SCA v CA of Ireland 2006

20-21 May 2006, Meadows

Six Irish players came to Edinburgh at a cold showery May weekend to defend the Appleton Trophy, which they had retained last year with a home win at Carrickmines.  The Scottish team was weaker on paper, with higher handicaps at the middle four places in the order, and an analysis based on handicaps would have predicted a 20-10 win for the visiting side, but upsets in such circumstances are not unknown...

The match began with a round of doubles, in which the home side established a 2-1 lead.  Their no.1 pairing of Bruce Rannie and Fergus McInnes defeated the Irish no.2 pair of Jane Shorten and Ben Reeves-Smyth in accordance with relative handicaps - though the Scots' progress appeared in doubt at one point when Fergus underapproached 4-back and had to run it with a jump shot from an angle of about 50 degrees.  The Scottish third pair of Campbell Morrison and Martin Stephenson also had a win, this time contrary to handicap, against their counterparts Robert Barklie and Trevor Byne, in the only first-round game that reached the 2.5-hour time limit.  Fighting back for the Irish side were Evan Newell and Nathaniel Healy, who achieved what turned out to be the only +26 score of the weekend against David Appleton and Alan Wilson.

The first round of singles followed.  Upsets here were Jane's +10 win over Bruce and a narrow victory for Ben over Fergus (+2 in a three-ball ending, where Fergus had pegged out one of Ben's balls but then got hampered after rover and failed to play safe, letting Ben in to finish from 2-back), and on the other side Martin's +14 result against Evan.  With two more Irish wins in the other three games, this round shifted the cumulative score to 5-4 for the Irish side.

Another round of singles completed the day, and in this the honours were evenly split, leaving the visitors with a one-game lead overnight.  The players dispersed to their various houses to change out of their wet clothing, but reconvened about 8pm for dinner at La Bagatelle (a few minutes' walk from the lawns).  That took till nearly 11pm ... and so, after the day's fourth walk in the rain for those without cars, to bed.

Sunday was forecast to be drier and brighter, and so it was - but not much!  After a little early sunshine, the rain came on again before the start of play, but we did get another dry spell with glimpses of sunshine in the middle of the day before the rain set in yet again.  Again the format was one round of doubles and two rounds of singles, with the "head-to-head" round between opposite numbers occurring at the end of the match.

In the doubles the results redressed the balance from the first day, with two Irish wins and one for the Scots.  A 3-3 split in the next round left both sides still in contention - the Scots with 11 games and the Irish with 13, chasing 15 for a draw or 16 for a win.  So there was plenty of interest in the final round.  Here Evan's +25 against Fergus and Jane's +15 against David ensured that the CA of Ireland would retain the trophy, and Ben's +25 against Martin meant that they would do so by winning rather than just by forcing a draw.  The most exciting ending in the remaining three games came in the game between Bruce and Robert, where Robert pegged out one ball from each side leaving Bruce's remaining ball for hoop 2 and his own for 4-back; Bruce did well to get to penult before Robert finished.  The other two games went to the Scots (one of them very narrowly, Campbell pegging his forward ball out to go one point up against Nathaniel after time was called), and so the final score was 17 games to the CAI and 13 to the SCA.

The croquet was not the only sporting event this weekend involving a successful Irish team: the Munster rugby team also triumphed by four points, playing Biarritz in the Heineken Cup final in Cardiff.  For some reason it was the rugby that got all the press coverage, but Evan adapted two paragraphs from the report in Sunday's paper for his closing remarks at the Appleton Trophy presentation ceremony - honouring the Irish players' achievement but giving credit to their opponents for putting up a good fight.  The Scots look forward to doing so again in Ireland in 2007, and hope to get a different result.

The weather wasn't ideal for photography, but a few pictures can be found below.

Fergus McInnes



SCA: Bruce Rannie (0), Fergus McInnes (2.5), David Appleton (3.5), Campbell Morrison (6 in Scotland, 4 in Ireland), Martin Stephenson (6 on Saturday, 5 on Sunday), Alan Wilson (6).
CAI: Robert Barklie (0), Evan Newell (0), Jane Shorten (2.5), Nathaniel Healy (2.5), Ben Reeves-Smyth (3), Trevor Byne (8).

(Scottish names first)

Day 1, Saturday 20 May 2006:

Rannie & McInnes bt Shorten & Reeves-Smyth +11
Appleton & Wilson lost to Newell & Healy -26
Morrison & Stephenson bt Barklie & Byne +3T (18-15)

Rannie lost to Shorten -10
McInnes lost to Reeves-Smyth -2
Appleton lost to Barklie -17
Morrison bt Byne +3T (22-19)
Stephenson bt Newell +14
Wilson lost to Healy -23

Rannie bt Newell +4
McInnes lost to Barklie -23
Appleton bt Byne +6
Morrison lost to Reeves-Smyth -3
Stephenson bt Healy +8
Wilson lost to Shorten -25

Day 2, Sunday 21 May 2006:

Rannie & McInnes lost to Newell & Healy -19
Appleton & Wilson lost to Barklie & Byne -7T (18-25)
Morrison & Stephenson bt Shorten & Reeves-Smyth +3T (22-19)

Rannie bt Healy +23
McInnes lost to Shorten -8
Appleton lost to Newell -20
Morrison lost to Barklie -10
Stephenson bt Byne +18
Wilson bt Reeves-Smyth +12

Rannie lost to Barklie -3
McInnes lost to Newell -25
Appleton lost to Shorten -15
Morrison bt Healy +1T (22-21)
Stephenson lost to Reeves-Smyth -25
Wilson bt Byne +13

Match result: SCA 13, CAI 17



Jane sets out for her victory over Bruce in the first round of singles.

Campbell in action on Saturday afternoon.

Evan running hoop 4 in Sunday's doubles.

A many-headed many-legged spectator: Evan, Bruce, Campbell, Martin, and Nathaniel (at a guess) almost hidden.

More spectators: Trevor on the bench, Evan and David behind.

Fergus, his waterproof jacket temporarily discarded, fails an angled shot at 1-back in Sunday's doubles.

Ben's distinctive follow-through.

Robert about to go to the peg and peg out Bruce's blue and his own yellow in the final round of the match (the double-banking balls belonging to Campbell and Nathaniel).

Evan, Campbell and Nathaniel with the Appleton Trophy.