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Stuart M. Smith won the English National Singles Championship - ASCOT CUP

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pictureStuart M Smith receiving the Ascot Cup from Lionel Tibble

by Louise Smith at Cheltenham
23rd September 2022 (GC - Championships)

The 2022 ENSC took place at Cheltenham Croquet Club on 17/18th September with Players participating from the eight qualifying tournaments held throughout the year.

The format is four blocks of four players playing matches of best of three games, followed by best of three quarter- finals, semi- finals, and main final matches. The knock-out draw was done using the Modified Grade Based Seeding methodology which uses the updated dynamic grade of the Players and subsequent removal of any Block round clashes to determine the order of play.

Three of the four block winners were, as expected, the top block seeds, James Death (Block A), Richard Bilton (Block C), and Euan Burridge (Block D), with Jack Good taking pole position in Block B from Stuart M. Smith with a great performance over their three-game match, 5/7, 7/3, 7/5. Jack was the only player to gain a match win over the eventual Championship winner.

Richard Bilton showed consistent form with all block games won 2/0, - the only player to do so - and also from Block C, second placed Nick Archer took out the tournament's top seed James Death in the Quarter-Final round in three games, 3/7, 7/6, 7/4.

Richard Bilton continued in his Quarter-Final in the same clinical way as the blocks, with a 2/0 win over Chris Roberts, meaning that so far Richard was unbeaten.

Callum Johnson (2nd in Block D) faced Jack Good in the Quarter-Finals, with Jack starting well taking the first game 7/4. Callum rallied taking the second game comfortably 7/2 with the third ending in a nail-biting finish, Jack just losing out on the 13th, 6/7 to Callum.

As 2nd place in Block B, Stuart M. Smith inevitably was to face a Block winner, in this case, Euan Burridge from Block D. Euan's hard-hitting style is something we all expect, and in game one he hit the target more frequently than Stuart, winning comfortably 7/2. Stuart then countered confidently with back-to-back wins in the remaining games, 7/5, 7/4 moving him on to the Semi- Finals.

The Semi-Finals pitched Nick Archer v Callum Johnson and Richard Bilton v Stuart M. Smith. In the former contest it was Callum that continued with a strong performance, but it took two tight games to better Nick Archer, 7/4, 7/6.

Having found his form in the previous Quarter-Final round, Stuart halted Richard's unbeaten run with two straight wins 7/4, 7/4, setting up the main Final between himself and Callum.

For the remaining players, the Plate was run as an 'All Play All' Block with the Manager having been left with an awkward number of 7 Players with one withdrawal. It was evident that the two main Players on form here were Sam Cuthbert and Tim Crowdy, both only dropping one game each and ending on 5 wins apiece. Tim took the Plate winner's title on a narrow hoop difference of 4 hoops.

It is worthy of note that all the younger age range of players were impressive - Sam Cuthbert and Jack Good still in education but playing with a maturity in advance of their years. And Euan, Richard and Callum all progressing through the knock-out stages ahead of other experienced competitors.

James Death, Jack Good, Euan Burridge and Chris Roberts as losing Quarter-Finalists moved into the consolation Bowl event. James Death withdrew due to a broken mallet face, giving Jack a straight Bye to the Bowl Final. Euan and Chris opted for a single 19pt game that was closely fought, but with Euan bettering Chris after a lengthy game 10/7.

The Bowl Final pitched two similar style players against each other, Euan and Jack, both showing excellent strength and skill which was evidenced by the closeness of the scoring. The more experienced Euan was the eventual winner over three very well played games, 7/6, 6/7, 7/4.

The Main Final was watched by Cheltenham members and Players that had completed their games. With Stuart on form, clearing consistently and running long range hoops, it looked as though this was going to be short match with the first game result coming in 7/2. However, Callum remained composed and responded with equally good clearance play, and a hoop run from just wide of the peg to take hoop 12 gave him an equalising win, 7/5 in game two.

As the Players squared up in game three, Stuart controlled the opening play taking an early 3/1 lead, although the game was far from over with Callum's responses pushing up his hoop count. Both players showed accuracy and consistency, but that early gap left Callum with too much to do, unable to break Stuart's centre ball clearance rallies.

Once again hoop 12 was run smoothly from around 5 yards which gave Stuart the overall match win and the English National Singles Championship title.


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