Phyllis Court beat Weston-Super-Mare 4-3
Phyllis Court will host the Golf Croquet Federations Shield National Final on Thursday, 16 September, following a thrilling semi-final victory against Weston-Super-Mare.
The Henley side were rocked by a late change to their team and drafted in Colin Morgan the night before the Wednesday encounter with Weston-Super-Mare at the neutral venue of Cheltenham CC.
The match got off to a slow start with the combination of tricky courts, firm hoops and good deployment of handicap extra turns by the weaker players, resulting in prolonged contests at most hoops.
Raghu Iyer (handicap 3) got Phyllis Court's first win with a topsy-turvy 7-4, 2-7, 7-2 victory over Gary Searle (5) but team mate Chris Roberts (-3) had too many extra turns to overcome against Gordon Taylor (6) and lost a very long match 5-7, 5-7.
The morning doubles took even longer and was suspended after three and a half hours play at one game apiece 6-7 and 7-4, in favour of starting the four afternoon head to head singles matches, with the overall team score at 1-1.
Phyllis Court's Roger Goldring (-1) was first to finish, but like Roberts, found that his handicap was too tough and he lost 5-7, 5-7 to Searle (5).
Shortly afterwards however, Roberts (-3) pulled the match score back level with a mightily close 7-6, 7-6 win over Weston-Super-Mare's top player Lance Binning (0).
Raghu Iyer (3) then put Phyllis Court ahead with another excellent win, this time 7-5, 5-7, 7-2 over Taylor (6) and then all eyes fell on the Colin Morgan (5) decider against Gerry Williams (2), in the only singles encounter of the match where the Phyllis Court player was the recipient of the extra turns.
Williams struggled with the longevity of the day but heroically played on to defeat Morgan 3-7, 7-4, 4-7, which meant that although the time was now after 6pm, the outcome of the match would be hang on the deciding game of the unfinished doubles rubber.
Morgan was by someway the senior man of the quartet of players and this was his sixth long game of the day yet he fully played his part, expertly guided by the experienced Goldring, who out foxed the opposition with the use of Morgan's extra turns.
In fact, both sides delayed playing their extra turns until very late in the game, and as Goldring later revealed, his plan worked to perfection when Weston-Super-Mare's Binning and William's blinked first,
When they played an extra turn at hoop 11 to lead 6-5.
Morgan then deftly scored hoop 12 and Phyllis Court then played the first of his extra turns to ensure the first approach advantage to the crucial last hoop 13.
It was nail-biting stuff with both Phyllis Court's balls positioned for long hoop scoring attempts and both Western's balls in good clearance positions, but with both sides each having one extra turn remaining, there was poker element to the decision making.
Goldring got Morgan to position closer and then take his extra turn to place his ball in the jaws of the hoop, knowing that that would force Weston to counter with a move behind the hoop to then clear with their last extra turn.
The gamble paid-off even better that had been expected when Williams over-hit, had to attempt to clear from 45 degrees and unfortunatly hit the hop leg, allowing Goldring to peel Morgan's ball through for the winning score for the game, match and team result 4-3.
Croquet doesn't get any closer than that and both sides drew great credit for sticking with the eight and half-hour marathon!
Phillis Court progressed to the National Final and they subsequently won the toss for venue with opponents Sussex County, so the match will take place in Henley on Thursday next week, when a sizable crowd is expected.