The 2018 final saw a rematch in the London final with Justin Slater meeting Ray Beierling. While the 2017 edition was a classic featuring some terrific drama, the 2018 version was a little less climatic and saw Slater exacting some revenge with a 10-4 victory over Beierling.
52 players were in attendance for the first Spring Saturday of 2018 with 30 competitive players and another 22 recreational.
The morning play split the competitive field into 3 pools. Ray Beierling and Nathan Walsh led the way in Pool A with 55 and 52 points respectively, and 73 20s each. Tom Johnston topped Pool B with 46 points, with Andrew Hutchinson right behind at 44 points and a tournament-high 98 20s through 9 games. And in Pool C, Nolan Tracey took the top spot with 48 points, ahead of Justin Slater, Jon Conrad and Jason Beierling.
Clare Kuepfer just missed the afternoon A group as his 36 points were only good enough for 5th place in Pool A, trailing Jeremy Tracey in 4th at 38 points, while Kuepfer also just missed out on the two wildcard positions that were earned by Reid Tracey and Derek McKie at 37 points.
In the Recreational division, Rich Van der Hoven scored the high mark in the morning with 50 points, followed by Jo-Ann Carter at 43 points. Moochie Printup finished 5th in the morning and racked up the highest 20 count with 45 20s.
In the afternoon Recreational A group, Moochie once again had one of the highest 20 counts with 50, but such a score did not convert to as many points as he finished 9th. The 3 Carters of Peter, Al and Jo-Ann took the top 3 spots of the Rec A round robin with 51, 58 and 47 points. Bill Harris grabbed the final spot with 42 points as Rich Van der Hoven missed the playoffs in 5th at 38 points. Despite grabbing the final seed in the playoffs, Bill Harris was in top form in the playoffs finishing first in Rec A, while Jo-Ann Carter finished 2nd.
In Rec B, Maxine Whitemore and Janet Diebel finished in the top 2 spots in the round robin with 48 and 47 points. John Wither, who only missed qualifying for the Rec A group by a few points, was 3rd after the round robin, and Fred Smith finished in 4th for the last playoff spot. But just like Randy Harris, Fred Smith rode the 4 seed all the way to the top spot as he won the playoffs, followed by John Wither in 2nd.
The Competitive B pool was led by Rex Johnston in the afternoon with 57 points, followed by Robert Bonnett at 56 points, and the group-high of 70 20s. The Vaillancourts of Roger and Bev earned the other 2 playoff spots, while it was Clare Kuepfer unlucky for the second time in the same day, finishing 5th and one place outside of the playoffs.
There was very little separation in the playoff round robin as Bev Vaillancourt, Rex Johnston and Robert Bonnett finished in the 3-way tie. When the numbers were ultimately crunched, Rex Johnston was determined to have won the tiebreakers and finished in 1st in the Competitive B group.
In the Competitive A group, Justin Slater and Ray Beierling ran away with the round robin at 62 and 61 points through 10 games. Those shockingly high scores left a large gap and squeezed the remaining competition tighter together. While somewhat more normal circumstances would require 50+ points in 10 games to make the top 4 of a 14 player group, Jeremy Tracey advanced comfortably with 47 points. Nathan Walsh finished in 4th with 44 points and just edged out Jason Beierling at 42 points, thanks to a 4-4 tie between them in the final game of the round robin.
The semifinals were a "first to 9 points" format and set Justin Slater vs Nathan Walsh, and Ray Beierling vs Jeremy Tracey. Both Slater and Beierling needed to win the London title to stop Walsh from clinching the NCA Tour, and keep their hopes alive of winning it for themselves. Justin Slater certainly did his part, dropping Walsh in a 10-0 victory that was so quick they had several minutes to discuss and analyze their match before turning their attention to the final rounds of the other semifinal.
In that match, Ray Beierling had got out to a 7-1 lead over Tracey, before Tracey won 6 straight points, including 4 against the hammer. Tied at 7-7, a 20 miss from Beierling gave Tracey an edge, but Beierling scored a ricochet 20 to get back out in front, and held onto to that lead to win the match 9-7.
The 3rd-place game saw Tracey go the distance again. After deferring the hammer to his opponent and at-first trailing 2-0, the match was very tight, until after 7 rounds Tracey and Walsh were tied 7-7 with Tracey having the hammer in the final round. This time Tracey converted his hammer into two points and took 3rd place.
In the finals, Ray Beierling scored the first points against hammer and had a lead of 4-2, but Justin Slater scored 7 20s in the 4th round and tied the match at 4-4.
Slater trailed in the 5th round after an early 20 miss, but his long ricochet 20 attempt stopped short in front of a peg. Beierling was unable to get a clean takeout, and Slater converted his two discs on the board into a 20 and won the round for a 6-4 lead. Slater again puts lots for pressure on Beierling, scoring 7 20s in the 6th round for an 8-4 lead.
Beierling's back was against the wall and he missed his opening 20 of the 7th round. Trying to stay alive he was able to score a couple of 20s in tough spots, but could not remove the Slater discs, and each time Slater had an open board, he converted for 20 and won the match 10-4.
It's a milestone with for Justin Slater as the London title was his 20th NCA title, breaking what was a 3-way tie at 19 between Brian Cook and Ray Beierling. The next closest individuals are Fred Slater at 10 victories, Jon Conrad at 7 and Nathan Walsh at 6. Justin Slater also ties Ray Beierling in total NCA Singles victories with 16.
NCA Tour - One event to go
Justin Slater remains in the hunt for the 2017-2018 NCA title, and can claim it with a victory in St. Jacobs at the NCA Finale. Any other outcome at the final event would see Nathan Walsh clinch the Tour after having led the points race for the entire season. For Ray Beierling and Jon Conrad, it is no longer possible to win this season's title, but they will be battling for a spot on the podium, and both can climb as high as 2nd with a St. Jacobs victory.
Events Outside the NCA
April features 2 tournaments that fall outside the NCA umbrella. This first is the Schneider Haus club tournament taking place on April 7th. Team rosters have been finalized and 7 clubs will be in attendance, with 6 of them gunning to replace Varna as the champions.
In the final weekend of April, Budapest will be hosting the first ever European Open Crokinole Championship, and CrokinoleCentre will be there to catch all of the stories!
We welcome Nathan Walsh at the 1st European Open Crokinole Championships in Budapest! pic.twitter.com/XM6bIP01ro— Dániel Létay (@LetayDaniel) March 27, 2018