Okay so we completely failed to deliver up to date scores, match reports or breaking news during the competition, mainly because our entire editorial team was either helping run the event or because they were slightly drunk (editor’s note: mainly the former but definitely the latter on the final night!). It will be a very different story for South Africa 2015 where we intend to just go and report live from the pitchside for each match, we might even do some online streaming.
The World Cup’s website has got all the results and final placings and so the next best thing we thought we could do is write a review of the event, the matches, the teams, the horses and anything else we could think of! So here goes:
No one would pretend it was perfect but no one expected it to be. What with the venue change four months before the event, the lack of money, the problems with horse supply and the changes in the management team most people just seemed very pleased that the World Cup was actually running. And in fact it ran pretty well!
There were problems here and there, the reserve horse pool was not as numerous as some people would have liked, someone forgot the match balls for the opening game, the PA system had a few issues at points, a lack of volunteers on the ground meant that they all had to work doubly hard and often things were sorted at the last minute but the playing pitches and the viewing bank looked stunning, the horse pool overall was far stronger than most people expected and all the volunteers worked incredibly hard to sort out any problems which occurred and what problems occurred didn’t normally affect the viewing public too much and so from an outwards perspective it actually seemed to run quite smoothly and the vast majority of people went away very happy and entertained.
The idea of having people camping on site and having the big final night party on site worked very well and really added to the atmosphere of the event and the final night party was truly amazing. However it did mean that the organisers had even more to deal with and stretched the resources still further. The integration of the Pony club competition and the International Challenge also really added to the competition and it was great to see the future of polocrosse competing alongside those at the very top and hopefully very inspiring for them.
The organisers also had more other things on site than at the last world cup, there was hospitality lunches in the main marquee, there were more displays and demos from other equestrian disciplines and more trade stands and these were well received through both of the weekends. This was necessary though as in a country were polocrosse is not as well known and popular as in Australia the organisers were always going to have to lay on more to justify the ticket prices and entice people in.
Overall the event was very successful. Whether it manages to financially break even will be seen when the UKPA makes the accounts public later this year but in terms of delivering a polocrosse world cup and pushing the sport forwards in both the UK and Europe the UKPA has definitely done a good job and now will aim to build on this, regardless of the financial outcome.
Frankly the polocrosse was amazing. Three games went to golden goal, one more was won by a single goal and one more was won by just 2 goals. The results have never been so close or unpredictable in any previous world cup. The hosts lost on the opening day, the defending world champions Australia were beaten twice and then thrashed the next two teams to face them. South Africa won the World Cup for the first time, it was the first time any African team had made it to the final (and in fact two African teams made it to the final), the pitches were baked hard one day and mud baths the next day and Australia even throw an over arm goal! Basically you named it and it happened! If you didn’t go and watch then buy the DVD because it was brilliant and well worth watching over and over again! If we were marking it out of 10 we would give it 11, possibly 12…
South Africa will be absolutely delighted to be world champions and no one could say they didn’t deserve it. Their men were unstoppable and against both Australia and Zimbabwe they were what won the day. Australian’s men barely saw the ball, Zimbabwe did a lot better but still didn’t see enough. The South African ladies came out very strong at the end of the final, just when it was most needed, and that is why the lead became 11 goals by the end. Jannie Steenkamp won so much ball at the back of the lineout for the South African men and Melody, who he played throughout, went brilliantly and deserved the overall horse prize. They kept their entire horse pool going throughout and by never having the draw a reserve horse they kept their pool very strong and also played the horses to their strengths very well.
Zimbabwe will be disappointed to have lost the final but they played amazingly throughout and no one took more snaps at the front of the line out than Andy Baker. Their ladies were brilliant and had the measure of South Africa for the first few chukkas of the final. Zimbabwe had a couple of brilliant yet quirky horses which occasionally lead to mistakes but for the most part they played very well. (Editor’s note: We are considering legal action against Zimbabwe after we discovered some Zimbabwe shirts with “It’s not a sport, it’s an obsession” written on them.)
Australia will, of course, be annoyed to slip to third in the world but what was amazing was the demolitions they produced of New Zealand and the USA after they had lost to Zimbabwe and South Africa. They truly showed how good they could be when they were at their best, however on those days the African countries were definitely better and wholeheartedly deserved their wins. In the end it all came down to possession, South Africa and Zimbabwe won more and therefore won the match. Australia definitely rode the horses as well as anyone and a few owners are probably going back with horses going better than when they went in the pool!
The USA exceeded all expectations. They caught the UK napping on the first day but they managed to also beat Ireland on golden goal to get through to the semi finals. Then admittedly Zimbabwe and Australia did show them that they will have to step up yet another gear if they want to make the top 3 in the world but to finish 4th will probably have been as much as they could dare hope for at the start of the competition. They played some great polocrosse throughout the entire competition and in patches were as good as anyone. Seth Alcott for the men and Rachael Gayler and Dori Johnson for the ladies were the stand out players for the USA and it was very clear that all the work they had put in from the last World Cup has paid dividends and it is encouraging for the future that it was their younger players who shined brightest.
New Zealand will have hated to finish fifth, they are an old and proud polocrosse nation but they had the tougher of the two groups which was always going to make life hard and they had a key horse in Sox vetted out before the crunch Australia match. He returned for the Ireland and UK matches which they duly won and though one horse would not have saved them from the hiding Australia gave them it could have made it more respectable. On day one they fought out an energy sapping match with Zimbabwe which perhaps wasn’t the nicest start and that didn’t do them any favours either. What will be interesting to see is if in 2015 their younger players have come on enough to replace the old guard who still carried them through this world cup. Beth Peaker looked the pick of the younger players but a lot of the time New Zealand were still incredibly grateful to the talents of Shane Hill, Dean Gower, Gary Malcolm and Sue Gower.
If New Zealand hated finishing fifth then the UK will despise finishing sixth. They were the hosts, the second seeds and ended up losing the 5th/ 6th play off on a golden goal and had the ball in their net first in the golden goal chukka. Ironically, if anyone got a weaker horse pool it was probably the hosts, they lacked a truly exceptionally horse from the start and a number of horses being vetted out throughout the competition didn’t help them either. In the New Zealand match the UK men did seem to have run out of horse power but the mud worked in their favour and stopped the New Zealanders superior horse power really showing. They can’t complain too much though, they did make life hard for themselves by losing to the USA on day 1 and then nearly lost to Ireland on day 2 as well. Then they showed against South Africa what they could really do and they should have won that match, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in the last minute. However, losing by 1 goal to the new world champions now looks a pretty good result for them and though they will be sorely disappointed to have not made the semi finals, they never looked like true world beaters and they will have to aim to be more consistent in 2015.
If one team deserved better than they got it was undoubtedly Ireland, they were was no sign of the famous luck of the Irish to be had anywhere. They lost two golden goals and actually kept the scores against New Zealand and South Africa pretty close as well. They suffered a blow when their key horse Aleisha was vetted out of their ladies pool but they did have some other pretty good horses, notably Mandy Lee in the men’s section, and overall played them very well. What ultimately let them down was little mistakes at crucial moments, they had the ball twice in the golden goal chukka against the UK and failed to score, ultimately paying the price. However, overall they are a young side, particularly in the ladies section, and they showed that they could mix it with the very best which should bode well for the future.
Zambia will have been disappointed to end their first world cup winless but they showed some very good polocrosse at points and will have been delighted to have put on some very good displays and scored a lot of goals. After the opening defeat by Australia there were no real run away matches and indeed Australia beat New Zealand by almost as much so there was no shame there for the Zambians. Given that the average age of their team was one of the youngest in the competition and that they were the youngest polocrosse nation competing they showed that there is much to look forwards to in the future from them and no doubt they will grow in strength by 2015 and no doubt make things even tougher for their fellow competitors there.
The International Challenge
France won the International challenge and were worthy winners, they showed that over the last couple of years they have really come on as a polocrosse nation. They played good, sensible polocrosse and won the ball well and passed it around well to score goals. They worked well as a team at all points and on their favoured Henson horses they showed that they could mix it with the faster thoroughbreds and were nimble enough to get out of line outs quickest and get to dropped ball first.
Germany will perhaps feel they could have won the final if they had played their best from the start as they came back strong at the end but they were not as good and consistent as the French team. They were on unfamiliar horses which did not help them but they were good horses and ultimately more mistakes cost them dearly. They were a young team though and undoubtedly will grow in strength and confidence going forwards and could well be a force to be reckoned with in the future.
Holland will have been upset to have not made the final, they lost to Germany by just one goal to let Germany get through ahead of them and definitely at points looked the stronger of the two sides. However, they couldn’t quite hold on at the end and it was Germany who went through to the final. They will perhaps have been more annoyed by the way they played against France in the group stages where they did not deliver their best form. When they did play well though they played very well, winning the ball cleanly, passing it well and being solid in defence too.
Team Europe undoubtedly improved throughout the competition. Vibeke Svendsen and Red Rooster were outstanding in one of the number 3 positions, giving every number 1 who came up against them a hard time, and Jessica Deurinck and Mathilde Bizet showed that they will definitely be two French players to watch in the future. It was hard for them coming from three different countries and having not played together much before the competition but they improved with every match and almost caused a major upset against Germany.
The International Pony Club Competition
The pony club competition was as unpredictable as it could be, everyone seemed to beat everyone else at one point or another and all four teams could have still made the final on the third day of the group matches. However, it was Great Britain and England who made the final and Great Britain won it, having lost to England in the group stages. They were the favourites going into the competition but England battled hard and pushed them all the way.
Emily Gilfillan was consistently good for Great Britain while Morgan Griffiths was probably the pick of the players for the England team but all the players showed that the future of polocrosse in the UK is in very good hands and that there are a great number of talented young players coming through the ranks.
USA finished in third place beating Northern Ireland, who had actually managed to beat the USA in the group stages. The USA had always looked threatening but never really delivered until this final match. They always looked dangerous and in players like the Balogh brothers and Evan Vallee they had some of the best stick and ball skills around but being on unfamiliar horses no doubt hindered them and a few missed chances here and there and some un necessary fouls cost them two close matches against the Northern Irish and England teams and then Great Britain always looked in control against them. However in the 3rd/4th play off the USA did show just what they were capable of and finally got the win.
Northern Ireland will be disappointed that they did not play to their very best in the 3rd/ 4th play off but they beat both the USA and England in the group stages and picked up best horse and rider combination for William Armstrong and Lucci and showed that there is some really good talent in their side which can only develop and improve over the next few years.
So there it is! The Two River Technology 2011 Polocrosse World Cup has ended.
We would like to say thank you to everyone who made it possible; the volunteers, the horse owners from the UK and Ireland who lent their horses to play, the teams for travelling from around the world, the sponsors and everyone who came from around the world to watch!
It wasn’t perfect but it was pretty amazing and the actual polocrosse was as good as anything and never before have so many matches been so close and so many upsets caused! Roll on 2015 when we can do it all again!