As the Autumnal weather sets in and the leaves begin to turn from resplendant green to warm ochre, the penultimate tournament of the season took place with a plethora of teams partaking in this popular 4 goal.
The first of the games featured Tamac and Ice Lolly’s; the former would dominate the score board in the first half, but the Ice Lolly’s kept them within touching distance on a score of 3 – 2 ½ at the tread in. However, as Tamac turned up the heat in the second half the Ice Lolly’s melted under pressure to lose 5 goals to 3 ½.
Tamac could not follow up their initial success when facing Virgo Stone on the Friday on 3 Cornered ground. It was level pegging – 3 all – at the half time whistle, but Virgo Stone put their nose in front in the third chukka (4 -3) and then followed through for a decisive victory of 6 – 4. The second game of Friday would pitch X Country Clinics against Redex; the former holding clear authority at half time leading 4 goals to 2. Redex tried to respond in the second half, but it was too little too late as they found themselves short by 2, also finishing on 6 – 4.
The debut game for Big Dog Bandits would make clear their intentions for the tournament; they got off to a spectacular start, notching up six successive goals in the first chukka, with Redex unable to retaliate. Redex did manage to steady the onslaught in the lead up to the tread in, claiming two goals and conceding two; then adding a third in the following chukka. The final chukka would see fast-paced play and a flurry of goals for either team, but ultimately the Big Dog Bandits claimed a conclusive victory of 10 goals to 5.
Tuesday 4th September would see another landslide success for the Big Dog Bandits as they dominated the play, rarely giving X Country Clinics a chance. The former had a significant advantage of 5 goals to 1 at the end of chukka two, before going in for the kill in the second half, with some quick and skilful play. The scoreboard showed 10 goals to 2 ½ at the final bell. Next to take to Roadside would be Shibumi and Red Dogs, with the former getting off to a good start to claim two goals to none in the opening chukka. Shibumi continued to have the edge over their rivals, but the Red Dogs kept them within sight to go into half time just behind on a score of 3 -2. However, Shibumi asserted their authority in the second half, continuing to ease ahead to a win of 7 goals to 2, as Red Dogs were left licking their wounds.
Virgo Stone and Ice Lolly’s seemed relatively evenly matched in the first chukka, but as Virgo Stone began to pull ahead in the second. However, an unfortunate accident in this chukka sadly left Lolly’s Charlie Hitchman unable to continue and with the need for a precautionary ambulance the Ice Lolly’s had to opt to forfeit the game. In the second match, Shibumi claimed another scalp in the form of Tomlinson Equine. They eased ahead in the first half for a score of 3 goals to 1 by half time and then continued their dominance, never allowing Tomlinson Equine to take the reins. The final score being 6 goals to 3 in favour of Shibumi.
A close game between Tomlinson Equine and Red Dogs would follow on Thursday 6th, with the result seemingly unpredictable throughout. Tomlinson Equine got proceedings underway to claim the opening two goals in the first chukka, but Red Dogs defended well in the second and were only just denied their chances at goal for a half time of score of 2 – 1/2 . They would eventually convert their efforts to two goals of their own as Tomlinson Equine added a third, before a close finish with Red Dogs winning by a whisker of 4 ½ – 4.
X Country Clinics and Ice Lolly’s were first up to play on Friday 7th; the former dominating throughout. It was 3-1 in the favour of X Country Clinics at half time and they continued their assault on the Ice Lolly’s goal with surgical precision to ensure a successful operation and a final score of 6 -2. There was very little to split Shibumi and Virgo Stone in a hot contest on the Swinhay No.1 ground. Shibumi would just have the upper hand at the end of the opening chukka, but their opponents turned the tables by the tread in to lead 5 – 4. It was all to play for going in to the fourth as both teams lay claim to 6 goals; however, despite a valiant effort from Shibumi, Virgo Stone would claim victory by 9 goals to 8. Tamac seemed to keep the leash on the Big Dog Bandits in the first chukka, only allowing them a two-goal lead; but, the second chukka saw them escape the defensive efforts of Tamac to score end-to-end goals in ferocious style to lead 5 – 2. It was all Tamac could do to fend off the attack, claiming two goals, matched by Big Dog Bandits adding the same to their tally. As the game drew to a close the score board showed 7 goals to 4 in favour of the Big Dog Bandits.
Having battled their way to a position in the finals the Big Dog Bandits and Virgo Stone took to Swinhay No. 1 Ground in the hunt for victory; spectated by a large and enthusiastic crowd attending the annual Hospitality Action Polo Day. It would be a fierce and fast-paced contest, neither team going down without a fight and treating the crowd to some excellent play. A 60-yard penalty in favour of Virgo Stone allowed Mikey Howe to start proceedings in front; but following a wide penalty the Big Dog Bandits quickly levelled courtesy of Ed Walker. They continued their persistent assault, but were denied another goal, Ben Wilson preventing them from scoring by a hair’s breadth. Mikey Howe then stole the ball to neatly chip it through, just inside the far post. The Big Dog Bandits kept the pressure up, with Olivia Lamphee being very efficient at keeping Ben Wilson out of the game, but yet again Mikey Howe added to Virgo Stone’s tally. Luke Wiles capitalised on a penalty to keep the Big Dog Bandits in touch, but the ever-tenacious Howe would take the ball from the throw in to goal for Virgo Stone to finish the first half with a comfortable lead of 4 -2. Big Dog Bandits started the second half with fierce intent, making valuable use of a penalty from half way allowing Wiles to score and edge closer to Virgo Stone, before levelling – 4 all- at the close of the third chukka. It was all to play for going into the final chukka, but Big Dog Bandits would dominate this dog fight. Wiles claimed another goal, followed by a superb team goal – a back hand from Lamphee to Walker, who then set it up for Wiles to finish. Mikey Howe tried to keep Virgo Stone in contention, but despite adding a fifth to their tally another penalty successfully utilised by Wiles would seal their defeat and see Big Dog Bandits emerge the victors 7 – 5 on the Whatley Manor Scoreboard.
The Big Dog Bandits were presented with the Solitaire Salver by Nick Matthews, in the marquee and both teams received prizes kindly provide by Husk.
The subsidiary final consisted of a round-robin of three games between X Country Clinics, Red Dogs and Redex – each match consisting of two chukkas. X Country Clinics and Red Dogs started proceedings, the latter dominating throughout to win 4 -1 and the former going on to play Redex. Redex shadowed X Country Clinics throughout and despite playing with verve and enthusiasm – including a stylish tumble from Greg Dudd in front of the marquee, much to the amusement of onlookers – they would concede defeat. Spectators were then seeing red as Redex took on the Red Dogs for the concluding round to decide the final placings. Despite claiming the opening goal in a close contest, Redex would once again fall short of winning – the final score 2 -1 in favour of Red Dogs.
The final placings were as follows; third went to Red Dogs, fourth place to X Country Clinics and fifth place to Redex. Prizes were generously provided by Husk and presented by Ali Foster in front of the Club House.
Photo Courtesy of Fiona Laycock