2020 Inter-club Tournaments
The Longman Cup is a nationwide handicap inter-club tournament for teams of four with handicaps between 3.5 and 20. One doubles and two singles are played in the morning and four singles in the afternoon.
Round 1/Quarter-final v Ealing Won 4-3 (18th July @ Ealing)
As only 6 teams are entered in the Longman Cup this year this match was a quarter final and the next match is a semi final against East Dorset.
The team of Heather, Stephen, Roger and Stuart travelled to Ealing for the match. The lawns were very fast but the hoops were slightly more forgiving than the St Albans hoops. There were two singles and a doubles in the morning with St Albans winning the doubles and the singles being split. In the afternoon Stephen won his match relatively quickly, with the other three matches being much closer with multiple changes of lead. All three went to time and with the clock running out Roger put together a break to pull two hoops ahead, a helpful peel by his opponent put him three hoops ahead and clinched the winning point as time ran out.
Heather Bennett (3.5) & Stuart Stafford (16) beat Simon Tuke (6) & David Graham (14) +6 (T)
Stephen Mills (8) beat Colin McKenzie (6) +23
Roger Bowman (12) lost to Tony Elliot (6) -3 (T)
Heather Bennett lost to Tony Elliot -8 (T)
Stephen Mills beat Simon Tuke +22
Roger Bowman beat Colin McKenzie +3 (T)
Stuart Stafford lost to David Graham -5(T)
Round 2 v East Dorset (Poole) Won 4-1 (24th September @ Poole)
The team of Stephen (6) Roger (14) and Stuart (16) travelled to Poole to play East Dorset. The weather was autumnal to say the least, cloudy with multiple showers and a sprinkling of sunshine. East Dorset has five lawns and we were playing on lawns 1 and 3. Lawn 1 was very flat and drained well. Lawn 3 was a bit more interesting with a distinct change of pace and drainage from one side to the other. Stephen and Stuart played the morning doubles on lawn 3 with Roger playing the morning singles on lawn1. Stephen and Stuarts game was a game of multiple errors on both sides (mainly by Stephen on our side!), not helped by a massive bout of rain which made Stephen's roll for hoop 1 stop after about a yard (2 yards short!) and led to both sides taking a break and an early lunch. On resumption Stephen and Stuart gradually edged ahead and managed to hold on as time ran out, eventually winning 15 - 12. Roger won his match by a far greater margin, winning 23 - 11 on time. With a 2 - 0 lead from the morning's matches we only had to win one of the afternoon singles to progress. Roger put together two impressive four ball breaks to win his match 26 - 2 while Stuart gained an early lead which his opponent couldn't pull back and won 26 - 12. Stephen lost his match 26 - 14 after his opponent took his first ball to rover on his first turn. The overall score was 4 - 1 which means we play High Wycombe in the final on October 4th at Surbiton.
Stephen Mills (6) & Stuart Stafford (16) beat David Williams (3.5) & Mike Rice (11) +3 (T)
Roger Bowman (14) beat Sue Longcroft (10) +12 (T)
Stephen Mills lost to David Williams -12
Roger Bowman beat Mike Rice +24
Stuart Stafford beat Sue Longcroft +14
Round 3/Final v High Wycombe Won 3-2 (25th April 2021! @ Surbiton)
The Longman Final is traditionally held at Surbiton early in October together with the final of the Interclub Competition (in which some of the country's best players play), however, the 2020 final's day was called off because of torential rain. The rescheduled final was been cancelled because of lockdown so it wasn't possible to play the final until 2021.
The final was against High Wycombe and played at Surbiton with teams of 3. The St Albans team was Stephen, Roger and Stuart. The morning games saw Roger playing singles and Stephen & Stuart playing doubles. Despite putting together a very good break Roger lost to Ed Olhausen, High Wycombe’s in form best player. In the doubles match the lead switch multiple times with Stephen & Stuart winning by one hoop as time ran out.
In the afternoon’s singles, Stephen rapidly lost to Ed (26-0!), meaning we needed to win both of the remaining matches. Both matches went to time. Stuart’s match was close throughout with Stuart making a 5 hoop break with time running out which proved decisive. In Roger’s match he used his bisques to pull out a 10 hoop lead, High Wycombe gradually ate into that lead, and both teams had 4 ball breaks set-up which if they converted them could have been decisive, however, High Wycombe were unable to close the deficit in their final turn after time had been called meaning that we won the Longman Cup trophy for the first time!
Scores (St Albans names first)
Stephen Mills (6) & Stuart Stafford (16) beat Robin Morrison (10) & Mark Higgins (20) +1 (T) (12-11)
Roger Bowman (14) lost to Ed Olhausen (9) -11
Stephen Mills (6) lost to Ed Olhausen (9) -26
Roger Bowman (14) beat Robin Morrison (10) +4(T) (17-13)
Stuart Stafford (16) beat Mark Higgins (20) +5(T) (22-17)
The Secretary's Shield
This is a tournament for the winners of the previous year's regional federations' tournaments. St Albans gained entry both by being the holderse and by winning the East Anglian play-off in 2019. For teams of four with one double and two singles in the morning and four singles in the afternoon.
Round 1/Quarter-Final v Watford Won 4-1 (25th July @ Watford)
As only 5 teams entered the tournament this year this match was a quarter final an the next will be a semi final against Nottingham. In the exceptional circumstances the teams were reduced from 4 players to 3.
The team of Heather, Stephen and Roger travelled to Watford for the match. It was a lovely, sunny day with the lawns much slower and hoops slightly narrower than our match against Ealing the previous week. The morning matches were a singles (Heather) and a doubles (Stephen and Roger). The matches were very close with the winning margin being a single hoop in both, In the doubles Stephen and Roger built up a considerable lead but Watford pegged out Roger's ball and proceeded to 2 ball the remaining hoops to overturn the lead as time ran out. In Heather's match all the balls were on peg and Watford playing as time ran out, Watford succeeded in pegging out one of their balls and separating the remaining balls well across the lawn. In her extra turn, after time was called, Heather succeeded in a long roquet across the lawn and proceeded to peg out both her balls to win by one. The 1 - 1 score line at lunch suggested a close match in the afternoon but Heather and Stephen won their matches quickly and Roger won the final point by going through two hoops in his turn after time was called.
Heather Bennett (3.5) beat Geoff Johnson (2.5) +1
Stephen Mills (8) & Roger Bowman (12) lost to Gary Bennett (-0.5) & Andre Machell (7) -1(T)
Heather Bennett beat Gary Bennett +10
Stephen Mills beat Geoff Johnson +23
Roger Bowman beat Andre Machell +2 (T)
Round 2/Semi-final v Nottingham Won 4-3 (27th September @ Nottingham)
The team of Heather (3), Stephen (6), Roger (14) and Stuart (16) travelled to Nottingham to play in the semi-final of the Secretary's Shield. Whilst windy and a bit bracing the rain stayed away allowing a full day's play on Nottingham's excellent fast, flat lawns. Nottingham's team included a -1 handicap player so they weren't going to be easy opposition. In the morning Heather and Stuart played the doubles, losing as Nottingham's -1 player basically took both balls round. Stephen lost -4 on time in a match that swung back and forth with both players in the lead multiple times but with few large breaks. Roger beat his opponent +10 despite Nottingham pegging out one of his balls. So at lunch the score was 2 - 1 to Nottingham.
In the afternoon Heather beat the -1. In Roger's match his opponent again pegged out his ball but this time made the mistake of pegging out his own ball at the same time, turning the match into a game of 1 ball croquet. Nottingham closed in as the balls were going round but Roger held on to win +3. Stephen again lost his match -11 despite having taken his ball to rover before his opponent had started. This left the match tied at 3 - 3 with the result depending on Stuart's match. As time ran out his opponent ran rover from beyond hoop 3 to level the scores at 17 - 17 which meant that the whole match depended on a golden hoop which, after a few exchanges, Stuart eventually won by going through 3-back.
Heather Bennett (3) & Stuart Stafford (16) lost to Omied Hallam (-1) & Debbie Watson -4
Stephen Mills (6) lost to Roger Watson (7) -6 (T)
Roger Bowman (14) beat Andrew Beaumont (6) +10
Heather Bennett beat Omied Hallam +8
Stephen Mills lost to Andrew Beaumont -11
Roger Bowman beat Roger Watson +3
Stuart Stafford beat Debbie Watson +1 (Golden hoop)
Final v Hampstead Heath Lost 4 - 3 (29th October @ High Wycombe)
The team of Heather, Stephen, Roger and Stuart travelled to High Wycombe to play Hampstead Heath in the final of the Secretary’s Shield. The lawns at High Wycombe were in remarkably good condition given the time of the year, very flat and running reasonably fast despite the continuous rain of the previous few days. The rain continued throughout the morning, making waterproofs the default clothing for the match. Hampstead Heath fielded a very strong team with handicaps of -1, 0, 4½ and 11, including Gabrielle Higgins who has played for England and was once the highest ranked woman in the UK.
In the morning matches Stephen won his match after making a break to get his first ball through 11 hoops. Roger made good use of his bisques against the scratch player (Leo) to pull out an early lead, but once his opponent got in he went round in two breaks to win the match. In the doubles Heather and Stuart pulled out an early lead with Heather getting to rover, however, the match swung when Gabrielle went all the way round, peeled Heather’s ball and pegged it out leaving Stuart to play with the single St Albans ball. Stuart put up stern resistance but Hampstead used their two ball advantage to catch up and eventually win the game, leaving the match 2-1 to Hampstead at the break.
That left St Albans needing to win 3 of the afternoon’s matches. In Stephen’s match against Leo, Leo’s good form continued. There was effectively three turns, Leo hit in and took his first ball all the way to Rover, Stephen used 3 of his bisques to get his first ball to rover, then Leo hit in again, went all the way round, peeled his partner ball and won.
Stuart pulled out an early advantage, and continued to win his match +20. Similarly Roger pulled out an early advantage but his opponent put up some stern resistance with an 11 hoop break, but Roger held on to win with the light fading.
In Heather’s match against Gabrielle, having learnt from her experience in the morning Heather stopped her first break at Penult rather than Rover, but Gabrielle then peeled Heather’s ball through two hoops and pegged it out from about 8 yards to leave Heather with a single ball again. Following lots of tactical positioning shots Gabrielle went on to win the game and the match for Hampstead.
Heather Bennett (3) & Stuart Stafford (16) lost to Gabrielle Higgins (-1) & Rick Weinstein (4½) -4
Stephen Mills (6) beat Hugh Jones (11) +20
Roger Bowman (14) lost to Leo Hawkins (0) -10
Heather Bennett (3) lost to Gabrielle Higgins (-1) -6
Stephen Mills (6) lost to Leo Hawkins (0) -15
Roger Bowman (14) beat Rick Weinstein (4½) +6
Stuart Stafford (16) beat Hugh Jones (11) +20
This is a team tournament for the seven clubs within the Herts-Beds area, St Albans, Watford, Letchworth, Wrest Park, Enfield, Meldreth and Northampton. Matches are played on handicap, a combination of singles and doubles, between teams of three or four players depending on whether the match is being played at a club with one or more lawns.
The Covid Pandemic meant that the Herts-Beds League was not played in 2020