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In strong winds on Gullane No 1, Royal Musselburgh proved too strong for 2nd Division champions Haddington as they claimed their first East Lothian Winter Cup title.
Haddington had been riding high coming into the match, winning their final four league fixtures (including two away to their main title challengers), and notably beating six time champions Gullane in the semi-final over their own patch. But it was Royal Musselburgh that took the early advantage, racing to healthy leads in the top four ties.
Haddington were able to battle back, winning 15 and 16 to draw level at the top of the order, whilst George Blair and Owen Martin clawed their way back from six down to just two with five to play.
But that was as close as it got, with Royal displaying some accurate play around the greens to claim the middle three ties with a little to spare. In the end Kevin Young and Robert Cochrane made a winning par on the tricky short 16th to secure the title.
No 2nd Division team has won the Cup, although this was the fifth time a team from the lower flight has contested the final. However congratulations are due to Jamie Ramsay’s side, whose strong run through the mid-season made their place in the top flight safe, before their successful Cup run rounded off an excellent winter season.
Haddington dealt out a whitewash at home to Winterfield in their final match of their league campaign, and in doing so moved to the top of the Div 2 table for the first time this season. Their closing sequence of four straight wins included one away to long time leaders Longniddry, as well as home and away victories over promotion challengers Winterfield.
The title seemed unlikely until Longniddry dropped their first points of the campaign at Musselburgh Links in mid-January, but even then Bruce Calder’s team seemed to have it all to do with their toughest tests still ahead.
And their good league form towards the end of the season has been matched by a Cup run that sees them tee it up in the final against Royal Musselburgh as they go in search of more silverware.
On a wild and windy Sunday, Haddington upset the odds to deliver an away win over defending champions Gullane in their Cup Semi-Final. No Division 2 team has ever won the Cup, although three of Gullane’s Cup final victories have been won against the newly crowned (and promoted) Div 2 champions.
Haddington must win at home next week to claim this season’s 2nd Div title, then they return to Gullane No 1 a week later to face Royal Musselburgh in the Cup Final.
And Bruce Calder’s team can stake a claim to being the form team at this late stage of the season – their run of eleven matches unbeaten has seen them close in on the Div 2 title that seemed to be Longniddry’s for the taking, as well as making it to their first Cup Final.
But Royal Musselburgh have shown some form of their own, their string of success either side of Christmas moved them clear of the Div 1 relegation zone, whilst none of their team members has yet lost a tie in the Cup. Their only defeat of 2020 came a week ago at Gullane in the league, and they will now be focused on finishing their season on a high.
So there’s sure to be a new name on the trophy, when the Cup Final takes place 10am at Gullane No 1 on Sunday 15th March.
Tantallon recorded a 4-1 win at home to local rivals North Berwick, Sunday 23rd Feb, to win their first league title in 20 years. Just reward after the title narrowly eluded them last season, when they lost out to Gullane on goal difference only.
This time round there was no mistake. A draw would have been enough to secure the title, but nobody was interested in another season ending nail-biter. Four out of five Tantallon pairs made sure of their win, and they took the title with a match to spare.
Storm Ciara swept through East Lothian on Sunday morning and wiped out the Cup Quarter Final schedule. With courses closed or unplayable across the county, one match after another was called off.
Gullane have moved their match with Longniddry to next Sunday 16th Feb, as have Glen, who entertain North Berwick.
Haddington will wait a little longer, as their attention turns back to the league at the weekend. Bruce Calder’s team go to Winterfield for their final away match of their campaign with everything still on the line. A win would guarantee promotion, and could pave the way for a tilt at the league title if they can add two more wins in their remaining two home matches. But Winterfield aren’t out of contention yet, and know they can steal the second promotion spot should they manage to beat Haddington home and away. Haddington’s rescheduled quarter final against Thorntree is expected to take place on Saturday 22nd Feb.
And the derby clash between Royal Musselburgh and Musselburgh will also wait until 22nd Feb, with the course at Royal unavailable next Sunday. The scheduling will be demanding on both teams, with both in league action the following day in crucial matches. Royal are outsiders for the title, but need to win at Gullane on the 23rd, whilst Musselburgh must take something from their trip to Craigielaw that day to keep their top flight survival hopes alive.