Phyllis Court beat Roehampton 4-2
Phyllis Court knocked-out GC Inter-Club Championship holders Roehampton in an intriguing tie between two evenly matched sides on paper, and as it turned out, on grass too.
A novel late afternoon / evening match had been agreed between team captains, Chris Roberts for hosts Phyllis Court and Tim Russell for Roehampton, in order that both sides could field working age players but the visitors were still without top gun international Harry Fisher.
Down the playing card, the opposite number clashes really were too close to call with any certainty, and as Phyllis Court fielded a much more experienced side than the visitors, it looked like hinging on whether Roehampton's improving, number three and four players, Nick Yeats and Dan Pearson, could live with the tournament nous of the hosts Ian Norris and Roger Goldring.
At the top end of the teams, Phyllis Court's Irish international Charlie von Schmieder also had all the experience and an interesting match-up was in prospect with Roehampton's sharp-shooting AC ace Joel Taylor.
Roberts and Russell both played as their sides number two players and later in the fixture played out yet another in their series of evenly matched encounters that punctuate their busy tournament seasons.
Play got underway at 3pm as a moderate crowd of spectators assembled on a dry but chilly late afternoon beside the Thames.
Phyllis Court were straight oudist of the blocks and scored first game wins in all three of the first-round matches.
Roberts' long-range clearance shooting was on fire in the doubles match between to number one and two players, and his repeated successes kept his team in the match as a rusty von Schmieder took time to find his form.
Norris beat Pearson 7-4, 7-6 in the first match to finish as the other two matches went to deciding third games.
Yeats got Roehampton back in the tie when he came from behind to beat Phyllis Court's Goldring 7-5, 4-7, 2-7, showing his great promise in only his second full season in croquet, which he is now juggling with his international standard paddle tennis career!
The doubles match was tighter still, with Phyllis Court winning the last three hoops in the first game to snatch a 7-6 win, only to see Roehampton fight back 5-7 in the second and then a cliff-hanger finish in the third that the hosts again wrestled from Roehampton's grasp to win 7-6.
The second round saw Norris with too much cleverness and relentless accurate ball placements for the relative novice Yeates and Phyllis Court moved 3-1 ahead in the overall team match score and so only needed one more match win for team victory.
However, Roehampton stayed alive thanks to Pearson's accuracy when Goldring's own usual reliability in that department deserted him when needed most, and the visitor won comfortably 4-7, 3-7.
Roberts and Russell both managed croquet 'own-goals', peeling each other through a hoop and Roberts threw away a potentially pivotal hoop 9 score to lose the first game 5-7.
Russell matched Roberts long -ange clearance strikes in their second game which the latter won 7-4 as the evening gloom arrived to scupper the playing of a deciding game.
Fortunately for the hosts, and the resolution of the fixture, von Schmieder had made short work of Taylor 7-1 in their first game, and was always in control of the second despite Taylor's spirited defence, and the Phyllis Court man wrapped up their match 7-5.
This gave Phyllis Court a joyful 4-2 team victory with the Roberts/Russell match halved.
The Phyllis Court spectator gallery remained well attended throughout despite the post 8pm finish.
It included the visiting captain's dog, who was beautifully behaved throughout and didn't seem to mind at all which of several Phyllis Court members took turns walking him around the club's beautiful grounds while keeping a keen eye on the unfolding action.
Phyllis Court advance to the quarter-final round for the first time in three seasons and will face the winner of Sussex County v Dulwich.
Scores digest (Phyllis Court names first):
Charlie von Schmieder & Chris Roberts beat Joel Taylor & Tim Russell 7-6, 5-7, 7-6
Ian Norris beat Dan Pearson 7-4, 7-6
Roger Goldring lost to Nick Yeates 7-5, 4-7, 2-7
von Schmieder beat Taylor 7-1, 7-5
Roberts drew with Russell 5-7, 7-4 (unfinished)
Norris beat Yeates 7-5, 7-5
Goldring lost to Pearson 4-7, 3-7