The fifth day of play at the 2015 Polocrosse World Cup saw the 7th/ 8th and 5th/ 6th play offs take place and so the bottom four placings of the world cup were decided. With just two matches on, the play started later in the day and, in between the two play off matches, there was a development match featuring a number of up and coming South African players and horses. A number of the horses were all progeny of the stock horse stallion Edenhope Bundy, who was also used to umpire the match. One of Bundy’s foals, a three year old filly called Flight, is the prize in a fundraising raffle for the world cup. The match was intended to show of the ability of Bundy’s foals and also the growing diversity of polocrosse players in South Africa.
The first match of the day was between Ireland and the USA as they fought it out for 7th and 8th places. Neither country would have wanted to be here when they started this campaign but now they were here both seemed very determined to at least grab seventh place. The USA lead early on as their ladies took out a 3-1 lead in the first. The USA ladies played in a different format today of Megan Waggener out the front, Dori Johnson in the middle and either Paige Vallee or Catherine Hanagan out the back, presumably in order to give their young players more experience and to try and build for the next World Cup.
The men then drew their opening chukka but the Irish ladies improved in the third chukka and leveled it up at 9 all. Then the USA stepped it up a gear and pulled out a four goal lead which their ladies then increased to six goals to lead 18-12. Neither team was foot perfect and there were missed opportunities on both side but the Irish were more inconsistent and more ball was going astray from their racquets. However, the Irish men then had a strong chukka in the sixth and pulled it back to a three goal gap to make it just 19-16. From there they might have hoped that they could close the gap completely but unfortunately they couldn’t stop the USA creeping away slightly more in the last two chukkas and in the end it was the USA who won 24-19.
Therefore, the USA officially drop to 7th in the world and Ireland to 8th. Both will feel they could have done better but both countries were inconsistent at points and they are both still really bringing on a number of young players and quite reliant on a couple of their older players at points. The Irish men today suffered without the presence of Aidan McDonagh and the USA ladies have a lot to thank Dori Johnson for, as she was very instrumental in all their matches.
In the 5th/6th play off New Zealand and Zimbabwe did battle. Again, both these teams would have liked to have made the semi finals and both definitely wanted to finish at least 5th. The Zimbabwe ladies got them off to a great start as they won the opening chukka 5 nil and then their men added a sixth at the start of the second chukka. However, then New Zealand started to pull it back in and Kyla Hill in the number 1 shirt for the ladies and Jarrod Richardson for the men started to outscore their opposite numbers. The fifth and sixth chukkas were particularly crucial. New Zealand had just got into a 13-11 lead in the fifth chukka when Suzanne Sargeant, who was playing number 3, for Zimbabwe had to be subbed off as the horse she was riding went lame. Zimbabwe quickly reshuffled to put Sonia Mansfield back to number 3 and bring in Jo Cocker at number 2 but, even though there was only a minute and half to go, New Zealand seemed to immediately take advantage of the fact Zimbabwe no longer had their star player on the field and scored two more quick goals.
Then, in the sixth chukka Jarrod Richardson was on fire, he snapped ball at the front of the line out, he dispossessed Terrance Keith twice when he had ball and turned it over and each time he got the ball he headed straight for the area to score goals from all angles. Twice he won ball in the line out and then flicked it over the top of players who were trying to push him off the field and won the race back to it. When he wasn’t winning ball Shane Hill and Regan Gloyn were winning it for him and Jarrod was catching their passes to go on to score. The end result was a chukka score line of 7-1 and a match scoreline that read 22-12. Zimbabwe tried to mount a fight back, Suzanne Sargeant returned to the field on a new horse and the final ladies chukka ended with the score at 23-15. The final chukka was fairly fast and furious and saw 8 goals scored but New Zealand’s men again got the better of it and the final score was 28-18.
Zimbabwe will be disappointed to have ended sixth, as they finished second in the last world cup but given how different their team was then and now it is not surprising they have dropped down the placings. New Zealand will perhaps feel they could have been fourth if they had had the easier pool with Australia in it, which the UK probably had, but ultimately New Zealand will probably be pleased that their young players really started to perform as the world cup progressed and with some more development then they will hope that in four years time they can break back into the top four in the world, something they now haven’t done for the last two world cups.