SCA v CA of Ireland 2008

10-11 May 2008, Meadows

Traditionally the Appleton Trophy is contested each year by six players from the Scottish Croquet Association and six from its Irish counterpart.  In recent years a new tradition has threatened to take over, whereby the visiting side fails to field a sixth player and the home side selects a varying set of five players from its pool of six to play in each round.  This happened in 2004 (Evan Newell injured by a horse) and in 2005 (SCA couldn't find a sixth player), and it occurred again this year, when Simon Williams pulled out of the Irish team at a few days' notice.  As he had been the strongest player, at a handicap of -1.5, this shifted the balance of the teams from a slight advantage to the CAI to a slight advantage to the SCA.  Those still involved were:

SCA: Bruce Rannie (-0.5), David Appleton (2), Martin Stephenson (2), James Hopgood (2.5), Campbell Morrison (4; playing Saturday only), Fergus McInnes (4.5; Sunday only).

CAI: Evan Newell (0), Jane Shorten (1), Nathaniel Healy (1), Danny Johnston (4), Ben Harris (10).

The match began with two doubles games and one singles.  Bruce and Campbell trailed Evan and Nathaniel for most of their game, but Bruce ran his last two hoops and pegged out in the turn in which time was called to take a one-point lead, which was preserved when the last shot was missed.  The other Scottish pair had a less precarious win (+16), while James fended off the threat of an upset in the singles with a +9 win over Ben, making it 3-0 to the SCA after the first round.

The first three games to finish in the second round (all singles) went the same way, with winning margins in double figures, and with a triple peel by Bruce after Nathaniel got cross-pegged from his pioneer at hoop 6.  In the remaining two second-round games Evan and Jane fought back for the CAI to make it 6-2.  Saturday's last round was the mirror image of round 1, with two doubles and one singles game, but this time the CAI had a doubles win, and an emphatic one: +26 for Jane and Nathaniel against David and James.  The SCA took the other two games, bringing the score to 8-3.  The afternoon was enlivened by thunder and lightning, with some heavy rain, and the players were doubtless glad that the games finished quickly, leaving time to go home for a shower and a change of clothes before dinner.

All 11 of us convened at La Bagatelle about 7.30pm (the SCA's extra player having spent most of the day at Lauriston Castle, coaching and playing croquet and searching under rhododendrons in the rain for a lost ball) and enjoyed an excellent meal and entertaining conversation - followed for most of the party by a drink across the road at Cloisters.  Fortunately the rain had cleared and the walk home (for those living locally) was in the dry.

Sunday was dry but cloudy and cool.  There were 14 games in the day - all singles except for the low-end doubles game, in which Danny and Ben had their first victory after James made too many mistakes in taking the SCA side's second ball around.  James said he'd been distracted by events on the adjoining lawn, where Martin was performing his second consecutive triple - this one against Nathaniel, after one against Evan at the start of the day.  Evan was close to completing a TP of his own against David, but missed the peg and let David in for one more turn before finishing with his next shot.  With one round to go, the score stood at 12 games to the SCA and 8 to the CAI, so that the visiting side could still retain the trophy but only if they won all five games in the final round.

As it turned out, the next game to finish sealed the CAI's fate, as David beat Nathaniel +10 to score the match-winning point.  There were peels in that game, and in Martin's game against Jane, but Martin didn't complete the triple triple - Jane defeating him +12 to retain her unbeaten record in the singles.  Bruce had a surprisingly slow +26 against Evan in the battle of the no.1 players.  At the other end of the rankings, Ben put up a threat against Fergus with a swift break to 4-back, but broke down with his second ball when his attempted 4-back peel (with the only possible escape ball on the south yard-line) bounced off and he failed to run hoop 4 from about 18 yards.  Jane's win, in fact, was the only one the CAI could muster in the last round, and so the SCA won the match 16-9, regaining the trophy which had been in Irish hands since 2004.

Over the course of the weekend everyone had at least one win and at least one loss.  In the singles games Jane was the only undefeated player, while Danny and Ben lost all their singles, though their results against James and Fergus (a doubles win and three fairly narrow losses) were very creditable considering the relative handicaps.

A few photographs (thanks to Ian, Campbell and Jola) can be found below.

Fergus McInnes


(Scottish names first)

Day 1, Saturday 10 May 2008:

Bruce Rannie & Campbell Morrison bt Evan Newell & Nathaniel Healy +1T (24-23)
David Appleton & Martin Stephenson bt Jane Shorten & Danny Johnston +16
James Hopgood bt Ben Harris +9

Rannie bt Healy +21TP
Appleton bt Johnston +15
Stephenson bt Harris +22
Hopgood lost to Newell -3T
Morrison lost to Shorten -12

Rannie & Stephenson bt Newell & Harris +17
Appleton & Hopgood lost to Shorten & Healy -26
Morrison bt Johnston +23

Day 2, Sunday 11 May 2008:

Rannie bt Johnston +12
Appleton bt Harris +24
Stephenson bt Newell +17TP
Hopgood lost to Shorten -17
Fergus McInnes lost to Healy -22

Rannie lost to Shorten -8
Appleton lost to Newell -19
Stephenson bt Healy +17TP
Hopgood & McInnes lost to Johnston & Harris -10

Rannie bt Newell +26
Appleton bt Healy +10
Stephenson lost to Shorten -12
Hopgood bt Johnston +5
McInnes bt Harris +10

Match result: SCA 16, CAI 9



Saturday afternoon:

Campbell Morrison runs hoop 4 against Danny Johnston.

Bruce Rannie rushing black in Saturday afternoon's doubles.

Ben Harris lines up a shot from corner 1.

Ben and Evan as partners against Bruce and Martin.

CAI doubles players on their way to a win in the rain: Jane ...

... and Nathaniel.

Sunday afternoon:

Martin at the end of his second TP.  (Note to concerned onlookers: he's not dying, just pegging out.)

Ben and Danny completing their win over James and Fergus.

And finally...

Jane Shorten hands over the trophy to David Appleton.