Quantcast

Search Croquet Network
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 

Follow Croquet Network

Croquet News Feed
Get Email Updates (It's Free)
* indicates required
Croquet Network Store
Additional
Croquet Twitter Feed

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.

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

Soo 07: Rest Day Coverage Plus Line-up Changes

The unusual outcome of a failed straight triple attempt on Day 4

Lawns and players alike will be given a rest today. Given the forecast high temperature of 95 (35C) this is a welcome break. Volunteers and officials will undoubtedly have some duties today, but perhaps also get something of a rest day.

After the excitement of two close test matches in round 1 all are looking ahead to the next round. Team orders have already been submitted to the Tournament Director, a day earlier than usual. Harps Tahurangi joins the NZ lineup at #6; Hakes, Hogan, Clarke, and Shilling each move up a position (Garrison, who has returned home, played at #2 last week). That means Hakes makes the jump to the top group and Clarke to the middle group for singles matchups. Shilling & Hogan will partner again in doubles; Clarke & Chapman have split up, Clarke partnering Tahurangi and Chapman partnering Hakes (thus keeping a MacRob veteran in each doubles pair).

The Australian team order is unchanged. England has swapped Maugham and Mulliner in the singles lineup, and rearranged the (arbitrary) order of their doubles pairings. USA adds Matthew Essick to the lineup at #5, replacing Morgan there and also in doubles.

Players have of course been focused on their own matches and have had less opportunity to see their next-round opposition in action. Peeling stats are a good indicator of overall quality of play. There are many ways to slice this data; here are the stats for each team on games won with a triple (or better) peel as a percentage of all games won. (This includes OTP games.)

AUS ... 89%
ENG ... 83%
USA ... 60%
NZL ... 54%

Obviously this statistic does not correlate 1:1 with test match wins, NZ having beaten USA. But it does suggest that NZ and USA have room for improvement.

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.

Sunday
Apr232017

Chapman 05: New Zealand Wins 11-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday
Apr232017

Soo 06: New Zealand Holds the Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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