Dulwich is one of the clubs that has probably never quite achieved all that it could in the GC Inter-Club Championship but has often had to battle against usually strong near neighbours Surbiton and Hurlingham. Certainly, Ashby found tough opponents lurking in South London.
The Ashby team arrived in dribs and drabs; travel from the Midlands being somewhat of a challenge. However, the welcome was warm and soon Ashby had made a good start despite being on unfamiliar courts. The doubles leg and both morning singles all saw Ashby winning the first game. However, only Rachel Rowe went on to secure a victory for Ashby in straight games. Dulwich fought back well in the other two legs. In particular, Pierre Beaudry and Simon Carter did a great job in recovering from 2-4 down in the second game to win 7-6. Ed Dymock also clawed back in game two and, thus, the team captains saw no reason to instigate the now almost traditional delay to embarking on the deciding game of the doubles (playing, if necessary, to determine the result at the end of the day). This allowed Dulwich to gain real momentum and win the deciding games of both legs. Thus, at lunch, the match score stood at 2-1 to the hosts.
Dulwich excelled themselves with the quality of lunchtime hospitality, leaving Ashby no complaints as they contemplated the prospect of having left themselves too much to do in the afternoon session. The tradition of one team making the effort to travel and the other providing catering is a noble one and certainly a civilised feature of tough competition conducted in a cordial atmosphere. Dulwich, we salute you!
In the event, all four afternoon legs went to only two straight games and, thus, the drama was not intense. Each of the victors played with skill and nerve. Pierre failed to find his best form and allowed Will to prosper with his most flamboyant natural play. Simon Carter though subdued Tim, leaving the focus on the games in the lower halves of the teams.
Simon Gibbs was gallant in the struggle but Mike O'Brian cast aside his disappointment at fading in the morning, taking the match score to 3-3. This left Ed Dymock with the challenge of trying to force a deciding third game against Rachel, who had been the victor at the thirteenth hoop in the first game. Rachel, however, has probably had one of the most impressive playing records of all participants in the Inter-Club in the past two seasons and she held her nerve to win 7-5 and take the match for Ashby, while her team mates all watched on tensely.
On the finest of balances, Ashby probably benefited from two key factors. Firstly, Ashby had three players who were battle hardened from the GC Open Championship just ten days before. Secondly, team captain Ray Mounfield had the courage to drop himself from the team but still serve as chauffeur and take on the stress of organisational duties for the team. This dedication potentially takes on an added edge given that the result takes Ashby through to a semi-final against Letchworth, captained by Ray's son, Nick Mounfield. The tie will be at Moira (home of Ashby Croquet Club), date and team constitutions to be decided!
Will Gee (0) & Tim King (0) lost to Pierre Beaudry (0) & Simon Carter (0) 7-6, 6-7, 3-7
Mike O'Brian (1) lost to Ed Dymock (2) 7-4, 6-7, 5-7
Rachel Rowe (2) beat Simon Gibbs (2) 7-4, 7-4
Tim King lost to Simon Carter 5-7, 5-7
Will Gee beat Pierre Beaudry 7-3, 7-4
Mike O'Brian beat Simon Gibbs 7-5, 7-5
Rachel Rowe beat Ed Dymock 7-6, 7-5