BY LIZ HIGGINS
Cowdray Park Polo Club had the privilege of opening the high goal season of polo in the UK with the 22 goal Murus Sanctus Trippetts Challenge played for the James Wentworth Stanley Cup. From an entry of six teams, Jean-Francois Decaux’s La Bamba de Areco and Hugues Carmignac’s Talandracas made it to the Final which was a red-hot game of fast, attacking polo and an absolute treat for the huge early season crowd at Cowdray Park on Sunday May 20th May.
For La Bamba de Areco, Decaux took the number 1 position with South African Byron Watson (3 goals) playing at 2, David ‘Pelon’ Stirling (9 goals) at 3 and 10 goaler Juan Martin Nero at Back. The Talandracas line-up saw Hugues Carmignac at 1, Francisco Elizalde (8 goals) at 2, Alejandro Muzzio (7 goals) at 3, and Julian de Lusaretta (7 goals) at Back.
Stirling opened the scoring with a 30 yard penalty, following up with a blistering run to goal to take 2-0 La Bamba ahead. Elizalde and de Lusaretta worked hard to turn the play in favour of Talandracas, but the side failed to score in the first chukka.
At the start of chukka 2, wonderful interaction between Stirling and Nero soon saw a third goal on the board for La Bamba de Areco. De Lusaretta won the ball from the throw in but Stirling intervened, the ball went to Watson and his huge hit resulted in a super goal and 4-0 to La Bamba.
La Bamba won the throw-in but Elizalde swooped, passed to de Lusaretta and a super under-the- neck shot gave Talandracas their first goal. Nero made his first goal and the second chukka closed at 5-1 to La Bamba. A 60 yard penalty accurately taken by Elizalde pulled a goal back for Talandracas in the third chukka, but all too soon the team gave away a 30 yard penalty which Stirling slipped between the posts for 6-2. Two marvelous goals from Watson followed and the number 2 made a great pass to Stirling who scored again, taking La Bamba on to 9-2 by half time.
Following the tread-in, play was just as intense, the third chukka seeing a goal apiece from ELizalde and de Lusaretta but a 30 yard penalty given away enabled Stirling to send an easy shot through, the chukka ending at 10-4 in favour of La Bamba de Areco. Fine play by de Lusaretta resulted in two goals for Talandracas in the fifth, with Nero and Stirling each contributing to La Bamba’s continued lead of 12-6.
The final chukka opened with a swift goal again from de Lusaretta. Back and forward went the ball until Elizalde secured it for himself and sent a huge shot from way back which went soaring between the posts. Much to the crowd’s delight, the action continued until the final whistle and the applause for both sides as they left the field was heartfelt, La Bamba winning on a final score of 12-8.
Clare Milford Haven presented the James Wentworth Stanley Cup, in memory of her son, to Jean-Francois Decaux. Prizes for both teams were presented by Corinne Ricard of sponsors, Murus Sanctus. Corinne Ricard was delighted to present a Jeroboam of Perrier Jouët Champagne to Byron Watson, judged the Most Valuable Player of the match, and the Best Playing Pony award was won by Alsina, owned and ridden by Juan Martin Nero.
In the 8 goal Barrett Cup which followed, local patron Peter Barfoot’s Maiz Dulce side pipped Carlie Cadogan’s Taittinger to the post in extra time. Maiz Dulce had lead throughout the match and were on a score of 7-4 going into the fourth chukka, but a trio of goals from Will Emerson for Taittinger saw the score level at 7-7 at the close. A sudden death penalty goal from Derreck Bratley in an extra fifth chukka sealed victory for Maiz Dulce. Lady Chelsea presented the Cup.