The 2016 Home Internationals were contested by England, Ireland Scotland and Wales in Compton, Sussex on the 18 and 19th of June. Teams of 5 compete against every other nation over two days in an all singles format.
The tournament has traditionally been won by the English with only Ireland ever upsetting the applecart to win, most recently in 2013 in Carrickmines. This year proved now different as the strong English team won the event comfortably, with 5-time World Champion Robert Fulford playing at number 1. The Irish team was Danny Johnston (C), Simon Williams, Ian Vincent, Jane Morrison and Evan Newell.
Ireland began their challenge against Wales, who have become considerably stronger in recent years due to the surging form of Chris Williams and David Walters. Simon Williams playing at number 2 had a strong win over the aforementioned Walters, and their were many Irish players on the lawn on the morning of day one. Danny Johnston took the first game against Chris Williams and all look rosy for Ireland, but that was where it ended sadly with Chris coming back and Jane Morrison succumbing to some good play by John Evans and Ian Vincent losing to Ian Burridge. Evan Newell did battle with Garry McElwain in a repeat of their stunning 2014 ACTWC match, and as game 1 took roughly 4 and a half hours this match was left unfinished to the surprise of no one.
Ireland then went on to play the holders England, whose strength throughout the team was evident. Simon once again took up the fight, taking game 1 in his match with David Maugham who recently won a silver medal at the AC World Championships in Florida. It was also looking promising on other courts, where Danny found himself in the improbable position of being odds on to take game 1 from Rober Fulford (the latter having made 2 highly uncharacteristic errors). Ultimately it proved too much for him and he failed hoop 1 having had a 4-ball break to win, and Fulford went on to claim the match. Further down the order was where the English strength was most keenly felt, the Irish dispatch with 4 tps in the 6 games.
So then on to Scotland, and a desperate attempt to salvage a win for Ireland from the weekend. The Scottish team s also much improved over recent years, with the return of several high quality players after absences. Jane had an a fine battle with Sam Murray, an opponent she had beaten recently, but eventually a close match fell the way of the Scots. Danny played an interesting match with Jonathan Kirby, a strong player recently returned to the Scotland team after a few years of absence. After winning game 2 to keep the match alive, his shooting was too erratic to win game 3 and the match was lost. Simon was looking good against Duncan Reeve, another player recently returned to the Scottish team, but some good shooting by Duncan snatched victory from theIrish. Evan and Campbell Morrison played on the top court in the leafy surrounds of the South coast club and it was extremely tight. Evan managed to win in game 2 despite walking several yards out of his way to pick up a wrong ball and play with it on a finishing turn. The same was true of Ian Vincent and Martin Murray, who replayed a match they had played many times before! With these match poised at 1 game all, it was decided that they would be declared draws as the test was already decided and the results would not alter the tournament outcome.
Congratulations to England on their win, and to the other teams on their strong showings. Thanks must go to the members of Compton croquet club for their hospitality over the weekend: it really is a lovely club and very accessible from Gatwick Airport, well worth a visit. Thank you to Samir Patel for managing over the weekend, even as simple a tournament as this can throw up problems so your efforts are appreciated. Thanks to the Irish team for representing, although it was not our finest outing I'm sure there will be better days to come soon.