Martin Eggleton and Andy Limbrick
Matt Buesnel Mark Nicol Matt Pinel
The Top Team
The Jersey Pétanque Association is proud to host the most prestigious pétanque event ever held in the Channel Islands. The cream of British pétanque players from England, Scotland and Wales will be joining their counterparts from Jersey in a four-way tournament over two days on the weekend of August 4th/5th. England has won the competition every year since its inception in the year 2000 but this is the first time they've defended their title in Jersey.
Hosting the Home Nations tournament in August is the biggest event in the 30-plus year history of playing pétanque in Jersey. It’s a huge financial and organisational undertaking for the Jersey Pétanque Association mindful of the need to showcase the Island as a top-flight sporting destination. Around a hundred people will be visiting the island staying at four local hotels.
To accommodate all those attending the event, extra stands will be in place and a marquee will be erected to provide extra space. Competitors will be given lunches with a unique Jersey flavour. On the menu will be Jersey Bean Crock, Jersey Royals and Jersey Wonders, all served between 12.30-2pm on both days. There will be a licensed bar offering refreshments to all-comers and there will be a special scoring cabin in place to enable journalists to update the progress of the event.
Each of the three visiting nations will be bringing 24 players plus reserves, supporters and administrators to Jersey for the competition on the terrains of Jersey Pétanque Club at Les Quennevais. They’ll take part in a series of triples matches (three players on each team). Spectators will also be welcome and they won’t be charged to attend
It’s the third year Jersey has been invited to take part in the competition. Island players made their mark in Scotland in 2016 tying for third place with Wales behind Scotland and England. Last year at Hayling Island in Hampshire the Jersey squad came second to England. With home advantage and the fact that there’ll be a bigger pool of players to select from (some of the senior players weren’t able to travel to England last summer) Jersey will never have a better chance to end England’s dominance.
However JPA chairman Andy Limbrick knows it’s going to be a tall order. “Much of the credit for our success last year must go to our new approach to tackling major competitions with a more professional selection process and a rigorous training programme for the players chosen to compete at the top level,” he said.
“However what Team Jersey had going for them last year in England were camaraderie and a spirit of mutual support that was the envy of the other nations. But we’re only too well aware how strong the English team will be – they’re not going to give up their 17-year winning streak easily. And Scotland and Wales will be thirsting for revenge after we finished ahead of them last year.”
The best performing Jersey trio both in England and in Scotland the previous year were Andrew Bellamy-Burt, Alan Oliveria and Callum Stewart. Last year they won nine out of their twelve games. Their defeats all came against English threesomes. Andrew said: “We had some really close games against the English teams and it was really frustrating to lose out each time, but playing on our home terrain may just give us an edge.”
Each day’s play will begin at 9am and is expected to continue until well into the evening. It’s difficult at this stage to estimate when the final result will be known on the Sunday evening. The prize-giving ceremony will take place immediately afterwards.
Results of the Home Nations 2018
Jersey came so close but in the end it wasn’t quite enough to end the England winning streak since the inauguration of the Home Nations pétanque competition in the year 2000. The lead had swapped hands several times over the course of the event, but the tenth round of the 12 being played seemed to be crucial. Jersey beat Wales 6-2 while England, for the first and only time, lost a round – 3-5 to Scotland. But in round eleven the tables were turned, Jersey could only manage a 4-4 draw against Scotland and England whitewashed Wales 8-0.
That gave England a 3 point lead and meant Jersey had to win the final round against England 6-2 to end their domination of the event. That was always a tall order, especially considering in the three previous rounds against England, Jersey had lost them all 3-5. Things really looked stacked against them when our Number 1 trio, Mark Nicol, Matt Pinel and Matt Buesnel got thumped 4-13 by the English Number 2 threesome – that after the Jersey boys had won all eleven of their previous games. But even then the rest of the home squad pulled out all the stops and managed to achieve a very creditable 4-4 draw.
It meant Jersey finished three points behind England. England topped the table with 64 points. Jersey were second on 61 with Scotland third on 42 points and Wales fourth with 25. It wasn’t enough but it was nevertheless a hug e achievement. JPA chairman Andy Limbrick praised his team for their heroic effort: “Every member of the team has played above the level that was expected of them. If some of those 13-12 games had gone the other way the result might have been different. Now we look forward to going one better in Wales next year.”
The result of the competition underlines the strides Jersey’s pétanque players have made since they first took part in the event three years ago. In 2016 they finished in third equal place with Wales on points (though fourth on countback of the cumulative scores in each individual game. Last year in Scotland they were second to England but by a margin of sixteen points, compared to the three point gap this weekend.
For the first time in the competition and as far as pétanque in Jersey is concerned some of the games were streamed live via a video link to the Jersey Pétanque Association’s Facebook page and on the Saturday alone reached 22,000 viewers – thanks to Sure who provided the facility and Tom Le Sueur for setting up the link. When all the posts on the Facebook page were taken into consideration there was an amazing total of more than 32,000 views. Add that to the four pages of coverage in the JEP in the Saturday and Monday papers and as Steve Foster put it: “We’ve really put Jersey pétanque on the map.”
It was the first year the competition had been held in Jersey and the other teams were unstinting in their praise for way the event had been staged at the home of the Jersey Petanque Club at Les Quennevais. The head of the Scottish team, Colin Stewart, said the organisation had been impeccable. “It was probably the best managed Home Nations we’ve seen since the competition began. Everything ran like clockwork.”
The only flaw was that the trophy that should have been presented to the winners never reached the island. It had been entrusted to a courier firm to deliver and was supposed to have arrived on August 1st. Instead the head of the English delegation, Martin Eggleton, had to make do with cochonnet (the jack used by petanque players as a target ball) engraved with the JPA logo. “It’s been a fantastic weekend,” he said. “The facilities have been brilliant and the competition was excellent. It’s been very tight from start to finish.”
Presentations were also made to the each nation’s top team. In Jersey’s case it was the trio of Matt Pinel, Mark Nicol and Matt Buesnel. They won eleven of the twelve games they played at the weekend making them the top team of the tournament. Their one defeat was in the last round of the competition, but Mark Nicol said they weren’t disappointed to have missed out on the full house. “We’re really chuffed with the way we’ve played. It’s the best the three of us have really clicked together and it’s been a great preparation for the world championships in Canada next month.” The other three nations best teams “only” managed ten wins, an achievement matched by another Jersey trio – Steve Leatham, Alan Lahiffe and Mat Scholefield.