SCA v CA of Ireland 2012

12-13 May 2012, Meadows

The Appleton Trophy has a Scottish side and an Irish side, and this year's contest for it had similar characteristics, being distinctly a match of two halves.  On the first day (dry and largely sunny) the Scots won all the doubles and most of the singles to take an 11-4 lead.  On the second day (cloudy and windy, with rain in the afternoon) the Irish won all the doubles and threatened to stage a dramatic recovery, but in the end achieved only an 8-7 advantage, to make it 18-12 to the Scots overall.


The teams were the strongest for this match in recent years.  The SCA had two minus players, James Hopgood (-2) and Campbell Morrison (-0.5), and four others at handicaps 3 and below, namely Brian Murdoch (1), Bill Spalding (2.5), Martin Stephenson (0.5, but down in the rankings after losses in Australia) and Fergus McInnes (3).  The CA of Ireland's team was just a little weaker on paper, consisting of Simon Williams (-1.5), Nathaniel Healy (0), Jane Morrison (2), Evan Newell (0), Benjamin Reeves-Smyth (2) and Jack Clingan (4).  The plan had been for most of the players to gather at the Meadows Club on Friday evening for practice and hoop-moving, but persistent rain on Thursday and most of Friday rendered the lawns so wet that the few who turned up (Campbell, Martin, Fergus and Nathaniel) decided to forgo the practice and leave the hoop-moving till Saturday morning.

Saturday was a welcome contrast to the previous two days, with sunny periods and temperatures (Celsius) reaching double figures.  Martin was at the club early to start moving the hoops, and Campbell and Jane arrived with their guests (Nathaniel and Simon) to join in the preparations while Martin switched to flag duty and emblazoned the corners with the flags of the competing countries and of the four provinces of Ireland.

The task of hoop-setting delayed the start of play, but by 10am the first round of doubles games was getting under way: pair 1 v pair 1, 2 v 3 and 3 v 2.  All these got finished within the three-hour time limit, and all went to the home side.  The game between the top-ranked pairings (Hopgood and Murdoch v Healy and Morrison) was enlivened by a sextuple peel attempt by James, while for the Irish no.2 pair Simon did two peels of a TPO but broke down with a half-jump fault at rover when his ball came back off the crown of the hoop and hit his foot, handing the innings to Martin and Bill.  So it was 3-0 to the SCA when we sat down at outdoor tables for the excellent lunch provided by Charlotte Townsend.

The afternoon programme consisted of two rounds of singles with 2.5-hour time limits, with mismatched opponents within each half of the team order, i.e. no.1 playing the opposing side's 2 and 3 and so on.  The peeling turns were more successful in these games, with Simon beating both Campbell and Brian +26TP, and James and Campbell completing triples against Jane.  Five of the six lower-half games went to time, with results including a 13-12 win for Bill over Jack, but Fergus reached a peg-out against Ben - as did both Brian and James against Nathaniel in the upper half.  The CAI had four singles wins to the SCA's eight, bringing the score to 11-4.  It was a little after the scheduled time of 7:30pm when most of the players assembled at Bar Italia for a leisurely dinner, and well past midnight when the last of them reached their lodgings after a postprandial pint at Cloisters.

The weather changed again overnight, and it was on a grey and chilly Sunday morning that the players reconvened, sporting a variety of hats (see gallery below), for the second half of the match.  Again the morning's games were doubles, this time 1 v 2, 2 v 1 and 3 v 3; and again all three games went the same way, but in this case to the Irish rather than the Scots.  Cumulative score 11-7, and lunch definitely indoors.

In the final two rounds on Sunday, all team members played their opposite numbers twice.  (James and Simon considered extending their two games to a best-of-three, but eventually decided against.)  Rain arrived in the afternoon as forecast, and by the end of the match conditions were a lot less pleasant than on Saturday.  After the first six games, a draw was still possible, with the score standing at 15-9.  Wins by Simon (answering James's TPO with one of his own) and by Jack took it to 15-11 before Campbell pegged out against Nathaniel to gain the crucial 16th point for a Scottish victory, soon followed by a 17th point from Bill against Evan.  Play was paused for a few minutes at about 4:30pm for tea and the presentation of Ian Wright's honorary SCA membership certificate by former SCA Chairman Bruce Rannie; and the match finished damply before a diminishing crowd with wins by Jane and Martin which brought the final score to 18-12.

As always the combination of Scottish and Irish croquet players made for a convivial and entertaining weekend, and we look forward to next year's match in Ireland.

Fergus McInnes


(SCA names first)

Saturday 12 May:

Hopgood & Murdoch beat Healy & J Morrison +17
C Morrison & McInnes beat Newell & Reeves-Smyth +2
Stephenson & Spalding beat Williams & Clingan +13

James Hopgood beat Jane Morrison +18tp
Campbell Morrison lost to Simon Williams -26tp
Brian Murdoch beat Nathaniel Healy +9
Bill Spalding lost to Ben Reeves-Smyth -6T
Martin Stephenson beat Jack Clingan +8T (24-16)
Fergus McInnes lost to Evan Newell -7T (12-19)

James Hopgood beat Nathaniel Healy +15
Campbell Morrison beat Jane Morrison +12tp
Brian Murdoch lost to Simon Williams -26tp
Bill Spalding beat Jack Clingan +1T (13-12)
Martin Stephenson beat Evan Newell +2T (23-21)
Fergus McInnes beat Ben Reeves-Smyth +15

Sunday 13 May:

Hopgood & Murdoch lost to Williams & Clingan -9
C Morrison & McInnes lost to Healy & J Morrison -2T (22-24)
Stephenson & Spalding lost to Newell & Reeves-Smyth -15

James Hopgood beat Simon Williams +11tpo
Campbell Morrison beat Nathaniel Healy +6
Brian Murdoch beat Jane Morrison +3T (20-17)
Bill Spalding beat Evan Newell +6T (20-14)
Martin Stephenson lost to Ben Reeves-Smyth -1T (15-16)
Fergus McInnes lost to Jack Clingan -20

James Hopgood lost to Simon Williams -13tpo
Campbell Morrison beat Nathaniel Healy +15
Brian Murdoch lost to Jane Morrison -18
Bill Spalding beat Evan Newell +15
Martin Stephenson beat Ben Reeves-Smyth +7
Fergus McInnes lost to Jack Clingan -11

Match score: SCA 18, CAI 12


Peeling in Saturday's doubles:

The 2-back peel of James's sextuple attempt.

Simon lines up his rover peel ...

... and jawses it.

The half-jump: red rebounding off black and off the hoop towards Simon's foot.

The opponents (Bill and Martin) consider what to do after the fault.

Sunday's weather brings out the hats.