The NFU Mutual Pony Club Polocrosse Championships took place at Cholmondeley Castle on the 23rd and 24th of August, alongside eight other Pony Club disciplines. The Pony Club Championships is a five day event which brings in thousands of riders and spectators and polocrosse was very much part of the spectacle, as players from around the country did battle across two days of play. With the main pitch moved back into the middle of the event, non-stop commentary on play, music between games and one very large scoreboard, the event was a great success and won the sport a number of new fans as people came from around the Championships site to watch the action. Entries were slightly down on previous years, due mainly to a very busy August of polocrosse across the UK, but the play on the pitches was of a very high quality and saw a number of very close and exciting matches, which left spectators on the edge of their seats and parents chewing their fingernails off altogether. Two of the finals and three of the Malden Trophy matches were ultimately separated by just one goal and saw some wonderful polocrosse being played throughout.
In the Malden Trophy, where teams consists of one open section (players of any age) and one junior section (players of 16 years and under) it was the Northern Irish branches that emerged victorious as they combined to form an Area 17 team. Players from the Iveagh, North Down and Mid Antrim Branches were all in the Area 17 team and they just won the day, beating both North Warwickshire, the defending champions, and Ledbury Hunt by just one goal in their round robin of matches.
Each of these matches were very close throughout. In the match against North Warwickshire on Saturday afternoon the North Warwickshire juniors, mainly via Fin Bristow, kept their team in the game and gave them a one goal lead going into the last chukka, with the score line at 11-10. North Warwickshire won ball from the first line out and Area 17 were forced to concede a free goal as Will Armstrong desperately chased Katie Loutisou around the goal scoring area to try and win the ball back, in the end performing a deliberate helmet tap to stop the clock running down too much. Area 17 won the ball from the next three line outs and went on to scored three goals in the last two minutes to come from two goals behind to win by one in the dying seconds, the final goal going through the posts as the clock showed 1 second remaining.
Against Ledbury on Sunday the Northern Irish players had a similarly tough battle and the game ebbed and flowed but Area 17 built themselves a two goal lead in the final chukka and despite a last minute goal from Ledbury, it was just too little too late and the score ended in an 12-11 win to Area 17. North Warwickshire also overcame Ledbury by 12 goals to 11 on Sunday morning to take second place, though Ledbury will be kicking themselves for missing a number of goals in the match while North Warwickshire missed very little and made good use of the ball when they had it.
In the Charles Mason Open section it was North Warwickshire who won the day, taking the prize that Area 17 had themselves won the previous year. Area 17 didn’t have a team in the section this year and it came down to a very close final between North Warwickshire and Area 3 (consisting of players from Rockwood Harriers, Hurworth Hunt and Ryburn Valley Branches). Again the game was very close throughout and both teams held the lead at points but in the final minute, with the scores level at 11 goals apiece, Emma Joslin (who was being borrowed from the Essex and Suffolk branch) grabbed ball from the line out and went down field to slot it through the posts. It was a well deserved win for North Warwickshire, who just looked the more likely to win it throughout, with Russell Smith pulling down ball in the middle of the line out and Emma snapping ball at the front and converted nearly all of the ball to goals. Jemma Alderson was the star for Area 3 as she wore the number 3 shirt and won them ball out the back and in the loose. Jemma linked up well with Ryan Sweeney in the number 1 shirt for him to score the goals.
In the Brookes Mini Championships it was an Area 7 team, consisting of Tegan Bristow of the North Warwickshire and Will Holland and Harriet Wasdell of the Warwickshire Hunt who overcame a United pack team of Philip Watney, Amy Roberts and Sally Watney, again in the dying seconds. The United Pack lead by 1 goal in the early stages of the last chukka but Area 7 won a couple of balls and converted it into two goals to win 6 goals to 5. The United Pack won ball and tried to look for an equalising goal but time defeated them.
Alongside the team prizes there were also prizes for the most improved Branch or Centre, which went to the Quantock Hunt, and also Best sportswoman and best sportsman, which went to Jessica Clarke (United Pack) and Harry Thomason (Rockwood Harriers) respectively.
This successful and high quality event follows on from the success of the recent Pony Club Polocrosse Home Nations and is hopefully another important step forwards in raising the profile of the sport in the UK and within the UK Pony Club.
For the full results of the NFU Mutual Pony Club Polocrosse Championships click here
For the full match results click here