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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.