In a re-run of last year's final, Jamie Burch defeated Stephen Mulliner +26tp, -24tp,+26 at a sunny but windy Southwick on a distinctly interesting Lawn 5.
An entry of 26 contained mostly familiar faces but Andrew Hobbs, from South Africa but now living and working as a science teacher in Medway, was a most welcome addition. In the top half, Stephen Mulliner and Mark Avery made it to the semi-final with Mark reeling off four triples (plus two more in the Plate in idle moments between main event games). In the other half, Jamie Burch dropped the first game of his quarter-final to Nick Parish before recovering and then played Alex Jardine, the victor of the seeds' graveyard quarter (Martin French lost to Alex Jardine and Paul Castell to David Parkins who then got Mary Knapped who then lost to Alex).
Both semi-finals were played on Lawn 2 which was about 9.5 seconds but had some interesting slopes around the hoops. Although Alex managed a good break to 4-b in game 1, Jamie predictably emerged victorious +16tp, +26tp. Mark and Stephen had a more interesting battle. Mark had a delayed triple under way in game 1 but this came down to a sextuple finish and the rush to 3-b was severely impeded by another ball. Stephen then looked like finishing with a sextuple but the straight rover peel misbehaved. He got in again and won +5. In game 2, it was Stephen's delayed TP that went awry, ending with a long and unsuccessful peg-out. Mark got a ball round before a missed trickle at the hoop 2 pioneer gave Stephen the match.
The final was played in a stiff breeze on Lawn 5 which was much quicker and trickier than Lawn 2. In game 1, Jamie won the toss, played a supershot, missed Stephen's east boundary reply from A-baulk but went to 4-b after Stephen missed the supershot ball in turn 4. Hoop 1 had an alarming easterly slope but this was safely navigated. The diagonal spread leave left the peg ball able to shoot at its partner on the west boundary but Stephen missed it and Jamie finished with what was mainly a standard TP. In game 2, Stephen hit on turn 3 but fell victim to the hoop 1 slope. Jamie hit but failed hoop 3, affected by the very gusty breeze. Stephen went to 4-b, survived the lift but missed a 3 yard trickle near hoop 2. Jamie missed from near hoop 3 to the west boundary and Stephen hit the 7 yarder and finished with a delayed TP. Game 3 saw yet another supershot which Stephen hit in turn 2 and left the two balls in contact close to the peg. Jamie hit at dead weight, approached hoop 1 from the east end of A-baulk and went to 4-b. The lift was missed courtesy of the local geography and Jamie embarked on a delayed TP. He was only able to complete one peel and Stephen had an extra shot. This also missed by very little (but by pilot error) and Jamie finished with a bold 6 yard peg-out to retain the Salver.
Both players coped pretty well with the Lawn 5 conditions which were by far the most interesting of the weekend. Southwick had a very wet winter which did not help the lawns but visitors will be impressed by how much has been achieved. Law 4 has had most of its eastern half relayed so goodbye to the infamous ridge between hoops 3 and 4. The clubhouse has had a make-over and David Gaitley has turned the bar into a serious drinking place where at least half-a-dozen can lean against it and enjoy the best from Dark Star Breweries.
Eugene Chang won the Plate and, along with Alex Jardine, a handicap reduction. The players expressed their great appreciation to the hoop-setters, the excellent catering team and, of course, to Chris Constable, the manager. Another most enjoyable season-opener at Southwick.