The long 12-year wait is over for Edinburgh & Leith, as the Capital bowlers captured the elusive Scottish Cities and Counties Championship title with a tremendous team performance to defeat Ayrshire North at West Kilbride on Saturday.
Ayrshire North played their hearts out on home territory, under a sparkling sun and four hours of exhausting heat, but the heroes of Saturday’s final were the 24 E&L players that combined their skills to deliver a stunning 127-100 victory.
“This is the first time since 2001 that the E&L name is being etched on the coveted Hamilton Trophy and it’s the type of crowning glory that every president yearns for in his year of office,” said Bernie Callaghan of Edinburgh & Leith.
“The decision under last year’s president David Sinclair to appoint Willie Watson of Parkside as our first ever team manager has paid E&L a rich dividend, after we reached the 2012 final and now becoming champions in 2013.”
Yet the Promised Land seemed to be as far away as ever when, 12 ends into the 21-end confrontation, E&L were looking the underdogs at 71-60 down to an Ayrshire North team playing well and with a loud confidence.
“I was trying to convince myself at that stage that a team couldn’t shout their way to victory but it was in danger of happening and would have but for the mental strength shown by my lads in response to the pressure they were facing,” said Watson.
The fluctuations on the major (running) scoreboard had the actual deficit as high as 17 shots, so it is much to the credit of E&L that they fought back to achieve a menacing position at 78-78.
Previously, they might have caved in, but Watson has produced a team with shape, structure, stability, focus and self-confidence.
The reason for the wind of change or the turning of the tide in the final is difficult to pinpoint – none of the six skips could do so – however a snapshot moment on Robert Marshall’s 16th end may provide a clue.
The early build-up of the head was nasty until Brian Stoddart (second) played into an opposition cluster and killed the lot with a back-jack toucher that Marshall went on to compliment with a last-bowl noser to card two shots.
It was a count of huge psychological significance as it broke the 78-78 deadlock on the running scoreboard to give E&L an 80-78 cross entering the business end of the final.
That great lift to E&L morale – both on the green and on the banking – just followed another crucial moment when Mal Higgenbotham caused an exciting stir by converting for a 3.
The phase scoring paints the picture with a rampant E&L storming to a 54-24 domination of the final seven ends having lost the first, 40-32, and edging the second, 41-36.
Wins on the rinks skipped by Robert Marshall, Willie McDonald, Paul Veitch and James Hogg more than covered the setbacks suffered by Mal Higgenbotham and Paul O’Donnell,
Marshall was inspirational to skip Gavin Smith, Brian Stoddart and John McDermott to a 26-10 win over Ronnie McConnachie.
McDonald finished 3, 3, (1), 2, 1, 4 to skip Daniel Gormley, David Brown and Jamie Gracie to a 27-13 win over Gerry King.
Veitch finished 2, 6 to skip Robert Donaldson, David Fisher and Alex Hurry to a 25-12 win over Scott Stevenson.
Hogg recovered from 6-13 to skip Andrew Caldwell, Derek Smith and Darren Hush to a 21-17 win over Martin Williamson.
Higgenbotham lost 23-16 to Drew Boyd while O’Donnell went down 25-12 to a brilliant Paul Foster.