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Entries in Jeff Soo (84)

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.

Saturday
Apr222017

Chapman 04: Excellent Day for New Zealand

New Zealand's Joe Hogan on Day 4
An excellent day for New Zealand today! We needed a big result to get back into the test match, and that is exactly what happened.

Jenny and myself had a good win against Stuart Lawrence & Jeff Soo. Although we won in 2 straight games, all the players made some hoops and there was some interactivity.

Aiken and Toby had an excellent strong win against Danny Huneycutt and Stephen Morgan. Aiken did an excellent TP in the first game, getting the first peel before 1b.

The big upset of the day was the huge win by Joe and Chris against Ben Rothman and David Maloof - we had the goal of trying to take 2 matches out of 3 for the day, but to get all 3 was a huge bonus and got us back to level-pegging at 7-7 in the test. Both Chris and Joe played some excellent controlled croquet to take the match, and Joe hit two great 'final' lift shots along the way.

At the conclusion of the scheduled matches, Joe and Chris continued their epic pegged-down match (now in its third day) vs Danny Huneycutt & Stephen Morgan. From yesterday's position of H1 and peg vs 2b alone, Joe managed to finish without the Americans playing any more strokes. He played an immaculate 3-ball break to the peg amidst much applause, including what is perhaps the shot of the tournament: after running H5, he hit his return roquet into the jaws of H5 with a pioneer waiting at H6. He played a half-roll stroke at a pace that would have easily sent the front ball off the lawn (and possibly into the neighbouring houses), but managed to smack the croqueted ball into the peg, ricocheting across to beside 1b in the process and leaving himself a 4-yarder on his H6 pioneer.

Adding this result onto the scores, NZ lead 8-7.

Friday
Apr212017

Chapman 03: Solid Play Narrows the Gap

Aiken Hakes on his way to his first MacRob singles win
Spirits are high in the NZ team after today's play. We needed a solid day to put some points on the board after two fairly inconsistent days of doubles, and that is what we got.

Aiken Hakes playing in his first MacRob singles match had a tight match with Danny Huneycutt, going to 3 games. Danny had a chance to finish but broke down allowing Aiken to make his first singles match a memorable one by taking victory.

Another debutante, Chris Shilling played really quality croquet to defeat Stephen Morgan in 3 games. He sealed the match with a TP in the decider.

Jenny was a little unfortunate to go down to Stuart Lawrence, who played some excellent croquet to win in 3 games, with 2 TPs.

Joe Hogan, whose last MacRob singles match was 27 years ago, played some classy croquet (including a TP) but eventually went down to Jeff Soo in a close deciding game.

Toby Garrison (late start 1) had an extremely close first game with Ben Rothman, with both having chances to finish. In the end Ben took it 26-23. Both players also had some play in the second game, but Ben held his nerve also take the second game and the match with a TP.

David Maloof vs myself was the second late start, i.e. the last match to go on today. After David had a ball round to 4-back early in game 1, he didn't have much play after that and I took the match in two straight games (and a very lucky finish to a TP in the second).

The match score stands at 7-4 to the USA at the end of today's play, with still the one doubles match (from yesterday) unfinished.

The Chris Shilling & Joe Hogan vs Danny Huneycutt & Stephen Morgan doubles match re-started again this evening at around 4pm, and the kiwis managed to level the score at 1-1 with another excellent finishing turn by Chris. In the decider, the kiwis had the first ball to 4b, but the Americans hit the lift and joined them on 4b. After that there was a wee bit of interaction until Danny managed to get a delayed TP under control - only to come to grief at 2b with 2 peels done. This allowed Chris to complete the SPO on Stephen's ball. The state of play at the moment is:

Danny - 2b
Stephen - box
vs
Joe - H1
Chris - peg

The kiwis are laid up about 10yd North of C4 with Danny having just missed a shot at them from near C2. The match will be completed when time allows - it may yet prove crucial to the result of this test match. There is still all to play for.

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

Chapman 02: Tough Day at the Office

New Zealand's Chris Shilling in play on Day 2 versus Team USA Day 2 was another day of doubles for New Zealand, with Aiken Hakes & Toby Garrison taking on Jeff Soo & Stuart Lawrence, Paddy Chapman & Jenny Clarke taking on David Maloof & Ben Rothman, and Joe Hogan & Chris Shilling taking on Danny Huneycutt & Stephen Morgan. As it turns out, it was a tough day at the office for New Zealand.

Jeff & Stuart won their match 2-1 - in the third game, NZ were TPOing the Americans, but failed to gain a rush to peg out Jeff's ball. Stuart held his nerve to finish his 4-ball break to the peg and take the victory. Paddy & Jenny were involved in a high-quality first game versus Ben and David, however the second game contained a number of unexpected errors. In the end, it went to a decider, with NZ having a TP opportunity to win but missing a 7-yard return after rover with all the peels done. From there, the Americans took the game and match 2-1, with a +2 scoreline in the third. At the time of writing, Joe & Chris' game has been pegged down, with the match score currently 1-0 to the Americans. The situation in the second game is USA penult and box vs NZ 4b and peg.

It is very unusual for a match to last so long on such easy lawns, however it just goes to prove that MacRob is different from usual tournaments, with a lot more determination to win from all players. The pegged-down ending will hopefully be played to a conclusion sometime over the next couple of days.

Thursday
Apr202017

Soo 03: US Picks Up Two More Wins

USA's Ben Rothman peels rover en route to putting his team up 4-1NZ vs. USA continued in doubles while Australia vs. England switched to singles. Chapman & Clarke (NZ) quickly took the lead against Rothman & Maloof (USA), +17tp with Chapman tripling. In Hakes & Garrison (NZ) vs. Lawrence & Soo (USA), Soo failed a triple attempt but then hit the opponent's leave to take game 1. No croquet for Lawrence & Soo in game 2, Hakes finishing with a tidy triple. Hogan & Shilling (NZ) vs. Huneycutt & Morgan was only getting around to finishing game 1 by that point, Huneycutt hitting the peg from corner III to win the game.

On the upper lawns, Burch (England) breezed to a +26tp, +26tp win over Hockey (Australia), leveling the test match at 2-all. Death (England) vs. Forster (Australia) was a three-triples match, Death winning the outer games to put England ahead. World #1 player Robert Fletcher (Australia) righted the ship for his team with two triples to beat Mulliner (England), the second following a failed sextuple attempt by the Englishman (and current World Champion). Greg Fletcher (Australia) vs. Hopgood (England) was another three-triples match, Fletcher overcoming a game 1 loss to put his team ahead again.

With only seven lawns available, two singles matches had a late start. In the Captain's match, Dumergue (Australia) had all the action in a +26tp, +26tp win over Patel (England). Malcolm Fletcher (Australia) had a heartbreaking game 1 loss to Maugham (England), having all but finished the triple but then missing a short roquet; Maugham controlled the rest of the match to make it an even start in the singles. Australia leads the test match 5-4.

Soo had a 4th-turn OSL to begin game 3; Hakes then had a bit of good luck in snicking off the peg to roquet. His TPO attempt never seemed in doubt, until his luck was reversed at rover, where his ball crept through just the wrong amount on the Irish peel. He was able to roquet the escape ball, but failed to get a rush back to the peg. Lawrence finished off the contact to extend the Americans' lead to 3-1.

An exchange of errors led to a game 2 win for Rothman & Maloof. Chapman was set to finish the match in game 3, but a jump through rover and lack of a proper deep ball left a seven or eight yard shot, which he missed. Down 0-24, Maloof went round and Rothman tripled to ensure another winning day for USA.

Hogan and Huneycutt both struggled in game 2. Hogan finally got a ball around and pegged out Morgan's ball, with Huneycutt for 3-back and Shilling for 4-back. A couple of turns later the game has been pegged down. It is NZ to play, with Hogan's ball just south of the peg, Shilling's ball a few inches out of corner I, and Huneycutt in position at penult (his hoop).

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.

Sunday
Apr092017

Soo #07: Trifecta for Morgan

Stephen Morgan with the Stark Cup after winning the AC Nationals Singles Title
Stephen Morgan and Danny Huneycutt overcame a game-one loss to win the doubles title. Morgan then made it a sweep by winning the singles 2-0. Morgan becomes the current holder of three USCA national titles.

PHOTO GALLERY

Daniel Pailas won the singles Plate. He won his final game with a delayed triple peel to clinch the award.

The doubles final featured a wild three-ball finish, +1. The singles final was more one-sided, Morgan tripling in game 1 and controlling most of game 2. Soo had a chance to get back into the match after Morgan didn't quite finish another triple, but Morgan made yet another long hit-in to put the match away, +24tp, +16.

SINGLES KNOCKOUT SCORES

Quarterfinals
Jeff Soo 26-14, 26-5 over Danny Huneycutt
Stuart Lawrence 26-14, 26-11 over Dan Pailas
Brian Cumming 26tp-0, 25-26, 26-10 over Chris Patmore
Stephen Morgan 26-13, 23-26, 26-15 over Simon Jenkins

Semifinals
Jeff Soo 26-8, 26-9 over Stuart Lawrence
Stephen Morgan 26tp-0, 26-19 over Brian Cumming

Final
Stephen Morgan 26tp-2, 26-10 over Jeff Soo

FULL EVENT RESULTS
croquetscores.com/2017/ac/us-national-championship/singles-ko