Here’s the second part of our 2019 playing review with all the highlights of the principal domestic and international competitions. If you missed the first part, don’t worry you can read it here.
England’s male and female Espoirs teams travelled to compete at Saint-Pierre-lès-Elbeuf in Normandy in their European Championships. Our Women’s team was Rachel Kelly, Grace Moss, Alex Spillett & Megan Winter with coach Paul Lancaster while our Men’s team was Luke Ashford, Aston Monk, Jason White & Ollie Zimmerman with coach Simon Bird.
Espoirs – precision shooting
The big result of the overall competition was in the male Precision Shooting where Jason White secured a Bronze Medal. This was the first time England or Great Britain had achieved this at any level of the men’s game.
After a disappointing qualification round of 18 points, Jason Scored a superb 40 in the repêchage to qualify in 7th place. This threw up a quarter final match with Tyson Molinas (France), reigning Espoirs shooting champion and former World Junior Champion. Jason matched Tyson in the first two disciplines and then chalked up a five point advantage in the third stage (boule between two boules). A shot on the 7 metre jack was enough to take an unassailable 31-20 lead.
In the semi-final Jason was matched with Jose Riviere (Monaco) a former medallist in Precision Shooting at the World Junior Championships. Unfortunately, after a great first discipline to lead 15-14 he was unable to stay with his opponent and bowed out 19-36 with one jack left.
In the women’s precision shooting tournament, Alex Spillett had a shaky start, only scoring 9 points in the qualification round. However, Alex bounced back brilliantly in the repêchage, scoring 31 points and like Jason, qualifying for the knockout stage in 7th place.
In the quarter final, Alex faced Laura Streel of Belgium, but was unable to repeat her performance in the repêchage, losing 7-17.
Male espoirs triples
In the male triples tournament, a four-round Swiss qualification stage took place amongst the 16 teams present. After four matches, England had two wins after victories against Slovakia (13-3) and Denmark (13-0) with two defeats against Belgium (5-13) and Monaco (5-13). This placed our team in 7th place in the tournament.
The 16 teams were then placed in barrage poules depending on their ranking. England were placed in a poule with France (ranked 2nd after the Swiss), Slovakia (ranked 15th ) and Hungary (10th).
The first match saw England face Hungary, but the team was narrowly shaded out 11-13. After this defeat it was a showdown against Slovakia, but once again the team fell just short, losing 9-13.
Out of the main competition, the team was then placed in the Nations Cup and faced a very tough match against Spain who had surprisingly dropped down into the lower tournament. Once again, the team battled well against quality opponents but ended up losing 11-13. Spain went on to win the Nations Cup.
There was a truly remarkable result in the tournament with the turnaround achieved by Finland. Winless in the four round Swiss, the Finns beat Spain and Sweden in their poule and then prevailed against Slovakia, Monaco and Germany (13-0 in the Final) to win the Gold Medal. This was a superb achievement for the country.
Female espoirs triples
With only 10 female teams present in their tournament, England faced a demanding nine-match round robin. England struggled and were not able to register a win until the fourth round when they beat the Czech Republic 13-6 having lost to Spain (1-13), Hungary (10-13) and France (0-13). Unfortunately, England was only able to record one more win against Slovakia (13-8), losing three other games to Belgium (7-13), Germany (6-13) and Switzerland (1-13). Ranked 9th out of 10, England were eliminated from the tournament.
France ended up as the Gold Medallists in the European Championship, defeating Belgium 13-7 in the Final.
PE’s Champion of Champions weekend
Back in England our domestic season concluded with our traditional Champion of Champions weekend where the winners and runners up in each of our regions’ doubles and triples championships are invited to compete.
Hosted by Oxshott PC in our Southern Counties Region, the weekend stared with 20 teams in the doubles. After the morning poules, the top 8 teams were taken through the main competition. Qualifying in first place was the Kent 2 team of Scott and Dean Ashby, winning all three matches and only dropping 7 points.
In the knockout that followed, Scott and Dean lost 4-13 in the quarter final against the Heart of England duo of Glen Woodward and Hannah Griffin. It was also victories for Chiltern 1 (Matt Eversden and Phil Winston) against Sussex 1 (Tony Mann and Jeff Mitchell) by 13-4; Isle of Wight (Josh Tombleson and Simon Gifford) against Thames Valley 1 (Paul Webb and Dean Webb) by 13-0; and Chiltern 2 (Sean Prendergast and Kai Sheffield) against Kent 1 (Becky Edwins and Tim Edwins) by 13-4.
The semi-finals saw Chiltern 1 defeat Heart of England 13-8 and Chiltern 2 prevail 13-5 against the Isle of Wight. The all Chiltern final saw Sean and Kai take the title 13-3 against Matt and Phil.
In the plate, the Anglia pairing of Serge Raja and Pierre Casautets defeated the Eastern team of Andre Hills and Francois Bourquin.
The following day saw 24 teams arrive for the triples. After the morning poules, five teams had won all their games and the best results had been achieved by the Chiltern 2 team of Matt Eversden, Jonathan Sewell, Phil Winston and Les Gardiner. 16 teams were put through to the main competition and 8 into the plate.
After the top 16 and quarter finals were contested, the semi-finals saw the Kent 1 team of Tracey Spillett, Kevin Spillett, Dean Ashby and Scott Ashby defeat the London 2 team of Vince Wills, Monty Quaia, Dave Winkworth and Hakim Dahmani 13-8 and the East Midlands 1 team of Joe Sheffield, Lisa Edmondson, Drew Roe and Stone Williams beat the Chiltern 1 team of Jack Blows, Reece Gould and Sam Blakey 13-10. Tracey, Kevin, Dean and Scott emerged victorious in the final 13-9 to be PE’s Champion of Champions Triples 2019.
Mid-November saw our Youth and Women’s teams make the exciting trip to play in their respective World Championships in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
England’s Women’s team comprised Sarah Huntley, Emma Longstaff, Sammy Thatcher and Claire White with coach Rowland Jones, whilst our Youth team includedDavid Blyton, Jamie Brooks, Liam Floyd and Kai Sheffield backed up by coach Scott Ashby.
Sammy Thatcher represented our country in the precision shooting, the traditional starter to the tournament.
In the qualification round, Sammy scored 18 points which was sufficient to gain her a place in the repêchage where she added a further 11 points, ending up in 22nd place out of 43 competitors. The bar for qualification to the quarter final head-to-heads ended up at 58 points over the two rounds, indicating that a score close to 30 points should be the minimum target.
The remarkable Ke Leng of Cambodia made it four Gold Medals in consecutive World Championships after she defeated Lao player Bivilak Thepphakan 36-22 in the final.
Kai Sheffield was our precision shooter in the Youth tournament, but his score of 10 points was not sufficient to get the second chance in the repêchage and he ended up in 26th place out of 27 competitors. The standard in this tournament was very high, and it required a two-round score of 68 points just to make the quarter finals.
The Gold Medal was eventually won by Peempod Rinkaew of Thailand who defeated Jean Philippe Bucheof Monaco 37-15 in the final.
On the first day both England’s teams registered one win out of three in the five-round Swiss System qualification stage.
The Youth team started their campaign against the hosts Cambodia and with raucous support backing the local team, they acquitted themselves extremely well, leading 9-4 at one point but eventually losing the match 9-13.
In the second round, they faced Sweden, who has a strong and well-established international setup amongst all age and gender categories. This time England played a commanding game and prevailed 13-3.
The final game of the day for our young players was a really tough draw against Belgium, who have consistently been at the top of the world rankings over the years. England struggled to get a foothold and found themselves trailing 0-10, before starting a fightback. Although they eventually succumbed 3-13, they fought very hard and it took their opponents a long time to finish the contest.
Our Women started strongly in the first round with a convincing win 13-2 over Slovakia but then suffered their first defeat in round two by 7-13 against Estonia. The final match of the first day was against Australia where our team started well but then fell behind. With time running out in the timed game, our players rallied to fight back strongly, but found themselves in a difficult place 8-11 down with just one end left. Unfortunately, it hinged on the very last boule where we were unable to make a point count England ended up losing 10-11.
Both England teams knew at the start of the second day that both our teams knew that they had to win both their two final matches in the five-round Swiss System qualification to secure a spot in the main competitions.
For our young players, the 4th match was against Turkey, where they started strongly to take a 6-0 lead and then maintained a good position to find themselves at 9-5 up. Unfortunately, they were unable to maintain the advantage and ended up being defeated 9-13.
As a result of that defeat, England was then given a bye in the final round and had to await the draw for the Nations Cup (NC). Ranked 22nd out of 27 teams, England then faced the bottom ranked team from the USA in a ‘cadrage’ to find the Quarter Finalists of the NC.
Our team simply could not get going in this match and found themselves in a very difficult position at 0-12. It was then that a spirited fightback followed, with nine points being scored in three ends. Regrettably, the American team was able to hang on and ran out the victors 12-10.
The French team of Flavien Sauvage, Jordon Scholl, Joe Casale and Jacques Dubois were crowned champions, beating Laos 13-1 in the final.
The 4th match in the Swiss qualification for our Women’s team was against Chinese Taipei but try as they could, our team could not get a foothold in this match and ended up losing 4-13. Knowing that defeat had effectively put them out of the main Championship, the final match was against Brunei, where our team had a much more controlled performance to win 13-5.
The final ranking after the five rounds placed England 40th out of 48, although, just one more win would have catapulted the team into 24th place and a cadrage match in the Championship to try and win through to the Top 16. Looking back at the competition, it was the defeat to Australia 10-11 in the third timed match which more than anything else ended up being the main blow to our team’s chances.
As with the Youth, our women then faced a cadrage round against Denmark to proceed to the top 16 of the Nations Cup. The Danish team, always formidable competitors were too strong for England and we ended up with a 5-13 defeat.
The Women’s tournament in many respects had a number of surprises in that European teams like England, Denmark and Germany which historically have ended up in the Top 16 or better did not qualify to the final stages on this occasion. In the Top 8 of the rankings after five rounds there was only one European team in the shape of Sweden. Although they bounced back from only winning three matches out of five in the Swiss, the defending World Champions, France were knocked out 13-4 in the semi-final by Thailand.
The eventual winners of the tournament were the Thai team of Thongsri Thamakord, Phanti Wongchuvej, Nanta Fueangsanit and A Suwannaphurk who defeated Laos 13-4 in the final.
The end of November saw our English champion club, Baldock Town travel to represent our country in the CEP EuroCup Finals in Saint Yrieix-sur-Charente, on the outskirts of Angoulême, France.
It was the fifth year in a row that the Hertfordshire outfit have been the best in England and their second year in succession in qualifying for the Finals, which bring together the top 16 clubs in Europe.
Managed by Jonathan Sewell, Baldock’s squad is full of current and previous England international players and includes Sam Blakey, Jack Blows, Emma Coggins, Matthew Eversden, Reece Gould, Sarah Huntley, Ross Jones, Jamie Lewis, Dave Plumhoff, Sean Prendergast and Phil Winston.
By virtue of the fact that the club had finished second in the qualifying round July at the Pachy Club in Belgium a more favourable seeding was secured in the initial barrage stage of the Finals. They were in Poule 2, which pitched them against Czech Republic, Hungary and Italy.
England v Czech Republic
In the first round of the barrage, Baldock faced Brno from the Czech Republic and got exactly the start they were looking for, taking five out of the six singles matches worth two points each. Emma Coggins prevailed 13-8 in the all-female tie, while Sean Prendergast stormed to a 13-0 victory in his match.
With further wins for Jack Blows (13-11), Sam Blakey (13-8) and Reece Gould (13-11), it was only a narrow defeat for Matthew Eversden (11-13) that denied Baldock a clean sweep.
With 10 points in the bag, the task was to win two out of the three doubles matches worth three points each to take the round without having to play the two Triple matches. Matthew Eversden & Jack Blows and Sean Prendergast & Dave Plumhoff duly obliged, winning their respective matches 13-9 and 13-8. The close defeat 11-13 of the mixed doubles pairing of Sarah Huntley & Sam Blakey became academic as Baldock chalked up the winning 16 points out of the 31 available.
England v Italy
The second round saw Baldock take on Italy, always a powerful force in international elite Pétanque. The Italian Club ASD Bocciofila Valle Maira began very strongly with victories in all of the six singles encounters. although both Jack Blows and Matthew Eversden only lost out narrowly by 11-13 and 12-13 respectively.
Sean Prendergast (8-13), Sam Blakey (5-13), Reece Gould (6-13) and Emma Coggins (7-13) got footholds in their matches but ultimately suffered defeats.
At 0-12 in the round, Baldock knew that they had a mountain to climb to rescue the contest and could only afford to lose one of the remaining three doubles matches and none of the Triples matches.
The doubles round started with some controversy as the Italian club forfeited the match involving Sam Blakey and Reece Gould, apparently for listing too many players – only eight are allowed on the team sheet in each round. This meant that to stay in the round, Baldock needed to win one of the other two matches.
In the mixed, Jack Blows and Sarah Huntley were in a tight contest which was pretty much even throughout, but their Italian opponents eventually won 13-10. It was left to Matthew Eversden and Dave Plumhoff to keep the round alive. They faced Fabio Dutto and Erik Galanti, the former being in the Italian Triples World Championship team in 2010 In Turkey, meaning that Matthew was reunited with an adversary from the top 16 stage of that tournament.
He’d waited more than nine years for a return match and this time with strong shooting from his partner, Matt got his victory by 13-8.
At 6-15 down in the round, Baldock could still qualify automatically by winning the two triples matches, but Sarah Huntley, Sam Blakey and Jack Blows couldn’t get a foothold in the Mixed and lost 2-13, while Matthew Eversden, Reece Gould and David Plumhoff just got shaded out 11-13.
With the overall tie points ending up 6-25, Italy progressed through to the Quarter Finals and England would now play Brno of the Czech Republic a second time in the deciding barrage game to see if they could join the Italians.
England v Czech Republic
Things couldn’t have started better for Baldock in the match as they prevailed in all six of the singles. Emma, Sean, Reece, Ross and Matt all won fairly comfortably and Jack made an incredible comeback to eventually win his match 13-11.
So onto the doubles, again needing two wins to take the tie. The open doubles were both over relatively quickly, with Matt and Jack winning 13-4 and Sean and Dave suffering a reverse 5-13.
The focus then switched to the mixed involving Emma and Ross. This was one of those games where it had been a struggle from the start and an example of how form can change so quickly. With three boules to play and the Czechs needing 2 points, the decision was to shoot the coche. Ross stepped up (having not had a shot since the singles) but the first one was just short, good enough to hit a boule but not a coche. The second attempt had an imperceptibly better loop and came down on the front of the coche and the end was saved. This marked the beginning of the second half of the match and the Czechs crumbled. Four ends later the game was won 13-12 and the Top 8 was Baldock’s by 18 match points to 3.
England v Luxembourg
Baldock faced Luxembourg in the quarter final. The Riganelli club are very strong and were clearly in top form as they had just beaten Belgium. Baldock entered the match with some cause to feel positive as the previous time they had faced their opponents, they had only lost by the fine margin of 14-17, having put in one of the best performances of last year.
Honours were shared in the singles, with three wins for each club, Emma, Jack and Matt bringing home nice victories, with Sean, Reece and Ross unfortunately not being able to add to the tally.
The doubles were tough and was probably the first real dip in Baldock’s performance all weekend as energy levels seemed to drop. The mixed involving Sarah and Ross and one of the open doubles involving Sean and Dave saw Baldock trailing in both and whilst the games were tight thereafter the teams were never able to score enough points to really put the pressure on. They were still long, tight, anxious games but ultimately, they were lost 2-13 and 4-13. Despite these setbacks, Baldock were still very much in the tie as Jack and Matt managed to edge out their opponents 13-10 shortly after the end of the mixed doubles, meaning the team would go into the triples 9-12 down in points.
Baldock’s task was clear, a semi-final place now hinged on winning both the triples contests.
The start of both games was very tight with not a lot in it either way, but things weren’t going Baldock’s way and a couple of changes were made. In the mixed, Emma, Ross and Jack started to come back into it and the tension rose. Some of the play was superb from both sides as the climax of the tie was reached.
Meanwhile, the open triples involving Matt, Reece and Sean was tight all the way, with no more than a point or two in it. The fateful end was the penultimate one. Luxembourg pointed and Baldock shot and stayed. Luxembourg’s next point went astray, but their third was on. Once again, a good hit left Baldock holding with two in the head and another loose Luxembourg point left Baldock holding with 4 boules in hand against 2. Baldock’s old foe Marcel Grenier then put his point on about 18 inches in front of the coche. This was it. The shot looked sweet, possibly a carreau but it came down about 2 inches too far, an almost ’perfect’ casquette. The psychological effect is unknown but Baldock then missed again and ended up dropping a point. Fine margins.
What was to be the final end did not start well for Baldock, resulting in decision to shoot the coche to stay in the match. The first shot was a fraction short, the adjustment for the second was almost perfect and the coche headed to the dead ball line but stopped agonisingly short – less than an inch. The 8-13 defeat meant that the tie was lost. In the mixed, Baldock had come back to level with the momentum behind the team and the game was conceded by Luxembourg, meaning the tie was lost 14-17.
Although disappointed that they had just fallen short in gaining a semi-final place, Baldock’s achievement should be recognised for what it was – the best ever placing in this prestigious competition. Our champion club proved conclusively that they can compete with the very best clubs in Europe.
Baldock Town’s campaign in France concluded another busy playing year for PE and one with some notable international successes including a quarter final place in the Women’s World Doubles, a bronze medal in the Male Espoirs precision shooting and England’s highest ever placing in the CEP’s EuroCup. Three times our England representational teams missed out by a tie break to reach the knockout stages of major international tournaments, which also puts things in perspective.
We also had our disappointments where our teams did not do as well as we had hoped, but the intensity and standards of elite level play mean that nothing is guaranteed. Many of our rivals suffered similar setbacks as well in the heat of competition.
At the time of writing it looks very much like our 2020 playing season will be decimated by the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, but it is hoped that we will be able to compete both domestically and internationally at some point during the latter part of the year.
It remains to thank all of our players, coaches and officials for their efforts during 2019.