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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 James Hopgood (20)

Thursday
May042017

Chapman 15: Final Day

England's Stephen Mulliner on Day 15

Last Day is the Hottest

Today was the last day of play in the 2017 MacRob. Australia had already sealed the title yesterday, and England had already secured second place, so there was only pride at stake today. The forecast also had today as the hottest day of the entire event, at 41 degrees celcius. With this in mind, the two NZ/England matches with late starts had agreement between all 4 players that they should be abandoned, and so there would only be 4 points up for grabs today.

The 4 matches today were:

- Jenny vs Stephen Mulliner
- Joe vs Samir Patel
- Harps vs James Hopgood
- Chris vs James Death

Jenny had a chance to take the first game vs Stephen but an unfortunate "death roll" penult peel going to 2-back left her with a long roquet on her 2b pioneer which missed into baulk. Stephen made no mistake in taking the game from there. In the second, Stephen embarked on a SXP which finished with a very adventurous straight QP - to record the only sextuple in the event.

ROUND 3 PHOTO GALLERY

Joe had a few chances early on against Samir, hitting with all the balls in the middle, but a long angled hoop 1 was failed, allowing Samir into the match. After this, Joe never had the run of the ball and Samir won 2-0.

Chris Shilling. Click to Zoom.Harps had a similar match vs James Hopgood. James completed two consecutive clinical 26-0tp games and Harps' only error was to miss a few long shots by the proverbial coat of paint.

Chris had an excellent match vs James Death. He built on his excellent record in this, his MacRob debut, to record a 2-0 win with yet another solid break-play performance.

It has been a great event, played in good spirit between all players. Congratulations to Australia on comfortably winning their first MacRob for over 80 years. A very deserved win which was built upon several years of preparation. It sets an example to the other teams who I'm sure will be looking to implement a similar strategy in the lead-up to 2021.

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.

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

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.

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.

Sunday
Apr232017

Clarke: 2017 MacRobertson Review - Round 1

Today, we are pleased to add Chris Clarke to the team of contributors for coverage of the 2017 MacRobertson Shield being held this month (and into May) in Rancho, Mirage, California. This is in addition to the players journals we have running from Jeff Soo and Paddy Chapman. Please enjoy ...

First Tests Review: England v Australia and New Zealand v USA

Day 1

The first day of any MacRobertson Shield is an exciting and nervous experience. Over the past three decades, I have seen many debutants wilt under the pressure. It therefore comes as a pleasant surprise to be able to report on two excellent debuts on day 1 of these tests. Stuart Lawrence completed two triple peels to take his match partnering Jeff Soo against Hogan and Shilling without the Kiwis even taking croquet. Stuart’s only error was failing to get going once in game two which gave away a long bonus shot.

In the other Test, James Hopgood made no errors taking breaks to 4-b on the fourth and third turns of his two games. This was perhaps an even stronger performance since his pairing with Maugham won their match without the world number one Robert Fletcher taking croquet – Robert only struck his ball twice in the match.

At about 11 o’clock, it looked as if England would take a 2-0 lead when Jamie Burch was on a finishing turn against Dumergue and Forster, when already game up. However, a blast at hoop 2 failed to go through (these hoops react better to soft and mid-pace shots) and Stephen Forster played a good finishing turn to turn Death’s tpo into an otp. The players broke for lunch at 1-1. Meanwhile over in lawn 5, Mulliner had completed the peels of a dpo only to completely miss the peg-out leaving a ball at Greg Fletcher’s hoop and conceding contact. Greg made no error and finished the match next turn to level the test 1-1.

When the deciding game resumed in the Death/Burch v Dumergue/Forster match, Burch went round 5th turn, but Forster hit the lift and Dumergue claimed the match on the 7th turn to give Australia the overnight lead. NZ and USA shared the other two doubles for the USA to lead 2-1. How critical will this turn-around be on day 5?

Day 2

England and Australia shared today's singles 3-3 to give Australia a 5-4 lead. One piece of information that may not be widely known is that Robert Fletcher broke his mallet a week ago and is still getting used to his new mallet. In his second game against Mulliner, both players had 2 breaks and both had 3 peels, but it was the player with the better tactics that won.

The USA/NZ match only finished two of their three doubles, both going to the USA to give them a 4-1 lead. The Huneycutt/Morgan v Hogan/Shilling match was pegged down after 10.5 hours. Amazingly, it was still in the second game!!

Day 3

Australia once again won the doubles 2-1 to take a 7-5 lead into day 4. Another losing tpo featured in England’s defeat. I highlighted during the last World Championships that of the 7 tpos completed, 6 of them lost and that this was a weak tactic. No lessons seem to have been learnt by the English players.
USA/NZ shared the singles 3-3 to make it 7-4 and NZ equalised at game all in the unfinished doubles which was once again pegged down after 12.5 hours.

Day 4

NZ won all three doubles and added the unfinished doubles to make it 4-0 on the day to take an 8-7 lead into the final day.

The Aus/Eng match showed an increase in both the number of errors and the strangeness of tactical choices. Whether this was due to the high temperatures, inexperience, pressure, or a combination of these three factors I do not know. To give one example of a baffling set of decisions, Greg Fletcher had completed all the peels of his triple against James Death in their deciding game, but was 1 foot in front of rover with peelee just through the hoop. He had the option to jump over and take a 9 yard return roquet, but decided to run the hoop firmly and flat. I was standing next to Ian Dumergue, the Australian Captain and commented on what a mature sensible decision Greg had made. I assumed he would croquet partner to the peg, possibly getting a long peg out and would then rush James’ balls off the boundaries to take a 25-0 lead and force a hit-in. The spectators were amazed when Greg played a hard peg-out from the south boundary where the front ball zoomed off the lawn. Following this, James, instead of going to 4-b and giving Greg one shot to stay in the match (there were 32 +26tp results in the first Tests), went to 1-b and attempted a sextuple. No-one has achieved more than 3 peels of a sextuple so far in the event and whilst it was a surprise that James didn’t even attempt the 3-b peel, it was little surprise that the turn did not finish.

Australia took 3 of the first 5 matches to finish which left them on the brink of victory at 10-7. The final match to finish was between Stephen Forster and James Hopgood. This was a tough position for a debutant to find themselves and he played some good turns. However, Forster’s experience and elegant play won through to give Australia the key 11th match win.

I have been asked in the past what Australia needed to do to win a MacRobertson. My two answers have been “select their best players” and “get a team strong enough that Forster can play lower down the order”. They fulfilled both these criteria – many congratulations to them.

Day 5

England took the doubles 2-1 to make the final score Aus 12, Eng 9. Australia selected their best six players for the first time in my memory. They also had three compatible doubles partnerships that had played together before. They came with a pre-determined game plan – and it was a good plan. Supershot openings, no TPOs, no sextuples. Just solid play. Finally, they executed their game plan well, and were worthy winners.

The other test match was a nail-biter, in true MacRobertson Shield spirit. The last two matches finished within 30 seconds of each other at dusk. USA had started the day 8-7 down, but had moved to 10-9 ahead before kiwi debutants Aiken Hakes and Chris Shilling put the final two matches on the scoreboard to allow New Zealand an 11-10 win.

I mentioned on Day 1 two strong debuts by Hopgood and Lawrence. What is perhaps more difficult to do is to get off to a bad start and find fabulous form by the end of a test. Chris Shilling didn’t take croquet on the first day, and today produced a level of performance combined with maturity that I will remember for a long time. It is also probably an opportune moment to thank Toby Garrison for his willingness to play one test match at short notice. His contribution to the team has been immense.

The American team produced a good standard of play for most of the Test. It was a Test that could easily have gone either way and there was little to choose between the two sides. One statistic that may be of surprise to readers is that NZ only won one of the five days of play.

Looking forward to the second tests, New Zealand lose Toby Garrison and gain Harps Tahurangi. USA gain Matthew Essick, but at this stage, it is unknown who he will replace. Despite Danny Huneycutt’s match win against Hogan today, I feel he was the least on-form of the Americans, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he chose to sit out the second test.

The standard of play in the Aus/Eng Test was much higher than the USA/NZ Test and if all the teams continue to play at that level, it wouldn’t surprise me to see 17-4 or 16-5 results in favour of Australia and England in the second Tests. However, croquet is a sport and anything can happen, however unlikely. Sunday is a rest day and the second Tests start on Monday. All the players will welcome a break from the searing heat. Check back to Croquet Network for more next week.

Saturday
Apr222017

Soo 05: Historic Day for Australia

Stephen Forster plays the test-match-winning turn. A veteran of five consecutive MacRobertson Shields, the number on his uniform shows he is the 59th player to be selected to play in the MacRob for Australia

It was a great day for New Zealand, and a historic day for Australia.

The wheels fell off for Team USA today. In croquet the winning recipe is simple: hit in more often; break down less often. The Americans seemed to have forgotten that bit of wisdom today, and the predictable result was a clean sweep for the Kiwis, 2-0 in all three of the scheduled doubles matches, capped off with Hogan's finishing the pegged-down doubles match in a single turn. Having gone from 4-7 down to 8-7 up, they are now definite favorites to win the test.

Australia started the day with a 7-5 lead over England. The first two results were a split, Maugham (England) beating Dumergue (Australia) and Hockey (Australia) beating Mulliner (England), both matches 2-0. Patel, England's captain, did his part with a win over Malcolm Fletcher, +3qp, -26tp, +14tp, to narrow the gap to 7-8. In the last of the 8:30 matches, Greg Fletcher (Australia) took game 1 over Death, +17tp. Death leveled the match with a quick +26tp. Fletcher had all the early play in the decider, but after doing three peels and roqueting partner while running rover, he attempted a long pegout, hard, barely missing the peg and sending the croqueted ball off the lawn. Death made six hoops and laid for a sextuple, but when the straight quad finish wasn't going to work, opted to make a leave. Except he missed a long return roquet after 3-back. Fletcher finished, +9, to make it 9-7.

Burch (England) won the first game against Robert Fletcher, +25tp. But the world #1 player controlled the rest of the match, +26tp in games 2 and 3.

Forster (Australia) came undone with a straight triple attempt in game 1 against Hopgood (England), and Hopgood punished the error +5tp. Forster leveled the match +17tp, and after an exchange of errors in the decider, played a well-controlled delayed triple peel to win game, match, and test match.

This is the first time Australia has beaten England in a test match since 1982. That was a heartbreak year for Australia, the closest they have come to winning the Shield since their last victory in 1935. With today's convincing win, and on current form, the Aussies are clear favorites to win the Shield. Of course matches aren't won on paper, and there are still many possible storylines to this series. Will today be chapter 1 in a glorious story for Australia, or an interesting footnote? Stay tuned.

Wednesday
Apr192017

Soo 02: Day 1 Reveals Easy Conditions

Smiles for the Aussies as Dumergue & Forster win to give their team a 2-1 lead over England

Both test matches started with doubles, as usual. The English got on the board quickly, Maugham & Hopgood winning 2-0 over Robert & Malcolm Fletcher (Australia) with a pair of Maugham triple peels. Next to finish were Soo & Lawrence (USA) over Hogan & Shilling (NZ), the Kiwis not taking croquet and Lawrence tripling on turns seven and ten, for an excellent MacRobertson Shield debut. Rothman & Maloof (USA) each had a triple peel in their 2-0 win over Garrison & Hakes (NZ), putting USA up 2-0. In the Burch & Death (England) vs. Forster & Dumergue (Australia) match, Burch had a quick triple to win game 1. Death did a TPO in game 2, but Forster finished to level the match.

ROUND ONE PHOTO GALLERY

On the lower lawns, Greg Fletcher tripled to win game 1 with partner Hockey (Australia) against Mulliner & Patel (England). Mulliner did most of a DPO in game 2, but missed the pegout, giving Fletcher an easy finish, which brought Australia level with England for the test at 1-all. In Clarke & Chapman (NZ) vs. Huneycutt & Morgan (USA), Clarke had some struggles with control, but Huneycutt couldn't find his shooting touch, the Kiwis winning 2-0 to bring the test match score to 2-1 in favor of USA.

Aussie captain Dumergue put together a well-controlled triple peel to end the day's play and put his team up 2-1 in the test.

By test match standards, the conditions are very easy. The lawns are a comfortable medium pace, and the combination of sandy (and well-watered) soil and powder-coated hoops makes for easy hoop-running and peeling. In the afternoon the wind picked up, giving a taste of what could be the main challenge during the series. Thus far 11 of the 13 games have finished with triple peels, and this rate of tripling seems likely to continue.

Sunday
Jul032016

2016 British Opens: Day One

Day One of the British Opens at the Cheltenham Croquet Club was a short day with a single round of the main doubles knockout. Most of the top-ranked teams had fairly easy matches, but a couple of matches were especially competitive. Jeff Dawson (England) and David Walters (Wales) bested Ben Rothman (USA) and Gavin Carter (Jersey) with two triples by Dawson.

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Wednesday
Apr202016

Round of 32 - Lunch Update

Taking a scan through the scores rolling in and James Hopgood (ENG), Stephen Forster (AUS) and Stephen Mulliner (ENG) are the first to move into the Sweet 16. By ranking, those went as expected with the Forster (#25) vs Soo (#27) being a bit of a toss up.

Interesting challenges out there include #116 Sam Murray of Scotland winning game one again #12 Gavin Carter (ENG) 26-1. Carter came back in game two 26-0 and the now move to the decider.

#52 Danny Huneycutt (USA) took game one against #9 James Death (ENG) 26tp-24. They are still working through game two.

#13 Ben Rothman (USA) and #42 Jose Riva (ESP) and tied and going to a game three. Rothman took the first game 26-10, then Riva came back 26tp-21.

#76 Stephen Morgan (USA) and #10 Samir Patel (ENG are also going to game three. Patel took game one 26-14 and Morgan came back in game two with a 26-0 win.