For the second consecutive year, Watford hosted the finals of the Croquet Association's National Schools & Juniors Championships. This was played on two Short Croquet courts (each 16 x 24 yards) specially prepared for the day on one of the full-size courts in Cassiobury Park.
Players arrived for the day from distant parts in Somerset, Suffolk and Lincolnshire, for which Watford is a convenient central location. Unfortunately the numbers were down on the previous year because of some late cancellations, but the weather was sunny and promised a good day's play.
All games were 14-point Association Croquet, played level to a fairly short time-limit of 75 minutes in order to fit several rounds into the day.
The morning started at 9:30 with the final of the Doubles championship. Ryan Gray and Albie Willett of Farlingaye School in Woodbridge, Suffolk were defending the title from last year, but as the time-limit was reached their opponents had gained a lead of 1 point with the innings and the Farlingaye pair well separated. However, in a spectacular finish Willett hit the long roquet on partner somewhere near hoop 5, made a well-judged long-distance take-off approach to hoop 6, ran it to the boundary, and then hit the peg on his long-distance return shot for Farlingaye to win +1 on time and retain the Schools Championship title.
The Juniors tournament followed for the rest of the day, an all-play-all block of 5 finalists. Favourites were the two finalists from the previous year, the defending champion Euan Burridge from the Nottingham club, and James Galpin from the Nailsea club in Somerset. But as the tournament progressed it was evident that Albie Willett of Farlingaye School and the Ipswich club was also vey much in the running when he beat Euan Burridge in one of the earlier rounds. So when the final round game between Burridge and Galpin arrived, Burridge needed to win it by a significant points margin in order to retain his title. But this year Galpin proved to be too good for him, and ended up winning a close game for a clean sweep of 4/4 wins to become the new National Juniors champion.
The prizes were presented to the winners by the national Croquet Association President and Watford club member Quiller Barrett.
A fuller report by tournament manager Marcus Evans can be found on the Croquet Association website.