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2017 MacRobertson Shield Coverage

ROUND THREE

AUS 14, USA 7
ENG 15, NZL 4 

MATCH STANDINGS

40 -- Australia (3-0)
38 -- England (2-1)
22 -- New Zealand (1-2)
24 -- USA (0-3)

NEWS

Journal: Jeff Soo (USA)
Journal: Paddy Chapman (NZL)
Reports: Chris Clarke

VIDEO

Livestream: Lawn Four Cam
YouTube: James Hopgood Channel

RESOURCES

Photos: Round 1
Photos: Round 2
Photos: Round 3
Link: 2017 Official MacRob Website
Link: 2017 MacRob Scores
Facebook: MacRobertson Shield 2017 Page

ROUND ONE

NZL 11, USA 10
AUS 12, ENG 9

ROUND TWO

AUS 14, NZL 7
ENG 14, USA 7 

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Entries in Aiken Hakes (22)

Tuesday
May162017

Video: New Zealand's Dramatic Win vs USA


Video from Chris Clarke: The last action of the USA v NZ Test at the 2017 MacRobertson Shield held at Mission Hills. We join it with USA leading 10-9. Chris Shilling is in the third against Stuart Lawrence and Aiken Hakes is game up against Jeff Soo.
Thursday
May042017

Clarke: 2017 MacRobertson Review - Round 3

Third Tests Review

It would be all too easy to write about the hoard of errors that we have seen over the past five days. To do so would completely fail to acknowledge the extreme temperatures that the players have had to endure. I would certainly not have been playing at multiple junctures, with temperatures reaching 106 F. The pull on the balls had increased noticeably, with some players commenting that the black has been too hot to pick up.

Therefore, I will just comment on a few of the high quality matches that have still occurred. Jamie Burch played well to beat Paddy Chapman, Aiken Hakes played well to beat David Maugham who also played well back and Robert Fletcher played well against Ben Rothman.

England comfortably beat NZ 15-4, although the match should have been tied 3-3 after day 2. Australia played solid croquet to achieve the basic Mac pattern of winning each day 2-1, 4-2, 2-1, 4-2, 2-1. The USA were competitive throughout.

The event lacked several things and one thing.

  • Finishing – so many basic finishing turns failed to finish.
  • Understanding – there was a lack of understanding of how to make lift leaves, play pegged out endings, optimise non-lift leaves and optimise openings.
  • Leaves – so many games featured leaves giving away 9 yarders, or doubles.
  • Firm hoops – it was too easy to run hoops gently from distance and angle.
  • Originality – there was a lack of popping combined with hoop leaves.
  • Reliability – very few players were able to produce a consistent performance level.
  • Desire – from the English to turn up fully prepared to play the Australians in the first Test.

Below is an overview of each team followed by my thoughts on the individual players. Whilst we were over here, we had the NFL Draft after which some reporters gave a grade to each of the 32 teams. I have tried to do the same with the players, considering how they performed compared to expectations. Grades run from A+ to E-. The fact that I have given no-one a low grade is an indication that there were no walkover “guaranteed” wins this Mac. All players can leave with a degree of satisfaction.

USA

This was a good performance from Team USA. They were constantly competitive and picked up a large number of wins. I disliked their response R 9 yards E of the peg in response to supershots (particularly long ones) and this opening was unsuccessful most of the time. Overall, their breaks were scrappy and their leaves left a lot to be desired. They started well in all Test matches but looked much more nervy as the winning line became closer.

New Zealand

This was a team that only knew its true identity a couple of weeks before the event. For them to mount a comeback from 4-7 against the USA was a massive achievement. They got into every Test, but at times it appeared that they were researching for a new book called “101 ways to put down winning turns.” They could easily have picked up another 9 or 10 match wins. They will view this year as a transitional one and look forward to introducing their exciting young prospects into the next Mac and hopefully welcoming back a couple of their strong experienced players.

England

Started poorly and improved slightly. There were some good performances capable of winning the event, but too many mistakes combined with poor tactical decisions cost them. Clearly playing the strongest opposition in week 1, when out of season, was an additional handicap. The fact that they were playing a different game to the one normally played in England cannot have helped them. In 2006, GB destroyed their opposition, reaching 11-0 in the final before cruising to a big win. In the 11 years since, England/GB have failed to win the most matches in any MacRobertson Shield and have lost two Solomon Trophies. They seemed unaware that TPOs and sextuples were bad tactics. I have written for many years that England turn up to these major events unprepared with untried doubles pairings. This year it cost them.

Australia

Almost the opposite to the England team. 30 months of preparation combined with a clear tactical game plan and good doubles pairings set the solid base for a good all round team performance. I’m not sure that they pegged anyone out at all before the last day. They have a youthful team that could go on from here and will no doubt have great support when they defend their title in Australia in 2021. Worthy winners.

Player Analysis


Robert Fletcher: Grade A-
When you come into a MacRobertson Shield graded 200 points higher than the next player, it is tricky to meet the expectations that everyone has of you. Robert made close to zero errors having made the first hoop of his turn, but did fail hoop 1 on a few occasions. His shooting was mixed and the easy lawns meant that he suffered more defeats than he would have liked.

Simon Hockey: Grade B
Probably the least consistent of the Australian contingent. Simon often looked classy when on a tp, but his shooting and leave making often fell below expectations.

Ian Dumergue: Grade B
Got his team off to a good start in the first test before weakening in later Tests. Variable shooting ranging from good at long range to suspect at short range. Lovely positive character – excellent captain.

Malcolm Fletcher: Grade B+
Error prone towards the start of the event, but improved as he settled. Breakplay still far too loose for my liking, but enjoyed the easy playing conditions that allowed recoveries from previous misplay.

Greg Fletcher: Grade A+
Probably the best shot in the event, clearly having benefited from playing in the GC Worlds. Whilst he did make quite a few errors, I have felt forced to give him an A+ due to his ability to win openings, regain the innings and complete triples when playing on his debut.

Stephen Forster: Grade B
Once in the balls, Stephen always looked graceful and possessed some of the best touch of any of the players. The first shot of his turn was highly suspect, with him having recently changed to centre style Solomon for these shots.

David Maugham: Grade A
Very few errors combined with quality leaves made this a strong performance. In terms of the future, his ever diminishing backswing must cause concern.

Jamie Burch: Grade A-
Shot very well as always. Still too loose a break player for my liking, but improving. Nice speed of play.

Samir Patel: Grade B+
A little too inconsistent to quite gain an A- grade. Played plenty of good turns but slightly too many poor ones. More likely to take good tactical lines of play than some of the other English players.

Stephen Mulliner: Grade C+
Attempts at a sextuple and many failed tpos and losing tpos made this a disappointing event for the World Champion. Finished his dead match with an entertaining sextuple that had a straight quadruple with half-jumps at 4-b and rover.

James Death: Grade C-
Fun to watch as ever, but surprisingly making a lot of breakplay errors and compounding that with long periods of poor shooting.

James Hopgood: Grade B+
A mixed bag from the debutant. Plenty of high quality turns were mixed with some dreadful games.

Paddy Chapman: Grade A-
Probably my favourite player to watch. He was elegant, played controlled turns and attempted more popping than any other player. Not quite on top form and always slightly vulnerable against the best shots.

Aiken Hakes: Grade A-
The only unbeaten player in singles with several excellent matches. Doubles disappointingly less effective or cohesive. An impressive debut.

Joe Hogan: Grade C+
Great to have the first ever World Champion back in the Mac. He played several good turns and regularly hit his last shot to generate game winning turns. Regrettably, most did not finish. Shots such as irish peels and peg outs really showed the difficulty of using a basic 9” unweighted mallet.

Jenny Clarke: Grade B
The best performance level I have ever seen from a player who won such a low percentage of games. Plenty of third turn balls round and good leaves always seemed to be followed by her opponent hitting and finishing in two turns. Spoke well at the functions.

Chris Shilling: Grade A
Had one of the best combinations of controlled hoop stroke and croquet strokes in the event. Fabulous debut. Would have got an A+ if he had taken one of his finishing turns to make it 3-3 vs England on day 12.

Harps Tahurangi: Grade C+
Starting mid-series is a tough ask and Harps was always competitive. Great tp to win his first match on day 12, but too many easy breaks put down overall.

Toby Garrison: Grade B-
Tough ask to come and play at number 2 in a Mac having not played for some time. Improved day by day and was a fabulous team member.

Ben Rothman: Grade B-
Playing at the club where he used to be pro, I expected a strong performance from the British Open Champion. However loose break play cost him matches he should have won. Seemed unhappy with the hoops, complaining that they should be wider.

David Maloof: Grade B-
Loose break play once again caused some unforced errors that proved costly playing at number 2.

Danny Huneycutt: Grade C+
Perhaps the most Jekyll and Hyde performance of all. He interspersed solid triples that showed his underlying ability level with a jerky set of single ball strokes that indicated he was battling with the yips.

Jeff Soo: Grade B-
Once again playing too high in the team order for my liking, he played plenty of solid turns. However, a tendency to slam at key hoops caused his undoing on multiple occasions.

Stuart Lawrence: Grade B+
Good debut. Played some good peeling turns, but combined that with some games that degenerated rapidly in quality.

Stephen Morgan: Grade B
Good debut. Still lacking the controlled breakplay that he will need when playing in trickier conditions. Always looked solid at longer hoops. Needs to develop greater control and improve his leaves.

Matthew Essick: Grade B+
The ultimate in uncontrolled croquet. Five and six yarders regarded as normal. It is a style of play that I struggle to appreciate, but it did work in some of his matches.

Wednesday
May032017

Chapman 14: Disappointing Day in Searing Heat

Australia claims the 2017 MacRobertson Shield

Going into today we were 9-3 down to England, so somewhat staring down the barrel. To have any hope of a test victory we really needed to pick up 3 doubles wins today.

The match-ups today were:

- Aiken & Paddy vs Jamie Burch & James Death
- Joe & Chris vs Stephen Mulliner & Samir Patel
- Jenny & Harps vs David Maugham & James Hopgood

The day got off to a promising start with NZ taking the first game in two of the three matches. Jenny & Harps had plenty of play vs David & James but some random errors enabled England to take a 2-0 win.

Aiken & Paddy's match was somewhat error strewn, with mistakes from all players over the course of the 3 games. NZ took the first with a TP and had a finishing turn in the second, before England had a finishing turn of their own. Chances on both sides were missed, but England finally levelled the scores. In the decider, NZ had a 3rd turn ball to 4-back but the second ball was hampered after H1. England had their own finishing turn but could only reach penult & peg. The lift was hit but another error enabled England to take the victory.

Joe & Stephen also took the first vs Stephen & Samir, with 3 solid breaks. In the second, NZ had a potential finishing turn which eventually came to grief at 4-back and penult. This let the English pair into the match and they quickly leveled the scores. After a long lunch break, the decider was all England early-on, reaching rover & peg before NZ had started. Joe hit the last lift but failed H1. Samir then took a mid-length shot at partner, but hit the peg leaving all the balls in-lawn. This enabled Chris to make a break to 4-back but England then hit back to finish and take the game 26-9 and match 2-1.

Congratulations to England on winning the test. All players were very pleased to escape the heat of the sun on what was a particularly oppressive day (approx 40deg celcius).

A short while after the England/NZ test was wrapped up, Australia scored their 11th point vs USA to take the MacRobertson Shield for 2017 - congratulations to them on their first win in this event since 1935. This is probably the first MacRob in over 50 years where Australia has gone into the event as favourites, and it shows in their play as they have been the team to beat for the whole event.

Wednesday
May032017

Chapman 13: England Withstands the Heat to Extend Lead

England's David Maugham on D13, Round 3 versus New Zealand

Today was by far the hottest day at the MacRob so far, approximately 40 degrees celsius. The match-ups were as follows:

- Aiken vs David Maugham
- Chris vs James Hopgood
- Joe vs Stephen Mulliner
- Harps vs James Death
...with late starts for Jenny vs Samir Patel and Paddy vs Jamie Burch.

The first point of the day came courtesy of James Hopgood, taking a 2-0 win over Chris. Chris had plenty of play, and reached 4b and peg in game 2 before James hit in and finished with a TP.
Aiken equalised the day's score at 1-1 shortly after by taking out David Maugham 2-1, coming back from game and break down, then break down in the third, to win and give NZ a much-needed point.
Harps vs James was an all-day affair that eventually ended 2-0 to James, despite a lot of interaction. In the second game, Harps reached rover & peg and had a rush to rover vs James' single ball for peg. James smacked the peg from near corner 2 to take the win just in the nick of time.

Joe vs Stephen was an epic battle between two players who first played each other in the MacRob in 1982. Stephen took the first, and TPO'd Joe in the second, however Joe eventually hit a long shot and took a break to the peg. A 3-yarder was missed after rover, allowing Stephen a chance. Fortunately for NZ, Stephen missed his own 3-yarder to give Joe the game. Joe had all the early play in the decider and was on a standard TP. With all the peels done, he failed rover from close-by. Stephen failed to progress and Joe had another chance, but failed rover again. Stephen again failed to progress and this time Joe made rover but missed the peg-out from fairly close, sending a ball off the lawn in the process. Stephen found his second wind and finished in 2 turns to take a 26-24 third game.

Paddy vs Jamie was a clinical match in Jamie's favour. After a succession of misses at the beginning, Jamie had the first break. Paddy hit the lift and started a popping turn before misapproaching 1b out of nowhere. Jamie finished a short while later. Jamie had a convincing 5th turn finish in the second game to take the match, albeit having to rush peelee into position for the rover peel from just south of penult.

Jenny vs Samir had a very close first game, with Jenny reaching 4b & peg before Samir had made much progress. Samir finally hit in but made an error around 2b, allowing Jenny the first chance to close out the game, however the approach to 4b left a longer-than-ideal hoop which was failed. a 3-ball ending ensued in which Samir prevailed. In the second game, Samir had a 6th-turn ball to 4-back, and then an 8th turn ball to the peg, never getting any luck with the 4-back peel. He ended up winning the game without conceding croquet.

At the end of the day all players were very pleased to get inside to air-conditioning on what was an absolute scorcher. Well done to England on a good day. NZ's performance was approaching average but a series of unfortunate events and too many errors ultimately led England to a 5-1 scoreline.

Monday
May012017

Chapman 12: New Zealand Fights Back

Harps Tahurangi and Jenny ClarkeStarting today 3-0 down to England, we knew we needed a big day to get back into the test, and that is what we got.

It was a second consecutive day of doubles and the match-ups were:

- Aiken & Paddy vs David Maugham & James Hopgood
- Harps & Jenny vs Stephen Mulliner & Samir Patel
- Joe & Chris vs Jamie Burch & James Death

Aiken & Paddy started very strongly with a 3rd turn ball to 4b from Aiken followed by a 5th turn TP by Paddy. The second game was much the same, with Aiken hitting 4th turn and going to 4b, followed by another TP by Paddy, to conclude an 11-turn no-error match.

Jenny & Harps had a great first game with solid breaks by the kiwis to take a 1-0 lead. In the second, NZ had the first ball round but this time the lift was hit by Stephen who completed a TPO on Jenny's ball. This left Harps on his own and 1 missed long shot was all it took for England to establish the game-winning break. In the decider, Harps completed his first MacRob TP to take a memorable first MacRob match win.

Joe & Chris were 1-0 down in their match within about 40 minutes after a 6th turn TP from the English. However the kiwis dug in and 'pitched the tent' to force a decider. The third game contained lots of tense moments and swung each way multiple times. With NZ on 4b and penult, Jamie established a match-winning TP but misapproached penult. This enabled Joe to take his 4b ball to the peg. NZ had a couple of chances to finish the game off, eventually reaching rover & peg with the innings before Jamie hit a long shot to get back in. A couple more long shots were taken, but England managed to sneak home 26-23 to take the match win.

So NZ won the day 2-1 and trail England 4-2. We are back in a good position now and looking forward to tomorrow's singles. All the players found today very draining on what was probably the hottest day of play so far.

Sunday
Apr302017

Chapman 11: Sub-Optimal Day for NZ

England's James Death in play during R3 vs New Zealand

The third test started today, between NZ and England. With Australia in good position, it is likely that this test is the playoff for 2nd and 3rd place.

The match-ups today were:
- Aiken & Paddy vs Samir Patel & Stephen Mulliner
- Chris & Joe vs David Maugham & James Hopgood
- Jenny & Harps vs James Death & Jamie Burch

Aiken & Paddy's match vs Stephen and Samir started with a quick Mulliner ball to 4-back. The lift was hit and the scores equalised (plus a couple of pops on oppo for good measure), and Aiken then completed a good TP under pressure after a difficult start (involving approaching H1 from C2). Game 2, NZ had the first chance, but a backward take-off to H1 hit the wire, giving the first break to England. The lift was missed, but England's TP came to grief also courtesy of a backward take-off to H6 with 1 peel done. NZ had a break to 4-back but England regained control after hitting the lift. Game 3 had a 5th turn break from Samir, until he failed 3b out of nowhere. NZ had an equalising break with 2 pops on England's backward ball, but it wasn't enough - Stephen hit the lift and finished with an adventurous and entertaining QP.

USA's Ben Rothman in play against Australia. Click to Zoom

Joe & Chris put up a good fight against David and James, with James completing a TP to take the first. The second game was more interesting, thanks to a Dave TPO on Chris' ball. That left a 2 v 1 cat-and-mouse ending, with James pulling out a quality 2-ball break from H3 all the way round to 4b, until he tried to get behind Joe's ball near C3 and accidentally ran into it. This allowed Joe a half-chance to get back into the match - starting the turn on H2 he played some good croquet strokes and by H5 had a perfect 3-ball break. Unfortunately the 2b pioneer was a little deep and that is where his break came to grief. A short while later James 2-balled the finish from 4b to the peg.

Jenny & Harps gave James and Jamie a run for their money. Unfortunately because the doubles matches are for some reason split across the two different sides of the club, I didn't get to see much of the early play. I do know that NZ had a 3rd turn ball round in game 1, but eventually lost 6th turn in a no-error game. NZ then came back strongly to take the second after an error by England on a finishing turn. In the decider, NZ had all the early play, reaching rover and rover. Unfortunately the straight rover peel was a lot longer than ideal (about 4 yards), and neither ball ended up going through. England took their chance and finished 2 turns later.

A good day for England; a sub-optimal day for NZ. Taking the positives, the kiwis did play some good croquet, but just failed to take their chances in a few cases. We are not a team to roll over when we're behind though, and are looking forward to fighting back tomorrow.

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

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.

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.

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

Chapman 05: New Zealand Wins 11-10

New Zealand's Toby Garrison on Day Five of Round One versus Team USA

Going into today, we held an 8-7 lead in the race to reach 11 points for victory. As it was a singles day, there were 6 points up for grabs and so we needed a 3-3 result (or better) to take the test.

The match-ups for today were:
Chris Shilling vs Stuart Lawrence
Toby Garrison vs David Maloof
Joe Hogan vs Danny Huneycutt
Paddy Chapman vs Ben Rothman

Jenny and Aiken were our late starts today, so were part of the support crew for the 'morning session'. Jenny was to play Stephen Morgan on the first available lawn, and Aiken to play Jeff Soo on the second available lawn.

The day got off to a fairly even start, with Danny taking the first point for the USA vs Joe. A short time later, I put a point of the board for NZ by beating Ben in a fairly close match. At that point things got a lot more tense...

Toby vs David had a very close game 2, where Toby took a 25-0 lead, only for David to hit in and go to peg, Toby miss, then David have a break to win - only to miss a 3 yarder when in control of the game. Toby eventually won the game to force a decider. In the third game, both players had some play, but eventually David dug out a truly exceptional TP to take victory.

Jenny and Stephen had a fairly high-quality match, with Stephen looking to be in excellent form, completing 2 × 6th turn TPs in his 2-1 victory. Jenny herself looked in pretty good nick, taking the second game with a tidy delayed TP.

Aiken vs Jeff was the very last match to start, at approximately 2pm. After a fast start by Aiken, he came to grief at 4b and penult after some bad luck when trying to obtain a hoop-and-roquet out of 3b on a delayed TP (the nailed-on hoop-and-roquet missed to the North boundary). Jeff had a chance to take the game, but Aiken got one more good chance and took the game with a straight double peel. In the second game, Jeff had first break, but after an error with the second ball it allowed Aiken to make his own equalising break, and then complete a very controlled TP to take the match.

This made the test score 10-10 and it all came down to Chris vs Stuart. Amid a great atmosphere, Chris played some very nice controlled breaks and excellent croquet strokes to take the match 2-1 after dropping the first game.

So NZ wins the first test 11-10! It was a great test to be involved in, and was particularly awesome for our debutantes, Aiken and Chris, who won both their singles matches. Both teams fought hard to the end - the Americans were very gracious in defeat and the Kiwis acknowledged that it could easily have swung the other way (and did multiple times through the day!).

Next on the menu is Australia in two days time :-)

Sunday
Apr232017

Soo 06: New Zealand Holds the Line

Australia's Greg Fletcher, in play yesterday against James Death. Fletcher is the only player to win all five matches so far.

On the final day of round one, New Zealand held the line to win the test; while England finished strong to make their score against Australia more respectable.

It is a truism that the team that wins the doubles wins the test. In the case of NZ vs USA, the truism was exactly right. The two teams split each singles day 3-3. It was NZ's comeback from 1-4 down to 5-4 up in the doubles that made the difference.

Aiken Hakes (Click to Zoom)USA team captain Danny Huneycutt posted the first result of the day, beating NZ's Joe Hogan +16, +24tp, to tie the test match at 8-all. Paddy Chapman (NZ) retook the lead for NZ in a +5tp, -17, +26tp win against Ben Rothman (USA). David Maloof (USA) made it 9-all, beating Toby Garrison +16tp, -4, +16tp. Then Stephen Morgan (USA) gave his team the lead, beating NZ team captain Jenny Clarke +26tp, -15tp, +26tp. Despite USA's needing only one win in the remaining two matches, the Kiwis were not to be denied. The matches finished nearly simultaneously, Aiken Hakes (NZ) beating Jeff Soo (USA) +4, +14tp, and Chris Shilling (NZ) pegging out moments later to finish a 10-hour marathon with Stuart Lawrence (USA), -4tp, +13tp, +9.

It was fitting that Shilling scored the decisive win. He and Paddy Chapman each won both their singles and two of three doubles; this is only expected from Chapman, a consistent world top five player, but is especially notable for a MacRobertson Shield debutant.

England finally had a winning day, winning two of three doubles matches, for a final test-match score of 12-9 Australia. Simon Hockey and Greg Fletcher added another point to Australia's total, making Fletcher 5/5 for the test. Like Shilling, Fletcher is also a MacRob debutant.

There is still all to play for, for all four teams. For England or USA to win the Shield at this point would require some help from one of the opposing teams, but given how close both tests played out it looks quite possible that no team will win all three tests. Were that to happen, the winner would be determined by percentage of matches won. But, no doubt, the winner of next week's New Zealand vs. Australia test will be in the driver's seat going into the final round.

Saturday
Apr222017

Chapman 04: Excellent Day for New Zealand

New Zealand's Joe Hogan on Day 4
An excellent day for New Zealand today! We needed a big result to get back into the test match, and that is exactly what happened.

Jenny and myself had a good win against Stuart Lawrence & Jeff Soo. Although we won in 2 straight games, all the players made some hoops and there was some interactivity.

Aiken and Toby had an excellent strong win against Danny Huneycutt and Stephen Morgan. Aiken did an excellent TP in the first game, getting the first peel before 1b.

The big upset of the day was the huge win by Joe and Chris against Ben Rothman and David Maloof - we had the goal of trying to take 2 matches out of 3 for the day, but to get all 3 was a huge bonus and got us back to level-pegging at 7-7 in the test. Both Chris and Joe played some excellent controlled croquet to take the match, and Joe hit two great 'final' lift shots along the way.

At the conclusion of the scheduled matches, Joe and Chris continued their epic pegged-down match (now in its third day) vs Danny Huneycutt & Stephen Morgan. From yesterday's position of H1 and peg vs 2b alone, Joe managed to finish without the Americans playing any more strokes. He played an immaculate 3-ball break to the peg amidst much applause, including what is perhaps the shot of the tournament: after running H5, he hit his return roquet into the jaws of H5 with a pioneer waiting at H6. He played a half-roll stroke at a pace that would have easily sent the front ball off the lawn (and possibly into the neighbouring houses), but managed to smack the croqueted ball into the peg, ricocheting across to beside 1b in the process and leaving himself a 4-yarder on his H6 pioneer.

Adding this result onto the scores, NZ lead 8-7.

Friday
Apr212017

Chapman 03: Solid Play Narrows the Gap

Aiken Hakes on his way to his first MacRob singles win
Spirits are high in the NZ team after today's play. We needed a solid day to put some points on the board after two fairly inconsistent days of doubles, and that is what we got.

Aiken Hakes playing in his first MacRob singles match had a tight match with Danny Huneycutt, going to 3 games. Danny had a chance to finish but broke down allowing Aiken to make his first singles match a memorable one by taking victory.

Another debutante, Chris Shilling played really quality croquet to defeat Stephen Morgan in 3 games. He sealed the match with a TP in the decider.

Jenny was a little unfortunate to go down to Stuart Lawrence, who played some excellent croquet to win in 3 games, with 2 TPs.

Joe Hogan, whose last MacRob singles match was 27 years ago, played some classy croquet (including a TP) but eventually went down to Jeff Soo in a close deciding game.

Toby Garrison (late start 1) had an extremely close first game with Ben Rothman, with both having chances to finish. In the end Ben took it 26-23. Both players also had some play in the second game, but Ben held his nerve also take the second game and the match with a TP.

David Maloof vs myself was the second late start, i.e. the last match to go on today. After David had a ball round to 4-back early in game 1, he didn't have much play after that and I took the match in two straight games (and a very lucky finish to a TP in the second).

The match score stands at 7-4 to the USA at the end of today's play, with still the one doubles match (from yesterday) unfinished.

The Chris Shilling & Joe Hogan vs Danny Huneycutt & Stephen Morgan doubles match re-started again this evening at around 4pm, and the kiwis managed to level the score at 1-1 with another excellent finishing turn by Chris. In the decider, the kiwis had the first ball to 4b, but the Americans hit the lift and joined them on 4b. After that there was a wee bit of interaction until Danny managed to get a delayed TP under control - only to come to grief at 2b with 2 peels done. This allowed Chris to complete the SPO on Stephen's ball. The state of play at the moment is:

Danny - 2b
Stephen - box
vs
Joe - H1
Chris - peg

The kiwis are laid up about 10yd North of C4 with Danny having just missed a shot at them from near C2. The match will be completed when time allows - it may yet prove crucial to the result of this test match. There is still all to play for.