarter Final at Napier. Craig got Covid and Charlie had to pull out at the last minute – fortunately each Team is allowed to have a pool of five players play for them! Last minute replacements, Ian Hislop and Jim Jack made the trip into Edinburgh. James was first up with a 3 point start v Dave Grant. When James won the first end 14-4 it looked like the handicaps were ridiculous. But the Corstorphine player dug in and a 17-15 second end win turned the match on its head. He went on to win in 4. When Ian Hislop then lost in straight sets to James Grant, the visitors were 2-0 down and in trouble. Jim Jack is in his first season of League TT and this was his debut in the handicap Cup. He made good use of his 10 point start v Dave Hall winning 16-14, 16-13, 16-9. The battle of the two James’ saw Penicuik James come out on top and the match was drawn level at 2-2. Tight games are always crucial and the next two matches both went to five ends (good handicapping). A 15-10 fifth end win for Jim gave Penicuik their first lead of the night and then from 2-0 down, Ian came back to win the next three v Dave Hall culminating in a 12-10 deciding end victory. Suddenly the visitors were nearly home. James Grant kept the hosts alive with a win v Jim before the final two matches were played simultaneously. James was never in trouble v Dave Hall and with a 3-0 win he secured the victory for the visitors. Ian played out the last match v Dave Grant which he won in four. A 6-3 victory and a place in the semi-final secured.
And so to our player of the week award. Sonny, Gary and Julian all won vital matches in their draw v Murrayfield and all deserve a mention. James and Greig were undefeated in the League and for James it was a massive win against a player rated at more than a 1000. If we add to that his two wins in the Handicap Cup there’s no doubt that he surely wins this week's award? Hmmmm. Hold on the voting committee have taken into account that he’s apparently become really unlikeable this season. Surely not? Both Ian and Jim also won 2 in the Handicap Cup, although the pressure was off by the time of Ian’s second win. And for that reason, our deserved winner this week (his first ever weekly award) is Jim – a debutant in the handicap cup and he held his nerve against players from higher divisions for two vital wins – well done to him.
Our controversy of the week section keeps going! Murrayfield 4 secured second place in the Division 1 title race with their point against us last week. If two teams do get promoted that will give us 4 Murrayfield teams in the Premier League next season – oh my – 8 matches v Murrayfield. Now we have nothing against our Edinburgh friends (despite how one of our handicap cup teams treated them!) but 8 matches against the same club is a lot. If the League stays with 10 team divisions almost half of every other teams’ matches will be against Murrayfield! (45%). Now no one can knock Murrayfield for their success and they are, without doubt, currently the most successful and largest club in the League. As we have mentioned previously though, there is a view that having too many teams from one club is “anti-competitive”. Just look at the ever growing Scottish National League. Murrayfield have been the victims of their own success in that – Rule 3.2 of the SNL Constitution states that no club can have any more than two teams in any division. With Murrayfield’s top two teams in the 1st Division it’s tough luck on Murrayfield C – even if they win Division 2 they can’t get promoted. Should we have something similar in the Edinburgh League? Or does such a rule simply punish success – surely we want the best teams in our top division? If Murrayfield keep churning out good enough players then well done to them? Where does it stop though? Murrayfield 5 and 6 are both in Division 1 (although the 6s are likely to be relegated). If other Murrayfield teams keep getting promoted from Div 1 (or the same scenario arises in any other division) do we ever say enough is enough? Who knows what the answer is? Maybe one for the committee to think about.
Speaking of Murrayfield, the saga of their handicap cup quarter final v us dragged on a bit. As we reported in our Week 19 Round-up, Murrayfield failed to show up to play against our trio resulting in us claiming the game. With a couple of the other quarter finals still to be played, the Cup Secretary contacted us again to ask whether, player commitments permitting, we could see a way still to play this fixture. Eh No was the resounding answer back from our trio of unforgiving players. Jings – not even a moments contemplation given it would seem. So they’ve made it to the semi-final in a rather controversial manner. There they will meet our victorious trio from last week – so we’re assured of a finalist this year – the neutrals in the Club will be rooting for….. – well actually some may think back to a few seasons ago when Penicuik hosted Murrayfield in the Cup semi-final and at 4-4 with the deciding match to play time at Ladywood ran out! Murrayfield wouldn’t claim a place in the final in that manner would they? You bet they would!! What goes around comes around as they say! The problem, of course, is that the next time it comes around………..
And finally, there’s already some internal issues about who should play the Cup semi-final! Craig was player of the match in the previous round but can he get his place back for the semi? And if he does who does he replace. And what about Charlie? We’ve decided we’re going to leave the selection to Team Captain, James – he’s ruthless so anything could happen!
Oh how we love TT.