The UK polocrosse season got underway in earnest on the 14th and 15th of May with the UKPA’s Early Season Tournament. About a hundred players gathered at Onley Grounds, in some surprisingly sunny and pleasant conditions, to fight it out for some early honours for their club.

In the A grade it was a win for Debbie Harris’ new club, Three Counties, on their first ever outing as they overcame Cotswolds on golden goal in the final match of the weekend to clinch victory. Cotswold lead early on as Rachel Duhig, Vicky Metcalfe and Emily Keen combined to good effect. Rachael Duhig was particularly impressive in defence on Lola as she made Dara Mangan work very hard for any goals. However, Three Counties fought back in the last and lead by one goal just before the end of play. However, they gave away a penalty goal in the last few seconds to take the game to golden goal. Cotswold had two chances to win it in golden goal, Emily Keen hitting the post with her first chance and then, after Cotswold had won the ball back in midfield, stepping into the D as she tried to win it with her second shot. Three Counties took their 30 yard clearing throw and duly went down the other end of the pitch to finish off the game and seal the first A grade win of the season.

In the B grade there were four teams in the competition but only two teams who could win it as both the UK Under 21 teams were playing hors concours (as they were switching in players and horses during the weekend). However, the winners, a combined Arden/ Welsh Dragons team, beat one of the UK Under 21’s teams by one goal, drew with the other and then beat Celyn by two goals in their final game to win the grade. The Welsh Dragons revealed three of their new signings in Amy Hochuli, Ben Marsh and Daisy Adamson, and had their other two international signings busy goal judging for them, in the Australian duo of Jesse Walsh and Zac Vines. They will link up with Lauren Williams, when she isn’t on Under 21’s duty, to form their top team. Arden had no new faces in their half of the team but they did give a B grade run out to 14 year old Theo Cornforth aboard his new horse Kelly, which was recently purchased from “Uncle” Pete Wherrett, and he produced a excellent weekend of play alongside Chris Milburn and Charlotte Winder.

In the C grade it was a comfortable win for Kent as they easily won their pool and then overcame Celyn in the final. Jack Brown was fairly unstoppable on Chispa and he was ably assisted by a returning Tom Mitchell and Matilda Marsh. Celyn got through their group on goal difference after all three teams in their half of the draw won one game and lost one in the pool stages. Celyn fought to the end of the final but they could not measure up to Kent, who will probably undergo some re grading after the margin of their victories.

In the D grade it was a win for Cotswold’s Dom White, Lynette Evora and Joao Evora with Rugby’s Mehdi Maliki, Coral Henshaw and Liz Johnson in second place. Dom White also collected best horse with Wembley.

In the Open Juniors it was another win for Three Counties, who have gained a number of strong junior players in their first season, with a combined Celyn and Northern Lions team in second spot. Three Counties also did well in the best numbers with Jack Rees Elford winning best number 1 and Maeghan Brown winning best number 2.  James Cook of Celyn won best number 3.

In the Intermediate Juniors it was a win for Arden and a clean sweep of best numbers as Boy Wilson Fitzgerald won best number 1, Millie Wilson Fitzgerald won best number 2 and Tegan Bristow, making her first appearance in Arden colours since returning to the club in the winter, won best number 3. Boy Wilson Fitzwgerald’s pony Leave it picked up best playing pony.

Other Transfer news

There have been other movements and international signings in the winter, the biggest of these being the arrival of New Zealand World Cup player Jarrod Richardson at Kent. However, he was forced to watch from the sidelines at the EST as he was recovering from a light fracture on his ankle, that he sustained chasing bats round Risebridge with Sean Hardy, who has moved south for a new job with Jason Webb but will still continue playing for Cotswold.

Highlanders have been busy in the off season as well as they look to replace lost players in their A grade team. They have bought in Max Pedley to replace Joel Sics (who has retired for the second time) and have Annie Mitchell in to replace Livy Foley; both of these players have been signed from Celyn.

Celyn have responded by getting Ruth Jones out of retirement and also by signing the Northern Irish duo of Toby Fynn and William Armstrong to come in and play for them at some tournaments this year.

All the A grade teams had all tried to keep their teams balanced at three ladies and three men but that all became irrelevant in April when the UKPA announced it would be suspending Mixed A grade (where each A grade team had to consist of one section of men and one section of ladies) for a year as a result of feedback they had received from a survey on the subject. However, it will be interesting to see if the top teams continue to run out three men and three ladies, as they will have signed players on the promise of A grade polocrosse, or whether we will see a return to a male dominated A grade competition by the Nationals.

Full results from EST

Division 1st 2nd Best Number 1 Best Number 2 Best Number 3 Best Horse/ Pony
A Grade Three Counties Cotswold Emily Keen (Cotswold) Sam Marsh (Kent Target) Rachael Duhig (Cotswold)
B Grade Arden / Welsh Dragons Celyn Matt Smith (UK Under 21’s) Chris Milburn (Arden) Amy Hochuli (Welsh Dragons)
C Grade Kent Target Celyn Danny Woodward (Celyn) Jack Brown (Kent Target) Bella Bradford (Cotswold)
D Grade Cotswold Rugby Robin Winder (Chiltern) Lucy Simpson (Limemere Sparks) Susan Hendy (Chiltern) Wembley – Dom White
Open Juniors Three Counties Celyn / Northern Lions Jack Rees Elford (Three Counties) Maeghan Brown (Three Counties) James Cook (Celyn)
Intermediate Juniors Arden Celyn Boy Wilson Fitzgerald (Arden) Millie Wilson Fitzgerald (Arden) Tegan Bristow (Arden) Leave it – Boy Wilson Fitzgerald