Wilkinson Sword 2009

12 July 2009, Meadows and Glasgow

This year's Wilkinson Sword competition (interclub handicap doubles) was almost a rerun of last year's: again the players were Fergus McInnes and Allan Hawke (Edinburgh), Jamieson Walker and Jola Jurasinska (Meadows), and Bill Spalding and Robert Lay (Glasgow); and again the event was slated for Glasgow but the Edinburgh v Meadows game was relocated to Meadows, with a 9am start, as this suited the players better.

But some things were different.  A 3-hour time limit was imposed from the outset, and this was reduced to 2.5 hours for the last game.  And it was the Meadows team that won both its games, breaking Edinburgh's run of victories, and took possession of the Sword.

The weather in Edinburgh for the morning game was pleasant, with some sunny intervals; the lawn was easy-paced after overnight rain, and the game was finished in about two hours.  Fergus got to 4-back, but Allan played only one stroke in the entire game (in turn 2), and after good breaks by both Jola and Jamieson the Meadows partnership had an easy finish with 3 of their 9.5 bisques to spare.  The players filled in the time with some friendly Golf Croquet games before heading westward, as their hosts in Glasgow would not have been ready if they had gone through immediately.

Conditions at Alexandra Park for the second game (Meadows v Glasgow) were in contrast to those we had enjoyed for the first game: it rained quite a lot of the time, and the lawn was considerably slower.  Meadows had 6 bisques, and used them all, and the game took the full 3 hours - ending with a score of 22-19 for the Meadows team.

The best of the day was reserved for the second-place playoff between Glasgow and Edinburgh, with little or no rain and some sunshine.  Fergus had the first break, in the course of which he caused some mystification to the others by peeling Bill's black ball through hoop 1 after he ran 2-back.  His plan was to leave black at hoop 2, and blue at hoop 1, so that whichever ball the opponents played would be left with no pioneer.  Unfortunately for him, however, he failed to get in front of 3-back, giving the Glasgow pair an easy opportunity.  Some time later, Robert was on hoop 3 and Fergus was on rover, with Allan still for hoop 1 and 1.5 of the Glasgow side's 3.5 bisques remaining, when Bill played a solid break and tried to peel Fergus's yellow ball through rover so as to peg it out.  Yellow stuck in the hoop, and Bill laid up south of it after checking that Fergus had a shot at red - not realising that Fergus would still have a wiring lift since his ball was in the jaws of the hoop.  Fergus took the lift and hit red near B-baulk, but then managed to snooker himself by taking off too short so that black, which he had wanted to approach off blue so as to rush it into peeling position, was in the way of his shot at blue.  What to do?  After considering the jump shot over black to roquet blue, and rejecting it as too risky, he reluctantly took the roquet on black, and after further consideration reluctantly abandoned the idea of a late peel on black (which would give him a chance of pegging it out, though either the peel or the peg-out would have to be by a rush or scatter shot or by bombardment) and settled for separating the opponents and retreating well away from rover.  Bill took the bisques and succeeded in pegging out yellow - but accidentally pegged out his own black ball as well!  So we had a two-ball ending, with Robert starting two hoops ahead.  It was Allan who got position first, and he scored hoops 1 and 2 while Robert was still for hoop 3.  Allan then made his first roquet of the day, from north of hoop 2, on Robert's ball at hoop 3, and this proved decisive, as he then scored hoop 3 and was able to maintain his lead for the rest of the game and win +5.  (Allan's position-taking in the endgame was excellent - perhaps benefiting from the Golf Croquet he had played at lunch time.)

Congratulations go to the Meadows pair, who definitely played better this time (especially in the first game) than in 2008.  Jola in particular was showing marked improvement over her 2008 form, and shouldn't stay at a handicap of 20 for much longer if she continues like this.  And thanks to the Glasgow Club for their hospitality.

Fergus McInnes


The winners with the Sword.