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Entries in MacRobertson Shield (69)

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.

Sunday
Apr302017

Chapman 11: Sub-Optimal Day for NZ

England's James Death in play during R3 vs New Zealand

The third test started today, between NZ and England. With Australia in good position, it is likely that this test is the playoff for 2nd and 3rd place.

The match-ups today were:
- Aiken & Paddy vs Samir Patel & Stephen Mulliner
- Chris & Joe vs David Maugham & James Hopgood
- Jenny & Harps vs James Death & Jamie Burch

Aiken & Paddy's match vs Stephen and Samir started with a quick Mulliner ball to 4-back. The lift was hit and the scores equalised (plus a couple of pops on oppo for good measure), and Aiken then completed a good TP under pressure after a difficult start (involving approaching H1 from C2). Game 2, NZ had the first chance, but a backward take-off to H1 hit the wire, giving the first break to England. The lift was missed, but England's TP came to grief also courtesy of a backward take-off to H6 with 1 peel done. NZ had a break to 4-back but England regained control after hitting the lift. Game 3 had a 5th turn break from Samir, until he failed 3b out of nowhere. NZ had an equalising break with 2 pops on England's backward ball, but it wasn't enough - Stephen hit the lift and finished with an adventurous and entertaining QP.

USA's Ben Rothman in play against Australia. Click to Zoom

Joe & Chris put up a good fight against David and James, with James completing a TP to take the first. The second game was more interesting, thanks to a Dave TPO on Chris' ball. That left a 2 v 1 cat-and-mouse ending, with James pulling out a quality 2-ball break from H3 all the way round to 4b, until he tried to get behind Joe's ball near C3 and accidentally ran into it. This allowed Joe a half-chance to get back into the match - starting the turn on H2 he played some good croquet strokes and by H5 had a perfect 3-ball break. Unfortunately the 2b pioneer was a little deep and that is where his break came to grief. A short while later James 2-balled the finish from 4b to the peg.

Jenny & Harps gave James and Jamie a run for their money. Unfortunately because the doubles matches are for some reason split across the two different sides of the club, I didn't get to see much of the early play. I do know that NZ had a 3rd turn ball round in game 1, but eventually lost 6th turn in a no-error game. NZ then came back strongly to take the second after an error by England on a finishing turn. In the decider, NZ had all the early play, reaching rover and rover. Unfortunately the straight rover peel was a lot longer than ideal (about 4 yards), and neither ball ended up going through. England took their chance and finished 2 turns later.

A good day for England; a sub-optimal day for NZ. Taking the positives, the kiwis did play some good croquet, but just failed to take their chances in a few cases. We are not a team to roll over when we're behind though, and are looking forward to fighting back tomorrow.

Sunday
Apr302017

Sunday Challenge for MacRobertson Fans

As we move into Round Three with the US team looking to play spoiler versus Australia, and New Zealand and England hoping to run up the score on each other, it seems like a good day to throw down a little history challenge for our readers. Can you identify the current MacRob player that appeared in the Croquet Network photo gallery for the 2008 USCA National Championship? The player is not captioned, so best of luck:

croquetnetwork.squarespace.com/croquet-photos/2008-usca-nationals/

Please post your answer in the comments to be recognized as a true MacRob diehard fan.

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.

Saturday
Apr292017

Clarke: 2017 MacRobertson Review - Round 2

New Zealand v Australia | England v USA

Day 6

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

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

Day 7

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

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

Day 8

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

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

Day 9

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

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

Day 10

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

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

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

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

After the final Tests I will provide a personal analysis of each Team, player by player as I have done for previous events. The final Tests start on Sunday.
Saturday
Apr292017

Soo 12: England Sweeps Final Day vs USA

NZ captain Jenny Clarke. (Click to Zoom)

Despite going game up in two of three doubles matches, USA could not find a win today. Jamie Burch & James Death (ENG) each tripled to win their match with Danny Huneycutt & Matthew Essick (USA) well before lunchtime. Stuart Lawrence & Jeff Soo (USA) won the first +26tp, Lawrence tripling, with opponents Samir Patel & Stephen Mulliner not taking croquet. The remaining games were more interactive, and not as clean as the scorelines suggest, the Englishmen hitting key lift shots to win +17tp (Patel tripling) and +17.

Ben Rothman & David Maloof (USA) took advantage of yet another failed TPO to win game 1 against James Hopgood & David Maugham. Game 2 saw many errors from both sides, before Maugham finally tripled to level the match. 3-back caused problems for both sides in game 3, Maugham again tripling to make it a clean sweep for England.

The Aussies went game-up in three of the four 8:30 starts. The exception was Greg Fletcher, who made the "grievous error" (losing the turn by rushing a rover ball into the peg); opponent Chris Shilling punished the error with a +1 win. Robert Fletcher (AUS) quickly closed out his match against Paddy Chapman (NZ), +26tp, +17tp. Aiken Hakes (NZ) equalized against Simon Hockey (AUS). In one of the late-starting matches, Malcolm Fletcher (AUS) won game 1 +24tp against NZ captain Jenny Clarke.

Stephen Forster (AUS) closed out his match against Harps Tahurangi (NZ) +17, +8, to make it 13-4 to Australia. Shilling gave NZ a point, +26tp in game 2. Hakes added another point for NZ, +26tp in game 3; he is the only player still undefeated in singles. Clarke equalized against Malcolm Fletcher, +17tp, but Fletcher won game 3 +25tp. Joe Hogan (NZ) made it a 3-3 split for the day's singles, beating Aussie captain Ian Dumergue +12tp, +26tp.

Saturday
Apr292017

Chapman 10: Split in Singles Results in 14-7 Final

New Zealand's Harps Tahurangi in play on the final day of round two

On the final day of the second test, NZ were playing for pride, due to Australia reaching the magic number of 11 match wins Thursday. Going into the day Australia held a lead of 11-4, so our job was to make the scoreline a bit more respectable.

The match-ups today were:
- Aiken vs Simon Hockey
- Harps vs Stephen Forster
- Chris vs Greg Fletcher
- Paddy vs Robert Fletcher

...and the late starts were Joe vs Ian Dumergue and Jenny vs Malcolm Fletcher.

Australia once again got off to a fast start, having all the early play on all the lawns.
Simon took the first game against Aiken with a nice TP. However, Aiken hit back with a TP of his own (including a 3rd turn ball round), and then a 6th turn TP in the decider to take the match.

Harps had an interactive match with Stephen, with a few errors from both players, but Stephen always seemed to have the upper hand, eventually taking the match 2-0.

The first 25 points of the Greg vs Chris match were all scored by Greg, until an unlucky "grievous" (rushing a ball onto the peg) at the end of Greg's TP in game 1 let Chris into the game. Chris scored the next 26 points to take the game by 1 point. In the second game, Chris had a tidy 6th turn delayed TP.

Chris Shilling (Click to Zoom)Turns 3 and 4 of Paddy vs Robert were both misses, and Paddy had the first opportunity with a 7 yarder on turn 5, but missed this too, giving Robert the first break. The lift was also missed, meaning Robert took a 1-0 lead. In the second, Robert hit 3rd turn and went to 4-back, Paddy hit 4th turn and also went to 4b (with 2 pops) and Robert hit 5th turn and finished the game, taking a 2-0 win.

Joe and Ian were banished to lawn 7 (the furthest tennis court with very little shade) for their late-starting match. Joe found some very good form to take the match with two tidy TPs. The first game included an unfortunate error from Ian whereby he ran H5 twice during his turn, gifting Joe the innings.

Jenny and Malcolm had a TP-fest (two by Malcolm and one by Jenny). Both players looked very comfortable when they had the innings, and there was a fair bit of hitting in, but Malcolm eventually took a 2-1 victory.

I think it is fair to say that all the players are looking forward to tomorrow's rest day. It is very tiring playing 15 days of croquet in such extreme heat, so we will now recuperate and come out firing against the English.

Friday
Apr282017

Hopgood's Day 8 MacRob Montage Video

Embed of a day eight video montage by James Hopgood (England). Description: 

A slightly over the top brief review of Day 8 of the MacRobertson Shield. My beloved Hans Zimmer is no doubt copyrighted, so here's a variant. Mostly USA vs England, where at the end of the day, the result was 6-6. There is no footage from Day 7 alas, as I was in play most of the day (and a terrible result).
Friday
Apr282017

Chapman 09: A Tough Day

Australia's Stephen Forster pegs out to win the test of New Zealand

Going into today we trailed Australia 8-4 and needed a big day of doubles - a 3-0 day in our favour could get us back to 8-7 with a good chance going into tomorrow's singles. 

The match-ups today were:

  • Jenny & Harps vs Robert & Malcolm Fletcher
  • Chris & Joe vs Ian Dumergue & Stephen Forster
  • Paddy & Aiken vs Greg Fletcher & Simon Hockey

Robert & Malcolm played very well to beat Harps & Jenny in two straight games. In the second game, Malcolm failed 1b while on a standard TP, allowing Harps to complete a DPO on Robert's ball. However that proved to be our last turn, after Malcolm finished off the contact.
Chris & Joe had a good comeback to take the first game again Stephen & Ian, courtesy of another fine Chris TP. In the second game the Australians were clinical while NZ failed to trouble the scorers. The decider had interaction from both sides, but an aggressive attempt at picking up a standard TP failed for NZ, leaving Australia with an easy break to finish.

James Hopgood pegs out for test win against USA. Click to zoom.

Paddy & Aiken had a very long first game vs Greg & Simon, despite scoring no points - Simon had a tidy delayed TP. In the second, Greg had a 3rd turn ball to 4-back but Aiken hit and equalised, and Paddy finished with a TP. In the decider, Paddy hit third turn but misapproached H3 on an adventurous third-turn pickup giving Greg a 4-ball break. The lift was missed, and Simon reached the peg, albeit with only 1 peel. Paddy hit the last lift and had a ball to 4-back. The 'final' lift was missed, and Aiken had a chance to take the match, however an unfortunate incident occurred whereby he croqueted a ball off the lawn at the beginning of his turn.

All in all, the games today were very close and there were small margins deciding the outcomes. Congratulations to Australia who have now scored 11 points to ensure a test victory. Tomorrow NZ will come out firing and play to get as many points on the board as possible.

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.