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Sunday
Apr302017

Sunday Challenge for MacRobertson Fans

As we move into Round Three with the US team looking to play spoiler versus Australia, and New Zealand and England hoping to run up the score on each other, it seems like a good day to throw down a little history challenge for our readers. Can you identify the current MacRob player that appeared in the Croquet Network photo gallery for the 2008 USCA National Championship? The player is not captioned, so best of luck:

croquetnetwork.squarespace.com/croquet-photos/2008-usca-nationals/

Please post your answer in the comments to be recognized as a true MacRob diehard fan.

Saturday
Apr292017

Soo 13: Shield is Australia's for the Taking

Australia's Simon Hockey and Greg Fletcher confer during round 1

With two convincing test match wins, and facing a last-place USA team in the final round, Australia is in strong position to reclaim the MacRobertson Shield for the first time since 1935.

No one expects the Australian players to take this last round for granted. Throughout the series they have shown discipline and determination. Nor can they afford to relax yet. The Americans will be doing their best to play the spoiler, and after England's impressive 8-1 finish to the second round, Australia leads England by just 3 individual matches. If USA pulls off the upset and England beats New Zealand, England could easily overtake Australia on percentage of individual matches won.

For USA to win would be a monumental upset, though. While the rankings paint a mixed picture, on playing form the Americans as a group have not shown improvement over the course of the first two tests, while the Australians haven't had to; they have played well at every position from day 1.

New Zealand, trailing Australia by 8 individual matches, needs a big win over England along with a USA upset. The Kiwis have a history of playing their best against "the Poms," and will be hoping to write a new chapter to that history.

Peeling stats in the second round were surprisingly different from those of the first round. As a percentage of games won, NZ went from 54% to 81%, a remarkable improvement. (However, this comes in a 7-14 test match loss; without mining data from the scores and commentaries it is impossible to say how many failed tripling attempts there were.) Meanwhile, AUS dropped from 89% to 60%, ENG from 83% to 68%, and USA from 54% to 50%. The lawns are getting a bit firmer and faster, as expected after so many successive days of mowing, and are now running around 13 seconds.

Another factor in the reduced peeling percentages is failed TPOs. As Tallyrand said of the Bourbons, or was it Chris Clarke speaking of his erstwhile teammates, "They have learned nothing; they have forgotten nothing." Pegging out the opponent (or merely attempting to do so) has not been a percentage play here. Will we see more peeling of the opponent ball next week?.

Team orders have been posted. Australia has kept the same order as in tests 1 and 2. England has shuffled the doubles order (keeping the same pairings) and also shuffled the top four singles positions, swapping Maugham and Burch at 1 and 2, and Patel and Mulliner at 3 and 4. New Zealand keeps their order from test 2. For USA, Morgan, who sat out the last test, is in again at #5; doubles pairings are as in test 1, with the order shuffled.

Saturday
Apr292017

Clarke: 2017 MacRobertson Review - Round 2

New Zealand v Australia | England v USA

Day 6

The three Australia-NZ doubles were all competitive matches. New Zealand had opportunities to win all three doubles in straight games to take a 3-0 lead, but errors allowed Australia to come out of the day 2-1 ahead. Harps Tahurangi made his debut and looked to be playing nicely, before he went off the lawn trying to get a rush on a deep 1-back pioneer during a triple to win.

USA took a surprise 2-1 lead against England. Matthew Essick made his MacRobertson Shield debut and did well to have two early balls around. Danny Huneycutt found some form and finished these with triple peels after the lifts were missed. Rothman and Maloof beat Mulliner and Patel, after yet another failed TPO, this time breaking down at 3 back after all three peels were completed.

Day 7

There was a stage today when it looked like USA might take a 7-2 lead against England. Rothman beat Maugham, Maloof had a chance against Burch who completed the first successful TPO, Death needed to hit a last lift against 4-b and peg against Lawrence, Essick beat Hopgood and Huneycutt beat Mulliner. The last match was particularly worrisome for England. After multiple failed and losing TPOs, Mulliner decided to TPO Huneycutt when on 2-back and 4-back. This time, he made it to the peg, but only achieved 2 peels of the TPO before giving contact with 4 balls on the lawn prior to his sixth defeat. Samir Patel had won +26tp +26tp quickly to level at 2-2 and by the end of the day was probably relieved to be only 5-4 down.

NZ once again were competitive and had triple peels in all three doubles games. It looked like Jenny Clarke would end day 2 still having done exactly what she tried to do every time she walked on the lawn during this Test, but a missed hampered shot after running rover cost her both the game and subsequently the match to make it 4-2 to Australia rather than 3-3.

Day 8

Aiken Hakes beat Robert Fletcher +26tp +26tp after an error third turn from Robert was followed by a no-hitter. Paddy Chapman gave the other top singles to NZ, but the strength in depth of the Australians combined with the weakness in depth of the Kiwi team, missing many of their top players, was enough to allow Australia to win another day and extend their lead to 8-4. The match between Ian Dumergue and Jenny Clarke was particularly high quality with just 13 turns.

England won the doubles 2-1 to equalise at 6-6.

Day 9

England had their first good day of the Series, winning 5-1 to wrap up the Test 11-7. Ben Rothman provided the only USA win of the day beating Jamie Burch. It was apt that James Hopgood, who lost the losing match in the first Test, won the winning match in the Second Test.
Australia won all three doubles to seal the Test against NZ 11-4 and make them 99.97% likely MacRobertson Shield winners with 6 days still to play.

The players and spectators were treated to another wonderful “Wine and Wickets” thanks to the generosity of the Mission Hills members. All manner of delectable foodstuffs arrived as the afternoon progressed. We have all been treated superbly and it has been a delight to spend time here, albeit if the weather is too hot for my personal liking.

Day 10

With both Tests won, there was less tension in the air today. England won all three matches to end up 14-7 winners, although only due to Ben Rothman failing to close out his match from 4-back and peg. England won 9 of the last ten matches to finish and are clearly starting to find some form coming out of their off season. Matthew Essick goes back to school next week and USCA AC National Champion Stephen Morgan takes his place. It is unclear whether the USA have managed to optimise their six players for any of the three Tests.

Australia and NZ shared the day 3-3 to also finish 14-7. Australia were simply better at every aspect of the game and thoroughly deserved their win, although I thought both sides leave making left a lot to be desired in these easy conditions. Chris Shilling continued his excellent form to come back from 0-25 in the first against Greg Fletcher and then won the second 6th turn. The top singles saw a strong performance from Robert Fletcher to beat Paddy Chapman. Joe Hogan found his form with two triples against Ian Dumergue who looked less focussed today (running hoop 5 twice with the same ball in the first game). Aiken Hakes beat Simon Hockey to be the only player unbeaten in singles after two Tests. Every player has lost at least two matches overall.

One of the most noticeable features of the playing conditions is that it is pretty difficult to accurately assess how well each player has played. There are some players with less than half the number of match wins compared to others despite the fact that their standard of play has been higher. I explained that these conditions might be capable of differentiating 3 or 4 different standards of play compared to the previous MacRobertson where you could probably have split players into 15 different categories.

So, we enter the final Tests with the event pretty much a fait accomplit due to the inability of the 4 National Governing Bodies to schedule the event properly. Everyone would be really excited by now if we still had the Australia v England match left to play. By now both teams are match fit. Regrettably, several countries self-interest has been allowed to dictate the order of play rather than what would be best for this historic event in order to generate the excitement and high quality finish that it deserves. Are there any other World Championships where we know which of the best two teams are likely to be and ensure that they play each other in the first round? Let’s hope that the USA can get off to a good start against Australia to create some level of interest for the spectators.

After the final Tests I will provide a personal analysis of each Team, player by player as I have done for previous events. The final Tests start on Sunday.
Saturday
Apr292017

Soo 12: England Sweeps Final Day vs USA

NZ captain Jenny Clarke. (Click to Zoom)

Despite going game up in two of three doubles matches, USA could not find a win today. Jamie Burch & James Death (ENG) each tripled to win their match with Danny Huneycutt & Matthew Essick (USA) well before lunchtime. Stuart Lawrence & Jeff Soo (USA) won the first +26tp, Lawrence tripling, with opponents Samir Patel & Stephen Mulliner not taking croquet. The remaining games were more interactive, and not as clean as the scorelines suggest, the Englishmen hitting key lift shots to win +17tp (Patel tripling) and +17.

Ben Rothman & David Maloof (USA) took advantage of yet another failed TPO to win game 1 against James Hopgood & David Maugham. Game 2 saw many errors from both sides, before Maugham finally tripled to level the match. 3-back caused problems for both sides in game 3, Maugham again tripling to make it a clean sweep for England.

The Aussies went game-up in three of the four 8:30 starts. The exception was Greg Fletcher, who made the "grievous error" (losing the turn by rushing a rover ball into the peg); opponent Chris Shilling punished the error with a +1 win. Robert Fletcher (AUS) quickly closed out his match against Paddy Chapman (NZ), +26tp, +17tp. Aiken Hakes (NZ) equalized against Simon Hockey (AUS). In one of the late-starting matches, Malcolm Fletcher (AUS) won game 1 +24tp against NZ captain Jenny Clarke.

Stephen Forster (AUS) closed out his match against Harps Tahurangi (NZ) +17, +8, to make it 13-4 to Australia. Shilling gave NZ a point, +26tp in game 2. Hakes added another point for NZ, +26tp in game 3; he is the only player still undefeated in singles. Clarke equalized against Malcolm Fletcher, +17tp, but Fletcher won game 3 +25tp. Joe Hogan (NZ) made it a 3-3 split for the day's singles, beating Aussie captain Ian Dumergue +12tp, +26tp.

Saturday
Apr292017

Chapman 10: Split in Singles Results in 14-7 Final

New Zealand's Harps Tahurangi in play on the final day of round two

On the final day of the second test, NZ were playing for pride, due to Australia reaching the magic number of 11 match wins Thursday. Going into the day Australia held a lead of 11-4, so our job was to make the scoreline a bit more respectable.

The match-ups today were:
- Aiken vs Simon Hockey
- Harps vs Stephen Forster
- Chris vs Greg Fletcher
- Paddy vs Robert Fletcher

...and the late starts were Joe vs Ian Dumergue and Jenny vs Malcolm Fletcher.

Australia once again got off to a fast start, having all the early play on all the lawns.
Simon took the first game against Aiken with a nice TP. However, Aiken hit back with a TP of his own (including a 3rd turn ball round), and then a 6th turn TP in the decider to take the match.

Harps had an interactive match with Stephen, with a few errors from both players, but Stephen always seemed to have the upper hand, eventually taking the match 2-0.

The first 25 points of the Greg vs Chris match were all scored by Greg, until an unlucky "grievous" (rushing a ball onto the peg) at the end of Greg's TP in game 1 let Chris into the game. Chris scored the next 26 points to take the game by 1 point. In the second game, Chris had a tidy 6th turn delayed TP.

Chris Shilling (Click to Zoom)Turns 3 and 4 of Paddy vs Robert were both misses, and Paddy had the first opportunity with a 7 yarder on turn 5, but missed this too, giving Robert the first break. The lift was also missed, meaning Robert took a 1-0 lead. In the second, Robert hit 3rd turn and went to 4-back, Paddy hit 4th turn and also went to 4b (with 2 pops) and Robert hit 5th turn and finished the game, taking a 2-0 win.

Joe and Ian were banished to lawn 7 (the furthest tennis court with very little shade) for their late-starting match. Joe found some very good form to take the match with two tidy TPs. The first game included an unfortunate error from Ian whereby he ran H5 twice during his turn, gifting Joe the innings.

Jenny and Malcolm had a TP-fest (two by Malcolm and one by Jenny). Both players looked very comfortable when they had the innings, and there was a fair bit of hitting in, but Malcolm eventually took a 2-1 victory.

I think it is fair to say that all the players are looking forward to tomorrow's rest day. It is very tiring playing 15 days of croquet in such extreme heat, so we will now recuperate and come out firing against the English.

Friday
Apr282017

Hopgood's Day 8 MacRob Montage Video

Embed of a day eight video montage by James Hopgood (England). Description: 

A slightly over the top brief review of Day 8 of the MacRobertson Shield. My beloved Hans Zimmer is no doubt copyrighted, so here's a variant. Mostly USA vs England, where at the end of the day, the result was 6-6. There is no footage from Day 7 alas, as I was in play most of the day (and a terrible result).
Friday
Apr282017

Chapman 09: A Tough Day

Australia's Stephen Forster pegs out to win the test of New Zealand

Going into today we trailed Australia 8-4 and needed a big day of doubles - a 3-0 day in our favour could get us back to 8-7 with a good chance going into tomorrow's singles. 

The match-ups today were:

  • Jenny & Harps vs Robert & Malcolm Fletcher
  • Chris & Joe vs Ian Dumergue & Stephen Forster
  • Paddy & Aiken vs Greg Fletcher & Simon Hockey

Robert & Malcolm played very well to beat Harps & Jenny in two straight games. In the second game, Malcolm failed 1b while on a standard TP, allowing Harps to complete a DPO on Robert's ball. However that proved to be our last turn, after Malcolm finished off the contact.
Chris & Joe had a good comeback to take the first game again Stephen & Ian, courtesy of another fine Chris TP. In the second game the Australians were clinical while NZ failed to trouble the scorers. The decider had interaction from both sides, but an aggressive attempt at picking up a standard TP failed for NZ, leaving Australia with an easy break to finish.

James Hopgood pegs out for test win against USA. Click to zoom.

Paddy & Aiken had a very long first game vs Greg & Simon, despite scoring no points - Simon had a tidy delayed TP. In the second, Greg had a 3rd turn ball to 4-back but Aiken hit and equalised, and Paddy finished with a TP. In the decider, Paddy hit third turn but misapproached H3 on an adventurous third-turn pickup giving Greg a 4-ball break. The lift was missed, and Simon reached the peg, albeit with only 1 peel. Paddy hit the last lift and had a ball to 4-back. The 'final' lift was missed, and Aiken had a chance to take the match, however an unfortunate incident occurred whereby he croqueted a ball off the lawn at the beginning of his turn.

All in all, the games today were very close and there were small margins deciding the outcomes. Congratulations to Australia who have now scored 11 points to ensure a test victory. Tomorrow NZ will come out firing and play to get as many points on the board as possible.

Friday
Apr282017

Soo 11: England and Australia Win Early

James Hopgood pegs out to give England an unassailable 11-7 lead over USA
England and Australia took command today, England winning the day's singles 5-1 to reach 11-7 vs. USA, and Australia sweeping their doubles round for 11-4 over New Zealand.

USA's #1 player Ben Rothman scored USA's only point for the day, beating ENG #1 Jamie Burch +17tp, +26tp. That put the Americans up 7-6. But by that point the other three 8:30 matches had England game up. David Maugham (ENG) finished his match with David Maloof (USA) soon after, +21, +16tp, to tie the test at 7-all. Samir Patel (ENG) won the captains' match against Danny Huneycutt (USA), followed by Stephen Mulliner (ENG) over Jeff Soo (USA) to make it 9-7. Matthew Essick (USA) took the middle game from James Death (ENG) in the second of the late-starting matches, but never took croquet in the decider. James Hopgood (ENG) vs. Stuart Lawrence (USA) went well into the afternoon, giving the Americans hope of keeping the test match alive for another day, but Hopgood scored the decisive 11th point for England.

Australia's Robert & Malcolm Fletcher had a quick 2-0 win over Jenny Clarke & Harps Tahurangi (NZ). Paddy Chapman & Aiken Hakes (NZ) won the middle game of their match with Simon Hockey & Greg Fletcher (AUS), but the Aussie pair won the decider to make the test match score 10-4 to Australia. Joe Hogan & Chris Shilling (NZ) won game 1 against Stephen Forster & Ian Dumergue (AUS), but Forster & Dumergue won the match to close out the test.

With one more day in the current round, England and Australia will be looking to pad their leads as much as possible. This isn't running up the score; if USA beats AUS, the winner of the ENG vs. NZ match will tie with AUS on test match wins, and the tiebreaker is percentage of individual matches won.

Wednesday
Apr262017

Soo 10: England Levels with USA

USA's top pairing of David Maloof & Ben Rothman extended USA's lead over England to 6-4, taking full advantage of errors by Jamie Burch & James Death (ENG) to win +2tp (Maloof), +10. Matthew Essick & Danny Huneycutt (USA) had chances against Samir Patel & Stephen Mulliner (ENG), but the English pair won with a pair of triples (one each), +6tp, +24tp.

Greg Fletcher rushes to hoop 1 to start his match-winning turnStuart Lawrence & Jeff Soo (USA) advanced to peg and penult in game 1 against James Hopgood & David Maugham (ENG), but a botched leave led to an excellent Maugham pickup and finish, +4tp. The Americans equalized after yet another failed TPO, this time with all three peels done. Hopgood managed a reasonable contact leave, and Lawrence went out of bounds trying for a rush on partner. Maugham cornered, and Lawrence parlayed some excellent long rushes into a finish, +14. There were few clean breaks and no peels in the decider, England winning +9 to claim a winning day and level the test match at 6-all.

In the NZ vs. AUS singles, Aiken Hakes (NZ) dispatched Robert Fletcher (AUS) with a pair of +26tp wins. There was sideline chatter about whether or not Hakes's hand was resting on the ground during a sweep shot, but the shot was ruled clean and the referee's ruling was of course not subject to appeal. Malcolm Fletcher posted a win for Australia soon after, beating Joe Hogan (NZ) +17, +17tp. Australian captain Ian Dumergue extended his team's lead, beating NZ captain Jenny Clarke +17tp, +17tp. Stephen Forster (AUS) took game 1 from Chris Shilling (NZ), +5. Shilling equalized, +17tp, but Forster won the decider +19.

The late-starting matches were split, NZ #1 Paddy Chapman beating AUS #2 Simon Hockey +17tp, +14tp, and Greg Fletcher (AUS) beating Harps Tahurangi (NZ), +26, +10tp. Another winning day for Australia gives them an 8-4 test match lead, leaving NZ a very tough hill to climb.

Wednesday
Apr262017

Chapman 08: Australia Extends Lead to 8-4

Aiken Hakes was able to pick up a 2-0 match win over Australia's Robert Fletcher
Going into day 3 of the second test, NZ were 4-2 down to Australia after yesterday's 'tension in the twilight.' NZ are not a team to roll over when they are behind however, and we were confident of a good day in today's singles.

The match-ups today were:
- Jenny vs Ian Dumergue
- Joe vs Malcolm Fletcher
- Aiken vs Robert Fletcher
- Chris vs Stephen Forster

With the two late starts being Harps vs Greg Fletcher and myself vs Simon Hockey.

For NZ, the match of today was surely Aiken's massive victory over world number 1 Robert Fletcher. Aiken hit 4th turn in game 1 after Robert failed H1 3rd turn, and proceeded to 4-back. Robert missed the lift and Aiken finished his delayed TP. Game 2 started with a supershot opening from Aiken, with misses on turns 3 and 4. Aiken hit an aggressive shot 5th turn and repeated the result of game 1 for a great victory.

Malcolm had most of the play against Joe - Joe hit numerous long shots but never quite had the rub of the green, and Malcolm won in straight games.

Ian and Jenny had a very high quality match (13 turns total) with Ian winning 2-0. Neither player made any errors, and Jenny can count herself a little unlucky with the end result.

Chris vs Stephen was probably the longest match of the day. Stephen took a tight first game by +5, only for Chris to comeback strongly with a TP in the second. In the decider, both players had some play, but Stephen reached the peg first to put Australia 7-3 up overall.

Harps vs Greg also had plenty of play for both sides. Harps had at least one ball round in each game, but Greg maintained the upper hand and played some tidy croquet to eventually win in straight games.

Myself vs Simon was the final match to start. I got off to a fast start by hitting 5th turn and going to 4-back. Simon hit the long lift from B Baulk centre-ball but got caught out by a hill at H4 when making his own leave and had to separate his two balls. I regained the innings and finished with a TP. In game 2, Simon had the first break but again got caught by the hill at H4 when making his leave. I hit the lift and popped his H1 ball to H3. Simon hit back in yet again, but made an error at H4, leaving me a short shot for a standard TP to make it 8-4 to Australia after day 3.

NZ will be aiming for a 3-0 result in the doubles tomorrow to try and close the gap to Australia.

Wednesday
Apr262017

Chapman 07: Ups and Downs for NZL

Austrailia's Ian Dumergue versus New Zealand in round two (Day 7)
Day 2 was another day of doubles, and a day of ups and downs for NZ in the second test.

After day 1, Australia were leading 2-1 and got off to a fast start with Malcolm and Robert Fletcher beating myself and Aiken Hakes 2-0 with two error-free games. I felt a little unlucky in hilling off from centre ball on two consecutive long shots in game 1 but the Australians played well to finish their TPs.

ROUND TWO PHOTOS

Once again the heroic combination of Hogan and Shilling played a fantastic gritty match to wear down Hockey and Greg Fletcher (their first defeat in the MacRob) in straight games. Chris did an excellent controlled TP in the first game and had a good go at another in game 2, reaching peg & rover with a good leave.

By far the longest match of the day was Tahurangi & Clarke vs Forster & Dumergue. Jenny played an excellent final turn in game 1 after Harps had been pegged out, hitting the lift and rolling off 4-back from corner 4 and finishing. In game 2, the Australians reached rover & rover before a spirited kiwi fightback. Eventually the kiwis reached peg & peg but found themselves hampered after rover, enabling the Aussies to force a decider. In the third game the Australians had the first break before Jenny had an equalising break of her own. The Aussies hit back in however and generally maintained control of the decider, winning +17 to take the day 2-1 and a 4-2 lead heading into tomorrow's singles.

All in all, it was a slightly disappointing day for NZ, but 4-2 is a fair result and only 1 match win away from being 3-3 overall. We will be aiming to win the day tomorrow.

Tuesday
Apr252017

Soo 09: US Holds 5-4 Lead After Singles

Yes, he hit it. Matthew Essick (USA) pegs out to cap a wild finish to his match with James Hopgood (ENG)

USA and England Split the Day's Singles

In the USA vs. ENG singles, England captain Samir Patel posted a quick +26tp, +26tp win over USA's Jeff Soo to tie the test match at 2-all. James Death (ENG) opened with a quick +22tp over Stuart Lawrence (USA). In game 2 Death broke down at 1-back; Lawrence missed and Death hit, giving him a chance for a sextuple peel. Three peels done, he missed the return roquet after 2-back, allowing Lawrence to take control for a +9tp win. James Hopgood (ENG) took the first game +15 against Matthew Essick (USA) after an exchange of errors; Essick was cleaner in game 2 and won +9tp. Meanwhile, Lawrence played well to reach peg and 4-back, but Death hit and contrived an elegant triple peel to take the match, +5tp in the third. This put England up by one.

ROUND TWO PHOTO GALLERY

Jamie Burch (ENG) ignored expert opinion and TPO'd David Maloof (USA) in game 1. Maloof shot well but never quite pulled together a three-ball break, Burch winning +9tpo. Maloof controlled game 2 for +25. Maloof had the first break in the decider; Burch hit the lift. He had a go at peeling Maloof's backward ball through hoop 1, but then missed his pioneer at hoop 5. But Maloof's shot missed, hit the hoop, and stayed on court. Burch made an NSL, Maloof missed, and Burch closed out the match +17tp, extending England's lead to 4-2.

In the first of the late-starting matches, Stephen Mulliner (ENG) won game 1 by +24tp against USA captain Danny Huneycutt. Huneycutt equalized in a scrappy game 2, +13. Ben Rothman (USA) won the opener against David Maugham (ENG) +17tp. Essick vs. Hopgood devolved into a remarkable exchange of errors and hit-ins, Essick finally putting the match away +7, bringing USA back to within one. Mulliner attempted a TPO in game 3, which quickly became a delayed peel attempt and finally a straight double. Two peels done, he managed a good enough contact leave to keep Huneycutt from scoring, and hit on the next turn. But a hampered shot after 1 gave control to Huneycutt, who finished +13 to tie the test match at 4-all. Maugham likewise attempted a TPO in game 2, breaking down with two peels done; Rothman finished +20 to give USA the end-of-day lead at 5-4.

Australia Has Another Winning Day

Robert & Malcolm Fletcher (AUS) each had a triple peel in a +26tp, +17tp win over Paddy Chapman & Aiken Hakes (NZ), extending Australia's lead to 3-1. Greg Fletcher's undefeated run came to an end today, he and Simon Hockey (AUS) losing to Joe Hogan and Chris Shilling (NZ), +26tp, +17, Shilling doing the triple in game 1. Jenny Clarke & Harps Tahurangi (NZ) won a protracted game 1 against Ian Dumergue & Stephen Forster (AUS), +4. Nearly nine hours into the match, the Aussie pair leveled with an even closer game 2, +2. A little before 7PM, Dumergue pegged out to give Australia another 2-1 day for a 4-2 test match lead.

Monday
Apr242017

Soo 08: USA Up 2-1 on England

Repeating the result from Day 1, the first day of the second round of test matches ends with Australia and USA leading their opponents 2-1.

18-year-old Matthew Essick debuted for USA today. He needed a few turns to settle in, but had an OSL in game 1 and an NSL in game 2; partner Danny Huneycutt tripled both times as opponents James Hopgood & David Maugham (ENG) never took croquet. Huneycutt's return to form is welcome news for Team USA.

Stuart Lawrence & Jeff Soo (USA) had several changes of innings with Jamie Burch & James Death (ENG), ending when Burch hit a 30-yarder and tripled to finish. In game 2 Death went round third turn off the opponents' Duffer tice, and Burch finished fifth turn to level the test match 1-all.

Malcolm Fletcher starts his match-winning triple peel

David Maloof & Ben Rothman (USA) took game 1 from Samir Patel & Stephen Mulliner (ENG) +17. Patel's triple-peel attempt in game 2 ended with four balls around rover. Maloof went round and Patel missed, but then Rothman's triple attempt came undone at 3-back. Patel hit in, but while approaching the two balls at 3-back he inadvertently roqueted Mulliner's ball. A nifty bombard dislodged Rothman's ball from the hoop, and Patel finished +6. Rothman had the first break in the decider. Maloof needed a couple of turns to get going; he went round with no peels and left a reversed B spread; that was enough as Patel missed the 11-yarder and Rothman finished to put USA up 2-1 for the test match.

Stephen Forster & Ian Dumergue (AUS) won game 1 by +3 against NZ's top pairing Paddy Chapman & Aiken Hakes, after Hakes's escape ball got in the way at rover. The Kiwis leveled the match +26, Chapman taking two turns to finish, then punished a first-break error in game 3 to win the match with a Hakes triple.

Simon Hockey & Greg Fletcher (AUS) went game up against Jenny Clarke & Harps Tahurangi (NZ), the latter making his MacRob debut today; Hockey tripled for +10tp. The Kiwis regrouped to win game 2 +17tp, Clarke tripling. Hockey put out a supershot ball to open game 3; Fletcher hit and went round, after a long hoop 1. Hockey managed to get a number of referees on the lawn at one or two points in his turn, but finished without incident, +26tp, to level the test match at 1-all.

All players, officials, and visitors from NZ and AUS paused to observe ANZAC Day at 1:00 local time, joining with their compatriots at home for the traditional Dawn Service.

Robert & Malcolm Fletcher (AUS) won game 1 by +4 against Chris Shilling & Joe Hogan (NZ), both sides breaking down while attempting triples. In game 2 Shilling finished a straight triple to level the match. Shilling put out a supershot ball to start the decider; Hogan hit and got going but missed a five-yarder after hoop 2. Robert went round to an NSL, Hogan narrowly missed the short shot, and Malcolm finished to make it a winning day for the Aussies.

Monday
Apr242017

Chapman 06: NZ Sticks Close to Australia on D1

Australia's Simon Hockey on the first day of Round 2 vs New Zealand
Australia's Simon Hockey on the first day of Round 2 vs New Zealand
Day one of test two said goodbye to Toby Garrison (who was only available for the first test) and hello to Harps Tahurangi. Harps is an excellent player from Wellington in NZ and today marks his MacRob debut.

The day started with a full group photo for all 24 players. Once the formalities were finished with, the serious business of test match croquet resumed.

Today saw the following match-ups:
- Aiken Hakes & Paddy Chapman vs Stephen Forster & Ian Dumergue
- Joe Hogan & Chris Shilling vs Robert Fletcher & Malcolm Fletcher
- Jenny Clarke & Harps Tahurangi vs Greg Fletcher & Simon Hockey

Unfortunately due to refereeing constraints, the decision was again made to split the teams up, with 2 pairs from NZ vs Australia and 2 pairs from England vs USA competing on lawns 1-4, and 1 pair from each country competing on lawns 5 and 6 (instead of using three of the four lawns numbered 1-4 and lawns 5-7 in order for test matches to be kept together).

In the NZ vs Australia test, it was a very closely contested battle. All the NZ pairs found themselves trailing 0-1 after the first 90 minutes of play. After that there was something of a kiwi revival, with NZ scoring the test match first point through Chapman & Hakes - in a closely-fought match that contained too many errors for the conditions, the kiwis came out 2-1 winners thanks to a tidy Hakes TP in the decider.

On the other side of the club, Harps (on debut) and Jenny played some excellent croquet to take the match to a third game, before succumbing to a 5th turn TP in the decider.

In Chris and Joe's match, again there was a good fight-back courtesy of a straight triple from Chris (yet another excellent turn under pressure from the debutante). In the decider, the kiwis had a chance for a 3rd turn ball round, but missed a 5-yarder after H2 with a pioneer waiting at H3. From there, the Australians closed out the match in two turns.

So overall after day 1 of the second test, NZ trail the MacRob favourites Australia by 2-1. We're looking forward to at least squaring things up tomorrow.

Sunday
Apr232017

Soo 07: Rest Day Coverage Plus Line-up Changes

The unusual outcome of a failed straight triple attempt on Day 4

Lawns and players alike will be given a rest today. Given the forecast high temperature of 95 (35C) this is a welcome break. Volunteers and officials will undoubtedly have some duties today, but perhaps also get something of a rest day.

After the excitement of two close test matches in round 1 all are looking ahead to the next round. Team orders have already been submitted to the Tournament Director, a day earlier than usual. Harps Tahurangi joins the NZ lineup at #6; Hakes, Hogan, Clarke, and Shilling each move up a position (Garrison, who has returned home, played at #2 last week). That means Hakes makes the jump to the top group and Clarke to the middle group for singles matchups. Shilling & Hogan will partner again in doubles; Clarke & Chapman have split up, Clarke partnering Tahurangi and Chapman partnering Hakes (thus keeping a MacRob veteran in each doubles pair).

The Australian team order is unchanged. England has swapped Maugham and Mulliner in the singles lineup, and rearranged the (arbitrary) order of their doubles pairings. USA adds Matthew Essick to the lineup at #5, replacing Morgan there and also in doubles.

Players have of course been focused on their own matches and have had less opportunity to see their next-round opposition in action. Peeling stats are a good indicator of overall quality of play. There are many ways to slice this data; here are the stats for each team on games won with a triple (or better) peel as a percentage of all games won. (This includes OTP games.)

AUS ... 89%
ENG ... 83%
USA ... 60%
NZL ... 54%

Obviously this statistic does not correlate 1:1 with test match wins, NZ having beaten USA. But it does suggest that NZ and USA have room for improvement.