The tournament started on a beautiful morning with the lawns running at about 12 Plummers. As the temperature rose, the lawns speeded up and, coupled with very firm hoops, made conditions rather challenging. With time limits of 3 hours, only the defending champion, Chris Donovan (1.5, Budleigh Salterton) and Omied Hallam (1, Nottingham) pegged out in the first session although Peter Balchin (4.5, Dyffryn) managed the biggest upset of the tournament by beating Richard Wood (1.5, Sidmouth) by 21 points to 7. The afternoon conditions continued to frustrate the players and Chris Donovan was the only one to peg out. In the early evening there was light rain and a drop in temperature so the lawns slowed down significantly and the hoops also became a bit more forgiving. 7 out of the 8 evening games were finished within the 3 hours. Surprisingly, this was the session where Chris Donovan failed to peg out and he was beaten 18-16 by Richard Williamson (3.5, Bristol).
The players were in 4 blocks of 4. In Block 1, Pat Long (2.5, Nailsea) and Tim Jolliff each had two wins and Pat was awarded a semi-final place as she had won her match against Tim. In Block 2, Clive Goode (3, Nottingham) and Jonathan Wolfe (2, Taunton) were in the same position with Clive proceeding as the mutual match winner. Block 3 had Chris Donovan and David Hunt (5, Nailsea) on two wins each and Chris went through having beaten David. In Block 4, Geoff Hughes (3, Nailsea) had won all his matches with Peter Balchin (4.5, Dyffryn) winning two.
Sunday morning was overcast and, after overnight rain, conditions were quite different from the previous day. In the semi-finals for the Margaret Fleming Shield, Geoff Hughes used his trade mark long hit-ins to help him make short work of beating Chris Donovan 26-9 and he had plenty of time to watch his potential Final opponents battling against each other. This semi-final, between Pat Long and Clive Goode, was a scrappy affair with both players struggling to set up breaks or make much progress. It was Clive who eventually put a break together to win the match 14-8.
The final was played with no time limit and the spectators were gradually joined by the other players to form a sizable crowd. It was an entertaining final with the momentum switching sides repeatedly and both players going through periods where nothing went right for them. Geoff's slightly more adventurous play was eventually rewarded by a 26-21 win after 3h 15min. It was a popular win for the home player who is probably the least young of all the competitors. Chris Donovan claimed 3rd place by beating Pat Long.
The players who had been runners up in their blocks played a consolation knockout. This was won by Tim Jolliff who took his success rate over the weekend to 4 wins out of 5 with Peter Balchin runner-up. A knockout for those who were 3rd in their blocks was won by Robert Moss (2, Bear of Rodborough) from Adrian Morris (2.5, Kenilworth). Richard Wood found his form to win the last of the consolation knockouts.
The caterers excelled themselves with poached salmon, fresh fruit salad, home-made quiche, magnificent pavlovas and an assortment of splendid teatime cakes on offer. One player who had not had a good weekend with his mallet and had found the lawns and hoops very different from his home club declared that he might return to Nailsea after all because of the food!
Omied Hallam was the winner of the fastest game (1h 19min) but donated his prize bottle of Southport Leave ale to Robert Moss who had won a game in 1h 29min and had sportingly given way on the lawn to Omied. They were double banking and Omied was clearly going for the speed record.
There was a great spirit through the tournament with much laughter ringing round the lawns. A meal in the nearby pub on the Saturday evening added to the weekend and helped to reinforce this tournament as an annual "must" for a loyal group of B Class players who are always joined by a few new faces.
Full results are in the rankings and also on croquetscores.com