Death lifts title at Budleigh Croquet Club
THERE was certainly a strong field of competitors for the Men’s Championships at the Budleigh Croquet club, writes Charles Townshend. Under a format of the best of three games and with so many experienced players, rapid games were the order of the day and triple peels were plentiful. This very skilful manoeuvre enables the player to take his second ball through all twelve hoops in a single break while, at the same time, peeling his first ball though its final three hoops and then pegging out before the adversary could really get going. By the time the semi-final stage had been reached, the four names on the list were Stephen Mulliner, James Death, Keith Aiton and Dave Kibble. From this stage on, the matches were determined over the best of five games. Death had to recover from a two game deficit to Keith Aiton, something he did with great gusto, performing a flawless triple in each of them. In the final he met Stephen Mulliner who had played with great control and precision to defeat Dave Kibble. The final was played on Sunday with the first two games going to Mulliner. In the third game, Death pulled one back and then levelled the score to take the contest in to a fifth game decider. Mulliner appeared to be on his way to the title when a small slip up let Death in and he was able to take his second ball round and complete an impressive victory to seal a first major title. The Mixed Doubles Final was played between Dave Kibble, pairing with Louise Bradforth, and Keith Aiton who partnered Gabrielle Higgins. The doubles did not begin until 6pm, after a tough contest between Louise Bradforth and Chris Williams for the Du Pre Cup. In the doubles, both women players achieved breaks through the first nine hoops and then it was down to the men to battle for the chance to pull off a triple and end the game. By 7.30pm it was all over, with Aiton seizing the initiative to seal victory for himself and Higgins. The prize-giving ceremony took place earlier to allow most competitors to begin homeward journeys and Patricia Duke-Cox, the Croquet Association Chairman, warmly thanked the club for hosting the event and providing such splendid playing conditions. She then presented the trophies to Gabrielle Higgins and James Death, as the two new champions, and the Du Pre Cup to Chris Williams. The standard of play in the five days of competition was very high and we await the test match series later in the season and wish all the home team success in their quest to retain the international trophy.