West Lothian played well enough to score an impressive away win over East Lothian at Gifford in the Hamilton Trophy and it toppled the leaders of the East section – but the margin of the 124-117 triumph wasn’t big enough to qualify the visitors for the knockout stage.
With four teams in the frame for the two qualifying places up for grabs it made for an intriguing climax to the seven-match campaign and the end result was that all four finished on ten point, bringing shot margin into play as the deciding factor.
The final table reads as follows: Edinburgh & Leith (129), East Lothian (96), West Lothian (61), Fife (4), followed on points by Borders (8), Midlothian (4), Stirling County East (2), West Fife (2).
West Lothian arrived at Gifford on the back of a poor performance against E&L so they had much to do against the section leaders and, having made a great start to build up a 26-shot lead as early as end 8, must have felt they were in with a shout of achieving the 25-shot victory required for a leapfrog. EL were seen as the pre-campaign favourites, however, and they reduced the WL lead to a mere five after 14 ends.
The phase scoring shows East Lothian putting up a stout defence of preserving a place in the top two as they stormed back from losing the first 7-ends, 50-29, with a stirring 52-36 reply on the second, then stayed well safe with a controlled 38-36 loss of the third. End 13 was a game-changer for both teams as WL went into it holding a 20-shot lead but came out of it with just 7 in hand as a result of East Lothian carding a terrific 15-2 from five counts of 3 and the loss of a 2.
A double figure win for WL team captain Raymond Logan was supported by single-figure wins for the rinks skipped by Steven Fleming and John Aitken plus a peel for Thomas Mann while Neil Speirs and Grant Logan both lost.
East Lothian’s defeat was cushioned by damage reduction wins for their rinks skipped by Derek Oliver and Alex Marshall.
Logan did his bit to to skip Frazer Muirhead, Ian Drysdale and Gary Smith to a 25-12 win over Steven Morgan while Diz Drysdale, Gary Orr, Walter McDougall and Fleming won 22-16 against Alister Kennedy.
Kennedy spoiled the visitors’ party by skipping Ross Irvine, Richard Black and Scott Kennedy to a 1, 2, 2, 1, 1 finish.
Aitken carded a 5 at the last end to skip Ian Laverie, Peter Lynch, and Sandy McDougall to a 19-17 win over Brian Young while Ewan Shearer, Blair Mackie, Calum Logan and Thomas Mann finished 20-20 against Matt Osbourne, Craig McLeod, John McRorie and Billy Mellors. Oliver finished 2, 2 to skip Chris Johnston, Jamie Gordon and Colin Glen to a 26-20 win over Speirs while Marshall benefited from an early 5 and 6 to skip Grant Thomson, Dougie Berwick and Willie Wood to a 26-18 win over Grant Logan.