A valiant performance by England wasn’t enough to stop a well-oiled South America team lifting the Olympic trophy on Friday (5 June), in the first international match to be held at the annual Polo in the Park event.
The visiting side of Isidro Strada, Guillermo Terrera and Rodrigo Rueda ran out the winners 6-4, over an England team playing at Hurlingham Park in Fulham for the first time since 1939. The English team comprised of Matt Perry, Tom Morley and captain James Beim.
But the England defeat was not for lack of trying — the three England squad members worked well as a trio, adapting to the event’s various rule differences with apparent ease. These included a smaller field — with spectators just inches from the boards — and Polo in the Park’s unique “Perfect Start”, in which matches begin with a member of each team galloping from their respective goalposts in an attempt to reach the ball first.
Unfortunately for England and the expectant crowds, Matt Perry’s opening dash didn’t quite come off, giving South America possession straight away, and an almost immediate goal from the stick of Roderigo Rueda. Matt redeemed himself with a swift equaliser, before a penalty in South America’s favour gave them the upper hand once more.
This proved to be one of the few penalty shots to find the posts throughout the match. The larger, lighter ball used was susceptible to the smallest breath of wind, proving frustrating for both sides as well-taken penalties drifted wide.
With the score level at 4-4 as the fourth and final chukka got underway, eight-goaler Guillermo Terrara was quick to establish a winning margin. A shot from outside the 45-yard circle earned South America a double goal, for a final score of 6-4.
“South America did have the highest handicapped player on the field [Guillermo Terrera], which made a difference,” said England’s Tom Morley. “They kept the play pretty closed, rather than opening it up as we would have liked, and the double-pointer really made a difference to the result.”