The 2017 UKPA National Championships, held at Onley Grounds Equestrian centre, was basked in glorious sunshine across the three days of play and there was some great polocrosse on display across all the grades.
The event saw Highlanders claim the A grade title for the second time in two years, while Celyn took home the trophy for the most successful club, after two years of finishing as runners up to Kent Target.
Highlanders claimed back to back A grade titles with victories against all their opponents over the weekend. Highlanders haven’t really played many tournaments all season, with a number of players being either unavailable to play or being overseas for most of the season, but they pulled together six strong players for the Nationals, including the South African duo of Travis Timm and Retief Steenkamp. They combined with Charlotte Pykett, Max Pedley, Joel Sics and Annie Mitchell to produce some brilliant polocrosse, though their last match against Kent on the Sunday will probably be more remembered for the number of fouls committed. The umpires were kept pretty busy throughout but Highlanders always looked the likely winners and as the game started to slip away from Kent they started to commit more and more fouls out of frustration, particularly in the case of their Australian number 1 Zac O’Leary. Kent actually ended up in third spot, as they had also lost to Cotswold on Saturday by 1 goal, meaning Cotswolds claimed second spot in the A grade.
In the B grade Cotswold claimed the win with a ruthless display against a below par Rugby team in the final. Both teams had won their pools well, with Cotswold overcoming Arden and Celyn and Rugby knocking out a Kent team that many thought would make the final. However, in the final nothing went right for Rugby, they didn’t seem to be able to win much ball and when they did they couldn’t seem to find a way to the goal posts. Cotswold put them to the sword with some beautiful polocrosse and deservedly lifted the B grade trophy and all three of the best number positions, with their young number 1 Hugh Ralli showing everyone just why he is considered one of the most promising young talents in UK polocrosse at just 15 years old.
In the Upper C grade, Kent got one of their two wins at the event. They actually had two teams in the grade who had played each other on the Saturday in a hard fought match. The winning team from that match went on to play Cotswold in the final. Cotswold fought hard but couldn’t match Kent, who definitely benefited greatly from the presence of Penny Webb and her experience in one of the number 1 spots.
In the Lower C it was a win for Celyn, one of three grades they won, with the 3 Counties in second spot , while in the D grade Rugby got the win with a combined Kent and Arden team in second spot.
In the E grade it was a win for the Eastern Pennine team, a great result for a relatively new club that has been training hard all year. Rugby picked up second spot with some of their new players showing that they are learning fast.
In the Junior grades there was some good success for Celyn as they picked up the Open Juniors and the Primary Juniors, while Kent won the Intermediate Juniors. Arden’s quite young junior team picked up second spot in the Open Juniors, with Cotswold second in the Intermediate Juniors and Northern Lions second in the Primary Juniors.
These strong results in the Junior grades and a number of placings elsewhere helped Celyn lift the overall club trophy for the second time, much to the delight of their members and fans. It was also the first time Kent have lost the trophy since 2013, when Celyn won it in its inaugural year (it has only been in existence for four years). It is ultimately a trophy that only a handful of large clubs can win; losing it will undoubtedly smart for Kent Target, who probably had their weakest Nationals in a number of years. Kent will undoubtedly look to regroup and rebuild for 2018, when they will surely like back both this trophy and the A grade crown which they held for so many years before 2016.
For the full results of the competition and all the Best Numbers and Best Horses click here