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Entries in Jeff Soo (92)

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.
Sunday
May072017

Soo 18: 2017 Mac Wrap Up

All that history, and now our names too -- Malcolm and Greg Fletcher with the MacRobertson Shield. Click to Zoom.

On the final day of the 2017 MacRobertson Shield, England and Australia extended their leads. Two singles matches were left unplayed, due to the extreme heat (officially 105/40, but probably hotter on the lawns) and the fact that both tests had been decided the day before. The final tally:

1. Australia (3/3 test matches, 40/63 individual matches)
2. England (2/3 test matches, 38/61 individual matches)
3. New Zealand (1/3 test matches, 22/61 individual matches)
4. United States (0/3 test matches, 24/63 individual matches)

Australia's victory is notable in many ways. It is their first series win since 1935, and their first outside Australia. It is the first time since 1935 that the England or Great Britain team has been beaten twice in a row, the first time three siblings have played in the event, and the first time that the defending champions have finished lower than 2nd.

ROUND THREE PHOTO GALLERY

What lessons can the other teams draw from Australia's performance?

It's good to have the world's #1 player on your team. An obvious point, but beyond assuring a healthy number of wins at the top position, this engenders a lot of confidence for the rest of the team.

Strength in depth is critical. The top performer for the series on percentage of matches won was Greg Fletcher, playing at #5 and winning 5/6 singles and 7/9 doubles with Simon Hockey. Every team has at least one player ranked in the world top ten; it's at the bottom of the order that the differences are most pronounced. A team that can legitimately put very strong players at #5 and #6 has a huge advantage.

Team unity and discipline play a role. During Great Britain's streak of seven successive MacRobertson Shield championships, their team-of-rivals style worked well enough, because of their overwhelming advantage in playing strength for most of that period. In a more competitive series, Australia (and New Zealand in 2014) have shown the value of a unified approach. This applies to on-court matters such as tactics and doubles compatibility, as well as logistical arrangements for travel, housing, etc. An effective team manager is a big help.

Wednesday
May032017

Soo 17: AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE!

Malcolm Fletcher plays the Shield-winning turn

Australia wins the MacRobertson Shield

On the hottest day of the tournament, the Aussies felt right at home. Fittingly, it was the three Fletcher brothers who gave their team the 9th, 10th, and 11th points to win the final test match against USA, and to claim the MacRobertson Shield. Simon Hockey added another point to make it 12-6, with a final round of doubles to be played tomorrow.

World #1 player Robert Fletcher got the first point of the day, with a +25tp, +8tp win over USA #1 (and, as of the start of the match, world #4) Ben Rothman. Greg Fletcher put his team "on the hill" with a +26tp, +17tp win over USA's Stephen Morgan. Stuart Lawrence (USA) kept his team's hopes alive with a +2, -26tp, +17tp win over Stephen Forster (AUS). Jeff Soo (USA) beat Aussie captain Ian Dumergue +24tp, +15 to make it 10-6.

In the late-starting matches, Malcolm Fletcher won the first against USA captain Danny Huneycutt, +24tp. Simon Hockey won the first against David Maloof (USA) +10. Fletcher had a chance for a standard triple in game 2, but it became more and more delayed and ended with one peel done and an OSL. Huneycutt missed the short shot. There were not many easy shots in Fletcher's winning turn, but he held his nerve and pegged out to win game, match, test match and championship. Hockey joined his teammates for an emotional celebration, before returning to finish his match with Maloof.

England swept the doubles round against NZ to take an unassailable 12-3 test-match lead. Currently trailing Australia by 3 individual matches won, they have a chance to overtake Australia on that statistic in tomorrow's final round.

Tuesday
May022017

Soo 16: Australia is Three Wins Away

With another winning day, Australia is in good position to secure the Shield a day early. USA must win tomorrow's singles by at least 4-2 to keep the test alive on the final day. Winning two out of three of today's doubles matches, Australia now leads the test 8-4.

England's Jamie Burch peels rover in game 1 against NZ's Paddy Chapman7-5 seemed a likely result at a couple of points. David Maloof & Ben Rothman (USA) won their match against Robert & Malcolm Fletcher (AUS) +21tp, +17tp, Rothman doing both triples, bringing the test match to 4-6. Stuart Lawrence & Jeff Soo (USA) won the first against Simon Hockey & Greg Fletcher (AUS), the Aussie pair not taking croquet as Lawrence tripled for +26tp. Break up in the second, Soo missed a rush, allowing the Aussies to level, +17tp (Hockey tripling). As the temperatures climbed, so did the error rate. The American's achieved peg and 4-back with a classic "tea-lady" leave, the Aussies on 4 and 2-back. Fletcher hit the 35-yarder and went to peg with a tidy spread. Lawrence missed and Hockey finished +5.

Stephen Forster & Ian Dumergue (AUS) went game-up against Danny Huneycutt & Stephen Morgan (USA), +21. Huneycutt had an early break in game 2, but failed hoop 3, and the Aussies kept control for +24.

The ENG vs NZ singles featured a back-to-the-future match: Joe Hogan (NZ) vs. Stephen Mulliner (ENG). The pair's last MacRobertson Shield singles match was in 1990, a year after Hogan became the inaugural WCF AC world champion. This time Mulliner is the current AC world champion. Mulliner won the first +26tp, and TPO'd Hogan's ball in game 2. But Hogan won +5otp to force the decider. Hogan had a triple peel in good order in game 3. Until he missed the peg-out from four yards, sending the forward ball off the lawn. Mulliner had two breaks to finish, +2tp.

Earlier, Aiken Hakes (NZ) continued his winning ways in singles, beating David Maugham (ENG) -23, +17tp, +17tp. James Hopgood added a point for England, beating Chris Shilling (NZ) +26tp, +5tp. Likewise for James Death (ENG), winner against Harps Tahurangi (NZ), and Jamie Burch (ENG), +20tp, +26tp over Paddy Chapman (NZ).

England captain Samir Patel made it 9-3 for his team, beating NZ captain Jenny Clarke 2-0.

Tuesday
May022017

Soo 15: Temperatures and Play Heat Up

Harps Tahurangi approaches 3-back on his match-winning turn

Today's high reached 98/37, with triple digits expected later in the week. The lawns are now running around 13 seconds in the morning and about half a second faster later in the day. At this speed, hoop hills and the occasional sloping boundary become bigger factors.

Three of today's 8:30 singles matches featured a Fletcher. All three went to three games. Each Fletcher tripled twice to add three points to Australia's total.

But first, USA captain Danny Huneycutt took advantage of errors by Australia captain Ian Dumergue to win game 1 by +23. Attempting a straight-double finish in game 2, an errant escape ball at rover resulted in two clips and four balls at rover. Dumergue failed 1, then missed after Huneycutt scored rover with one ball and made a leave; +26 to tie the test match at 2-all.

David Maloof (USA) got off to a great start against world #1 Robert Fletcher (AUS), +26tp. Fletcher reversed the score in game 2. Fletcher went round turn 3 in the decider, to a defensive spread. Maloof hit in, made a couple of hoops, then retired with a leave. Fletcher hit with his forward ball, Maloof missed, and Fletcher closed out the match +24tp, putting Australia in the lead again.

Jeff Soo (USA) won a back-and-forth game 1 against Malcolm Fletcher (AUS), +17tp. Soo failed a third-turn break in game 2, Fletcher leveling +24tp (despite rushing dead into the peg three times during his finishing turn, twice while rushing to a hoop). Soo went break-up in the decider, but ran afoul of the treacherous lawn 1 east boundary on his second break. Fletcher went round to an MSL, Soo missed, and Fletcher played an elegant triple peel for +14tp.

Simon Hockey peelingStuart Lawrence (USA) put out a supershot ball against Greg Fletcher (AUS), missing Fletcher's max-distance reply into IV. That ball stayed in IV for quite a while, Fletcher hitting fourth turn and content with three balls for most of the turn. Lawrence missed and Fletcher finished +26tp. Lawrence equalized, +17. As with the first two games, the decider opened with a supershot ball and no roquet on turn 3. Lawrence went break-up. Fletcher hit in and went round to an NSL. Lawrence missed and Fletcher finished +17tp.

Stephen Forster (AUS) and Stephen Morgan (USA) were the first late-starting match. Forster won a scrappy game 1 +19, then tripled for +17tp and the match win.

Simon Hockey went round third turn to the aggressive ("three ducks") spread. Rothman missed, but Hockey crashed at 6 with one peel done. Rothman peeled Hockey's back ball through 6, but loose play toward the end of the break led to a missed roquet and easy pickup for Hockey, +17. Quite a few errors in game 2, Rothman equalizing with +14tp. Hockey won the opening in the decider, but failed to get going with a second break. Rothman went round to a spread and Hockey missed the long shot. For the second day in a row, Rothman finished a match in the early evening to stop the bleeding for USA; the test match now stands at 6-3 to Australia.

In the ENG vs NZ doubles, Paddy Chapman & Aiken Hakes (NZ) kept James Hopgood & David Maugham (ENG) seated, Hakes going round on turn 3 in game 1 and turn 4 in game 2, Chapman tripling (straight-double finish each time) +26tp, +26tp, to put NZ on the board.

Jenny Clarke & Harps Tahurangi (NZ) won game 1 +26 against Stephen Mulliner & Samir Patel (ENG), no croquet for the opponents. Clarke went round 3rd turn in game 2, making the aggressive spread. Mulliner hit and peeled Clarke's ball out of the game; Patel finished +13tpo a few turns later. A Mulliner error gave Clarke the first clean break of game 3. Patel missed the lift. Tahurangi needed two turns to get going, but put together a gritty delayed triple peel, including a straight-double finish, for his first match win of the series and bringing NZ to 2-3 for the test match.

Jamie Burch & James Death (ENG) were quick +26tp winners of game 1 against Chris Shilling & Joe Hogan, Death tripling. Shilling had the first clean break of game 2. Burch hit and went round; Hogan hit. His triple-peel attempt came undone at 4-back, two peels done. But that was not the last error of the game, NZ holding on for +11. Plenty of long shots hit and opportunities missed in the decider, England winning +3 to retain the test-match lead after two days of play, 4-2.

Monday
May012017

Soo 14: AUS Leads 2-1 in R3 vs US

England captain Samir Patel launches a lift shotRobert & Malcolm Fletcher got Australia on the board quickly against USA, beating Stuart Lawrence & Jeff Soo +17tp, +26tp, Malcolm doing both triples. The Americans had a couple of extra chances to hit in, Robert needing two turns to get going in each game, but both shots missed. Lawrence hit the lift in game 1 and went round, but Malcolm hit the lift to finish.

Danny Huneycutt & Stephen Morgan (USA) took advantage of game 1 errors against Simon Hockey & Greg Fletcher (AUS), Huneycutt tripling for +24tp. A failure at hoop 6 gave the Aussies control of game 2; they won +21 to level the match. In game 3 a wrong ball error was the Americans' undoing, Hockey tripling to close out the match and give Australia a 2-0 start to the test.

David Maloof & Ben Rothman (USA) split a scrappy pair of games with Ian Dumergue & Stephen Forster (AUS), winning the first +14 and losing the second -5. No croquet for the Aussies in game 3, making the test match score 2-1 to Australia.

Paddy Chapman & Aiken Hakes (NZ), went game up against Samir Patel & Stephen Mulliner (ENG), Hakes tripling for +15tp. The English pair leveled, +17. In the decider, Patel failed 3-back to give Hakes a break, but Mulliner hit the the lift and finished with an adventuresome quadruple peel.

James Hopgood & David Maugham (ENG) won the first game against Chris Shilling & Joe Hogan (NZ), Hopgood hitting the lift and tripling, +15. In game 2 Maugham TPO'd Shilling out of the game, both backward clips on hoop 2, leaving balls in corners III and IV. Hogan rolled out from IV, but missed the ball in III. Several turns later Hopgood made a two-ball break from 4 through 3-back, and rushed to within a few yards of Hogan's ball south of III. But he failed to get a rush, then failed to get position, and retired to IV. Hogan made 2 and 3, rolled out from IV, then soon had a solid 3-ball break going. But a deep pioneer at 2-back ended that break. Maugham made a leave, Hogan cornered, and Hopgood finished with another two-ball break.

Jenny Clarke & Harps Tahurangi (NZ) won the middle game against Jamie Burch & James Death (ENG). But a pair of Death triples in the outer games made it a clean sweep for England.

Saturday
Apr292017

Soo 13: Shield is Australia's for the Taking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.