Kent Target claimed the A grade trophy at the UKPA Nationals, held at Rugby Polo Club, but it was Cotswold who probably had the best tournament, claiming second in both the A grade and the B grade in their first year after fully reforming. Heavy rain stopped play early on the Saturday but matches were rescheduled for early Sunday morning and despite more rain falling, and the most of the pitches ultimately looking like ploughed fields, the Championships were completed successfully with a massive party on Sunday night which featured the Man of the Year awards.

So while Kent celebrated their second A grade title in four years, it was disappointing year for the Highlanders, who have themselves won three A grade crowns in six years, they ended third and that was only due to a massive last chukka fight back against Celyn. Indeed, the Highlanders seemed to specialise in last chukka fightbacks as they came back from 17-11 down against Kent in the sixth chukka to lose by just one goal, 17-16, in the last match of the Championships on the Sunday, a match which was moved from the main pitch to pitch 4 as it was in the best playing condition.

Kent had already pretty much wrapped up the Nationals before that final match though as they had already beaten Cotswold and Celyn and only a defeat by about 23 goals would have handed the Nationals to the Highlanders. It was pretty quickly clear that that wouldn’t happen as their number 3s Jason Webb and Chris Dunlop continued to win ball out the back of the line outs and from there the goals flowed fairly easily. Alex Richardson looked on particularly good form at number 1 all weekend and deservedly took home the Best Horse prize for Misty Lee. He moved to Kent from Highlanders halfway through the season, when he felt it was unlikely he would get in their top team for Nationals, and made his old club pay for releasing him this weekend.

Cotswold finished in second spot after they defeated Highlanders on the Friday and Celyn on the Sunday. They will be delighted with that result in their first year of running out an A grade side and it hopefully bodes well for the future of the club.

Cotswold also produced a massive upset in the B grade by claiming second spot there too and they nearly claimed the top spot but eventually went down to a combined Solent/Highlanders side by just two goals. On paper neither of those teams should have been in the running by that stage (as they were fourth and third seeds respectively) but Solent/Highlanders were always thought to be more dangerous than their grade suggested, as they had both Shelley Yirrell (nee King) and Kerry Bean in their team along with young players such as Joe Hopkins. Both Arden and Kent were higher graded but neither could defeat either of Cotswold and Solent and so when the two teams clashed on Sunday morning it was to decide who won the championship. The Cotswold youngsters battled their hardest amd came back well at the end, with some great play by Jenny Hall and Will Hunt at number 1 and John Whitehead winning lots of ball as a number 3, but it wasn’t to be as the Solent/ Highlanders machine eventually held on to win by two goals and also pick up all the best numbers.

The Upper C grade was again won by a team who on paper might have been ignored. Ashfields were fifth seeds in the grade but managed to win their pool on goal difference. They narrowly lost to Vale Impi on the Friday, in a match which was marred by tragedy as the Vale Impi horse Peter Pan suffered a horrible fall and then had a heart attack immediately afterwards, thought to be brought on by the shock. As there was only a minute left at that point and two goals in it the two teams decided to call the match a result then out of respect. Ashfields then managed to beat Arden by 12 goals on Saturday morning and Arden then did them a favour by beating Vale Impi by 2 goals in afternoon, putting Ashfields through to the final.

Kent won the other pool to face Ashfields in the final, though they were perhaps lucky to win against Pennine in their opening match, coming from behind in the last to win by 1 goal. Having done that though Kent then forfeited a rescheduled match (rescheduled due to the rain) against Cotswold on the Sunday morning as they already had enough points to win the pool and they wanted fresh horses for the final. They were the top seeds for the pool and might have been the favourites but Ashfields hit the front early. Kent pulled them back and it was six goals all at the end of the fifth. then Livvy Foley, Ben Marsh and George Harding produced a 3-0 chukka to seal it for Ashfields by 9 goals to 6 and win themselves all the best numbers in the process.

In the Juniors it was Pennine who ruled supreme, beating Arden in the final. Max Pedley won Best Number 1 and Best Horse for Overa, while Katy Wise did a brilliant job for Pennine as she doubled up throughout the tournament, playing number 3 in one section and number 2 in the other. Arden did pick up best 2 and 3 though for the hard work of Tash Mason and Alice Zawoda.

In the Primary Juniors it was Kent Target who ran out the winners, with Alice Kish winning Best Number 3 and Best Horse for Tommy. Arden again however picked up the other two best numbers, as Theo Cornforth won Best Number 2 and Josie Cameron won Best Number 1.

In the Lower C it was to be Vale Impi’s tournament though as they defeated the Welsh Dragons to claim the top spot. this was a very tight grade with five teams in it, including two Vale Impi sides, but in the end it was Vale Impi 1 who claimed the top spot, with some particularly good play from Jack Bull, who took home Best Number 1.

The Welsh Dragons did get a reward for their efforts though in the D grade as they combined with Kent Target to produce a tournament winning team. they narrowly defeated Canterbury Colts (Kent’s local rivals) to win the final after both teams had won their respective pools. The Kent/Welsh Dragons side only just made it through to the final, holding on against a Cotswold/Solent side to win by just 1 goal in their battle to decide who would top pool 2. The Welsh Dragons half of the team featured Rosie Hamilton, who picked up Best Number 1, while Peter Fielden of Kent won Best Number 3 for his work.

In the E grade it was again Vale Impi who triumphed with Isabelle Price picking up Best Number 1 and Lily Warne picking up Best Horse for Mango. White Horse came in second place, with Mika Macguire winning Best Number 2 and Vicki Stanhope winning Best Number 3.

So after all the play ended most of the players celebrated their victories or drowned their sorrows at the Sunday night party, which was fairly massive. Words can’t really do it justice but the Man of the Year awards produced some wonderful moments, such as Dan Rohan (pronounced RO-HAN) and Tom Wigglesworth winning the categories they were nominated in purely by getting naked. Then, in stark contrast to such baseness, there was the wonderful verbal jousting of Jono Keen, Guy Robertson and Jason Webb as they took part in a blind date style contest to try and win the Man of the Year award. In the end Jono Keen snatched victory, probably mainly for the way he managed to use elements of each of the judging panel in describing his perfect woman.

Full Results

The Kirsch Cup – Annabel Twinberrow (Arden)
Flecha Peron Veteran Horse Prize – Luna, owed by Neil Smith, ridden by Celia Price (Vale Impi)
Retraining of Racehorses Prize for Best Ex-Racehorse – Luca, owned by Sarah Simkin (Celyn)
Retraining of Racehorses Prize for Most Promising Ex-Racehorse – Spooks, owed by Neil Smith (Vale Impi)
Bombers prize for Most Outstanding Under 14 – Max Pedley (Pennine)
Bombers Prize for the Best Under 16 Horse and Rider Combination – Pip Rowland and Casino (Arden)
Miss Muffett Trophy for the Champion Mare – Santi, owed by Simon Amor (Celyn)
Western Australia Exchange Programme Award – Sammy Connors (Arden)

C Grade
C Grade
Sponsors NFU Mutual Baileys Horse Feeds The Worshipful Company of Saddlers The Worshipful Company of Saddlers
1st Kent Target Solent/ Highlanders Ashfields Vale Impi Kent Target/ Welsh Dragons Vale Impi Pennine Kent Target
2nd Cotswold Cotswold Kent Target Welsh Dragons Canterbury Colts White Horse Arden Arden
Best Horse Misty Lee – Alex Richardson (Kent Target) Mancha – Annie Waterer (Kent Target) Kelly Lee – Uncle Pete (Kent Target) Pip – Tania Turner (Canterbury Colts) Condor – Kate Sherwood (Canterbury Colts) Mango – Lily Warne (Vale Impi)  Overa – Max Pedley (Pennine) Tommy – Alice Kish (Kent Target) 
Best Numbers                
1) Charlotte Pykett (Highlanders) Joe Hopkins (Solent) George Harding (Ashfields) Jack Bull (Vale Impi) Rosie Hamilton (Welsh Dragons) Isabelle Price (Vale Impi) Max Pedley (Pennine) Josie Cameron (Arden) 
2) Dan Rohan (Kent Target) Shelley Yirrell (Highlanders) Ben Marsh (Ashfields) Ceri Williams (Celyn) Kirsty Sparks (Canterbury Colts) Mika Macguire (White Horse) Tash Mason (Arden) Theo Cornforth (Arden)
3) Sarah Simkin (Celyn) Kerry Bean (Kent Target, loaned to Solent) Livvy Foley (Ashfields) Lydia rampin (Vale Impi) Peter Fielden (Kent Target) Vicky Stanhope (White Horse) Alice Zawoda (Arden) Alice Kish (Kent Target)