Friday afternoon saw the opening match of the inaugural Netjets British Polo Championship, an innovative new development in the polo calendar, which has been set up with the aim of providing an opportunity for the top English players to compete in a high-goal tournament on their home soil.
The quintessentially English Coworth Park Polo Club, and an amazing lack of rain produced a perfect setting for the tournament, as British Polo Enterprises (BPE) aim to lure Britain’s best into the fold. As one commentator explained: “you are watching the equivalent of the Beckhams and Rooneys of the polo world pit their wits against one another.”
Four teams, captained by Will Lucas, Henry Brett, Roddy Williams and Andrew Hine, who have all represented England at some time during their careers, provided merry entertainment for the crowd as they locked horns in the semi-finals of the knock-out tournament.
Teams sponsored by The Gaucho Grill (Will Lucas, Mark Tomlinson, Chris Hyde and Marcos de Paolo) and Williamson Tea (Henry Brett, Jamie Le Hardy, Simon Keyte and Malcolm Borwick) battled it out in the first match of the day for the Gaucho Grill Cup.
There was a faint air of reticence from some of the players – not altogether surprising given that we are in the middle of Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup season – and although many of the players’ best ponies were out, some of the ride-offs seemed less steelily-determined than is often the case.
Nevertheless, the two teams were well matched, and it was level-pegging throughout until the final minutes of the final chukka, when Williamson Tea sneaked into the lead and won their place in the final by 6-5.
The second match started more frantically, with a fast and furious opening chukka bearing testament to the hunger for victory amongst several of the players.
Audi (Roddy Williams, Silvestre Garros, Jack Ballieau and Nacho Gonzalez) were kept in check by Sulaman until treading-in at the halfway stage, when they started to run away with the match, impressing time and again.
Sulaman managed a final, brief comeback in the dying stages of the game, but it was their swansong, and they conceded defeat 8-3, allowing Audi to take home the Courtenay Cup.
Audi meets Williamson Tea in the final of the championships on 31 July at Coworth Park. By then, the Gold Cup will have been fought and won (or lost), and competitive spirits will be running high.
“There was some great polo on Friday and we had a great crowd”, said BPE Director Derrick Chow. “Mother nature was kind to us, and the success of the semi-finals gives us renewed enthusiasm for the concept, but I can’t wait for the finals at the end of July – they’re going to be pretty tense!” he concluded.