The European Challenge was held in Lumbres, France on the 10th and 11th of August and saw a victory for Ireland as they overcame teams from seven other European countries.
The European challenge includes the two European World Cup playing nations of Ireland and the UK but neither country send a full strength team, normally instead opting to send either a veterans team or a development team, in order to give the other European countries a good standard to play against. Obviously both countries do want to win but try to make their teams not too strong so as to make the matches completely one sided. Indeed on this occasion the UK sent two teams; a England team of veterans and a Scotland team, made up on a mixture of veterans and younger. players.
Ireland’s team proved the strongest on this occasion and ultimately won their four games by a comfortable margin. They beat Holland (17-6), Finland (21-6) and Germany (19-5) in the group stages before beating England in the final by 20 goals to 9, after England had won their three group games.
England’s group games were a lot closer, they only overcame Italy (the newest participants on the European polocrosse scene by 14 goals to 10 before beating Scotland more comfortably 17-6. In their final game they almost got upset by France but just came through by 14-12.
Italy were the newest entrants to the competition, having only started polocrosse in the last couple of years but showed just how quickly they had developed, they also pushed France and Scotland close in their games, going down 11-15 and 10-14 in those two matches. France beat Scotland 13-10 to finish second in the group behind England.
The other group placings behind Ireland had to be decided on goal difference. Finland beat Germany in the opening match 9-6 but then lost to Holland 15-9. Germany overcame Holland 17-9 and so, when the results with Ireland were taken into account, managed to get a better overall goal difference to finish ahead of Holland in the group as well.
In the 3rd/4th play off France beat Germany 15-12, while in the 5th/ 6th play off Scotland just overcame Holland 8-7 in an incredibly close, tight game.
Finland unfortunately had to forfeit the 7th/8th play off against Italy as delays to schedule meant they would have missed their flights back home if they had stayed and played, which meant Italy finished in 7th and Finland 8th.
Italy also celebrated the success of Luca Lamberti and El Tero winning best horse and rider combination.
Gael Beaufils of France on the horse Illyade won player of the tournament, while Mareemba, Kate Henning’s horse from England, won best horse.
It was a great occasion for polocrosse in European and showed the continued development of the European countries in the sport. Though England and Ireland managed to hold onto the top spots on this occasion the results are getting much closer and the standard of teams those two countries are sending is also quite a lot higher than it was when the European challenge started.
Due to the size of the sport in each of the five mainland European countries who were playing, the biggest challenge for them is competing in more tournaments and getting enough experience playing at a higher level against other countries or against experienced clubs in countries like the UK and Ireland. These countries all train very hard in their own countries but ultimately probably now need more competitive experience and more exposure to the sport generally to really continue their improvement and push their best players to be even better.
However, with more countries making trips to England in particular to train and play in the last couple of years (including Holland playing a test match series against a UK side this year) and more UK and Irish coaches going to Europe to coach, the standard should continue to improve. Hopefully if it continues then in a few years time there can be a European challenge where the UK and Ireland send their full World Cup teams; that will be the moment when we know that European polocrosse has really come of age!
Saturday 10th August:
Germany vs Finland (6-9)
Scotland vs France (10-13)
Holland vs Ireland (6-17)
England vs Italy (14-10)
Germany vs Holland (17-9)
Scotland vs England (6-17)
Finland vs Ireland (6-21)
France vs Italy (15-11)
Sunday 11th August:
Holland vs Finland (15-9)
France vs England (12-14)
Germany vs Ireland (5-19)
Scotland vs Italy (14-10)
Italy vs Finland (Finland forfeited)
Scotland vs Holland (8-7)
France vs Germany (15-12)
England vs Ireland (9-20)
1st PLACE – IRELAND
2nd PLACE – ENGLAND
3rd PLACE – FRANCE
4th PLACE – GERMANY
5th PLACE – SCOTLAND
6th PLACE – HOLLAND
7th PLACE – ITALY
8th PLACE – FINLAND
BEST HORSE & RIDER COMBINATION OF THE TOURNAMENT : Luca Lamberti and El Tero (Italy)
BEST PLAYER OF THE TOURNAMENT : Gael Beaufils with Illyade (France)
BEST HORSE OF THE TOURNAMENT : Mareemba, rider Kate Henning (England)