Edinburgh and Leith do just enough to top section

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EDINBURGH & LEITH are through to the knockout stage of The Cities and Counties Bowls Championship after finishing top of the highly-competitive East section despite a last-match defeat by Midlothian at Newbattle.

Midlothian entered the match with a glimmer of hope of stealing a place in the top two and put up a bold show to beat the league leaders by 14 shots (125-111) but that fell 20 short of what was needed to finish ahead of their opponents.

E&L were well protected by the size of their shot-margin bank if their rivals also finished on the eight-point mark with East Lothian, West Lothian and Fife County also in the frame.

Midlothian’s second target was to finish ahead of West Lothian on shots but results elsewhere left them with a shortfall of 11, leaving them in third place.

Midlothian team manager Drew Pearson said: “I’ve got to say a big ‘well done’ to the guys for performances, attitude and commitment – especially over last three games.”

While E&L have never hit top form during this campaign, the team has fought courageously to stay ahead of the pack. Wins on the rinks skipped by James Hogg, Robert Marshall, and Jamie Gracie weren’t sizeable but helped keep Midlothian at bay as the home team enjoyed a supremacy of sorts over Paul Veitch, Paul O’Donnell and Mal Higgenbotham.

E&L came under early pressure at 12 shots down after four ends but dug in well enough to hit the front with a single-shot lead after eights ends and the battle for supremacy was still to be won as late as entering end 18.

Midlothian were ahead by a nose with the master scoreboard showing 96-95 after which the home team looked set to clinch victory with across-the-green counts of 6-4, 10-2, to lead by 11 but E&L rattled the home cage with a 6-1 rally on the penultimate end.

Final-end drama centred on a super count of 6 for the home rink skipped by Ramsay Blair and, with Peacock and Bonnar each adding a double and Walker a single, an 11-5 aggregate in favour of the home side triggered the victory salute.

The phase scoring saw Midlothian edge the first seven ends 39-36, E&L turn the tables with a 43-33 score on the second, then the home side dominate the third, 54-36.

Hogg lost hefty counts of 5 and 6 late on but helped keep the lights on for a fading E&L by skipping Josh Spalding, Stuart Campbell and Darren Hush to a 24-19 win over Ramsay Blair.

Marshall suffered a collapse from 20-7 up but still skipped Euan Craig, Gavin Smith and Colin Hutchison to a 20-18 win over Colin Bonnar while Alan Trotter, Brian Pollard, Andy Caldwell and Gracie edged an 18-17 win over Scott Briggs.

Colin McFarlane led the Midlothian charge, skipping Ryan Yuill, Mark Yuill and Tam Russell to a 29-17 win over Paul Veitch. Colin Walker couldn’t sustain an 11-0 pace but beat O’Donnell 23-15 while David Peacock edged a 19-17 win over Higgenbotham.