Bristol and Colchester had to play each other again this year, for the third year in a row. It has been Colchester's first match (not necessarily first round) in each year. In 2017 Colchester trekked to Bristol, in 2018 Bristol journeyed to Colchester and so this year it was agreed to play 'half way,' although still significantly closer to Bristol, at Blewbury Croquet Club. Perhaps it's time to consider a change in format? Let's seriously consider the whole tournament being played over a weekend at one venue to reduce the hassle of teams having to find suitable dates, fielding weakened teams due to reduced availability and excessive travel requirements?
Out of the 8 players only 1 had been to Blewbury - many years ago, so no-one really knew what to expect but everyone was pleasantly surprised. The two lawns are set in a large peaceful park area with spectacular views of the surrounding rolling hills. The two lawns are well kept, and the more than satisfactory little clubhouse has all the basics required. The surprise was topped of by a glorious sunny day with the temperature somewhere in the low to mid twenties complimented by a light breeze. It was only agreed the weekend before that the match would be played at Blewbury - their members were extremely keen, helpful and hospitable which was much appreciated, especially given such short notice. We had use of both lawns, which were mown on the Friday before, creating lawn speeds of approx 11 to 11.5 plumbers with hoops set to 1/32nd in new hoop holes. Well worth the CA lawn hire fee, we were spoilt! I think we would all would recommend a trip there to anyone and would encourage the club to think about hosting an advanced weekend tournament.
Thanks also go to Ealing CC for their offer to host the match but Bristol didn't fancy the trip in to London.
The Colchester team included Rich Waterman who is a (big?) Liverpool fan, his availability and inclusion in the match day squad was on the proviso that he was home to watch the Champions League final, so we agreed 3 hour time limits starting at 10:30am with half hour for lunch.
Britstol; Richard Smith, David Goacher, Ed Duckworth, Robert Wilkinson
Colchester; Ian Burridge, Jack Wicks, Rich Waterman, Nick Steiner
The doubles was Ian Burridge & Jack Wicks v David Goacher and Richard Smith who was pleased to tell everyone, especially Ed Duckworth, that he was Bristol's number 1. Goacher made his way around to 4-back with Smith for hoop 2. Burridge then managed to complete a TPO over 2 turns with Smith still for hoop 2 and Wicks having not taken croquet on hoop 1. Wicks progressed around to 1b before Smith made another hoop. However Smith then managed to create a squeeze whilst for hoop 3, leaving Burridge's ball in 'the middle' and Wicks ball South of hoop 4. Burridge had decided some time earlier that a one-ball game was a good idea and so pegged his ball out, that turned out to be a questionable decision as it was soon 1-back v 1-back. Wicks made 1-back first but then failed 2-back staying close with Smith in a good position in front of 1-back. Smith ran 1-back to the South boundary, managed to clip his 8(ish) yard roquet to keep it near 2-back and proceeded to finish on a 2ball break.
On the other lawn Robert Wilkinson was the first to have fun at rover, failing to finish his TP but ended on peg and rover whilst Rich Waterman was for 1 & 1. Waterman then did well, getting to peg and 4-back. Wilkinson then missed his second lift, Waterman started his winning turn well but then it was his turn to break down at rover, giving Wilkinson a lift and a big double target from A-baulk, fortunately for Colchester the double was missed, so Waterman was able to finish and steal the win.
Ed Duckworth was making a rare appearance for Bristol, he struggled early with both balls being stuck on hoop 2 for a while after failing it multiple times. However once he did managed to make it through hoop 2 he cruised to a comfortable victory against Nick Steiner.
So the score at lunch was 2-1 to Bristol.
David Goacher was last to finish his lunch.
The players switched lawns for the afternoon which was a bit of a thriller.
Ian Burridge was next to have some fun at rover (same lawn as Waterman & Wilkinson), ending his TP attempt on peg and peg after having to jump over the peelee (which wasn't quite jawsed) and subsequently failing to cannon it through. Richard Smith was still for 1 & 1, he took one ball around to 4-back. Ian twice made a long roquet but twice failed to peg out! The second time he had shot and hit Smith's balls near corner 4 gaining a cannon in corner... a golden opportunity... what could go wrong? Well, he played a wrong ball! After a few more turns Burridge regained the innings again with a long roquet from North East of hoop 3 at Smith's balls set up by hoop 2. Burridge then pegged out on his next turn following a miss from Smith.
Wicks went to 4-back early on against Goacher but failed to make a satisfactory diagonal spread. Goacher hit the lift and decided to go for the TPO which was well under control for the first six hoops but not without interest after 1 back, however it was held together and completed with the other two balls for hoop 1. Wicks then finished off the contact from the standard leave albeit hoop 4 wasn't in the way of approach to hoop 1.
Waterman and Duckworth had a poor quality game by their own admission, there wasn't anything interesting to report - Duckworth ran out a comfortable winner to make it 3-3 in the match.
By the time the rest of us started watching Wilkinson v Steiner, Wilkinson was for penult and peg with Steiner starting a break at hoop 3 with his other ball on 4-back. Steiner got around to the peg with a reasonable leave, Wilkinson missed the short lift to give Steiner a match winning chance. He rushed partner adequately to 4-back from corner 4 but stuck in the hoop. Wilkinson then made a long roquet to save the match and regain the innings. Steiner managed one last roquet with his backward ball, now for penult, he hit partner over near the West boundary by hoop 2 from just East of penult, Colchester were cheering. Sadly the take off to Wilkinson's balls, which were joined up South of rover, was short. The roquet was missed leaving Wilkinson to make rover and peg out to win the match for Bristol, for the third time in as many years.
David Goacher & Richard Smith bt Ian Burridge & Jack Wicks +6
Ed Duckworth bt Nick Steiner +22
Rich Waterman bt Robert Wilkinson +3
Ian Burridge bt Richard Smith +15
Jack Wicks bt David Goacher +14otp
Ed Duckworth bt Rich Waterman +12
Robert Wilkinson bt Nick Steiner +4