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Week 3 (Feb 7 - Feb 13) Aus v USA & GB v NZ

[<<] [>>] by Stephen Mulliner
Feb 7 - Feb 13 2000 (The MacRobertson Shield)

  Week 3 (Feb 7 - Feb 13) Aus v USA & GB v NZ  

Day 13 Monday February 7


New Zealand lead Great Britain 2-1, USA lead Australia 3-1

New Zealand took a surprise lead in the first three doubles matches against Great Britain. Clarke & Fulford defeated Baker & Jackson in straight games but better Kiwi shooting was the main ingredient in the narrow successes of Garrison & Jones against Irwin & Maugham and Prince & Wislang against Mulliner & Openshaw. The Test continues with four singles matches tomorrow. In the other Test, USA made a confident start to their bid to send Australia to the bottom of the big four.


Great Britain v New Zealand (GB names first)

CD Clarke & RI Fulford beat R Baker & RV Jackson +19tp (C), +3tpo(F)
CJ Irwin & DB Maugham lost to TA Garrison & SG Jones -25, +14, -3
SN Mulliner & DK Openshaw lost to JG Prince & B Wislang -4, -9

USA v Australia (USA names first)

J Fournier beat B Fleming -4, +26,+24
J Stark beat B Dawson +10, -16, +17
D Fournier, Jr. beat M Donati +10, +26
J Soo lost to T Bassett -8, -3

General comment

GB made a poor start to the vital Test against New Zealand and, although the Kiwis deserve full marks for coming out fighting, it would be premature to read too much into the first day's play. Conditions continue to improve with a drying wind and constant sunshine. Clarke & Fulford had a relatively comfortable first game although both Clarke and Baker took time to settle down and a much more exciting pegged-out second game when Baker almost brought off a recovery worthy of Lazarus, epitomised by pass-rolling to 1-b and 2-b from C4, running 1-b from 5y at an angle to 4y N 2-b and hitting Clarke below 2-b before failing the hoop. He ended up running 4-b before missing Clarke at the peg.

Irwin & Maugham did not have their shooting boots on while Garrison, recently promoted to No. 2 in the team order, most certainly did. Both sides experienced problems in approaching and running hoops on a distinctly tricky lawn but, nonetheless, in game 3, Irwin had a standard TP running before failing at 4 and a double peel finish which collapsed at rover when his own ball ran too close to a stuck peelee. This allowed a hitherto rather hesitant Jones to reach the peg and the Brits could not find the vital roquet.

It was a similar story for Mulliner & Openshaw, albeit in a 7 hour two-game match of few errors by either side against Prince & Wislang. Wislang's superb long shooting and composure when finishing were the key differences between the teams. Mulliner was also a little unlucky to be deprived of two potentially match-squaring breaks in game 2 by an over-tight hoop 6 which had to be reset. Prince almost completed a TP in game 2 but had to leave a last lift shot when he turned away from an angled straight rover peel. His caution paid off when Mulliner missed and Wislang made no mistake.

The USA made an excellent start against Australia by winning three out of four singles matches. Both of the Fournier brothers were in top form and Jerry Stark played solidly to defeat Bryan Dawson in three. Australia's only point came from new boy Trevor Bassett who was relieved to break his duck at last.

(Jump to Day 14)

  Day 14 Tuesday February 8  

New Zealand lead Great Britain 4-3, USA lead Australia 5-2

New Zealand and Great Britain shared the honours in the second day of the final Test after GB seemed likely to win all four matches at one stage. David Maugham and Colin Irwin began the day with two quick wins over Richard Baker and Brian Wislang but Chris Clarke and David Openshaw, despite taking the opening games, were pegged back by the veterans Bob Jackson and John Prince. The American team is playing with increasing confidence and extended their lead over Australia to 5-2.

Results (Day 14)

Great Britain v New Zealand (GB names first)

DB Maugham beat R Baker +13, -10, +26tp
CD Clarke lost to RV Jackson +25tp, -9tpo, +16tp
CJ Irwin beat B Wislang +26, +9
DK Openshaw lost to JG Prince +17, -5, -20

USA v Australia (USA names first)

J Fournier & M Mehas beat B Dawson & C Pickering +16, +2
J Stark & J Taves beat M Clarke & B Fleming +4, +25
D Fournier, Jr. & J Soo lost to T Bassett & M Donati -22, -10

General comment

It was disappointing to end up still one down after Irwin and Maugham had regained their normal form with good quick wins over Wislang and Baker. Both Clarke and Openshaw took the opening games against Bob Jackson and John Prince and there were high hopes that 4-0 would be achieved. In the event, Jackson produced a TPO against Clarke in game 2 and won an interesting pegged-out game and took the third with a TP. Prince was lucky to survive game 2 against Openshaw but then produced the much smoother croquet of the two to take the decider.

(Jump to Day 15)

  Day 15: Wednesday February 9  

Great Britain tie 5-5 with New Zealand, USA lead Australia 7-4

The most dramatic day so far saw GB fall 5-3 behind NZ when Mulliner & Openshaw were beaten 2-0 by the NZ top pair, Baker & Jackson but then draw level. Britain's top pair, Clarke & Fulford, beat Garrison & Jones in three games and then, late in the day, Britain's Maugham played a magnificent match-winning turn after his partner, Irwin, had been pegged out by Prince & Wislang. The USA maintained their grip on the Test against Australia by sharing four singles matches 2-2.


Great Britain v New Zealand

(GB names first)

CJ Irwin & DB Maugham beat JG Prince & B Wislang +26tp(M), -4, +13
CD Clarke & RI Fulford beat TA Garrison & SG Jones +18tp(F), -13, +26
SN Mulliner & DK Openshaw lost to R Baker & RV Jackson -26, -13tp(B)

USA v Australia (USA names first)

J Taves beat C Pickering +2, +12tp
M Mehas lost to M Clarke +17, -20, -16
J Soo beat M Donati +17, +23
D Fournier, Jr. lost to T Bassett +24tp, +26


General comment The Beast is Back! This would be the Sun headline if croquet were ever to achieve that sort of media status. Day 3 started with quick TPs from Maugham and Fulford but an equally quick loss for Mulliner & Openshaw all well before 11am from a 9.30am start. It looked rather better one hour later when Maugham appeared to have a second TP under control, Clarke had a second break going and Openshaw had just done the first peel of a standard TP.

Then the wheels fell off the British locomotive for reasons one can only ascribe to good, old-fashioned nerves, very hot weather and difficult conditions, the sort the Mac produces in its role as the unchallenged crucible of croquet. Maugham and Openshaw both failed easy hoops and Clarke was faulted when playing a hampered shot. Baker pounced on Openshaw's mishap with a triple of his own to give NZ the first point of the day and a 5-3 lead. Clarke & Fulford had a number of opportunities in game 2 against Garrison & Jones but a Fulford solo effort came to grief at penult after a long roll-up and that was game all. Irwin & Maugham had a hat full of chances to take game 2 against Prince & Wislang, including John failing rover from about 4 inches with the game at his mercy, but Maugham's final attempt to finish with a double peel collapsed at rover. Game all there as well.

Clarke & Fulford emerged from lunch refreshed and calmed and made shortish work of game 3. Now it was 5-4. On the remaining lawn, Maugham was not admitting to feeling a nervous wreck and put down another TP at hoop 5. Prince took the opportunity to double peel Irwin out and by doing so set the scene for one of the more gripping moments that your correspondent has seen in his 25-year career. From gibbering idiot to hero of the hour in a few easy (?) steps. Maugham was for 6 with R near C4 with B (Wislang) for 2 in C3 and K (Prince) for peg 4y S of C2, i.e. widely separated. Maugham hit the 38y at K, took off to B in C3, rolled off hoop 6, ran it to the boundary, rushed B to K, rushed K to 1-b a little strongly and had to run it by 7 yards past K! K was centre-balled back to near C2, R unhelpfully tickling B a yard further N, stopped K to 6y W of peg, rushed B to 6y N 2-b, rolled to 2-b, made it firmly, hit B, split B to 4y S 4-b and got only a flat rush on K. This was cut a little to 4y N 1y E 3-b but the take-off was inch perfect to 1 foot. Then it was easy and when the rush to rover, his nemesis of earlier in the day in both directions, landed in the jaws, even DBM admitted to a trace of confidence. The hoop was run from at least 2 inches, the roquet made and the peg point scored. Now it was 5-5, a LOT better than 6-4 down.

(Jump to Day 16)

  Day 16: Thursday February 10  

Great Britain lead New Zealand 8-6, USA lead Australia 8-6

Great Britain opened up a potentially decisive two point lead over New Zealand by winning three of the four singles matches today. Fulford beat Garrison in two quick games and Mulliner won the third game decisively against Jones. Openshaw was an unlikely winner of the first game from Wislang but produced an excellent triple peel in the second to take the match. John Prince, the NZ veteran, salvaged a point for the home side by defeating Irwin.


Great Britain v New Zealand

(GB names first)

RI Fulford beat TA Garrison +26tp, +17tp
SN Mulliner beat SG Jones +17, -26, +26tp
CJ Irwin lost to JG Prince -13, -14
DK Openshaw beat B Wislang +2, +17tp

USA v Australia (USA names first)

J Stark & J Taves beat T Bassett & M Donati +25, +15
J Fournier & M Mehas lost to M Clarke & B Fleming +6, -4, -24
D Fournier, Jr. & J Soo lost to B Dawson & C Pickering +17, +25


General comment At last we are in the lead and with a chance of settling the matter tomorrow. Fulford made a good start with a clinical demolition of Toby Garrison who was playing perfectly well himself. Mulliner was strongly fancied to beat Steve Jones quickly as well and indeed took game 1. Game 2, though, was all Jones from the moment that he hit on turn 4. Mulliner could not buy a roquet that did not hill off at the last moment but used a good innings-grabbing leave in game 3 to go round and do a TP to make it 7-5. This was pulled back to 7-6 when John Prince finished off a distinctly patchy Irwin in two games.

The real fun occurred just before lunch at the end of a lengthy game 1 between Openshaw and Wislang. DKO found himself at 1 and 2 against Wislang for 6 and rover and played two careful breaks to reach peg and 4-back, leaving a HSL and a 15y shot for Wizza's backward ball from B-b. Was this a good idea? The cognoscenti were divided between those who felt he should have single-peeled and pegged out W and those who felt he was entirely justified in trusting in a very non-flat E-b. Wizza is a very good long shot, with a slow Solomon-grip type swing and eyes that remain glued to the ground until well after the ball has left the mallet. It is said that he hears 10y roquets rather than sees them! Be that as it may, W hit the lift and embarked on a steady break embellished with a straight rover peel. Alas, he had rushed DKO's Y (for peg) into the back of penult after running that hoop so he was a ball short when sorting out the peel. Even worse, he roqueted the K in the rover hoop stroke and croqueted it gently back to the peg where is came to rest 4 inches due South. B roqueted R, croqueted it to near Wb and cruised up to 7y short of Y.

Now two rather odd decisions were made. First, W shot with B at Y, risking missing into B-b and giving a lift. It was not obvious that he needed to hit Y provided that he pegged out B. However, he hit, bouncing Y to one side. Now he chose to attempt a peg-out of Y from 7y, no doubt on the grounds that K for peg should be pretty safe against R for 4-b alone. Yes, well. He missed the peg-out and sent Y 7-8 yards out of A-baulk, landing 2y slap behind K as seen from the peg. Now he had one last chance of glory, the half-jump that pegs both balls out. However, he chose a quieter flat shot, perhaps hoping that K would hit one side of the peg and B the other. Both missed. DKO now nicked his 8y with R at Y from A-b and finished without drama. Who said the Openshavian Stopping Bisque had lost its potency?

(Jump to Day 17)

  Day 17: Friday February 11  

Great Britain lead New Zealand 9-8, Australia tied with USA at 9-9

The 2000 World Croquet Series faces a tremendous finale tomorrow. New Zealand won two doubles matches today and was within fractions of an inch of winning the third. As it is, GB need two wins from four singles matches tomorrow to retain the Shield. The NZ third string pair of Prince & Wislang caused an early sensation by beating Clarke & Fulford in straight games and Irwin & Maugham were beaten in three. It was left to Mulliner & Openshaw to provide Britain's only point of the day by winning a match of 8 hours by the narrowest possible margin in the final game.

Australia enjoyed their best day of the tournament to level their match against USA at 9-9.


Great Britain v New Zealand (GB names first)

CD Clarke & RI Fulford lost to JG Prince & B Wislang -15tp(P), -11
CJ Irwin & DB Maugham lost to R Baker & RV Jackson -16, +23, -23
SN Mulliner & DK Openshaw beat TA Garrison & SG Jones -17, +26, +1

USA v Australia (USA names first)

J Taves lost to B Fleming -23, -25
J Fournier lost to C Pickering -12tp, +17, -6
J Stark beat M Clarke +9, +3
M Mehas lost to B Dawson -3tp, -17


Detailed comment You would have had to have seen it to believe it. Under hot, sunny conditions with lawns like ice in patches in the early afternoon, three doubles matches were played that epitomised the difference between Mac croquet and all the rest. Forget the Opens, forget the Worlds. There you are playing for yourself in singles. Your mistakes are your own and no-one else cares. In the Mac it is different and it becomes clear why you play this silly game and travel 12,000 miles to do it every few years.

GB began the day 8-6 ahead and hoped to settle the Shield by winning all three doubles. We were, after all, supposed to be stronger than our opponents in all three matches. It did not work out that way. Clarke & Fulford encountered Prince & Wislang in resolute mood, the latter no doubt especially keen to expunge the aberrations of yesterday. Fulford was rapidly round to 4-b in game 1 but Wislang hit the long lift as he has so often done. However, he missed a return roquet after 1 but the chance was not taken and he reached 4-b as well. Soon, Clarke was in with a chance of a TP but an ambitious roll from 2 to C4 went off and it was Prince who did the TP. In game 2, Fulford attempted to peel Clarke through 1 while approaching a ball at 5. Alas, he only jawsed Clarke and failed the hoop, allowing Prince an easy break to 4-b. After plenty of interaction, Wislang reached peg but Fulford rose to the occasion, hit the lift and went to peg and pegged out Wislang. Prince could not approach 4-b off the contact and British hopes rose. Sadly, Clarke was hampered after 3, leaving Prince a 12y at Fulford, which he rushed to within a foot of 4-b and finished on a 2-ball break. 8-7.

Irwin & Maugham found it difficult to make progress because Irwin was not having a good day, caused in large part by the difficulty in getting rushes to behave consistently. Games 1 and 2 were shared but the New Zealanders took an early grip on game 3 aided by a remarkable 45-degree hoop 2 from Baker. Despite various innings opportunities, the Brits could not prevent Jackson from reaching peg with one peel and, although Irwin and Maugham hit long shots afterwards, eventually Baker hit and finished. 8-8.

The last match to finish was without doubt the most dramatic of my career. Games 1 and 2 were of comparatively minor dramatic interest. In game 1, Garrison hit in turn 5 and went efficiently to 4-b. Mulliner missed a 12y at Openshaw from the peg by nothing and, luckily, Jones was unable to do any peels on his way to the peg. Mulliner now hit the short shot and went to 4-b. Garrison rushed rather than hit R to C4 and could not get a rush on Y to 4-b and so laid up on Wb. Y played outside C1, challenging Garrison to finish on a 2-baller. In fact, he made all three hoops by rushing all over the court but could not peg out had to leave an 8y for R at Y from A-b with only one other ball left on Eb. Openshaw missed and Jones hit the peg from 12y. Game 2 was a three turn win for the Brits although Mulliner's finish culminated in rolling off rover from C4, getting 4y angled position, running the hoop by 2 feet and hitting an 8y at the enemy. Total control.

Game 3 initially looked set to copy game 2. Mulliner dug a break out of nowhere to reach 4-b with Y. The lift was missed and Openshaw played a careful 3-ball break with R before being caught out by a very fast approach to 2-b and just failing to run the hoop. Garrison now missed the 6y lift from A-b and British victory seemed a near-certainty. Openshaw now took R to the peg, albeit with an indifferent leave which left Y with a 4y rush on R down Wb. Now the fun began.

Garrison missed from C1 and Mulliner rushed R down Wb by 7y and promptly played the wrong ball when splitting to behind 4-b and getting rush on B some 5y N of 4! The balls having been replaced, Garrison missed the shot from C2 to C1 and Mulliner had another go at sending a ball to beyond 4-b while attempting to get rush position on B. He succeeded, rushed B to near 4-b, made the hoop, stopped B to near rover and got a rush on R to penult. However, R was hit in the hoop stroke, the roll down to B was too strong and the approach to rover wandered away on the glassy hill that passed for grass. A very difficult hoop was failed (Y should have probably vanished into C4) and Garrison hit with K and set the balls up for a break, including rushing Y to within 2y of 1. He barely touched his backward take-off and stood open-mouthed as it ran 3y past the hoop. He ran the hoop at high speed to Nb and missed the return back to Wb level with Y.

Mulliner now hit the sweaty 7y at K and had a second go at finishing. His take off to B near 2 was long, the take off to R near peg was short and the approach to rover left a long and angled hoop. He failed and this time Jones hit the 7y and fashioned a skilful break to 4-b with a DSL. Mulliner now hit the lift down Eb and had a third attempt. This time he rushed R to 4 feet S of rover and his take-off, trying to avoid skating past by several feet, fell short, forcing retreat to the Sb. Jones hit and laid. Garrison made 2 but bounced off an angled 3 ending 8y from B. Y now joined R and, when K missed B, Mulliner was able to get a rush to rover, run it to the boundary and separate B and K. In the next turn, B was left 2y E C2, K on Eb 14y S C3 and Y in C1 with a rush on R at K (hence cuttable to the peg).

With defeat staring him in the face, Garrison now hit a splendid 30y with K at R and, shortly afterwards, took a break round to the peg, leaving Y behind penult, R just in front of rover and B with a rush on K to 4-b from Wb. Mulliner missed the lift from C1 to C2 and Jones walked on to rush from Wb to 4-b and, he and most of the crowd no doubt earnestly hoped, to give NZ a 9-8 lead.

His approach to 4-b left a long hoop and he ran only just ran it, ruling out a rush to penult. He now played the most exquisite approach to penult, sending K to the peg and getting 1 foot position. Incredibly, he barely ran it at all and the hampered shot at K was missed and, being hit gently, stopped within 3y of R. Openshaw hit, split B to near 4, hit K and pegged it out but, in returning to Y in C2, left a large target for B. Jones, no doubt still furious with himself, swung at full speed and hit Y to huge and deserved applause. His rush to rover on R seemed perfect but fell off down the hill to 2y E of rover. His take-off was good and he ran the hoop smoothly by about 4y - but missed the return roquet to about 8y NE of the peg.

Openshaw now hit one of the best 10y roquets of his career after he and Mulliner had discussed the merits of R at Y (28y) hoping that B missed the peg. B was stopped to 3y SW C3 and R left Y a 2y rush almost down Wb. Jones now fired at the peg, missing by very little to just out of C1 but still open to the peg. Mulliner attempted to cut R to near the peg but caught it very thin and instead settled for a rush to the peg behind 2, mainly hidden from B. Jones pondered and then called on the referee for another shot at the peg and missed again. Mulliner now intended to rush R to 2y NW (i.e. short) of the peg and, together with his team-mates, had a moment's concern (major understatement) as R veered cheerfully towards the peg before coming to rest 3y past. After very careful lining up and coping with balls that would not sit still, the peg-out was completed and GB won +1 NID to lead 9-8. David Openshaw may well play in another Mac but, if he doesn't, this will be an archetypal farewell.

Quite an extraordinary last game (4 hours 15 minutes) and what a compliment to the game that all the NZ team came up to say "well done" after it was over. Tomorrow should be tremendous. As David Maugham is so fond of saying (with a trace of irony no doubt, depending on context) , it's an honour and a privilege to be taking part.

(Jump to Day 18)

  Day 18: Saturday February 12  

Great Britain beat New Zealand 11-10, USA beat Australia 11-10

GB retained the MacRobertson Shield in dramatic circumstances and by the narrowest possible margin when David Maugham completed a triple peel against Toby Garrison in the final game of the final match. Kiwi hopes had been boosted when Richard Baker and Steve Jones inflicted shock defeats on Robert Fulford and Chris Clarke. However, Stephen Mulliner kept the Brits in the hunt by beating long-time rival Bob Jackson in straight games. In the third place playoff, USA won their first ever MacRobertson Test by beating Australia also by 11-10.


Great Britain v New Zealand

(GB names first)

RI Fulford lost to R Baker -23, +26, -16
DB Maugham beat TA Garrison -15, +17, +4tp
CD Clarke lost to SG Jones -23, +25, -5
SN Mulliner beat RV Jackson +2, +10

USA v Australia (USA names first)

J Stark & J Taves beat B Dawson & C Pickering -14, +2, +26
J Fournier & M Mehas beat T Bassett & M Donati +17, +10
D Fournier, Jr. & J Soo lost to M Clarke & B Fleming -26, -14


Detailed report Hyperbole should be avoided but it would be difficult not to be hyperbolic about the day's play we have all just lived through. The fate of the Shield was not decided until 4.55pm when David Maugham completed a clinical standard TP against Toby Garrison to give GB the vital eleventh point. During a day when temperatures approached 30 degrees C, fortunes ebbed and flowed continuously. I was parked out of the way on Lawn 7 and received intermittent reports on progress from David Openshaw and Colin Irwin, and felt rather as the WWI generals must have felt after a big push had been launched against enemy lines. The early news was not good. The enemy was advancing on all fronts, Kiwis with the first breaks in all games and GB lifts all being missed (Maugham excepting). Later, I heard that Fulford and Clarke were both game down. Not so good. The first hint of change occurred about 11am when Jacko failed to jump a peelee in rover and left me all the balls. At much the same time came the news that both Fulford and Clarke were making early progress in their second games.

I took a ball round against Jackson and began a TP before failing to rush the escape ball at 4-b close to 6 and failing the hoop. Luckily Jacko missed a 12y and I continued with the forward ball, pegging him out. Eventually, he took a shot at a guarded boundary and missed and I was able to conduct a 3-ball break to the peg and go into an early lunch one up. Now British fortunes seemed much rosier. All our top three were in play and soon Fulford and Clarke had made it one all. However, shortly afterwards, Garrison was in again and soon wrapped the first game against Maugham. You get the picture, I hope.

I made a quick trip to 4-b against Jackson but he hit the lift and replied in kind. I missed and he set out again but was hampered after 3 and had to retire to C3. I got in with R, my backward ball, but hopes of a TP foundered on an awkward hoop 1. Jackson hit but was again hampered after 5. I missed an annoying 7y and then promptly hit a 24y at his balls in C4. Eventually I reached the peg but he hit the lift only to fail to make 2-b with a ball near baulk. That was opportunity I needed and the match was soon over. Euphoria was tempered by the news that Fulford had lost to Baker and that Clarke was making heavy weather of winning a 3-ball ending against Jones, being peg and 4-b against 4 alone. Euphoria vanished when Jones hit a 30y and embarked on a winning break. Now all depended on Maugham.

To cut a long story short, he won game 2 handsome enough but was soon looking like being either -26tp or at least two breaks down as Garrison swept round with R, his second ball. With one peel done, Garrison ran 1-b with too much freedom and missed the return roquet to Nb. Maugham hit the 7y lift shot this left him with K and took a ball round, spurning the chance of a DPO and choosing instead a defensive leave with all balls on the boundaries. Undaunted, Garrison hit the 13y in C2 with R (for 2-b) at full speed but was unable to approach 2-b either immediately or some considerable time afterwards. Eventually, Maugham shot at Garrison from Sb to Nb, missing very narrowly. This enabled a 3-ball break of sorts to be evolved for that allowed G to reach penult with both balls, having elected not to take on the 6y at Y in C3 after running 4-b. His leave was not wonderful but, more importantly, it made the lift shot completely free as finishing in one turn was all nigh impossible.

Maugham hit K with B and British hopes of a TP to win everything began to rise. However, a poor rush to 2 was followed by a weak approach and B bounced back from the hoop. Garrison now missed a 6y with Y at B onto Wb. Maugham now hit the 8y this left him, rolled Y to 3, picking up a rush on K to R, and rushed R to 2. In fact, to within 6y of 2 would be more accurate and the approach again fell short of perfection. However, a long somewhat angled hoop was run and the TP began well and then got better and better. The Shield was retained.



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