Ireland snatched a victory with a narrow 15-14 win over Scotland in the final of the annual Arena Nations Cup, the highlight of the arena polo season, last weekend.
Sunday saw fast and furious matches at the Royal Berkshire Polo Club, with the morning’s subsidiary and third place finals setting the scene for the grand finals in the afternoon.
Six teams entered the 2004 Arena Nations Cup, in association with the Hurlingham Polo Association. These included last year’s winners Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, Argentina, England and a team representing the rest of the world.
Teams were divided into two leagues of three. Ireland and Scotland were first in their leagues to go head to head in the grand final. The Rest of the World and Argentina came second in the leagues and met each other in the subsidiary final, while England met Sweden in the third place finals.
Sweden pipped England to the post, beating them 18-17. The subsidiary final proved an even closer match with Argentina losing out to the Rest of the World, thanks to Chris Hyde, who scored the all important final goal in the extra fifth chukka to take the score to 22-21.
The atmosphere was tense by the time the grand finals began. In spite of losing team member Michael Amoore, who was knocked unconscious when his pony was knocked down, Paul Sweeney captained Ireland to a nail-biting finish and a glorious victory in a hotly fought match.
Michael was replaced by Argentinian player Hugo Amaya, and Ireland waited until the last chukka before going into the lead, seconds before the end of the match. They held Scotland by some miraculous defensive work, the technique of which is known only to the Irish. The final result was 15-14.
Paul Sweeney was overjoyed by the result. He told HHO: “It was such a close game. It was as tough a game as I have ever played and I am delighted that we came out the winners.”
Scotland (Blue): 1, Simon Holley (1); 2, Simon McDonald (4); bk, Jonny Good (7).
Ireland (Green): 1, Paul Sweeney (2); 2, Michael Amoore (5) / Hugo Amaya (5); bk, James Lucas (5).