After 6 years of A grade titles, Kent Target’s unbeaten run came to an end as they were convincingly beaten by Highlanders in the A grade final at the UK Polocrosse National Championships, which took place at Onley Grounds from the 26th to the 28th of August. Kent did retain the National Championships overall trophy for the most successful club across all grades, as they still retained their Upper C grade and Open Junior titles and again finished second in the B grade, but the loss of the A grade and the manner of the defeat will smart for a club who have dominated for so long.
The weekend overall was slightly disrupted, as very heavy rain hit the venue on Saturday afternoon and forced the cancellation of play, meaning that a lot of games had to be rescheduled for Sunday, leading to a rather long day of play. However, it didn’t dampen the spirits of the 210 players too much and there was some fiercely competitive play at all levels.
In the Dengie A grade, Kent were probably always slightly the under dogs but still there was a slight expectation that if any club could produce something special when it was most needed it would be Kent. However, the omens were not good before the final, Kent struggled to beat Cotswold in their match, winning by just one goal. Though Highlanders themselves also struggled to get a win against Cotswold, winning by a few goals and it might have been closer if Rachel Duhig hadn’t had to be substituted half way through the match after suffering a very bad fall.
Highlanders had already had to make a substitution of their own before the tournament even started, after Layla Henshaw’s horse was vetted out before their opening match. However, the Highlanders Captain Charlotte Pykett filled the gap by doubling up on her horses Colleen and Bolt and she shone throughout the weekend as she lead her team to victory. Though in the final Charlotte had to overcome her own injury scare as she fell at the start of chukka 2 and her left hand was stood on by another horse, leaving it cut and bruised. She was taken away by the paramedics but returned after a short break with her hand heavily bandaged and proceeded to play out the rest of the match as if nothing had happened.
Right from the start Highlanders had the edge and Kent seemed to not have the answers. Max Pedley snapped three balls off the front against Jarrod Richardson in the first chukka and supported by Annie Mitchell at 2 and Charlotte at 3, aboard Colleen, he tore through the Kent defence to give them an early lead. It was this first section that damaged Kent the most, the second section Jason Webb, Sam Marsh and Will Halcrow just about managed to stay even with Alex Richardson, Charlotte Pykett (on Bolt) and Travis Timm but they could not start to pull back the gap that was being created by Max, Annie and Charlotte. By the start of the sixth chukka Kent were 8 goals down. Kent grabbed a couple of early goals in the sixth to give their fans hope that maybe they could pull off the required miracle but then Highlanders won ball and saw out the game reasonably comfortably with a couple more goals.
For Highlanders the result was richly deserved and redemption after their narrow defeat in last year’s final. The manner of their victory and the strength of their team, in particular Charlotte as their captain (who won the best lady player in the A grade), was impressive. Travis Timm picked up best male player for the weekend, though in the final he was outshone by Max Pedley, who showed just why he became the youngest ever UK player to go to a World Cup last year. Colleen won best horse after an impressive display throughout the weekend.
In the ProDec B grade it was a win for Three Counties as they dropped from A grade for the weekend and slotted in just below the B grade grading boundary. They won their pool, though had two tough matches against Cotswold and Arden and then won the final against Kent. As in the A grade final Kent fell behind from the start and never really looked like pulling it back against a Three Counties team that included three World Cup players in their captain Debbie Harris, Kerry Bean and Dara Mangan.
Kent had only actually won their B grade pool due to the withdrawal of Rugby, who were on course to make the final until player and horse injuries bought their tournament to an early end. This withdrawal was a shame as Rugby were a stronger team and were looking on very good form. If Rugby had made the final it would have been a very close match between them and Three Counties. As it was Three Counties got a relatively easy win, with Debbie Harris winning best lady player and Will Hunt of Three Counties winning best male. Kent picked up best horse as Tom Mitchell’s Nimbus swept to victory.
The Polocrosse Extreme C grade was split into Upper and Lower C and in the Upper C Kent got a win as they overcame the Northern Lions to retain the title they won last year. Matilda Marsh and George Parrish of Kent also won best male and best lady player as they delivered strong performances throughout the weekend. Kent also won best horse as Sharon Kennedy’s Alfie picked up the best horse rug.
In the Lower C grade it was a win for the other big club in the UK, Celyn as they overcame a combined Three Counties and Northern Lions team. This was an almost exact reverse of the 2015 result, which saw Northern Lions win and Celyn in second spot. Celyn also scooped the best player prizes with Danny Woodward winning best male and Alexa Holland won best lady player.
In the Sewprint Workwear D grade it was another win for the D grade specialists Rugby, as they overcame Celyn by a good margin in the final after each had won their respective pools. Lily Dewhurst of Celyn won best lady player while Nick Johnson of Rugby won best male. Q, owned by Susan Hendy of Chiltern, won best horse.
In the Onley Equine Vets E grade it was a win for Cotswold despite losing one match. They overcame Arden on goal difference, after Arden beat everyone except Cotswold themselves. Jess Joslin of Arden won best lady and Barney Rudge of Cotswold won best male. Mooch, ridden by Ciaran Heagney of Celyn, won best horse.
In the JB Horsewear Open Junior grade Kent retained their title as they defeated all the other teams in the grade. Celyn grabbed second spot in an exact repeat of last year’s result. Bella Kish and Ronnie Smith of Kent won best lady and best male while Celyn’s Emily Goding picked up best horse for Famoso.
In the Worshipful Company of Saddlers Novice Juniors there was a win for a combined Northern Lions and Arden section with a mixed team of Celyn, Cotswold and Chiltern players in second spot and a Kent Target section in third place. Libby Chrisp and John Ferguson of Northern Lions won best lady and best male player. Manyeka, ridden by Alice Power of Kent, won best horse.
In the Worshipful Company of Saddlers Primary Juniors it was a win for Arden as they overcame Northern Lions, who were in second, by one goal in their match. Celyn took third spot and a mixed team of Arden, Celyn and Eastern Pennine players were in fourth. Xanthe Goodman of Arden won best lady player, in her first season of playing, while Will Holland of Northern Lions won best male. Maisie, ridden by Harry Thomason of Celyn won best pony.
|Sponsor||Result||Best Woman||Best Man||\r\n
|Primary Juniors||Worshipful Guild of Saddlers||4th Mix 3rd Celyn 2nd N Lions 1st Arden||Xanthe Goodman||Will Holland||Maisie (Harry Thomason)|
|Novice Juniors||Worshipful Guild of Saddlers||3rd Kent 2nd Allsorts 1rd N Lions/Arden||Libby Chrisp||John Ferguson||Manyeka (Alice Power)|
|Open Juniors||JB Horsewear||2nd Celyn 1st Kent||Bella Kish||Ronnie Smith||Famoso (Emily Goding|
|E||Onley Equine Vets||2nd Arden 1st Cotswold||Jess Joslin||Barney Rudge||Mooch (Ciaran Heagney)|
|D||Sewprint Workwear||2nd Celyn 1st Rugby||Lily Dewhurst||Nick Johnson||Q (Susan Hendy)|
|Lower C||Polocrosse Extreme||2nd 3C/N Lions 1st Celyn||Alexa Holland||Danny Woodward|
|Upper C||Polocrosse Extreme||2nd N Lions 1st Kent||Matilda Marsh||George Parrish||Alfie (Sharon Kennedy)|
|B||ProDec||2nd Kent 1st 3 Counties||Debbie Harris||Will Hunt||Nimbus (Tom Mitchell)|
|A||Dengie||2nd Kent 1st Highlanders||Charlotte Pykett||Travis Timm||Colleen (Charlotte Pykett)|