The European Challenge took place at the Northern Racing College on the 4th and 5th of July and to welcome the European teams the sun decided to beat down on Bawtry for the whole of the weekend. There was a high risk on sunburn for the players as the United Kingdom won the European Challenge for the first time, as last year’s winners Ireland did not come over to defend their title. Not that their absence should detract from the United Kingdom’s performance, they looked strong and well organised as they defeated all their opponents to lift the title. This was not a full UK side but rather a side which featured a good mix of young and veteran players.

It was not, by any means, a walkover as the other European Nations fought all the way. If the Dutch, who finished second, had played against the UK as they did against the Germans and the French they might have caused an upset but as it was only one half of the team fired and they went down by ten goals. For the Dutch side the two Elsinga Borthers, Jochem and Rinze, looked on excellent form in the number 1 shirts, showing all the experience they have gained playing out in South Africa and Zambia.

The French battled hard and with their strong horses and their fast and sometimes physical style of play they defeated Norway and Germany but the skill of the UK and Dutch sides proved too much for them and they ended in third place. The German side, who finished bottom last year, got off to a great start by defeating Norway 11-5 but then suffered a heavy defeat against the Dutch and lost to the French. They did, however, end on a good note as they limited the UK to an 8-2 win, the closest anyone got to them, with the German number 3’s doing a good job of holding the UK number 1’s at bay. Norway could not emulate the way they battled the previous year but they had bravely bought across four very novice players in their side to give them a taste of European action. The only two players who appeared from last year were Amund Svensen and Aimee Johansen. They, and all the European sides, will have gained very valuable experience from this and from these teams performance it is very clear to see that polocrosse is growing in both strength and numbers on mainland Europe.

While the European Challenge was the main feature of the weekend there was also the Great Northern Tournament being run alongside it and in the A grade were all the UK open squad, trying to win their places to face South Africa in two weeks. The Arden players did their chances of being in that squad, and their league position, no harm at all by winning the A grade for the second week in a row. With the A grade being split into sections for selection purposes the Arden Ladies took on the Highlanders and defeated them and then the Arden men did exactly the same. However the Highlanders did take home Best Horse in the A grade, with Martin Brookes winning with Mandy Lee.

In the B grade the return of Tom “Big Red” Simkin at number 2 meant that a combined Celyn and Highlanders side pushed a Pennine side into second spot as he linked up well with the much smaller Simon Amor at number 1. Simon Amor also had a little bit of help from his horse as that won the Best Horse prize in the B grade. In the C Grade it was Kent Target who lifted the trophy with Pennine again picking up second spot and some more valuable league points as they leapfrogged Kent into second spot in the league and try to close the gap on Arden at the top of the table and defend their league title from last year. The Best Horse prize went to the veteran horse, QT, ridden by Claire Rowden.

The D grade was an entirely Celyn affair as they won the top two spots but it was White Horse who claimed the Best Horse with another veteran horse, Sunny ridden by Ade Dunn. With the UK Juniors returning to play in C grade this weekend The Juniors division was won by Pennine with White Horse being pushed into second place, and it was Beth Scott’s horse that won the Best Horse prize in the Juniors Grade.

Full Results

A Grade Men
A Grade Ladies
B Grade
C Grade
D Grade
1st Arden Arden Celyn/ Highlanders Kent Celyn Pennine
2nd Highlanders Highlanders Pennine Pennine Celyn White Horse