Midland Camp, tournament and the UK vs Zambia Under 16 and Under 21 test matches took place on the 4th to the 9th of August at Arden’s Henley in Arden grounds. First came Midland camp, where about 70 polocrosse players from around the country attended for three days of tuition, alongside the UK and Zambia squads preparing for their test matches. Then the test matches and the tournament followed on Friday to Sunday. The UK and Zambia teams both played each other twice over the event, with the first test match for each team taking place on Friday evening. Then the Under 21’s played again on Saturday and the Under 16’s again on Sunday. This was done to allow all other play to stop so that everyone could watch the test matches, as with nearly 200 players at Midland tournament it was a busy two days of play across four pitches.
The weather was really too kind, with the sun shining brightly throughout and temperatures being high, causing horses and riders to grow hot and tired quickly, particularly on the Saturday. In the two test matches series the honours ended even, with one series each, but only after some very exciting games, of which two went to golden goal.
The Zambia’s took the Under 16 test match series; they won the first test reasonably comfortably but the UK kept it much closer in the second test on Sunday and forced it all the way to golden goal. However, Ellen Van de Heide won the ball in the golden goal chukka and she duly went and slotted it between the posts, as she had done all weekend, for both the Under 16’s and the Under 21’s as she was in both teams for Zambia. The UK will be disappointed they didn’t manage to grab at least one test but the Zambians overall were just a bit stronger, particularly through their boys, with players like Pieter du Toil and Hessel Elsinger looking particularly impressive. The UK were slightly unlucky on Friday when they lost their best ladies number 1, Annabel Mahoney, for most of the match when she fell in the first chukka. She came back on it the last chukka but didn’t play as well as she did on the Sunday, when her and Matilda Marsh linked up really well to keep the UK in it throughout. The UK Under 16 team featured a number of the players who played for their Nations at the recent Pony Club Polocrosse Home Nations, with players from the Welsh, Scottish and English teams all lining up alongside each other to represent the UK as a whole.
In the Under 21’s the UK looked the better team, particularly through the ladies, and on the Friday evening they led by 4 goals going into the last chukka. However, the Zambia men had a strong last chukka, and the UK men missed a couple of chances, to mean that at the end of normal time it was dead even at 13 goals all. Zambian’s Ellen van de Heide grabbed ball, just like she would a day later for the Under 16’s, and went and scored the winning goal, much to the Zambians delight. However, on Saturday it was very different story, the UK came out far stronger and right from the start outscored the Zambians in both the ladies and the men’s section. By the time the last chukka came they were already 10 goals clear and this time there was to be no Zambia comeback. .
In the Midland tournament there were 9 grades of play to get through and all of them were hotly contested, with a number of them being decided on goal difference. The A grade was one such example of this as no team managed to win all their matches. However, in what might be an indication of the National Championships results later this month, it was the Highlanders who won the day, as overall they outscored everyone else in the division to win the grade on goals difference. Cotswold were in second place, though there was no Kent team in the division at this tournament so that could well have an effect at Nationals.
There was two Kent teams in the B grade and they duly won it with their stronger team, which only just missed the A grade cut off on grading points as they didn’t have Jason Webb or Emily Gilfillan (Emily was in the Under 21’s test matches (editor’s note: Jason wasn’t)) this weekend. Cotswold again ended up in second place.
In the Upper C grade it was the Welsh Dragons who won the final against Arden. Arden fought hard but right from the start the Welsh Dragons outscored them and gradually built themselves a good lead to win it. The Welsh Dragons also won the lower C as they won the round robin competition and pushed Northern Lions into second spot.
In the D grade, which was played two pools and then a final, it was a victory for a Cotswold section as they overcame all the other sections in their pool and then won the final against Celyn. The E grade, which was a round robin, saw a win for Limemere Sparks but again only on goal difference. A mixed team of players, named the Badgers (editor’s note: for reasons which are only clear to the people who did the order of play. They were probably suffering from lack of sleep at the time they started naming the mixed teams) came second.
In the Junior grades, which were sponsored by Polocrosse Extreme, there was a win for Ledbury in the Open Juniors and Rockwood in the Intermediate Juniors, with Arden picking up both second places. Then in the Primary juniors it was a mixed team appropriately called Little Mix who won the day and also cleared up the best numbers, with Eve Thomason getting best number 1, Alice Power getting best number 2 and Tegan Bristow getting best number 3.
There were also a number of prizes given out for Midland Camp, sponsored by Mercia Scientific, which saw players receive top class coaching for three days from a number of the UK top coaches. Alongside this the players also received talks and sessions on equine physio, equine nutrition, saddle fitting and sports psychology, thanks to Combined Physio, Jo Davies Sports Psychology, The National Saddle Centre and Saracen Horse feeds . The best newcomer prize at camp was awarded to Alicia Easdon, best overseas player went to Cecilia Forsman of Finland and most improved went to Leyla Franzen.
|Division||1st||2nd||Best Number 1||Best Number 2||Best Number 3||Best Horse|
|A Grade||Highlanders||Cotswold||Joel Sics (Highlanders)||James Allen (Cotswold)||Debbie Harris (Welsh Dragons)||Lola – Rachel Duhig (Cotswold)|
|B Grade||Kent Target||Cotswold||Sam Marsh (Kent Target)||Jana Dillon (Kent Target)||Will Halcrow (Kent Target)||Geoff – Seymour Smith (Arden)|
|Upper C Grade||Welsh Dragons||Arden||Kim Stevens (Ledbury)||Gareth Williams (Welsh Dragons)||Matt Hale (Ledbury)||Roe – Alasdair Broadbent (Celyn)|
|Lower C Grade||Welsh Dragons||Northern Lions||Hamish Gillanders (Northern Lions)||Sophia Harpin (Welsh Dragons)||Erin Tufnell (Welsh Dragons)|
|D Grade||Cotswold||Celyn||Dom White (Cotswold)||Lynette Evora (Cotswold)||Heather Kelly (Cotswold)||Fozzy -Danny Woodward (Celyn)|
|E Grade||Limemere Sparks||Badgers||Sarah Grundy (Ledbury)||Alex Scott (Limemere Sparks)||Will Golding (Limemere Sparks)||Kate McKee’s Horse (Celyn)|
|Open Juniors||Ledbury||Arden||Josh Smith (Ledbury)||Emma Joslin (Arden)||Emily Goding (Celyn)||Joey – Josh Smith (Ledbury)|
|Intermediate Juniors||Rockwood||Arden||Boy Wilson Fitzgerald (Arden)||Harriet Midgeley||Kita Willcocks (Welsh Dragons)||Mel – Jack Rees Elford (Welsh Dragons)|
|Primary Juniors||Little Mix||Rockwood||Eve Thomason (Rockwood)||Alice Power (Kent Target)||Tegan Bristow (Rugby)||Alice – Hippolyte Ghesquiene (France)|