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Entries in Robert Fletcher (46)

Thursday
May042017

Clarke: 2017 MacRobertson Review - Round 3

Third Tests Review

It would be all too easy to write about the hoard of errors that we have seen over the past five days. To do so would completely fail to acknowledge the extreme temperatures that the players have had to endure. I would certainly not have been playing at multiple junctures, with temperatures reaching 106 F. The pull on the balls had increased noticeably, with some players commenting that the black has been too hot to pick up.

Therefore, I will just comment on a few of the high quality matches that have still occurred. Jamie Burch played well to beat Paddy Chapman, Aiken Hakes played well to beat David Maugham who also played well back and Robert Fletcher played well against Ben Rothman.

England comfortably beat NZ 15-4, although the match should have been tied 3-3 after day 2. Australia played solid croquet to achieve the basic Mac pattern of winning each day 2-1, 4-2, 2-1, 4-2, 2-1. The USA were competitive throughout.

The event lacked several things and one thing.

  • Finishing – so many basic finishing turns failed to finish.
  • Understanding – there was a lack of understanding of how to make lift leaves, play pegged out endings, optimise non-lift leaves and optimise openings.
  • Leaves – so many games featured leaves giving away 9 yarders, or doubles.
  • Firm hoops – it was too easy to run hoops gently from distance and angle.
  • Originality – there was a lack of popping combined with hoop leaves.
  • Reliability – very few players were able to produce a consistent performance level.
  • Desire – from the English to turn up fully prepared to play the Australians in the first Test.

Below is an overview of each team followed by my thoughts on the individual players. Whilst we were over here, we had the NFL Draft after which some reporters gave a grade to each of the 32 teams. I have tried to do the same with the players, considering how they performed compared to expectations. Grades run from A+ to E-. The fact that I have given no-one a low grade is an indication that there were no walkover “guaranteed” wins this Mac. All players can leave with a degree of satisfaction.

USA

This was a good performance from Team USA. They were constantly competitive and picked up a large number of wins. I disliked their response R 9 yards E of the peg in response to supershots (particularly long ones) and this opening was unsuccessful most of the time. Overall, their breaks were scrappy and their leaves left a lot to be desired. They started well in all Test matches but looked much more nervy as the winning line became closer.

New Zealand

This was a team that only knew its true identity a couple of weeks before the event. For them to mount a comeback from 4-7 against the USA was a massive achievement. They got into every Test, but at times it appeared that they were researching for a new book called “101 ways to put down winning turns.” They could easily have picked up another 9 or 10 match wins. They will view this year as a transitional one and look forward to introducing their exciting young prospects into the next Mac and hopefully welcoming back a couple of their strong experienced players.

England

Started poorly and improved slightly. There were some good performances capable of winning the event, but too many mistakes combined with poor tactical decisions cost them. Clearly playing the strongest opposition in week 1, when out of season, was an additional handicap. The fact that they were playing a different game to the one normally played in England cannot have helped them. In 2006, GB destroyed their opposition, reaching 11-0 in the final before cruising to a big win. In the 11 years since, England/GB have failed to win the most matches in any MacRobertson Shield and have lost two Solomon Trophies. They seemed unaware that TPOs and sextuples were bad tactics. I have written for many years that England turn up to these major events unprepared with untried doubles pairings. This year it cost them.

Australia

Almost the opposite to the England team. 30 months of preparation combined with a clear tactical game plan and good doubles pairings set the solid base for a good all round team performance. I’m not sure that they pegged anyone out at all before the last day. They have a youthful team that could go on from here and will no doubt have great support when they defend their title in Australia in 2021. Worthy winners.

Player Analysis


Robert Fletcher: Grade A-
When you come into a MacRobertson Shield graded 200 points higher than the next player, it is tricky to meet the expectations that everyone has of you. Robert made close to zero errors having made the first hoop of his turn, but did fail hoop 1 on a few occasions. His shooting was mixed and the easy lawns meant that he suffered more defeats than he would have liked.

Simon Hockey: Grade B
Probably the least consistent of the Australian contingent. Simon often looked classy when on a tp, but his shooting and leave making often fell below expectations.

Ian Dumergue: Grade B
Got his team off to a good start in the first test before weakening in later Tests. Variable shooting ranging from good at long range to suspect at short range. Lovely positive character – excellent captain.

Malcolm Fletcher: Grade B+
Error prone towards the start of the event, but improved as he settled. Breakplay still far too loose for my liking, but enjoyed the easy playing conditions that allowed recoveries from previous misplay.

Greg Fletcher: Grade A+
Probably the best shot in the event, clearly having benefited from playing in the GC Worlds. Whilst he did make quite a few errors, I have felt forced to give him an A+ due to his ability to win openings, regain the innings and complete triples when playing on his debut.

Stephen Forster: Grade B
Once in the balls, Stephen always looked graceful and possessed some of the best touch of any of the players. The first shot of his turn was highly suspect, with him having recently changed to centre style Solomon for these shots.

David Maugham: Grade A
Very few errors combined with quality leaves made this a strong performance. In terms of the future, his ever diminishing backswing must cause concern.

Jamie Burch: Grade A-
Shot very well as always. Still too loose a break player for my liking, but improving. Nice speed of play.

Samir Patel: Grade B+
A little too inconsistent to quite gain an A- grade. Played plenty of good turns but slightly too many poor ones. More likely to take good tactical lines of play than some of the other English players.

Stephen Mulliner: Grade C+
Attempts at a sextuple and many failed tpos and losing tpos made this a disappointing event for the World Champion. Finished his dead match with an entertaining sextuple that had a straight quadruple with half-jumps at 4-b and rover.

James Death: Grade C-
Fun to watch as ever, but surprisingly making a lot of breakplay errors and compounding that with long periods of poor shooting.

James Hopgood: Grade B+
A mixed bag from the debutant. Plenty of high quality turns were mixed with some dreadful games.

Paddy Chapman: Grade A-
Probably my favourite player to watch. He was elegant, played controlled turns and attempted more popping than any other player. Not quite on top form and always slightly vulnerable against the best shots.

Aiken Hakes: Grade A-
The only unbeaten player in singles with several excellent matches. Doubles disappointingly less effective or cohesive. An impressive debut.

Joe Hogan: Grade C+
Great to have the first ever World Champion back in the Mac. He played several good turns and regularly hit his last shot to generate game winning turns. Regrettably, most did not finish. Shots such as irish peels and peg outs really showed the difficulty of using a basic 9” unweighted mallet.

Jenny Clarke: Grade B
The best performance level I have ever seen from a player who won such a low percentage of games. Plenty of third turn balls round and good leaves always seemed to be followed by her opponent hitting and finishing in two turns. Spoke well at the functions.

Chris Shilling: Grade A
Had one of the best combinations of controlled hoop stroke and croquet strokes in the event. Fabulous debut. Would have got an A+ if he had taken one of his finishing turns to make it 3-3 vs England on day 12.

Harps Tahurangi: Grade C+
Starting mid-series is a tough ask and Harps was always competitive. Great tp to win his first match on day 12, but too many easy breaks put down overall.

Toby Garrison: Grade B-
Tough ask to come and play at number 2 in a Mac having not played for some time. Improved day by day and was a fabulous team member.

Ben Rothman: Grade B-
Playing at the club where he used to be pro, I expected a strong performance from the British Open Champion. However loose break play cost him matches he should have won. Seemed unhappy with the hoops, complaining that they should be wider.

David Maloof: Grade B-
Loose break play once again caused some unforced errors that proved costly playing at number 2.

Danny Huneycutt: Grade C+
Perhaps the most Jekyll and Hyde performance of all. He interspersed solid triples that showed his underlying ability level with a jerky set of single ball strokes that indicated he was battling with the yips.

Jeff Soo: Grade B-
Once again playing too high in the team order for my liking, he played plenty of solid turns. However, a tendency to slam at key hoops caused his undoing on multiple occasions.

Stuart Lawrence: Grade B+
Good debut. Played some good peeling turns, but combined that with some games that degenerated rapidly in quality.

Stephen Morgan: Grade B
Good debut. Still lacking the controlled breakplay that he will need when playing in trickier conditions. Always looked solid at longer hoops. Needs to develop greater control and improve his leaves.

Matthew Essick: Grade B+
The ultimate in uncontrolled croquet. Five and six yarders regarded as normal. It is a style of play that I struggle to appreciate, but it did work in some of his matches.

Wednesday
May032017

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 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

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.

Wednesday
Apr262017

Chapman 08: Australia Extends Lead to 8-4

Aiken Hakes was able to pick up a 2-0 match win over Australia's Robert Fletcher
Going into day 3 of the second test, NZ were 4-2 down to Australia after yesterday's 'tension in the twilight.' NZ are not a team to roll over when they are behind however, and we were confident of a good day in today's singles.

The match-ups today were:
- Jenny vs Ian Dumergue
- Joe vs Malcolm Fletcher
- Aiken vs Robert Fletcher
- Chris vs Stephen Forster

With the two late starts being Harps vs Greg Fletcher and myself vs Simon Hockey.

For NZ, the match of today was surely Aiken's massive victory over world number 1 Robert Fletcher. Aiken hit 4th turn in game 1 after Robert failed H1 3rd turn, and proceeded to 4-back. Robert missed the lift and Aiken finished his delayed TP. Game 2 started with a supershot opening from Aiken, with misses on turns 3 and 4. Aiken hit an aggressive shot 5th turn and repeated the result of game 1 for a great victory.

Malcolm had most of the play against Joe - Joe hit numerous long shots but never quite had the rub of the green, and Malcolm won in straight games.

Ian and Jenny had a very high quality match (13 turns total) with Ian winning 2-0. Neither player made any errors, and Jenny can count herself a little unlucky with the end result.

Chris vs Stephen was probably the longest match of the day. Stephen took a tight first game by +5, only for Chris to comeback strongly with a TP in the second. In the decider, both players had some play, but Stephen reached the peg first to put Australia 7-3 up overall.

Harps vs Greg also had plenty of play for both sides. Harps had at least one ball round in each game, but Greg maintained the upper hand and played some tidy croquet to eventually win in straight games.

Myself vs Simon was the final match to start. I got off to a fast start by hitting 5th turn and going to 4-back. Simon hit the long lift from B Baulk centre-ball but got caught out by a hill at H4 when making his own leave and had to separate his two balls. I regained the innings and finished with a TP. In game 2, Simon had the first break but again got caught by the hill at H4 when making his leave. I hit the lift and popped his H1 ball to H3. Simon hit back in yet again, but made an error at H4, leaving me a short shot for a standard TP to make it 8-4 to Australia after day 3.

NZ will be aiming for a 3-0 result in the doubles tomorrow to try and close the gap to Australia.

Wednesday
Apr262017

Chapman 07: Ups and Downs for NZL

Austrailia's Ian Dumergue versus New Zealand in round two (Day 7)
Day 2 was another day of doubles, and a day of ups and downs for NZ in the second test.

After day 1, Australia were leading 2-1 and got off to a fast start with Malcolm and Robert Fletcher beating myself and Aiken Hakes 2-0 with two error-free games. I felt a little unlucky in hilling off from centre ball on two consecutive long shots in game 1 but the Australians played well to finish their TPs.

ROUND TWO PHOTOS

Once again the heroic combination of Hogan and Shilling played a fantastic gritty match to wear down Hockey and Greg Fletcher (their first defeat in the MacRob) in straight games. Chris did an excellent controlled TP in the first game and had a good go at another in game 2, reaching peg & rover with a good leave.

By far the longest match of the day was Tahurangi & Clarke vs Forster & Dumergue. Jenny played an excellent final turn in game 1 after Harps had been pegged out, hitting the lift and rolling off 4-back from corner 4 and finishing. In game 2, the Australians reached rover & rover before a spirited kiwi fightback. Eventually the kiwis reached peg & peg but found themselves hampered after rover, enabling the Aussies to force a decider. In the third game the Australians had the first break before Jenny had an equalising break of her own. The Aussies hit back in however and generally maintained control of the decider, winning +17 to take the day 2-1 and a 4-2 lead heading into tomorrow's singles.

All in all, it was a slightly disappointing day for NZ, but 4-2 is a fair result and only 1 match win away from being 3-3 overall. We will be aiming to win the day tomorrow.

Monday
Apr242017

Chapman 06: NZ Sticks Close to Australia on D1

Australia's Simon Hockey on the first day of Round 2 vs New Zealand
Australia's Simon Hockey on the first day of Round 2 vs New Zealand
Day one of test two said goodbye to Toby Garrison (who was only available for the first test) and hello to Harps Tahurangi. Harps is an excellent player from Wellington in NZ and today marks his MacRob debut.

The day started with a full group photo for all 24 players. Once the formalities were finished with, the serious business of test match croquet resumed.

Today saw the following match-ups:
- Aiken Hakes & Paddy Chapman vs Stephen Forster & Ian Dumergue
- Joe Hogan & Chris Shilling vs Robert Fletcher & Malcolm Fletcher
- Jenny Clarke & Harps Tahurangi vs Greg Fletcher & Simon Hockey

Unfortunately due to refereeing constraints, the decision was again made to split the teams up, with 2 pairs from NZ vs Australia and 2 pairs from England vs USA competing on lawns 1-4, and 1 pair from each country competing on lawns 5 and 6 (instead of using three of the four lawns numbered 1-4 and lawns 5-7 in order for test matches to be kept together).

In the NZ vs Australia test, it was a very closely contested battle. All the NZ pairs found themselves trailing 0-1 after the first 90 minutes of play. After that there was something of a kiwi revival, with NZ scoring the test match first point through Chapman & Hakes - in a closely-fought match that contained too many errors for the conditions, the kiwis came out 2-1 winners thanks to a tidy Hakes TP in the decider.

On the other side of the club, Harps (on debut) and Jenny played some excellent croquet to take the match to a third game, before succumbing to a 5th turn TP in the decider.

In Chris and Joe's match, again there was a good fight-back courtesy of a straight triple from Chris (yet another excellent turn under pressure from the debutante). In the decider, the kiwis had a chance for a 3rd turn ball round, but missed a 5-yarder after H2 with a pioneer waiting at H3. From there, the Australians closed out the match in two turns.

So overall after day 1 of the second test, NZ trail the MacRob favourites Australia by 2-1. We're looking forward to at least squaring things up tomorrow.

Thursday
Apr202017

Soo 04: Singles Round on Day 3

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday
Apr202017

2017 MacRob Reader Q&A #01

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

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

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

QUESTION AND ANSWER

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

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

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

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

STATISTICAL LOOK

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

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

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

Wednesday
Apr192017

Soo 02: Day 1 Reveals Easy Conditions

Smiles for the Aussies as Dumergue & Forster win to give their team a 2-1 lead over England

Both test matches started with doubles, as usual. The English got on the board quickly, Maugham & Hopgood winning 2-0 over Robert & Malcolm Fletcher (Australia) with a pair of Maugham triple peels. Next to finish were Soo & Lawrence (USA) over Hogan & Shilling (NZ), the Kiwis not taking croquet and Lawrence tripling on turns seven and ten, for an excellent MacRobertson Shield debut. Rothman & Maloof (USA) each had a triple peel in their 2-0 win over Garrison & Hakes (NZ), putting USA up 2-0. In the Burch & Death (England) vs. Forster & Dumergue (Australia) match, Burch had a quick triple to win game 1. Death did a TPO in game 2, but Forster finished to level the match.

ROUND ONE PHOTO GALLERY

On the lower lawns, Greg Fletcher tripled to win game 1 with partner Hockey (Australia) against Mulliner & Patel (England). Mulliner did most of a DPO in game 2, but missed the pegout, giving Fletcher an easy finish, which brought Australia level with England for the test at 1-all. In Clarke & Chapman (NZ) vs. Huneycutt & Morgan (USA), Clarke had some struggles with control, but Huneycutt couldn't find his shooting touch, the Kiwis winning 2-0 to bring the test match score to 2-1 in favor of USA.

Aussie captain Dumergue put together a well-controlled triple peel to end the day's play and put his team up 2-1 in the test.

By test match standards, the conditions are very easy. The lawns are a comfortable medium pace, and the combination of sandy (and well-watered) soil and powder-coated hoops makes for easy hoop-running and peeling. In the afternoon the wind picked up, giving a taste of what could be the main challenge during the series. Thus far 11 of the 13 games have finished with triple peels, and this rate of tripling seems likely to continue.

Tuesday
Apr182017

Soo 01: 2017 MacRob Preview

Defending champion NZ team practicing shortly before the opening ceremony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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