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Entries in Stuart Lawrence (43)

Tuesday
May162017

Video: New Zealand's Dramatic Win vs USA


Video from Chris Clarke: The last action of the USA v NZ Test at the 2017 MacRobertson Shield held at Mission Hills. We join it with USA leading 10-9. Chris Shilling is in the third against Stuart Lawrence and Aiken Hakes is game up against Jeff Soo.
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

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.
Wednesday
Apr262017

Soo 10: England Levels with USA

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

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

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

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

Tuesday
Apr252017

Soo 09: US Holds 5-4 Lead After Singles

Yes, he hit it. Matthew Essick (USA) pegs out to cap a wild finish to his match with James Hopgood (ENG)

USA and England Split the Day's Singles

In the USA vs. ENG singles, England captain Samir Patel posted a quick +26tp, +26tp win over USA's Jeff Soo to tie the test match at 2-all. James Death (ENG) opened with a quick +22tp over Stuart Lawrence (USA). In game 2 Death broke down at 1-back; Lawrence missed and Death hit, giving him a chance for a sextuple peel. Three peels done, he missed the return roquet after 2-back, allowing Lawrence to take control for a +9tp win. James Hopgood (ENG) took the first game +15 against Matthew Essick (USA) after an exchange of errors; Essick was cleaner in game 2 and won +9tp. Meanwhile, Lawrence played well to reach peg and 4-back, but Death hit and contrived an elegant triple peel to take the match, +5tp in the third. This put England up by one.

ROUND TWO PHOTO GALLERY

Jamie Burch (ENG) ignored expert opinion and TPO'd David Maloof (USA) in game 1. Maloof shot well but never quite pulled together a three-ball break, Burch winning +9tpo. Maloof controlled game 2 for +25. Maloof had the first break in the decider; Burch hit the lift. He had a go at peeling Maloof's backward ball through hoop 1, but then missed his pioneer at hoop 5. But Maloof's shot missed, hit the hoop, and stayed on court. Burch made an NSL, Maloof missed, and Burch closed out the match +17tp, extending England's lead to 4-2.

In the first of the late-starting matches, Stephen Mulliner (ENG) won game 1 by +24tp against USA captain Danny Huneycutt. Huneycutt equalized in a scrappy game 2, +13. Ben Rothman (USA) won the opener against David Maugham (ENG) +17tp. Essick vs. Hopgood devolved into a remarkable exchange of errors and hit-ins, Essick finally putting the match away +7, bringing USA back to within one. Mulliner attempted a TPO in game 3, which quickly became a delayed peel attempt and finally a straight double. Two peels done, he managed a good enough contact leave to keep Huneycutt from scoring, and hit on the next turn. But a hampered shot after 1 gave control to Huneycutt, who finished +13 to tie the test match at 4-all. Maugham likewise attempted a TPO in game 2, breaking down with two peels done; Rothman finished +20 to give USA the end-of-day lead at 5-4.

Australia Has Another Winning Day

Robert & Malcolm Fletcher (AUS) each had a triple peel in a +26tp, +17tp win over Paddy Chapman & Aiken Hakes (NZ), extending Australia's lead to 3-1. Greg Fletcher's undefeated run came to an end today, he and Simon Hockey (AUS) losing to Joe Hogan and Chris Shilling (NZ), +26tp, +17, Shilling doing the triple in game 1. Jenny Clarke & Harps Tahurangi (NZ) won a protracted game 1 against Ian Dumergue & Stephen Forster (AUS), +4. Nearly nine hours into the match, the Aussie pair leveled with an even closer game 2, +2. A little before 7PM, Dumergue pegged out to give Australia another 2-1 day for a 4-2 test match lead.

Monday
Apr242017

Soo 08: USA Up 2-1 on England

Repeating the result from Day 1, the first day of the second round of test matches ends with Australia and USA leading their opponents 2-1.

18-year-old Matthew Essick debuted for USA today. He needed a few turns to settle in, but had an OSL in game 1 and an NSL in game 2; partner Danny Huneycutt tripled both times as opponents James Hopgood & David Maugham (ENG) never took croquet. Huneycutt's return to form is welcome news for Team USA.

Stuart Lawrence & Jeff Soo (USA) had several changes of innings with Jamie Burch & James Death (ENG), ending when Burch hit a 30-yarder and tripled to finish. In game 2 Death went round third turn off the opponents' Duffer tice, and Burch finished fifth turn to level the test match 1-all.

Malcolm Fletcher starts his match-winning triple peel

David Maloof & Ben Rothman (USA) took game 1 from Samir Patel & Stephen Mulliner (ENG) +17. Patel's triple-peel attempt in game 2 ended with four balls around rover. Maloof went round and Patel missed, but then Rothman's triple attempt came undone at 3-back. Patel hit in, but while approaching the two balls at 3-back he inadvertently roqueted Mulliner's ball. A nifty bombard dislodged Rothman's ball from the hoop, and Patel finished +6. Rothman had the first break in the decider. Maloof needed a couple of turns to get going; he went round with no peels and left a reversed B spread; that was enough as Patel missed the 11-yarder and Rothman finished to put USA up 2-1 for the test match.

Stephen Forster & Ian Dumergue (AUS) won game 1 by +3 against NZ's top pairing Paddy Chapman & Aiken Hakes, after Hakes's escape ball got in the way at rover. The Kiwis leveled the match +26, Chapman taking two turns to finish, then punished a first-break error in game 3 to win the match with a Hakes triple.

Simon Hockey & Greg Fletcher (AUS) went game up against Jenny Clarke & Harps Tahurangi (NZ), the latter making his MacRob debut today; Hockey tripled for +10tp. The Kiwis regrouped to win game 2 +17tp, Clarke tripling. Hockey put out a supershot ball to open game 3; Fletcher hit and went round, after a long hoop 1. Hockey managed to get a number of referees on the lawn at one or two points in his turn, but finished without incident, +26tp, to level the test match at 1-all.

All players, officials, and visitors from NZ and AUS paused to observe ANZAC Day at 1:00 local time, joining with their compatriots at home for the traditional Dawn Service.

Robert & Malcolm Fletcher (AUS) won game 1 by +4 against Chris Shilling & Joe Hogan (NZ), both sides breaking down while attempting triples. In game 2 Shilling finished a straight triple to level the match. Shilling put out a supershot ball to start the decider; Hogan hit and got going but missed a five-yarder after hoop 2. Robert went round to an NSL, Hogan narrowly missed the short shot, and Malcolm finished to make it a winning day for the Aussies.

Sunday
Apr232017

Clarke: 2017 MacRobertson Review - Round 1

Today, we are pleased to add Chris Clarke to the team of contributors for coverage of the 2017 MacRobertson Shield being held this month (and into May) in Rancho, Mirage, California. This is in addition to the players journals we have running from Jeff Soo and Paddy Chapman. Please enjoy ...

First Tests Review: England v Australia and New Zealand v USA

Day 1

The first day of any MacRobertson Shield is an exciting and nervous experience. Over the past three decades, I have seen many debutants wilt under the pressure. It therefore comes as a pleasant surprise to be able to report on two excellent debuts on day 1 of these tests. Stuart Lawrence completed two triple peels to take his match partnering Jeff Soo against Hogan and Shilling without the Kiwis even taking croquet. Stuart’s only error was failing to get going once in game two which gave away a long bonus shot.

In the other Test, James Hopgood made no errors taking breaks to 4-b on the fourth and third turns of his two games. This was perhaps an even stronger performance since his pairing with Maugham won their match without the world number one Robert Fletcher taking croquet – Robert only struck his ball twice in the match.

At about 11 o’clock, it looked as if England would take a 2-0 lead when Jamie Burch was on a finishing turn against Dumergue and Forster, when already game up. However, a blast at hoop 2 failed to go through (these hoops react better to soft and mid-pace shots) and Stephen Forster played a good finishing turn to turn Death’s tpo into an otp. The players broke for lunch at 1-1. Meanwhile over in lawn 5, Mulliner had completed the peels of a dpo only to completely miss the peg-out leaving a ball at Greg Fletcher’s hoop and conceding contact. Greg made no error and finished the match next turn to level the test 1-1.

When the deciding game resumed in the Death/Burch v Dumergue/Forster match, Burch went round 5th turn, but Forster hit the lift and Dumergue claimed the match on the 7th turn to give Australia the overnight lead. NZ and USA shared the other two doubles for the USA to lead 2-1. How critical will this turn-around be on day 5?

Day 2

England and Australia shared today's singles 3-3 to give Australia a 5-4 lead. One piece of information that may not be widely known is that Robert Fletcher broke his mallet a week ago and is still getting used to his new mallet. In his second game against Mulliner, both players had 2 breaks and both had 3 peels, but it was the player with the better tactics that won.

The USA/NZ match only finished two of their three doubles, both going to the USA to give them a 4-1 lead. The Huneycutt/Morgan v Hogan/Shilling match was pegged down after 10.5 hours. Amazingly, it was still in the second game!!

Day 3

Australia once again won the doubles 2-1 to take a 7-5 lead into day 4. Another losing tpo featured in England’s defeat. I highlighted during the last World Championships that of the 7 tpos completed, 6 of them lost and that this was a weak tactic. No lessons seem to have been learnt by the English players.
USA/NZ shared the singles 3-3 to make it 7-4 and NZ equalised at game all in the unfinished doubles which was once again pegged down after 12.5 hours.

Day 4

NZ won all three doubles and added the unfinished doubles to make it 4-0 on the day to take an 8-7 lead into the final day.

The Aus/Eng match showed an increase in both the number of errors and the strangeness of tactical choices. Whether this was due to the high temperatures, inexperience, pressure, or a combination of these three factors I do not know. To give one example of a baffling set of decisions, Greg Fletcher had completed all the peels of his triple against James Death in their deciding game, but was 1 foot in front of rover with peelee just through the hoop. He had the option to jump over and take a 9 yard return roquet, but decided to run the hoop firmly and flat. I was standing next to Ian Dumergue, the Australian Captain and commented on what a mature sensible decision Greg had made. I assumed he would croquet partner to the peg, possibly getting a long peg out and would then rush James’ balls off the boundaries to take a 25-0 lead and force a hit-in. The spectators were amazed when Greg played a hard peg-out from the south boundary where the front ball zoomed off the lawn. Following this, James, instead of going to 4-b and giving Greg one shot to stay in the match (there were 32 +26tp results in the first Tests), went to 1-b and attempted a sextuple. No-one has achieved more than 3 peels of a sextuple so far in the event and whilst it was a surprise that James didn’t even attempt the 3-b peel, it was little surprise that the turn did not finish.

Australia took 3 of the first 5 matches to finish which left them on the brink of victory at 10-7. The final match to finish was between Stephen Forster and James Hopgood. This was a tough position for a debutant to find themselves and he played some good turns. However, Forster’s experience and elegant play won through to give Australia the key 11th match win.

I have been asked in the past what Australia needed to do to win a MacRobertson. My two answers have been “select their best players” and “get a team strong enough that Forster can play lower down the order”. They fulfilled both these criteria – many congratulations to them.

Day 5

England took the doubles 2-1 to make the final score Aus 12, Eng 9. Australia selected their best six players for the first time in my memory. They also had three compatible doubles partnerships that had played together before. They came with a pre-determined game plan – and it was a good plan. Supershot openings, no TPOs, no sextuples. Just solid play. Finally, they executed their game plan well, and were worthy winners.

The other test match was a nail-biter, in true MacRobertson Shield spirit. The last two matches finished within 30 seconds of each other at dusk. USA had started the day 8-7 down, but had moved to 10-9 ahead before kiwi debutants Aiken Hakes and Chris Shilling put the final two matches on the scoreboard to allow New Zealand an 11-10 win.

I mentioned on Day 1 two strong debuts by Hopgood and Lawrence. What is perhaps more difficult to do is to get off to a bad start and find fabulous form by the end of a test. Chris Shilling didn’t take croquet on the first day, and today produced a level of performance combined with maturity that I will remember for a long time. It is also probably an opportune moment to thank Toby Garrison for his willingness to play one test match at short notice. His contribution to the team has been immense.

The American team produced a good standard of play for most of the Test. It was a Test that could easily have gone either way and there was little to choose between the two sides. One statistic that may be of surprise to readers is that NZ only won one of the five days of play.

Looking forward to the second tests, New Zealand lose Toby Garrison and gain Harps Tahurangi. USA gain Matthew Essick, but at this stage, it is unknown who he will replace. Despite Danny Huneycutt’s match win against Hogan today, I feel he was the least on-form of the Americans, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he chose to sit out the second test.

The standard of play in the Aus/Eng Test was much higher than the USA/NZ Test and if all the teams continue to play at that level, it wouldn’t surprise me to see 17-4 or 16-5 results in favour of Australia and England in the second Tests. However, croquet is a sport and anything can happen, however unlikely. Sunday is a rest day and the second Tests start on Monday. All the players will welcome a break from the searing heat. Check back to Croquet Network for more next week.

Sunday
Apr232017

Chapman 05: New Zealand Wins 11-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday
Apr232017

Soo 06: New Zealand Holds the Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday
Apr222017

Chapman 04: Excellent Day for New Zealand

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday
Apr212017

Chapman 03: Solid Play Narrows the Gap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday
Apr202017

Soo 04: Singles Round on Day 3

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

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

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

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

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