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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 Jamie Burch (21)

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.

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.

Saturday
Apr292017

Clarke: 2017 MacRobertson Review - Round 2

New Zealand v Australia | England v USA

Day 6

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

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

Day 7

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

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

Day 8

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

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

Day 9

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

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

Day 10

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Thursday
Apr202017

Soo 04: Singles Round on Day 3

Stuart Lawrence on his match-winning turn against Jenny ClarkeIn the NZ vs. USA singles, all four of the 8:30 matches went to third games. Soo (USA) was first to finish, +26tp, -16tp, +12 against Hogan (NZ). Huneycutt's (USA) form improved today; he took game 1 against Hakes (NZ) +17 and had chances to win game 3, but Hakes came up the winner -17, +24tp, +8. Clarke (NZ) nearly finished a triple in game 1 against Lawrence (USA) despite jawsing the peel at rover and then jumping clean over it; she succeeded at bombarding partner through rover, but roqueted the ball on the croquet stroke. But a long hit-in a couple of turns later gave her the game, +24. She went break up in game 2, but Lawrence eventually took control for +13tp. Clarke again had the first break in game 3, but Lawrence managed an adventurous pickup to build a break and leave an NSL, and closed out the match with another triple, +17tp. A few minutes later, Shilling (NZ) completed his own comeback against Morgan (USA), -17, +17, +24tp.

Two of the England vs. Australia doubles matches finished before any of the singles. As expected, Robert & Malcolm Fletcher (Australia) vs. Burch & Death (England) was a quick match, all three games +26tp. Death had the first triple, but Malcolm Fletcher had the other two, putting Australia up 6-4. Simon Hockey & Greg Fletcher (Australia) added another pair of Fletcher triples to the day's tally, as the Aussie pair won +19tp, +26tp. In Patel & Mulliner (England) vs. Forster & Dumergue (Australia), a Mulliner TPO resulted in an OTP win for the Aussies in game 1. But the English pair kept their team within striking distance by winning the match, -14otp, +17, +15, bringing the test match score to 7-5 Australia.

Chapman (NZ) beat Maloof (USA) in a high-quality match, +17tp, +26tp. Garrison (NZ) vs. Rothman (USA) was a more error-prone affair, Rothman winning +3, +16tp to make it a 3-3 split in the day's singles.

The pegged-down doubles match resumed with Hogan playing a wide join. Huneycutt ran penult smoothly, ending a few feet from rover but at a steep enough angle that Huneycutt opted to shoot at Hogan's ball; the shot missed. Hogan made a leave, Huneycutt cornered, and Shilling made 4-back and penult, then another leave, his ball north of corner IV and Hogan's ball about level with 6, a couple of yards in from the west boundary. Oddly, Huneycutt chose to shoot at Shilling's ball; he missed, and Shilling finished to level the match.

Shilling had the first clip to 4-back in game 3. Morgan hit the lift and needed two turns to get to 4-back with a defensive leave. Huneycutt broke down at 2-back with two peels done. Shilling went round, peeling Morgan's ball at rover and pegging it out. The match has again been pegged down, 2-back and box vs. 1 and peg, NZ to play. The test match score is 7-4 USA.

Thursday
Apr202017

2017 MacRob Reader Q&A #01

With the 2017 MacRobertson Shield off and running, most readers should have noticed that we have Jeff Soo from Team USA and Paddy Chapman from Team New Zealand both doing player journals. In addition, we have another correspondent that will provide additional analysis at the end of each round.

For true fans, I hope you've noticed the live feed that runs each day on Lawn Four. It's a simple security camera concept (www.nest.com) and for a one-view, overhead look it does well if you have a good-sized computer monitor. The Macrobertson Shield site indicates Chrome is best for a browser, but Chrome actually generates an error for me, so I have been using ... wait for it .... Internet Explorer. I know right? Gasp.

Anyway, if you pop up the croquetscores.com commentary, that works pretty well. Really enjoyed watching Stephen Mulliner going for his Sextuple yesterday against Robert Fletcher (didn't work out and he lost 0-2).

QUESTION AND ANSWER

We have had a few reader questions in the comments and Jeff Soo took a moment to answer:

What was the nature of the appeal concerning the English team order?
Jamie Burch is their #1, despite being ranked below Maugham and Mulliner.

I notice that Matthew Essick is not on the USA team for this test. Is this the week he's off, or is he not on the team?
Matthew is a high school senior and can't miss that many days of school and still graduate, so he will only play the middle test (vs. England).

Why are they using the powder-coated hoops instead of the super hoops?
The club owns Rodoni hoops. They are excellent hoops, and it would be a significant expense and significant effort to import Superhoops. The Superhoops probably would be a bit more of a challenge, but that didn't seem worth the effort and expense. The main issue is the soil. To keep the grass alive in the desert summer they have to water every day.

STATISTICAL LOOK

I also wanted to add this bit of data on rankings and the line-ups posted by Phil Cordingley:

A quick bit of analysis following the announcement of the team orders last night. With apologies for format (won't let me use any useful HTML to make it look pretty), the table shows for each team the root mean square of the differences between players' relative ranking within their team according to their world ranking (WR), and their actual order as announced last night. The lower the number, the closer the announced order is to what the WR would suggest. By comparison, a team which put its worst player first and shuffled everybody else down one position would score 5.48. I draw no conclusions myself ;-)

Country S.D.
New Z. 4.36
Australia 3.16
England 2.83
USA 1.41

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.

Tuesday
Apr182017

Soo 01: 2017 MacRob Preview

Defending champion NZ team practicing shortly before the opening ceremony

After many months of preparation from organizers and players alike, the 25th MacRobertson Shield is about to begin. New Zealand looks to successfully defend the Shield, something they have never done before. Australia, making history with a team including three brothers, hope to make more history by winning the Shield for the first time since 1935. England hope to return to the norm: a GB or England team has won the Shield 14 times. USA look to defy the rankings and international expectations by winning the Shield for their first time ever.

After team orders were announced, the Australian and New Zealand teams mounted appeals against England's team order. USA supported England, and the Tournament Director cast the deciding vote to deny the appeal. The team orders (singles in order of merit, doubles ordered arbitrarily):

USA
1. Rothman
2. Maloof
3. Soo
4. Huneycutt
5. Morgan
6. Lawrence

1. Rothman & Maloof
2. Huneycutt & Morgan
3. Soo & Lawrence

NEW ZEALAND
1. Chapman
2. Garrison
3. Hakes
4. Hogan
5. Clarke
6. Shilling

1. Chapman & Clarke
2. Garrison & Hakes
3. Hogan & Shilling

AUSTRALIA
1. Robert Fletcher
2. Hockey
3. Dumergue
4. Malcolm Fletcher
5. Greg Fletcher
6. Forster

1. R. Fletcher & M. Fletcher
2. Forster & Dumergue
3. Hockey & G. Fletcher

ENGLAND
1. Burch
2. Mulliner
3. Maugham
4. Patel
5. Death
6. Hopgood

1. Death & Burch
2. Maugham & Hopgood
3. Mulliner & Patel

In the first round, NZ plays USA and Australia plays England.

Friday
Jul082016

2016 British Opens: Day Seven

The main event of the day was the singles quarterfinals, played as best-of-fives. Paddy Chapman showed impressive focus and control and was nearly error-free in dispatching the ever-entertaining James Death 3-1. Samir Patel was nearly as impressive in a 3-1 win over top seed Reg Bamford.

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Tuesday
May032016

Morning Coffee: Back On Schedule

After flip-flopping last week to get the AC Worlds coverage front and center, we are back on track with Morning Coffee kicking off your Tuesday. In the meantime, the croquet underground is abuzz with debates on live streaming. If only there was already a neutral croquet media entity out there with the stated goal of providing live video for croquet events. Oh well, we'll just have to keep our eyes open. Here's your weekly feed ...

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