Longniddry's challenge fades as North Berwick stretch their lead
Longniddry’s title defence was dealt a heavy blow on Sunday as leaders North Berwick visited the champions’ frostbound course. And the combination of extremely icy conditions and no fewer than ten winter greens in operation meant that home advantage was all but negated. Indeed the hosts’ only success came in the top tie where Michael Bacigalupo and Iain Wilson were up against former teammate Chris Wood, making his first competitive return to his former club alongside Ally Simpson.
But the decisive move for the visitors came on the early stretch of holes, sheltered by the trees that line the southern edge of the course and by far the worst affected by the weekend's big freeze. North Berwick emerged from the front nine at least three up in each of the middle three ties, and although Nick Aiken and Graham Clarke rallied to take George Cochrane and Richard Johnston to the 18th, the deficit proved too much for the home team to recover from in each game. And with the points already secured, Weston Main and Chris Brown put the icing on the cake for the visitors when they turned round an early deficit to win the anchor match on the 16th green.
Meanwhile Gullane were too good for visitors Musselburgh, their home win installing them as principle challengers. With the competition now at the half-way mark Jeff Aitken’s side are the only outfit to have taken a point from the leaders this term, and they will enjoy home advantage when the sides meet again in late January. But before then Aitken’s men will need to keep up their winning ways, and the importance of their one remaining assignment of 2012 (at home to Longniddry in a fortnght) will be lost on no-one.Further down the coast Tantallon moved clear of the relegation zone, courtesy of a convincing home win against Royal Musselburgh. Shaun Gordon and Simon Holt had to go the distance to see off a strong challenge from Craig Johnstone and Kevin Young at the top of the order, but that was enough to wrap up the points, the home team having already prevailed in matches 2 and 4. Skipper Andrew Doig was relieved to see his first victory of the campaign move his team out of the relegation places, and now looks forward to the pre-Christmas derby encounter with North Berwick in two weeks’ time.