Team Astra took the honours in the recent inaugural Playnation Arena Polo Masters at the All England Polo Club, Hickstead..
Four teams took part in this event. The opening day of matches saw the Playnation team beat Gamestec, while Astra saw off opposition from Bell-Fruit Games.
All the players were back in action on the Sunday, with the two victorious teams from Saturday’s matches playing off for the final. The first half of the match between Astra and Playnation ended in a draw, but then Astra’s Josh Clover upped his attack in the second half to push his side narrowly ahead.
Seb Dawnay played some superb polo to keep Playnation within reach, but eventually the combined firepower of Tom Morley, Josh Clover and Simon Arber saw Astra take the title over their rivals Playnation (Sebastian Dawnay, Sarah Wiseman and John Bunn), with the final score 11-9.
In the subsidiary final, Gamestec (Tim Bown, Leon Allen and Paul Knights) won 17-14 in a narrow victory over Bell-Fruit Games (Richard Le Poer, Guy Harrison and Romilla Arber).
John Bunn, chairman of the All England Polo Club, hailed the weekend a huge success.
“Congratulations to Astra, the winners of the inaugural Playnation Arena Polo Masters at Hickstead,” said John. “Hopefully this will be the first of many more Masters Tournaments in the Hickstead arena.
“We also want to thank Playnation for their invaluable support, and for providing team shirts, bespoke numnahs, colour-coordinated horse bandages and branded jackets for the players, their partners and their grooms.”
The Masters was created as a ;snow polo-style’ tournament, with as much emphasis on the social element as the sport itself.
“We had a strict criteria where all players and partners had to stay at the luxurious five-star South Lodge Hotel, just ten minutes from Hickstead, and socialise for the duration of the tournament, which included two dinners and a post-match awards lunch. If you were not able to stay, you could not play.” said John.
Rules were based on the HPA Blue Book, so that instead of their arena polo handicaps, players were rated on their grass handicap plus 1, making it a 10-goal tournament. The main difference in the rules for the tournament was that no turning was allowed, so backhands were key, creating faster and more open play.
Plans are already underway to repeat the event next year, following the success of this year’s fixture.
The All England Polo Club has matches, tournaments and practice chukkas nearly every weekend from October to March. The Arena Polo season culminates in the International Test Match for the Bryan Morrison Trophy, which will be held this year on Saturday March 4.