Canada marked their return to international polocrosse with a win in the International Challenge in France. They beat France in a hard fought final match on Sunday after both teams had won all their other matches against the other three nations. Teams also came from Germany, Holland and Norway to compete on a mixture of their own and borrowed horses. Holland bought their own horses and Germany bought a couple of theirs but Canada and Norway were on completely borrowed mounts, which made Canada’s achievement all the more impressive.
On a horse pool made up almost entirely of Henson horses they overcame all comers, with only France really getting close to them and even then the Canadians started to pull away towards the end of the match. Holland also held Canada for a couple of chukkas but then the team from across the Atlantic moved up a gear and started to show their superior stick skills. Lance Davison was probably the pick of their players and he deservedly won best player for the tournament. Cayla Hicks was probably the pick of their ladies as she won lots of ball for them in the later matches and fed it through to her sister Renee who did a great job at number 1 as well.
Holland did push France very hard with the Dutch ladies being particularly impressive as they overcame their French opponents throughout the match and levelled up the score at 10 all at the end of the fifth chukka. Roseline van de Haar was particularly impressive at number one for the Dutch throughout the tournament and Nathalie Garben and Oro being wall like in defence at times and Oro deservedly won best horse.
However, the French “men” (which featured Barbara Beaufils) overcame the Dutch (which featured Fleur Bartels and Charlotte van de Haar) 4-0 in the last to win 14-10 overall. The Dutch will undoubtedly point to the injury to Niels Kemperman horse that kept him out of this match and no doubt the presence of their best male number 1 might have spoilt the French party. The pick of the French players were probably the two number 1’s, with Barbara Beaufilifs and Alexandra Deurinck both scoring some excellent goals and with the French ladies section all being 18 or under they showed they have some really good young talent for the future.
Germany showed some good moments, in particular Max Schellerer for the German men and Cecilia Forsman for the German ladies. They also showed off the new young talent of Priska Klenner at number 1 for the ladies and she showed that both her and the beautiful marked Edifix could be a combination to watch in the future as they grew in confidence throughout the tournament.
Norway probably got the weakest of the horse pools and with a couple of borrowed players from France and Ireland as well they did not know each other or their horses as well as they would have liked. They certainly missed the presence of Vibeke Svendsen but they fought to the end in every match and each goal they scored raised cheers from the crowds. Aimee Cathrin Reichelt Johansen was the pick of the players for the ladies while the borrowed Tom Bolger of Ireland showed that even on a Henson horse to whom, at times, it seemed that the concept of braking was a new and not particularly interesting one, that he could do some damage and score some goals.
All credit must go to France for organising this event, for a polocrosse nation of their size to take on something like this and manage to horse the teams for it was a phenomenal achievement. They were excellent hosts and managed to promote the event well and attract media attention to it. AFP, the international news agency, put out this piece on Sunday and there were good crowds every day to watch the action. The matches were interspersed on Sunday with a Henson Horse fair which added to the occasion. It was overall yet another sign of the growth of polocrosse in Europe and hopefully the resurgence of Canada on the international scene.