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Entries in Stephen Mulliner (55)

Thursday
May042017

Chapman 15: Final Day

England's Stephen Mulliner on Day 15

Last Day is the Hottest

Today was the last day of play in the 2017 MacRob. Australia had already sealed the title yesterday, and England had already secured second place, so there was only pride at stake today. The forecast also had today as the hottest day of the entire event, at 41 degrees celcius. With this in mind, the two NZ/England matches with late starts had agreement between all 4 players that they should be abandoned, and so there would only be 4 points up for grabs today.

The 4 matches today were:

- Jenny vs Stephen Mulliner
- Joe vs Samir Patel
- Harps vs James Hopgood
- Chris vs James Death

Jenny had a chance to take the first game vs Stephen but an unfortunate "death roll" penult peel going to 2-back left her with a long roquet on her 2b pioneer which missed into baulk. Stephen made no mistake in taking the game from there. In the second, Stephen embarked on a SXP which finished with a very adventurous straight QP - to record the only sextuple in the event.

ROUND 3 PHOTO GALLERY

Joe had a few chances early on against Samir, hitting with all the balls in the middle, but a long angled hoop 1 was failed, allowing Samir into the match. After this, Joe never had the run of the ball and Samir won 2-0.

Chris Shilling. Click to Zoom.Harps had a similar match vs James Hopgood. James completed two consecutive clinical 26-0tp games and Harps' only error was to miss a few long shots by the proverbial coat of paint.

Chris had an excellent match vs James Death. He built on his excellent record in this, his MacRob debut, to record a 2-0 win with yet another solid break-play performance.

It has been a great event, played in good spirit between all players. Congratulations to Australia on comfortably winning their first MacRob for over 80 years. A very deserved win which was built upon several years of preparation. It sets an example to the other teams who I'm sure will be looking to implement a similar strategy in the lead-up to 2021.

Wednesday
May032017

Chapman 14: Disappointing Day in Searing Heat

Australia claims the 2017 MacRobertson Shield

Going into today we were 9-3 down to England, so somewhat staring down the barrel. To have any hope of a test victory we really needed to pick up 3 doubles wins today.

The match-ups today were:

- Aiken & Paddy vs Jamie Burch & James Death
- Joe & Chris vs Stephen Mulliner & Samir Patel
- Jenny & Harps vs David Maugham & James Hopgood

The day got off to a promising start with NZ taking the first game in two of the three matches. Jenny & Harps had plenty of play vs David & James but some random errors enabled England to take a 2-0 win.

Aiken & Paddy's match was somewhat error strewn, with mistakes from all players over the course of the 3 games. NZ took the first with a TP and had a finishing turn in the second, before England had a finishing turn of their own. Chances on both sides were missed, but England finally levelled the scores. In the decider, NZ had a 3rd turn ball to 4-back but the second ball was hampered after H1. England had their own finishing turn but could only reach penult & peg. The lift was hit but another error enabled England to take the victory.

Joe & Stephen also took the first vs Stephen & Samir, with 3 solid breaks. In the second, NZ had a potential finishing turn which eventually came to grief at 4-back and penult. This let the English pair into the match and they quickly leveled the scores. After a long lunch break, the decider was all England early-on, reaching rover & peg before NZ had started. Joe hit the last lift but failed H1. Samir then took a mid-length shot at partner, but hit the peg leaving all the balls in-lawn. This enabled Chris to make a break to 4-back but England then hit back to finish and take the game 26-9 and match 2-1.

Congratulations to England on winning the test. All players were very pleased to escape the heat of the sun on what was a particularly oppressive day (approx 40deg celcius).

A short while after the England/NZ test was wrapped up, Australia scored their 11th point vs USA to take the MacRobertson Shield for 2017 - congratulations to them on their first win in this event since 1935. This is probably the first MacRob in over 50 years where Australia has gone into the event as favourites, and it shows in their play as they have been the team to beat for the whole event.

Wednesday
May032017

Chapman 13: England Withstands the Heat to Extend Lead

England's David Maugham on D13, Round 3 versus New Zealand

Today was by far the hottest day at the MacRob so far, approximately 40 degrees celsius. The match-ups were as follows:

- Aiken vs David Maugham
- Chris vs James Hopgood
- Joe vs Stephen Mulliner
- Harps vs James Death
...with late starts for Jenny vs Samir Patel and Paddy vs Jamie Burch.

The first point of the day came courtesy of James Hopgood, taking a 2-0 win over Chris. Chris had plenty of play, and reached 4b and peg in game 2 before James hit in and finished with a TP.
Aiken equalised the day's score at 1-1 shortly after by taking out David Maugham 2-1, coming back from game and break down, then break down in the third, to win and give NZ a much-needed point.
Harps vs James was an all-day affair that eventually ended 2-0 to James, despite a lot of interaction. In the second game, Harps reached rover & peg and had a rush to rover vs James' single ball for peg. James smacked the peg from near corner 2 to take the win just in the nick of time.

Joe vs Stephen was an epic battle between two players who first played each other in the MacRob in 1982. Stephen took the first, and TPO'd Joe in the second, however Joe eventually hit a long shot and took a break to the peg. A 3-yarder was missed after rover, allowing Stephen a chance. Fortunately for NZ, Stephen missed his own 3-yarder to give Joe the game. Joe had all the early play in the decider and was on a standard TP. With all the peels done, he failed rover from close-by. Stephen failed to progress and Joe had another chance, but failed rover again. Stephen again failed to progress and this time Joe made rover but missed the peg-out from fairly close, sending a ball off the lawn in the process. Stephen found his second wind and finished in 2 turns to take a 26-24 third game.

Paddy vs Jamie was a clinical match in Jamie's favour. After a succession of misses at the beginning, Jamie had the first break. Paddy hit the lift and started a popping turn before misapproaching 1b out of nowhere. Jamie finished a short while later. Jamie had a convincing 5th turn finish in the second game to take the match, albeit having to rush peelee into position for the rover peel from just south of penult.

Jenny vs Samir had a very close first game, with Jenny reaching 4b & peg before Samir had made much progress. Samir finally hit in but made an error around 2b, allowing Jenny the first chance to close out the game, however the approach to 4b left a longer-than-ideal hoop which was failed. a 3-ball ending ensued in which Samir prevailed. In the second game, Samir had a 6th-turn ball to 4-back, and then an 8th turn ball to the peg, never getting any luck with the 4-back peel. He ended up winning the game without conceding croquet.

At the end of the day all players were very pleased to get inside to air-conditioning on what was an absolute scorcher. Well done to England on a good day. NZ's performance was approaching average but a series of unfortunate events and too many errors ultimately led England to a 5-1 scoreline.

Monday
May012017

Chapman 12: New Zealand Fights Back

Harps Tahurangi and Jenny ClarkeStarting today 3-0 down to England, we knew we needed a big day to get back into the test, and that is what we got.

It was a second consecutive day of doubles and the match-ups were:

- Aiken & Paddy vs David Maugham & James Hopgood
- Harps & Jenny vs Stephen Mulliner & Samir Patel
- Joe & Chris vs Jamie Burch & James Death

Aiken & Paddy started very strongly with a 3rd turn ball to 4b from Aiken followed by a 5th turn TP by Paddy. The second game was much the same, with Aiken hitting 4th turn and going to 4b, followed by another TP by Paddy, to conclude an 11-turn no-error match.

Jenny & Harps had a great first game with solid breaks by the kiwis to take a 1-0 lead. In the second, NZ had the first ball round but this time the lift was hit by Stephen who completed a TPO on Jenny's ball. This left Harps on his own and 1 missed long shot was all it took for England to establish the game-winning break. In the decider, Harps completed his first MacRob TP to take a memorable first MacRob match win.

Joe & Chris were 1-0 down in their match within about 40 minutes after a 6th turn TP from the English. However the kiwis dug in and 'pitched the tent' to force a decider. The third game contained lots of tense moments and swung each way multiple times. With NZ on 4b and penult, Jamie established a match-winning TP but misapproached penult. This enabled Joe to take his 4b ball to the peg. NZ had a couple of chances to finish the game off, eventually reaching rover & peg with the innings before Jamie hit a long shot to get back in. A couple more long shots were taken, but England managed to sneak home 26-23 to take the match win.

So NZ won the day 2-1 and trail England 4-2. We are back in a good position now and looking forward to tomorrow's singles. All the players found today very draining on what was probably the hottest day of play so far.

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.

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.
Friday
Apr282017

Soo 11: England and Australia Win Early

James Hopgood pegs out to give England an unassailable 11-7 lead over USA
England and Australia took command today, England winning the day's singles 5-1 to reach 11-7 vs. USA, and Australia sweeping their doubles round for 11-4 over New Zealand.

USA's #1 player Ben Rothman scored USA's only point for the day, beating ENG #1 Jamie Burch +17tp, +26tp. That put the Americans up 7-6. But by that point the other three 8:30 matches had England game up. David Maugham (ENG) finished his match with David Maloof (USA) soon after, +21, +16tp, to tie the test at 7-all. Samir Patel (ENG) won the captains' match against Danny Huneycutt (USA), followed by Stephen Mulliner (ENG) over Jeff Soo (USA) to make it 9-7. Matthew Essick (USA) took the middle game from James Death (ENG) in the second of the late-starting matches, but never took croquet in the decider. James Hopgood (ENG) vs. Stuart Lawrence (USA) went well into the afternoon, giving the Americans hope of keeping the test match alive for another day, but Hopgood scored the decisive 11th point for England.

Australia's Robert & Malcolm Fletcher had a quick 2-0 win over Jenny Clarke & Harps Tahurangi (NZ). Paddy Chapman & Aiken Hakes (NZ) won the middle game of their match with Simon Hockey & Greg Fletcher (AUS), but the Aussie pair won the decider to make the test match score 10-4 to Australia. Joe Hogan & Chris Shilling (NZ) won game 1 against Stephen Forster & Ian Dumergue (AUS), but Forster & Dumergue won the match to close out the test.

With one more day in the current round, England and Australia will be looking to pad their leads as much as possible. This isn't running up the score; if USA beats AUS, the winner of the ENG vs. NZ match will tie with AUS on test match wins, and the tiebreaker is percentage of individual matches won.

Wednesday
Apr262017

Soo 10: England Levels with USA

USA's top pairing of David Maloof & Ben Rothman extended USA's lead over England to 6-4, taking full advantage of errors by Jamie Burch & James Death (ENG) to win +2tp (Maloof), +10. Matthew Essick & Danny Huneycutt (USA) had chances against Samir Patel & Stephen Mulliner (ENG), but the English pair won with a pair of triples (one each), +6tp, +24tp.

Greg Fletcher rushes to hoop 1 to start his match-winning turnStuart Lawrence & Jeff Soo (USA) advanced to peg and penult in game 1 against James Hopgood & David Maugham (ENG), but a botched leave led to an excellent Maugham pickup and finish, +4tp. The Americans equalized after yet another failed TPO, this time with all three peels done. Hopgood managed a reasonable contact leave, and Lawrence went out of bounds trying for a rush on partner. Maugham cornered, and Lawrence parlayed some excellent long rushes into a finish, +14. There were few clean breaks and no peels in the decider, England winning +9 to claim a winning day and level the test match at 6-all.

In the NZ vs. AUS singles, Aiken Hakes (NZ) dispatched Robert Fletcher (AUS) with a pair of +26tp wins. There was sideline chatter about whether or not Hakes's hand was resting on the ground during a sweep shot, but the shot was ruled clean and the referee's ruling was of course not subject to appeal. Malcolm Fletcher posted a win for Australia soon after, beating Joe Hogan (NZ) +17, +17tp. Australian captain Ian Dumergue extended his team's lead, beating NZ captain Jenny Clarke +17tp, +17tp. Stephen Forster (AUS) took game 1 from Chris Shilling (NZ), +5. Shilling equalized, +17tp, but Forster won the decider +19.

The late-starting matches were split, NZ #1 Paddy Chapman beating AUS #2 Simon Hockey +17tp, +14tp, and Greg Fletcher (AUS) beating Harps Tahurangi (NZ), +26, +10tp. Another winning day for Australia gives them an 8-4 test match lead, leaving NZ a very tough hill to climb.

Saturday
Apr222017

Soo 05: Historic Day for Australia

Stephen Forster plays the test-match-winning turn. A veteran of five consecutive MacRobertson Shields, the number on his uniform shows he is the 59th player to be selected to play in the MacRob for Australia

It was a great day for New Zealand, and a historic day for Australia.

The wheels fell off for Team USA today. In croquet the winning recipe is simple: hit in more often; break down less often. The Americans seemed to have forgotten that bit of wisdom today, and the predictable result was a clean sweep for the Kiwis, 2-0 in all three of the scheduled doubles matches, capped off with Hogan's finishing the pegged-down doubles match in a single turn. Having gone from 4-7 down to 8-7 up, they are now definite favorites to win the test.

Australia started the day with a 7-5 lead over England. The first two results were a split, Maugham (England) beating Dumergue (Australia) and Hockey (Australia) beating Mulliner (England), both matches 2-0. Patel, England's captain, did his part with a win over Malcolm Fletcher, +3qp, -26tp, +14tp, to narrow the gap to 7-8. In the last of the 8:30 matches, Greg Fletcher (Australia) took game 1 over Death, +17tp. Death leveled the match with a quick +26tp. Fletcher had all the early play in the decider, but after doing three peels and roqueting partner while running rover, he attempted a long pegout, hard, barely missing the peg and sending the croqueted ball off the lawn. Death made six hoops and laid for a sextuple, but when the straight quad finish wasn't going to work, opted to make a leave. Except he missed a long return roquet after 3-back. Fletcher finished, +9, to make it 9-7.

Burch (England) won the first game against Robert Fletcher, +25tp. But the world #1 player controlled the rest of the match, +26tp in games 2 and 3.

Forster (Australia) came undone with a straight triple attempt in game 1 against Hopgood (England), and Hopgood punished the error +5tp. Forster leveled the match +17tp, and after an exchange of errors in the decider, played a well-controlled delayed triple peel to win game, match, and test match.

This is the first time Australia has beaten England in a test match since 1982. That was a heartbreak year for Australia, the closest they have come to winning the Shield since their last victory in 1935. With today's convincing win, and on current form, the Aussies are clear favorites to win the Shield. Of course matches aren't won on paper, and there are still many possible storylines to this series. Will today be chapter 1 in a glorious story for Australia, or an interesting footnote? Stay tuned.

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