It was like two years never happened as Kent and Highlanders repeated the successes of 2019 at the UKPA National Championships. Kent emerged as winners for the overall Nationals Trophy and Highlanders lifted the A grade title again, after three gruelling matches that did really test them in a year where they had no South African superstars and had lost Max Pedley to Arden at the start of August.

Kent were Highlanders opponents in the A grade final but despite losing that match by a couple of goals they lifted the overall Nationals Trophy, defeating Arden by 8 points. Though there were mutterings that the scoring system might be changed in 2022 to allow clubs who are not of the same scale as Kent to have a chance, as apparently it was mathematically quite hard for them to lose before the first match had even started given the number of players they had playing (editor’s note: We have not checked the maths on this claim ourselves before any outraged Kent fans claim we are biased).

Certainly there was no raft of grade wins for Kent that we have seen in previous years, instead most of their points came through picking up second or third place in most grades. Their only full grade win came in the Upper D grade and then they had the majority of players in mixed teams that won the Novice Junior grade and the Open Primary Juniors. However, their old rivals Arden did not really win enough grades to challenge them, especially given they had less players in the competition. They did win the A Grade Plate, the Open Juniors and the Novice Primary Juniors, along with having one player in the mixed team that won the Open Primary Juniors. Those grade wins and a couple of second places took them close to Kent but not close enough. Using an Olympic medal table scoring system they could perhaps declare themselves the winners on the basis of more top of podium finishes but alas that is not the way the Nationals Trophy works.

Highlanders may never win the overall Nationals Trophy (well, unless they expand their club considerably) but they are very good at winning A grade titles. This was their fifth in a row, you have to go back to 2015 to see the last time they lost (unless you count Coronavirus’ victory in 2020). That last defeat was to Kent who at the time were on their own six year winning streak. However, few of those wins will have tasted sweeter than this one. Their team this year has been disrupted, not least by the departure of Max Pedley half way through their own tournament when there was a team disagreement. With no South African imports in their team and the brief appearance of Zambia International Gordon Rae earlier in the season seeming not to really bear fruit, they instead fielded a team that featured three of their 2019 winning team in Charlotte Pykett, Joel Sics and Layla Sics and then Amy Hochulli, Joe Marsh and Alex Bull, none of who might have expected to be in the team at the start of the season.

The Highlanders overall playing grade only put them as fourth seeds in the grade, meaning they started with an awkward match against the third seeds Arden (editor’s note: though some argued that it should have been against the fifth seeds Cotswolds) who had Max Pedley in one of their number 1 shirts. However, Highlanders overcame that potential banana skin with a seven goal victory after both teams made nervy starts to the match. Next up were the second seeds Warwick; an even more challenging match with the likes of Kerry Bean, Simon Shearing and Lizzie Shearing bringing considerable experience to the Warwick team and then Joe Hopkins and Sean Hardy adding younger talent to the mix. The match was very even throughout but Highlanders managed to grab a one goal lead in the last chukka and then grabbed a couple more balls to kill off the game, with Joel Sics showing no desire at all to rush his goals once they were ahead, to the dissatisfaction of elements of the crowd who accused him on time wasting (something they would repeat in the latter stages of the final).

Kent had had a slightly easier journey to the final as top seeds, they initially faced the eighth seeds in the form of the Cotswold second team who they duly thrashed by about 30 goals. Cotswold first team, who were the fifth seeds, were their next opponents and they actually held Kent well for four chukkas but it just crept away from them towards the end. So it was once again a Kent versus Highlanders final; it was a gripping final, with Kent taking an early lead but never managed to extend it beyond a few goals and Highlander fought back in the last few chukkas and took a narrow lead. Kent pushed Charlie Hewitt up to number 1 in the fifth chukka and he put through the goal of the game as he nearly fell off his saddle but somehow made a pick up, a bounce and a tight angle shot which bought the crowd to it’s feet. However, ultimately it did not prove to be enough as in the sixth chukka Highlanders got ball with the scores tied and into the thirty yard area went Joel Sics. After a minute of working the area he popped through the goal to put them ahead and when they got ball again from the next line up and went to a two goal cushion the writing was slightly on the wall. Kent did grab one goal back but the clock ran down before they could do any more and Highlanders were once again the A grade champions.

Charlie Hewitt slots through the goal of the game but sadly it was not enough to save Kent (Photo sequence credit to Zoe Williams)

As the A grade had swallowed up the three B grade teams to make a super eight, the grade below it was actually the Upper C grade. This had a similarly tight final and featured a wonderful battle of experience versus youth, in the form of the Bethersden Bulls versus Celyn. Bethersden Bulls featured the likes of Mikey Turner, Jen Chilton and David Beekes, who probably between them have as many years of playing polocrosse as the entire Celyn team, along with the less experienced Oli Spoor, Jazz Henning and Henry Burrows, while Celyn had the young (but at times unpredictable) talent of Will Holland, Keegan Jacobs, Abi Phillips, Kate Tranter, Katie Davies and Charlie Evans (most of who only recently graduated from juniors). It was incredibly close throughout, with Mikey Turner outscoring Will Holland to keep the Bulls ahead in their chukkas but Celyn were winning the other half of the match, despite the best efforts of David Beekes in the number 3 shirt. However, in chukka five Celyn decided that they would push Will Holland to number 3 to try and win ball out the back and deal with the threat of Mikey Turner in the area; sadly the plan didn’t work, with missed pick ups out the back and Mikey Turner still able to add goals to the score board. In chukka six it was the Bulls who made a switch, putting David Beekes to number 1 and he showed all his experience as he coolly and calmly slotted goals to win the match for the Bulls.

Harry Horton-Barr slots through a goal for Arden as they win the Open Juniors against Kent Target (Photo credit Izzy Baker-Cresswell)

The Lower C grade saw Yorkshire Warriors and Arden fight it out for the top spot on the podium and it was the Yorkshire Warriors who emerged victorious by a reasonably comfortable margin, much to the delight of their Chairman Karl Fisher who also won best number 1 in the grade, while Emily Goding picked up best number 3. Arden got best number 2 through Jack Page, who also won best horse with Montana, which will have been some consolation for them.

D grade was also split into Upper D and Lower D. The Lower D grade saw a win for Eastern Pennine, who were rewarded for their long trip from Norfolk with a win and also a Best Number 2 for Steve Baker. Celyn were in second spot and they did also get best number through Emma Muddiman. The Upper D grade saw the old rivals Kent and Arden fight it out and it was Kent who came out as winners. They did get one best player prize each, with Bella Kish winning bets number 1 while Neville Ingley won best number 2.

The Junior and Primary Junior grades saw a lot of wins for Kent, Arden and Celyn, though Limemere and Yorkshire Warriors did also manage to get in on the act. Arden won the Novice Primary Juniors, with Kent in second place. then the two clubs had a combined team that won the Open Primary Juniors, with Limemere in second place.

A combined Kent and Celyn team overcame a full Celyn team in the Novice Juniors, while in the Intermediate Juniors it was a win for the Yorkshire Warriors, with Celyn again in second place. Then in the Open Juniors there was a really close final between Kent and Arden, with Arden just coming out on top, though Kent got best number 2 and best number 3 via Alice Power and Sofia Best, while Harry Horton Barr won best number 1 for Arden.

Overall it was a fun and action packed weekend and everyone seemed very pleased to be back at a National Championships, even if Kent and Highlanders contrived to give everyone a sense of de ja vu.

Full Results of the United Kingdom Polocrosse Association National Championships

Lead Rein

  • Best Lead Rein Pony – Nolly, ridden by Logan Bull
  • Best Bounce – Matilda Bull
  • Most Goals Scored – Elsie Flint
  • Best Catch – Freddie Oliver-Byrne
  • Best Pickup – Freddie Hale
  • Best Pass – Sophie Wilcox

Novice Primary Junior (U13 on 1/1/21)

  • Winners – Arden
  • Runners Up – Kent Target
  • Best 1 – Austin Hayes (Arden)
  • Best 2 – Archie Wasdell (Kent Target)
  • Best 3 – Clarry Gale (Yorkshire Warriors)

Best Pony (sponsored by AKT Design) – Spotty, ridden by Ruby Shearing

Open Primary Junior (U13 on 1/1/21)

  • Winners – Kentden
  • Runners Up – Limemere
  • Best 1 – Isaac Flint (Limemere)
  • Best 2 – Oliver Hayes (Arden)
  • Best 3 – Ollie Rowbotham (Kent Target)

Pepper Plate for Best Pony (sponsored by AKT Design) – Galaxy, ridden by Maggie Clark

Novice Junior (U16 on 1/1/21)

  • Winners – Kentyn
  • Runners Up – Celyn
  • Best 1 – Olivia Kirkham (Kent Target)
  • Best 2 – Daniel George  (Celyn)
  • Best 3 – Anya Tate (Area 2)

Best Horse (sponsored by AKT Design) – Electronica, ridden by Olivia Kirkham

Intermediate Junior (U16 on 1/1/21)

  • Winners – Yorkshire Warriors
  • Runners Up – Celyn
  • Best 1 – Gracie Shearing (Arden)
  • Best 2 – Daisy Stone  (Celyn)
  • Best 3 – Grace Manners (Area 2)

Best Horse (sponsored by AKT Design) – Trixie, ridden by Liv Morton

Open Junior (U16 on 1/1/21)

  • Winners – Arden
  • Runners Up – Kent Target
  • Best 1 – Harry Horton-Barr (Arden)
  • Best 2 – Alice Power  (Kent Target)
  • Best 3 – Sofia Best (Kent Target)

Best Horse (sponsored by Joe Hopkins Farrier) – Morocha, ridden by Alice Power

  • Kirsch Cup – Maggie Flower & Mr Measles
  • Best Junior Newcomer – Liv Morton
  • Bombers Best U14 – Georgie Wasdell
  • Bombers Best U16 – Charlie Evans
  • Flecha Peron Trophy for Best Veteran (sponsored by Warwick Polocrosse Club) – Mel, ridden by Daisy Stone

Lower D Grade

Sponsored by Pro Dosa Boost and Polocrosse Extreme

  • Winners – Eastern Pennine
  • Runners Up – Celyn
  • Best 1 – Tanis Loutsiou (Arden)
  • Best 2 – Steve Baker (Eastern Pennine)
  • Best 3 – Emma Muddiman (Celyn)

Best Horse  – Vera, ridden by Kira Davison

Upper D Grade

Sponsored by Pro Dosa Boost and Polocrosse Extreme

  • Winners – Kent Target
  • Runners Up – Arden
  • Best 1 – Bella Kish (Kent Target)
  • Best 2 – Neville Ingley (Arden)
  • Best 3 – Jenny Rooney (Celyn)

Best Horse  – Q, ridden by Susan Hendy

Lower C Grade

Sponsored by Pro Dosa Boost and Comfort Gut

  • Winners – Yorkshire Warriors
  • Runners Up – Arden
  • Best 1 – Karl Fisher (Yorkshire Warriors)
  • Best 2 – Jack Page (Arden)
  • Best 3 – Emily Goding (Yorkshire Warriors)

Best Horse (sponsored by Chris Gates Farrier)  – Montana, ridden by Jack Page

Upper C Grade

Sponsored by Pro Dosa Boost and Comfort Gut

  • Winners – Bethersden Bulls
  • Runners Up – Celyn
  • Best 1 – Mikey Turner (Bethersden Bulls)
  • Best 2 – Hayley Marsh (Cotswold)
  • Best 3 – Abi Phillips (Celyn)

Best Horse (sponsored by Cotswold Polocrosse Club)  – Tia, ridden by Hayley Marsh

A Grade Plate

Sponsored by Pro Dosa Boost and Polo de Chats

  • Winners – Arden
  • Runners Up – Kent Target
  • Best 1 – Stuart Dyson (Arden)
  • Best 2 – Millie Wilson Fitzgerald (Arden)
  • Best 3 – Katie Loutsiou (Arden)

A Grade Cup

Sponsored by AJN Equine

  • Winners – Highlanders
  • Runners Up – Kent Target
  • Best 1 – Charlie Hewitt (Kent Target)
  • Best 2 – Alex Bull (Highlanders)
  • Best 3 – Jason Webb (Kent Target)

Best Horse (sponsored by Warwick Polocrosse Club)  – Halo, ridden by Joe Hopkins

  • Best Hire Horse & Rider Combination – Emily Goding & Mercy (hired by Gill James)
  • Best Male Veteran – David Beekes
  • Best Female Veteran – Lizzie Shearing
  • Best Senior Newcomer – Kelly Burrows
  • Best Umpire – Alex Scott
  • Best Non-Player Contribution (sponsored by Louise Watney Furnishings) – Anna Kish
  • Goal Judge Draw – Ruaridh Gillanders
  • Field Marshall Draw – Cathryn Tinker
  • Tony Shearing Memorial Trophy – Alex Scott
  • Miss Muffet Trophy for Best Overall Horse (sponsored by Kent Target Polocrosse Club) – Bolt (Charlotte Pykett)

NATIONALS CUP 2021 – Kent Target