And what a performance the team put up. Having been fifth last year hopes were not high even though many failed to recognise the English partnerships, but to win four matches out of five and all but lead after the weekend was probably beyond the wildest expectations of the team themselves. Huge congratulations to Iain Sime, John Matheson, Derek Sanders, Tim McKay, Brian Spears and Paul Barton.
So has Scotland just discovered a new team of superstars? Unfortunately I don't think so, but the team did play its own game and was able to bring their form from the trials to the tables in Wales. Ably managed by Sandy Duncan, it was clear that the plan was to use the more experienced pairs against the stronger teams and play Derek and Tim, making their partnership début, against pairs who they could make an impact against. The team did very little that was spectacular but also didn't make a large number of 'unforced' errors.
Having watched almost all the Scotland boards, I feel the real difference was the quality of the opposition. The two English teams were lacking most of their star players and although all their pairs had done well in the Premier League, they seemed nervous and failed to put the opponents under pressure. Ireland had four of their stars together with sponsor, none of whom played well on Friday evening against Scotland but recovered to head the table by Sunday evening. Northern Ireland had their normal team and finished a close third, showing that experience can go a long way. Wales struggled throughout.
Before the weekend I'd mooted that this was the weakest field for a Camrose weekend that I'd seen and, unfortunately, I saw little to change that view. Bridge is a game of mistakes but so many in this weekend were self-inflicted rather than the results of pressure. But the Scots can only beat the teams that they face and they've given themselves the chance of their best finish for a few years. The current table:
|3.||Northern Ireland||55.70 VP|
The second weekend is in Manchester on 7-9 March. The two England teams will be considerably stronger so it will be a real challenge for the Scots, but one that I'm sure that they will all be looking forward to.