Phyllis Court beat Chichester & Fishbourne to win the GC Federations Shield 4-3
Winners - Phyllis Court - Andy Jones, Chris Roberts, Patricia Mulcahy & Paul Franklin (Photo: Rob Jones)by Christopher Roberts at Surbiton CC
19 Sep 2023 (GC - Federations Shield)
Phyllis Court....................Chris Roberts (-2), Andy Jones (2), Patricia Mulcahy (6), Paul Franklin (7).
Chichester & Fishbourne... David Russell (2), Keith Burt (5), Martin Emmett (6), Tony Elkin (7).
With the two teams exactly matched at numbers 3 & 4, but with marked handicap differences at 1 & 2, an interesting encounter was expected, and so it turned out in this GC Federations Shield National Final.
Phyllis Court got off to a cracking start by going 1-0 in all three of the morning matches.
Patricia Mulcahy (6) even managed a rare 7-0 score line in her first game against Keith Burt (5) and was, not surprisingly, the first game to finish.
Burt recovered extremely well to win the second game 3-7 but then Mulcahy reversed that score to get Phyllis Court a first match win on the scoreboard.
Phyllis Court's Andy Jones (2) had a very pedestrian paced encounter with Martin Emmett (6) and eventually won in straight games 7-3, 7-3.
In the doubles match, Phyllis Court pair Chris Roberts (-2) and Paul Franklin (2) managed the extra turns of their opponents well, as Chichester and Fishbourne's David Russell (2) and Tony Elkin (7) struggled to make their greater number tell.
With so many extra turns available to the weaker player of each side, the pattern of the games in this 'best of three' match was well removed from usual level play tactics, and instead the 'how and when' to use an extra turn became key. Franklin was playing well and he used his three extra turns to greater effect that opponent Elkin's five, as Phyllis Court weeded-out Chichester and Fishbourne's advantage well in the first game and early enough to be able to manage the closing passages of play with good control.
Phyllis Court won the first game 7-4 and the second game followed a similar path until Roberts hit an excellent clearance at hoop 10 and also got the bonus of an unexpected, and very fortunate, 'in-off' score from fully three yards out, and with the score going to 6-4 Chichester and Fishbourne were effectively done for, and eventually lost 5-7.
With the half-time score at 3-0 to Phyllis Court and the Henley side needing just one more victory from any of the four afternoon 'head to head' singles matches, the prospects for Chichester and Fishbourne looked bleak.
However, the Sussex side had read a different script and, with first class self belief, launched a wonderful come-back.
Jones was undone 6-7, 4-7 by Chichester's Burt who played his three extra turns well in both games of the no.2 players' match.
And after two long battles in the match between the two number 1s, Roberts just couldn't overhaul Russell's four extra turns advantage once the latter found his clearing accuracy, and the Phyllis Court captain went down 6-7, 6-7.
With the team match now very much in the balance at 3-2, eyes turned to the remaining matches in progress and the contest was very tight indeed.
Both matches were being played without any extra turns and, with equally handicapped players, and it was no surprise that both matches had gone to deciding third games.
Phyllis Court's Franklin was at 7-5, 5-7 and surprisingly well behind at 0-4 to a re-inspired Elkin, whilst Mulcahy at 7-3, 5-7 and 5-3 up against Emmett.
With Franklin unlikely to come back from so far behind, Phyllis Court's hopes were riding with Mulcahy, and it was probably just as well that she didn't know the significance of her result.
Franklin scored the next two hoops in his game as if to indicate that he wasn't to be written of just yet, but Elkin soon restored his lead to 2-6 and attention was all on the Mulcahy-Emmett match.
Mulcahy's 5-3 lead became 6-3 with a confident score at hoop 9 and when Emmett peeled his own ball through hoop ten and left himself very out of position for hoop 11, he had it all to do to save the game.
He then pulled out two terrific clearance shots on Mulcahy and was rightly rewarded with the hoop 11 score and ran though to beyond the centre peg with the score now closed to 6-5.
Mulcahy stayed cool, didn't panic, placed a ball blocking hoop 12 and was mightily relieved to see Emmett miss a clearance at last.
Mulcahy's next ball also went to a scoring position and, with the pressure mounting, Emmett's attempted clearance sent Mulcahy into the jaws of the hoop and it was game over - match, fixture and GC Federations Shield to Phyllis Court.
Chichester and Fishbourne had been splendid opponents and to have come back into the match so well, was creditable indeed.
Phyllis Court were presented with GC Federations Shield (that they previously held in 2021) by CA Executive Board Member Andy Dibben.
He was standing if for Competition Director Frances Colman who, due to illness was disappointed to have missed the action in person, but had been glued to Roberts' ball-by-ball text message commentary of the closing stages.
Thank you to George Noble and Andy Dibben for their hosting duties and Surbiton CC members for the use of your club for this National Final.
The match detail is here on CroquetScores - croquetscores.com/.../phyllis-court-vs-chchester-fishbourne