New Zealand pulled off the first world cup upset as they overcame the ruling world champions South Africa by 16 goals to 14 on day 2 of the Adina Polocrosse World Cup. With most of the Australia crowd behind them they lead from the start, though South Africa did draw level at 12 all at the end of the fifth chukka and go one goal ahead briefly at the start of chukka six.

The match wasn’t the highest scoring affair and the first chukka ended 2-1 but even in that first chukka there were signs that the South African laadies were going to struggle to deal with the New Zealand team, particularly Beth Peaker who is very well mounted on a great horse and is missing very little out of line outs. With Beth winning ball and Kyla Hil scoring a couple of nice goals it was clear the South African laadies would have to find another gear.

There was a feeling before the match that New Zealand could push South Africa close, particularly in the ladies section. However, what no one was expecting was the first men’s chukka. New Zealand came out on fire and South Africa were left reeling. Beau Moore won ball and rode through South African tackles like they weren’t there. Jarrod Richardson scored some good goals and Russell Tye in the middle marks up so well that any aspiring number 2 should look at the work he did on the South African players. The chukka ended with the score board reading 6-2 in New Zealand’s favour and it looked like a shock could be on. It looked a bit like even Jarrod Richardson was shocked as he came to a stop in front of a roaring crowd and raised his hand to acknowledge their cheers.

This feeling continued in chukka 3 as the New Zealand ladies stretched it to 10-4. The South Africans were making mistakes under pressure, pick ups were missed, passes went astray, at one point Beth Peaker pinned Jacquie Minnaar in the area and just took the ball off her before grabbing it off the ground to go on the attack for New Zealand again. However, New Zealand also made a couple of mistakes and Kyla Hill missed a goal after she atttempted a big under arm shot out the side of her pony over the top of Natalie Maclarty, rather than go for the overarm shot, which is a option she does not look that comfortable with.

South Africa knew they had a job to do in chukka 4 and a change in the number two shirt seemed to help.Retief Steenkamp came on to the field and he grabbed a couple of early balls and set Graham Maclarty on his way. However the goals were slower than normal, Beau Moore and his horse’s (which is Berragoon Poem) marking up was absolutely first class. Maclarty was nearly always under pressure and the New Zealand man was always ready to try and throw in a tackle, his stick flicking out like a snake striking at its prey as he tried to get the ball out of the South African net. Maclarty though managed to keep hold of the ball throughout and worked his way round for five goals in the chukka. New Zealand could only respond with one of their own and South Africa were back in it with a score line of 11-9.

Chukka five saw the South African ladies find a bit more consistency and more mistakes from the New Zealand ladies, particularly Kyla Hill who missed a couple of goals, including an overrm shot from in front of the posts. Some good work from Natalie Maclarty and some well taken goals from Jacquie Minnaar managed to level up the score line at 12 all at the end of the chukka.

And so it was all set up for the final chukka. New Zealand started with a free throw deep in their own half but South Africa turned it over and drew frst blood to go ahead for the first time in the match. However, Russsel Tye grabbed ball in the next line up and Beau Moore grabbed Jannie Steenkamp to keep him out the way for it to be an easy pass to Jason White (who had come on as the new number 1 for New Zealand) and an equalizing goal. Graham Maclarty got ball in the next line up but the bounce went astray and Beau Moore mopped up the loose ball to go down the other end to set up another goal for Jason White for New Zealand to lead again. This was followed by another New Zealand goal after Graham Maclarty missed another bounce. There was one more goal apiece before the final hooter and so the match ended 16-14 to New Zealand, a famour victory.

There was always rumours at the last world cup that South Africa threw their opening match against Zambia becausse they wanted to finish second in the pool and play Australia in the semi finals rather than the final when their horses would be a bit fresher. Could the same be true here? It would seem a slightly risky tactic and they definitely looked like they were trying very hard in this match, though it was strange to see Maclarty miss two bounces in the final chukka and he didn’t always look like he was killing himself chasing ball in defence.

However, nothing should be taken away from New Zealand and their horses, some of which, like Berragoon Poem and Percussion, are incredibly impressive. With the exception of the misssed goals they really didn’t make many mistakes at all. Beau Moore and Beth Peaker were brilliant in the number 3 shirts again. Russell Tye gave a master class in being a number 2, Jannie Steemkamp and Travis Timm had him sticking to them like glue at points, making space for Beau Moore to carry ball in and Jarrod or Jason to score in.

New Zealand need one more win on day 3 against Ireland to top their group, whle South Africa need to beat a UK side on day 4 to get through to the semi finals.