West of Scotland Championship 2008

4-5 October 2008, Glasgow

A week in advance, this concluding tournament of the SCA season looked like matching last year's maximum entry of 19 players.  A few withdrawals (including that of the holder Campbell Morrison) left the number at a still healthy 16 - a perfect fit to the four lawns available.  Accordingly Allan Hawke's "croquet bus" which left Edinburgh on Saturday morning contained not only five players and their mallets, but also two sets of balls to augment the six sets kept in Glasgow.

On arrival at Kelvingrove after an increasingly rainy journey we found that there were not four lawns available.  Three were set out and ready for play, but the fourth had large puddles and clearly would not be playable that morning.  The manager therefore sought volunteers to sit out the first round, and quickly found four who had no urgent desire to play in the rain.  So Joe, Martin, Brian and Jola had a chance to sit under the eaves of the pavilion for an hour or two, while the other twelve took to the courts.

For the first round the six Meadows Club members were drawn randomly against the six others - where, to make the numbers equal, Campbell Thomson (country member from Luxembourg) was counted as a Meadows member, but Tony Whateley (country member from Glasgow) was not.  The resulting games were James Hopgood (handicap 0) v Robert Lay (Glasgow Club, 16); Fergus McInnes (3) v Terry Foster (Southport, 5); Alan Wilson (5) v Sheila Watts (Tyneside, 9); Allan Hawke (6) v Alice Fleck (Belsay Hall, 11); Jamieson Walker (9) v Tony Whateley (Glasgow, 7); and Campbell Thomson (16) v Malcolm O'Connell (Glasgow, 4).  When lawn space became available, the delayed games began, involving three Meadows members and one other: Brian Murdoch (2.5) v Jola Jurasinska (20), and Martin Stephenson (1) v Joe Lennon (Glasgow, 11).

With rain continuing most of the day, all the lawns were on the slow side, and two of them had waterlogged areas which were considerably slower than the rest, while in the soft ground the hoops were fairly easy.  These conditions seemed to favour the players receiving the bisques, who won five out of the first eight games.  The exceptions were Allan's +8 win over Alice, Brian's +6 against Jola and Malcolm's +8 against Campbell - the first two of these perhaps partly due to the sheer force needed to get balls across the wetter parts of the lawns.

By the end of Saturday, 23 games had been completed, with Joe, Robert and Terry playing the most (four games each) and Jola, Alice and Sheila the fewest (two each).  Alan and Campbell had also completed only two games each, but were playing another one which was well advanced when failing light and the call of dinner forced an adjournment at about 7.20pm.  Even closer to a finish was the game between James and Allan, also pegged down in the rapidly fading twilight.  Allan had used all his bisques and got both balls to the peg; James had played two all-round breaks, with Allan pegging out one ball from the cross-wired leave in between, but rushed his partner ball into the wire of hoop 5 after rover; and now Allan's remaining ball (pink) was left near hoop 4, wired from the peg and from James's brown on the west boundary.  Allan's ball was open on green, but he could not actually see it because the light was too dim! - so he sensibly decided to leave the shot until Sunday morning.  The overnight leader was Robert, with four wins from four games, while Malcolm was also unbeaten with three wins.  Robert had a well-deserved handicap reduction to 14, which took effect on Sunday.

The sky had cleared by Saturday evening, and after a clear night with a touch of frost the second day of the tournament was a welcome change from the first - dry all day, with sunshine interrupted only briefly by the occasional small cloud.  The fourth lawn still had a marshy patch around hoop 6, but there was no standing water, and play proceeded on all four courts from the outset.

As expected the game between James and Allan was soon over: Allan missed his shot at green, and James won +1.  The other pegged-down game took longer, and was also won by a single point, Alan finishing from his overnight position on 4-back and penult while Campbell never hit the peg with his one remaining ball.  With a total of 25 games thus played, 24 further games were started and finished on Sunday, and some produced notable occurrences, as the following paragraphs will tell.

The leaders Robert and Malcolm were playing off in the morning.  Robert's progress was slower than in some of Saturday's games, but he eventually got his green ball to the peg with brown on rover and one bisque remaining.  Then he had an aberration, and peeled pink instead of brown through rover and tried to peg it out.  The peg-out attempt was a long one, from beyond rover, and Robert got a mat out and went down on his knees on it to line the balls up, prompting discussion among the watching players as to whether he was facing the right way for Mecca.  His alignment (of the balls) was good, and pink hit the peg - whereupon Malcolm intervened to stop Robert from removing the ball from the game, as the pink clip was only on hoop 2.  Robert then took his bisque and croqueted brown onto the peg, only to be told that that didn't count either as brown was still on rover!  He still had a continuation, and used it to jump green over the obstructing brown to hit the peg, but alas was yet again unable to take a ball off the lawn since under handicap rules he couldn't peg it out until brown was for the peg.  Robert (plus mallet but no ball) then quit the lawn, and Malcolm had a chance to make some hoops.  Robert's errors reduced the winning margin, but he still ended up winning, +17, to retain the lead.

At the other end of the ranking, with two losses on Saturday, was Jola, and she now had to play Martin, who was giving her 19 bisques.  Jola got to 2-back and 4-back, and then the bisques were gone and Martin took the innings.  He went to 1-back and laid up north of it; Jola, not quite cross-wired at hoop 1, took a shot and missed; and Martin then completed the first recorded sextuple peel in Glasgow - which also goes into the records as the fourth in tournament play in Scotland (counting Bruce Rannie's SXPO in the Chairman's Rosebowl the previous month), the first in a handicap game, and the first by a player resident in Scotland.

Joe, meanwhile, was making good progress.  Having played four games on Saturday, despite his late start, and lost only to Robert, he had another swift win on Sunday morning, over Tony, and was then to play Fergus - who had lost two of his three games on Saturday but levelled his record with a +25 against Brian in the morning.  Joe had eight bisques, but gave Fergus a chance after using two of them and scoring only one hoop; Fergus went to penult with a reasonably good leave (Joe's balls near their respective hoops, Fergus joined up near the east boundary), but Joe hit in and in a succession of three-ball and two-ball breaks got to peg and rover with one bisque remaining.  (Joe didn't use his third bisque until he was most of the way round with his second ball, with the other's clip on 4-back; he took croquet from Fergus's red ball only once, immediately after hitting in from the leave, and played a two-ball break through five hoops with his second ball before bringing yellow into the break.)  Fergus hit in and got started on a break, but missed the return roquet after hoop 3, leaving Joe with a ball in baulk and a wiring lift - which was possibly to Fergus's advantage as it induced Joe to play his forward ball and not finish in that turn.  Fergus then had to hit in again, but he did (roqueting his forward ball which had accidentally gone into the jaws of hoop 6 when being placed for the penult peel), and this time he went round with a double peel.  Unfortunately the rover peel, done posthumously by bombardment after a jump over the peelee in the jaws, was followed by a rush that went into the hoop and left no possibility of a peg-out.  All Fergus could do was to scatter the balls, and although Joe did give him another shot (having used his bisque and failed to score rover) Fergus missed and the result was +2 to Joe.

Robert's second game of the day was against Jamieson, and it was a long one.  Jamieson had both his clips on the peg for some time, with all Robert's bisques gone, but Robert was closing the gap until a failed hoop with Jamieson's ball nearby proved fatal - score +4 to Jamieson, Robert's first loss, bringing his rating in the "Egyptian" scoring system down from 124 to 118.  By this time Joe had had another quick win, +26 over Malcolm, and increased his rating to 123 - so now it was Joe in the lead, with Robert trailing, and Jamieson (on 116) in third place.  Joe had started a game against James, but Robert had a wait for an opponent, as all the others whom he hadn't yet played were either in play or departed.  With a little over an hour till the 5.30pm cut-off, Alan and Alice finished their game, and Robert was put on against Alan, with the possibility of increasing his rating to 122 if he finished by 5.30.  With or without that increase, Robert would be ahead of Joe only if Joe lost to James.  If Joe and Robert both lost before the deadline, this would leave Jamieson in the lead, since a loss to James (rating 95) would cost Joe 8 Egyptian points and bring him down to 115, while losing to Alan (on 110) would take Robert down to 112.

Joe did lose to James, who thereby finished the tournament on 4/8 despite giving a total of 48.5 bisques.  This put Joe out of contention for the trophy.  Robert was ahead against Alan, but didn't quite manage to finish by 5.30; however, by keeping Alan from finishing, he had done enough, and with 5/6 and a rating of 118 Robert was declared the winner, ahead of Jamieson on 4/5 and 116, with Joe in a close third place on 6/8 and 115.  Jamieson also got a handicap reduction, to 8, at the end of the tournament.

To complete the statistical analysis, the manager counted up the games won by the giver and the receiver of bisques.  (The possible games with no bisques did not materialise - i.e. Alan didn't play Terry, Jamieson didn't play Sheila, Joe didn't play Alice and Robert didn't play Campbell.)  The numbers were 22 and 27 respectively - showing an advantage for the higher bisquers, but not one that approached statistical significance.

Fergus McInnes



1. Robert Lay 118 points, 5/6 wins: beat JH +14, TF +26, BM +26, JL +25, MOC +17.
2. Jamieson Walker 116 points, 4/5 wins: beat TW +11, BM +13, AF +6, RL +4.
3. Joe Lennon 115 points, 6/8 wins: beat MS +18, JW +5, TF +23, TW +22, FM +2, MOC +26.
4. Alan Wilson 110 points, 4/6 wins: beat CT +1, JW +17, TW +5, AF +4.
5=. Malcolm O'Connell 105 points, 4/7 wins: beat CT +8, AH +23, JH +25, SW +20.
5=. Terry Foster 105 points, 3/5 wins: beat FM +23, AH +10, SW +4.
7. James Hopgood 103 points, 4/8 wins: beat FM +12, AH +1, MS +15, JL +8.
8. Campbell Thomson 101 points, 3/6 wins: beat AH +20, MS +26, FM +25.
9. Alice Fleck 97 points, 2/5 wins: beat SW +21, MOC +14.
10=. Fergus McInnes 96 points, 3/7 wins: beat JJ +7, BM +25, MS +26.
10=. Brian Murdoch 96 points, 3/7 wins: beat JJ +6, JH +26, TW +6.
12. Sheila Watts 94 points, 2/5 wins: beat AW +8, BM +26.
13=. Tony Whateley 90 points, 2/6 wins: beat CT +6, MS +26.
13=. Allan Hawke 90 points, 2/6 wins: beat AF +8, JJ +4.
15. Martin Stephenson 84 points, 2/7 wins: beat AW +3, JJ +10SXP.
16. Jola Jurasinska 80 points, 0/4 wins.


(by Fergus McInnes and James Hopgood)

Saturday evening:

Allan Hawke considers his response to James Hopgood's cross-wired leave.  (He shot with white at the peg, with James's balls beyond, and pegged it out.)

James preparing for a split roll to 6 and 1-back during his three-ball break in the deepening gloom.

Sunday morning:

A welcome change from Saturday's rain!

Martin Stephenson waits for a double-banker to move away from red (near hoop 5) before beginning his sextuple peel ...

... while his opponent Jola Jurasinska sits out and enjoys the sun.
(Chatting with James on the left is spectator Rod Williams.)

Martin's rover peel with two escape balls at the ready ...

... and his rush to the peg to finish the sextuple.

Robert Lay gets down on the mat to line up the balls for his long peg-out attempt.  (See text of report for further details!)

Robert Lay (right) receives the trophy from manager Fergus McInnes.

Top three players and manager: Joe Lennon, Fergus McInnes, Jamieson Walker and Robert Lay.