James Death wins East Midlands Championship

James Death won the Championship of the East Midlands, beating Jonathan Kirby +17TP, +26TP in the playoff. Alain Giraud won the Plate, beating Mark Suter +22TP. There was an exceptionally  strong field of 22 players, with losing finalists in the Draw and Process being Ian Lines and Paddy Chapman respectively.

On day one, the Draw, Death seemed insuperable, beating Suter, Giraud and Chapman +26SXP. His other opponent, Martin Beacon, thwarted the clean sweep by scoring one hoop. Lines also won a solid 4/4 to become the other finalist.

By the end of day two (the Process) the standings were looking more ambiguous. Robert Wilkinson challenged Death’s apparent impregnability, until Death hit the last lift, went round and pegged out Wilkinson to leave 1 & peg vs 4-back and box, from which he eventually won +4. Kirby had two +26TP wins followed by +25TP (vs Death) to take him to the final of the Process. Chapman progressed from TP to QP to SXP (the latter against a very solid Giraud with six TP wins already) to become the other Process finalist. In the Plate, Suter was looking strong with five wins out of six.

On Day three, the final of the Process looked to be Chapman’s until his fine TPO (leaving balls in C1 & C4 and Kirby for H2) was turned into an OTP from the contact after Kirby ran a 9-yard H2 cleanly to a perfectly placed reception ball. Death beat Lines in the final of the Draw +25TP. This led to an exciting  best-of-3 playoff: Kirby vs Death, in front of an appreciative crowd. There was top class play from both players, and plenty of drama in both games as fortunes changed. Death won the first with a delayed TP created from a seemingly unpromising position, and the second with another TP after a crucials missed lift from Kirby. 

A fantastic match of top-level croquet from both players. Particularly impressive that Kirby played top class croquet after a three year gap from tournaments and only three hours practice.

The Plate final was also high class, with Giraud finishing with his ninth TP despite Suter having POPped him to H4.

(Photos: James Death pegging out in the second game of the final; Jonathan Kirby; Alain Giraud)