New Zealand croquet team race to lead on US

TONY SMITH
Last updated 18:09 12/01/2014

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The New Zealand croquet team have raced out to a 5-1 lead over seven-time champions England in their quest to win the MacRobertson Shield for the first time in 28 years.

Team manager Jarrod Coutts said New Zealand had made a brilliant start to the first two days of the final test at Mount Manganui.

"To be honest, we would have been with 3-3,'' he said. "Our target was 4-2, so to be 5-1 puts us in a very good position going into a big day of singles [today]. If we can get three wins out of six, that puts us in a very good spot with nine wins.''

New Zealand and England entered the final test unbeaten after both scored victories over Australia and the United States. The first team to achieve 11 wins will secure the MacRobertson Shield, which New Zealand last won in 1986.

The Kiwis had a perfect start on Saturday with Toby Garrison (Wellington) and Aaron Westerby (Auckland) scoring a 2-0 win over David Maugham and Jamie Burch. 

New Zealand's number one pairing Chris Clarke and Paddy Chapman came from behind after losing the first game to beat England's Robert Fulford and Samir Patel, 2-1.

Jenny Clarke and Greg Bryant achieved a similar result, edging Stephen Mulliner and James Death 2-1 after the English pair won the first game.

Garrison and Westerby continued their winning way yesterday, beating Mulliner and Death 2-0. Chris Clarke and Chapman were also 2-0 winners over Maugham and Burch, but Jenny Clarke and Bryant suffered the Kiwis' first defeat, going down 2-1 to Fulford and Patel with Fulford scoring a quadruple peel and Patel a triple. Bryant also had a triple peel as the New Zealanders won the second game.

Coutts pledged that the Kiwis would take nothing for granted despite their strong start. "Five-one is a very good lead, but we could be down [today] if they win six [singles games].''

Today's singles draw is: Westerby v Maugham, Jenny Clarke v Patel, Garrison v Burch, Chris Clarke v Death, Chapman v Fulford, Bryant v Mulliner.

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