St Albans Croquet Club into two national finals, one by a ‘golden hoop’
- Credit: Archant
St Albans Croquet Club continued their good run of form winning through to two finals in national croquet competitions. Croquet is one of the few sports that is ideally suited to social distancing and whilst the season started late because of the March/April lockdown the national competitions have continued to be played. St Albans are playing in two of the national competitions organised by the Croquet Association, the Longman Cup and Secretary’s Shield.
In the Longman Cup, having beaten Ealing in the quarter finals, the St Albans team of Stephen Mills, Roger Bowman and Stuart Stafford travelled to Poole for the semi-final against the East Dorset Croquet Club. The morning games consisted of a doubles and a singles game.
Mills and Stafford won by a slim margin in the doubles and Bowman won his match by a greater margin, giving St Albans a 2-0 advantage going into the afternoon singles in the best of five games match. Bowman and Stafford both won their games relatively easily and whilst Mills lost his game this gave St Albans a 4-1 victory and a place in the final against High Wycombe.
St Albans won the Secretary’s Shield last year and are looking to retain their trophy. Having beaten Watford in the quarter finals, the team of Heather Bennett, Stephen Mills, Roger Bowman and Stuart Stafford travelled to the Nottingham Croquet Club for the semi-final.
Nottingham fielded a strong team including one of the country’s top players. The morning games in the best of seven match gave a 2-1 advantage to Nottingham with the doubles and one of the singles going to Nottingham with Bowman collecting St Albans sole point in a singles game.
This left St Albans needing to win three of the four afternoon singles games to progress. Bennett won her match relatively quickly and Bowman won his game in an unusual manner after two of the balls in his game were ‘pegged out’ early.
Mills lost his match leaving the whole tie dependent on the outcome of Stafford’s game. As time was running out in the three and a half hour match, the Nottingham player ran a hoop hitting from across the complete lawn to bring the game level with both players having run 17 hoops. This meant the game and the match moved into a ‘golden hoop’ situation where the first player to run a hoop won the game. Stafford held his nerve to run the extra hoop to give St Albans a 4-3 victory and a place in the final against Hampstead Heath.