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Jose Riva wins the 2017 European Association Croquet Championship

[<<] [>>] by Stephen Mulliner at Stavstorp, Sweden
13 Aug 2017 (International)

Jose Riva wins the 2017 European Association Croquet Championship

The 2017 European Association Croquet Championship was held at Stavstorp Croquet & Tennis Club in Sweden from 11-13 August, the first time it has been held outside England, Ireland or Jersey since 1994. Jose Riva from Spain became the 2017 champion by defeating the defending champion, Duncan Reeve, in a high-quality five game final by -26tp, +6tpo, +4tp, -20tp, +8tp.

Jose won the 2016 European Golf Croquet Championship at Budleigh Salterton and so joins Mark McInerney and Stephen Mulliner as a member of the "European Double Club".

The Stavstorp club is the brainchild of Anton Varnas who took up both AC and GC in 2004 and has represented Sweden in several GC World Championships and the GC World Team Championship in 2016. Stavstorp is located about 140 km west of Stockholm and 8 km north of Eskilstuna. It has four flat and smooth lawns in an attractive setting just south of Lake Malaren, a vast expanse of water that extends all the way to Stockholm. Anton is in the process of building houses at Stavstorp and the hope is that the club will attract members from the local community.

Sixteen competitors from eight countries (England, Germany, Latvia, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden and Wales) played in four blocks of four on Friday to determine the quarter-finalists. The generally easy conditions encouraged sextupling but, despite early attempts from Stephen Mulliner and Jose Riva, it fell to Duncan Reeve to achieve the first sextuple in Sweden. This was his first sextuple and he promptly followed it up with two more in the Knock-Out Stage.

In the quarter-finals, Jose and Duncan had clear-cut victories over Lewis Palmer (Sweden) and Anton Varnas (Sweden), the latter including Duncan's second sextuple which had three peels done before hoop 5, while Christian Carter (England) was almost taken to a third game by the fast-improving Wolfgang Usbeck (Germany). Had Wolfgang been less forceful with a 7-yard peg-out attempt, he might very well have taken game 2. As it was, Christian hit a 7-yard lift and two-balled competently out from 4-back to win +26tp, +1.

Chris Williams (Wales) produced an upset by defeating Stephen Mulliner after losing the first to a TPO. Chris won the second +26tp and was on track to do the same in game 3 when he missed a short roquet in front of hoop 4. Stephen hit and got going but was hampered after hoop 2 and, after hitting a difficult roquet, promptly played a wrong ball and Chris made no mistake with his second chance.

In the semi-finals, Jose beat Christian +24qp, +19tp while Chris started well with +26tp against Duncan. However, the Stavstorp ace sextupler completed a third in game 2 and produced a bloodless TP in game 3 to take the match.

Duncan made a perfect start with +26tp in game 1 of the final and had the first ball round in game 2. Jose now hit the lift and laid for a sextuple. This ran into difficulties after two peels and so he switched to a delayed TPO with the intention of pegging-out two balls. The first peel was achieved and all looked under control until Jose decided to attempt what the gallery regarded as an unnecessary straight 3-back peel on partner. This stalled on a wire, forcing a jump to 14 yards from the balls near penult. Spanish luck was with him when he just nicked the TPO peelee and jawsed it in penult when going to the 4-back pioneer. There were more adventures as he tried to get the 3-back peel and, as a result, only just peeled Duncan through rover. But a jump to the boundary and a superb bombard on the peelee allowed him to complete the TPO. Duncan caught up from 1 against 3-back to 1-back against penult. However, a missed roquet from near 2-back at Jose's ball in front of penult handed Jose to win by +6tpo and square the match.

Jose was first round to 4-back in game 3 and Duncan responded by hitting and having his own sextuple attempt. This began well but ended up with a straight triple finish and, having peeled 4-back too gently, Duncan had to jump partner to the boundary and missed the return 6-yarder. With the game at his mercy, Jose unaccountably failed hoop 1 and Duncan was able to hit and take one ball to the peg without conceding a lift and set up a cross-wire at hoop 3. Unfortunately, his take-off to a distant partner destroyed the cross-wire and Jose took this second opportunity to win +4tp and lead 2-1.

Game 4 featured another Riva sextuple attempt but it was thwarted this time by Duncan hitting the 30-yard tea-lady shot and winning in two turns +20tp.

Game 5 gave Duncan the opportunity to win in style with his fourth sextuple but it never got going and he was forced to settle for one peel and a 2-back and 4-back position. Jose missed the lift but Duncan unexpectedly messed up his approach to 2-back and failed a very angled hoop. Jose went to 4-back and, after a missed lift, brought a delayed TP home to take the game, match and title after an absorbing final watched with great interest by most of the players.

Simon Carlsson (Sweden) was not at his best on Friday but produced three wins including two triples in the Plate on Saturday. However, he was unable to score against Joi Elebo (Sweden) in the Plate semi-final on Sunday and Joi was a worthy winner in the Plate final against Tom Weston (England) who had beaten Chris Martin (Scotland) in the other semi-final. Rich Waterman (Wales) beat Andrejs Savinovs (Latvia) in the Consolation Event final. If there was a prize for enthusiastic practising, Andrejs would have been the runaway winner. He is very keen to improve his AC and will be representing Latvia next year in New Zealand.

The presentations were preceded by a hearty vote of thanks to Anton for his establishment of the lawns, mowing them on Sunday morning and his great generosity in providing a superb evening meal on Friday and three excellent lunches as part of the £40 entry fee. Joakim Norback did not play in the event but was there throughout and made sure that the catering side and everything else worked while Simon, Lewis and Joi set up the courts each day. Barring a mercifully brief downpour on Sunday morning, the weather was kind and everyone had an excellent time at a very pleasant venue which is a great addition to European croquet.

The full results are on Croquetscores.

Stephen Mulliner


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