The sun baked down on Henley in Arden on the 27th and 28th of June and under the glorious sunshine Arden A team played some glorious polocrosse to comfortably defeat the Highlanders 21 goals to 13 in the A grade final. The lead was greater going into the last chukka but the Highlanders came out fighting and Arden committed a couple of simple fouls to give away a couple of goals.

Arden looked on their very top form as they welcomed back to their side Jason Burbidge, the former UK Captain who lead the UK to second place in the 2007 World cup. He didn’t play at all in the last couple of seasons but he seemed to have lost none of his form. The star of the show for Arden was Hamish Michael, he tormented the Highlander defence and scored goals from all angles and deservedly took home Best Male Player of the tournament and Best Horse, for his mare Elsa. Arden managed a clean sweep of the prizes with Danny Duhig taking home Best Number 1, Rob Jenkinson winning Best Number 2 and Greg Sargeant taking home Best Number 3. Sophie Lodder of Arden won Best Lady player. This result meant Arden maintained their lead over Kent at the top of the league table.

In the B grade it was the Irish raiders, Carrickmines, who lifted the trophy. Two teams made it over from Ireland, one in the A grade and one in the B grade and in the B grade the Irish continued their recent habit of beating the British by defeating Pennine in the final. Two weeks ago the Irish men’s squad convincingly defeated a UK squad in Ireland and though it was a weak UK squad, (with only one player who had a previous UK cap within it), that result and their showing at Arden shows that the polocrosse in Ireland is of a very high standard and that the USA will have a hard task ahead of them if they are to defeat the Irish when they travel to the States next year.

Pennine tried their hardest, the rejuvenated Tom Wigglesworth looking on good form having just returned from a two week rodeo bull riding course in America, and they took home some best numbers with Imogen Johnson winning Best Number 1, Sarah Peaker taking Best Number 2 and Joel Sics winning Best Horse for his new horse Chispa. Unfortunately all their efforts were in vain as Carrickmines ran out winners by 7 goals.

In the C grade the entry was so big it was split into higher C and lower C (the theoretical equivalent of Cup and Plate). The entry at Arden for the whole tournament was the biggest they have ever seen with 216 players taking part across 7 grades. Both C grades were played as a round robin and in the higher C grade it was Kent Target who took the honours, defeating Solent into second place. The winning team featured Ashley Harwood, another player returning to the sport. He hasn’t played for the last five seasons but seemed to be finding his way back to his old form as he linked up well with his younger brother Oli, who won Best Number 3. Solent did get some consolation as they won both Best 1 and Best 2 for Dan Kelly and Kerry Bean.

In the lower C competition it was Celyn who topped the pile. They welcomed back Chris Illingworth to their team for the first time this season after he broke his neck out hunting over the winter. Being heavily strapped up around the neck and shoulders didn’t seem to affect him too much as Celyn beat Pennine to win the grade. However, the star for Celyn was John Marsland who won deservedly won Best Number 3.

In the D and E grade it was one of the new polocrosse clubs, Vale Impi, that took the honours. Vale Impi formed in 2008 but 2009 is their first real competitive season and so far it seems to be going very well for them. The points they gained at Arden have pushed them up to 6th place in the league and 4th place in the league according to size. In the D grade Neil Smith was outstanding for them as he won Best Number 1. The Smith family had a good weekend all round as his wife Karen won Best Number 3 in the D grade and their son Matthew won Best Number 1 in the E grade. In the E grade team yet another player made a winning return to polocrosse, as Chris Chennells, formerly of Arden, played his first tournament for a couple of years. Second place in the D grade went to Celyn and second place in the E grade went to a combined White Horse and Kent Target side.

Most of the weekend was excellent, with the weather being sunny and Arden laying on a very well run tournament with a excellent BBQ and party on the Saturday night, as everyone has come to expect of Arden. However, the one bad point of the weekend came in the Juniors division. The UK Junior squad comfortably won this but most people (including the UK Juniors) felt it was very unfair of them to be playing in it. For most of this season the UK Juniors have been playing in, and winning, the C grade as they prepare to travel to Australia in 3 weeks. Their squad manager and coach had entered them for the C grade at Arden but in order to make the draw work easily they got moved to the Juniors division. They complained, the other junior teams complained, but to no avail and so the Juniors soundly beat everyone to win the division.

Their coach, Tom Simkin, said “This does no favours for us as we are getting no competition and I certainly don’t like seeing all the club sides getting thrashed but I have told my team to go out there and win. I hope people do complain about this to the organisers because its ridiculous. The UK Juniors need to play against better players to improve and the club sides will just get upset as they are being beaten.”

There were a number of Primary Juniors playing in the Juniors at the weekend and there was a lot of concerned children and parents who really didn’t want to play against the UK Junior squad. The UK Juniors, to their credit, eased off as much as they could and made sure that they didn’t play rough at all but everyone will be very glad to see them return to the higher grades next week at the Great Northern Tournament.

White Horse picked up second place in the Juniors as they continued a good season, moving up to second place in the league according to size, narrowing the lead of Solent who did not score that many points at Arden.

Full Results

Best Male Player – Hamish Michael (Arden)
Best Female Player – Sophie Lodder (Arden)

A Grade
B Grade
Higher C Grade
Lower C Grade
D Grade
E Grade
1st Arden Carrickmines Kent Target Celyn Vale Impi Vale Impi UK Juniors
2nd Highlanders Pennine Solent Pennine Celyn White Horse/ Kent Target White Horse
Best Numbers
1) Danny Duhig (Arden) Sammy Rowden (Kent) Dan Kelly (Solent) Layla Henshaw (Arden) Neil Smith (Vale Impi) Matthew Smith (Vale Impi) Max Pedley (Pennine)
2) Ron Jenkinson (Arden) Imogen Johnson (Pennine) Kerry Bean (Solent)  Suki Jo Whitehouse (Pennine) Jo Marsh (Ashfields) Nadine Bristow (Arden) Alice Zawoda (Arden)
3) Greg Sargeant (Arden) Sarah Peaker (Pennine) Oli Harwood (Kent Target) John Marshland (Celyn) Karen Smith (Vale Impi) Susan Hendy (Vale Impi) Katy Newbrook (Centaur)
Best Horse Elsa – Hamish Michael (Arden) Chispa – Joel Sics (Pennine) Woosa – Kim Stevens (Kent Target)   Wayward Lee – George Harding (Ashfields) Aero – Ashley Neate (Kent) Grommit – Becky Cargill (White Horse)