In two consecutive World Championships this week in Bangkok, English teams have excelled.
First, England’s young players Daniel Raine, Connie Bell, Ollie Zimmerman and Chris Wilmot bagged a silver medal in the Nations Cup. Supported by their coaches Claire White and Matt Blyton, the team faced a tough start to the competition drawing Belgium in the five round Swiss system.
They lost the Belgium tie 1-13 and then were faced with another tricky match against Sweden. The team responded very well with a fantastic 13-0 victory.
In round three, another tough match came out of the computer against Spain. Due to the uneven number of teams, this was a ‘crossover’ match, with the English team the only one on a single win to be drawn against a team on two wins. After a strong start, going 6-1 up, England eventually lost 7-13.
Round 4 saw the team take on another leading European nation in the shape of Italy where they were defeated 1-13. Although out of the qualification for the main competition (only the top 16 teams after five rounds went through) the youngsters had to dig deep to ensure their place in the Nations Cup. A truly battling game against Japan saw England take the match to the last boule in a timed game and prevail 10-9.
In the Nations Cup, England drew the ‘Petanque Ashes’ match against Australia and recorded a 13-9 victory to face Malaysia in the Quarter Final. The English team triumphed again 13-8 to setup what looked like a very tough game against Italy given the result in the Swiss stage of the competition. However an outstanding 13-6 win was achieved to secure a place in the Final against Chinese Taipei. This turned out to be the end of their winning streak as they were just shaded out 10-13.
Daniel Raine, only recently turned 13 year old stepped up to the mark in the precision shooting and recorded a really commendable 28 points in the first round and finishing 10th. For his first attempt at this level, it was a great achievement. Although he did not match his first round performance in the 16-way shoot out or repechage, his 15 points meant that he was rated 15th in the world.
The result achieved by the team was testament to a lot of hard work in selection, the involvement of a European coach in training and participation in international competitions.
Women join the fray
Immediately on the back of the Junior’s success, England’s women’s team, Sarah Huntley, Kim Lachani, Lisa Edmondson-Jackson and Myra Huntley with coach Tony Mann then began their campaign. Sarah had been added through a late selection after the originally qualified player Emma Coggins had withdrawn.
Things had started well in the first match China. England stormed to a 10-3 lead, but unfortunately lost out 10-13.
The next round brought another big challenge in the shape of the hosts Thailand’s number 2 team and the team was convincingly defeated 13-2.
Regrouping after a tough and fruitless start, England was drawn against Latvia and recorded their first win 13-2. Like the Juniors, this win seemed to spur the women on as they defeated a strong Algerian team 13-3 and then a highly creditable win against Scandinavian rivals Norway 13-9.
The three consecutive wins meant that England finished 16th after the five rounds of Swiss, a ranking not achieved at World level by any English representative team since the Men’s Tournament in Turkey in 2010. It was in fact the best performance by a female team since the creation of the English Petanque Association.
Surprisingly, unlike the normal approach followed by the FIPJP, the tournament did not split into main competition and Nations Cup after the five rounds of Swiss. Instead, only the top 8 ranked teams were put through and a further playoff round between teams ranked 9 to 24 took place.
England drew a formidable opponent in the shape of Italy, who had also won three out of five games and were placed just behind England in 17th. This match resulted in probably the best result of the two competitions with a 13-11 victory.
Now assured of a place in the main competition, England were officially placed 14th and were matched against Thailand 2 for a second time. This time, a marathon two and half hour game followed, showing the confidence that was flowing through the team after their 4-win streak. Unfortunately the team’s great run ended with a 13-8 defeat, but laid claim to a joint 9th finishing position.
Sarah Huntley, a proven performer given her previous bronze medal in the World Championships also performed well in the precision shooting, notching up 27 points and a 9th placing. Like Daniel Raine in the Juniors, Sarah then faced a 16-way repechage, where she was not able to repeat her first round performance, registering 18 points and a final world placing of 17th.
All in all, English Petanque has had a real boost from the participation in these tournaments and the challenge now is to consider how further progress can be made.
Full results can be found here