This was never going to be a normal year, was it? Having already cancelled tournaments earlier in the summer, and with uncertainties occasioned by changes in government guidelines, even a week before it seemed touch-and-go as to whether we could proceed; but all was well on the day and luckily the latest tightening of restrictions did not impact croquet playing. But then there was the weather: a long hot dry spell ended a day or two ahead of the start, heavy showers on Thursday hampered preparations, and "fresh breezes" from (unusually) the north-west blew unrelentingly for most of the weekend with only occasional glimpses of the sun. Perhaps the only crumb of good fortune was that, after a smattering of rain first thing on Friday, it remained dry. Nevertheless, without access to the clubhouse, players could be seen huddled in any sheltered spot or retreating to their cars. Best protected was 9-month-old Ben Maugham either in his own tent by lawn 3 or riding on mother's back while she made a break! In keeping with the requirements of social distancing, I was initiated into the arcana of management by WhatsApp: most of the communication with players and the reporting of scores was carried out by messaging and proved very successful.
Newcomers were Chris Coull, Harry Fisher, Tudor Jenkins and Ian Vincent, with Paul Castell, James Death and Tim Wilkins returning after gaps of 10 or more years. After two rounds of the championship 7 of the 8 seeds had won through to the quarter-finals. Sixth seed Robin Brown fell to an in-form, unseeded, Tim Wilkins who then went on to defeat the defending champion Mark Avery before himself losing to Dominic Nunns. In the other half of the draw, David Maugham dispatched fourth seed James Death and top seed Jamie Burch in straight games.
In game 1 of the final, David took the first break to 4-back leaving his balls in corners 2 and 3 (C2, C3) with the opponents in contact in C4. Dominic made a leave, David missed, Dominic failed hoop 1 (H1), David missed and Dominic began a TPO only to stick in 2-back with two peels completed - David finished +19. In the second game, David broke down after two hoops allowing Dominic to take black to 4-back. David made a leave for red at H3. Dominic hit across the lawn, under-approached H1 and retired to C4. Having made H3 David went to 1-back with a sextuple leave: opponents cross-pegged east-west, red and yellow in the middle of the west boundary with a short rush to the peg. Dominic lifted to A-baulk missing red and yellow into C2. The sextuple turn started well with two early peels, however, after 2-back David was faced with a straight quadruple peel to finish. He completed three of them but the penultimate peel only crept through resulting in a missed rover peel attempt from a yard north of the peg. Dominic left himself a rush to H1 from C4, David shot at them from west of H2 and missed by a whisker. With a good pick-up, Dominic finished with a delayed triple, +3tp, David's only loss of the weekend. The decider started much like game 1: David played red to 4-back, some turns in which Dominic under-approached H1, David inadvertently ran 4-back when aiming for C3, later missed through the centre of a narrow double and Dominic failed H3. David then took red to the peg leaving yellow a rush to H1 in C1 with black wired two yards north-east of H1. Dominic's jump sailed over the hoop missing into C1. David finished on a simple 4-ball break, +24, to win match and championship, the latter for the fifth time.
The plate was played as a progressive Swiss for the first two days with the top eight players on percentage wins contesting a knockout on Sunday. Nigel Polhill had a good run of wins, clocking-up four triples and earning himself a handicap reduction to -1.5. But in the knockout, James Death was the only player to complete peeling finishes (consecutive TPOs and a sparkling sextuple), romping home to win the final against Nigel. A good sprinkling of Compton members braved the cold wind to spectate and others busied themselves morning and evening with the unusual (and we hope one-off) tasks of sanitising furniture and equipment.
Full results at croquetrecords and croquetscores.
The O'Callaghan Gold Cup
David Maugham beat Ian Vincent +24tp +26tp
Gabrielle Higgins beat Chris O'Byrne +25 +24tp
Tim Wilkins beat Tudor Jenkins +22tp +11
Robin Brown beat Mark Ormerod +12tpo -24tp +26tp
Jamie Burch beat Nigel Polhill +26tp +16
Ian Lines beat Alison Maugham +22tp +20tp
David Maugham beat Gabrielle Higgins +25tp +7
James Death beat Sam Murray +1tpo +26qp
Mark Avery beat Paul Castell -20tp +12 +15
Tim Wilkins beat Robin Brown -11tpo +8 +8otp
Dominic Nunns beat Chris Coull +26tp -25tp +5tp
Harry Fisher beat Debbie Lines +20tp +20qp
Jamie Burch beat Ian Lines +17tp +16
David Maugham beat James Death +4tp +19
Tim Wilkins beat Mark Avery -26tp +26tp +17
Dominic Nunns beat Harry Fisher -20tp +17 +15tp
David Maugham beat Jamie Burch +17qp +26
Dominic Nunns beat Tim Wilkins +17tp -26tp +16
David Maugham beat Dominic Nunns +19 -3tp +24
The Sussex Union Cup
Nigel Polhill beat Mark Ormerod +2
Debbie Lines beat Chris O'Byrne +6
Ian Lines beat Sam Murray +1
James Death beat Harry Fisher +12tpo
Nigel Polhill beat Debbie Lines +23
James Death beat Ian Lines +12tpo
James Death beat Nigel Polhill +26sxp
Peeling prize: James Death