Edinburgh & Leith faced up boldly to the challenge of entering the lion’s den atmosphere at Dalkeith on Saturday and delivered a 35-shot mauling (125-89) to Midlothian in the East section of the Hamilton Trophy.
It was the final game in the seven-match qualifying campaign, and the major bonus for a jubilant E&L camp is that they enter the knockout quarter-finals stage as section winners, thereby repeating last year’s achievement.
Wins on five rinks – skipped by Paul O’Donnell, Paul Veitch, Mal Higgenbotham, Robert Marshall and Willie McDonald – reflected a strong team performance, with James Hogg the only E&L skip to lose.
“Given the high degree of pressure we were under to clinch one of the two qualifying places, to lead from start to finish speaks volumes for our spirit and quality,” said team manager Willie Watson.
The first buzz of excitement came at the second end, with Veitch producing a brilliant trail conversion that yielded 4 shots, and with O’Donnell contributing a less dramatic count of 4, it was a great start for E&L.
E&L won that end 14-2 then an 8-0 on the sixth followed by a 9-2 on the seventh accelerated them into a 28-shot lead and gave the visitors the psychological boost of dominating the first-seven phase 48-20.
A twin highlight on the second phase saw Higgenbotham and Hogg with counts of 5 that along with an 11-0 clean sweep on end 11 gave the visitors 44-25 control that boosted their match lead to 47 shots.
The third phase might be viewed as an anti-climax with the E&L foot easing off the accelerator and allowing Midlothian the consolation of some damage limitation in the shape of a 44-32 supremacy.
O’Donnell zipped into a 16-1 after nine ends then traded well to skip Neil Watson, Craig Paterson and team captain Colin Hutchison to a 23-10 win over Ramsay Blair.
Veitch skipped Stephen Pringle, David Fisher and Alex Hurry into a 19-4 lead after 12 ends, then scored a 25-13 win over Craig Hodge, while Craig McCall, Gordon Bold, George Kirk and Higgenbotham triumphed 24-13 over Scott Briggs.
Marshall led all the way to keep David Peacock in check and skip Gavin Smith, Brian Stoddart and John McDermott to a 17-13 win, while Daniel Gormley, David Brown, Jamie Gracie and McDonald edged Kevin McDougall 19-18.
Midlothian’s one respite came with Colin Walker cashing in on a super count of 6 at end 16 to skip Andy Winton, Drew Pearson and Danny McDougall to a 22-16 win over Andrew Caldwell, Derek Smith, Darren Hush, and Hogg.
An extra bonus for finishing top of the East section is that E&L will be on home territory at Sighthill (switched away from Colinton) when they tackle Dunbartonshire East in their quarter-final on Saturday, July 6.