The opening day of the 2015 Polocrosse World Cup ended with a shock as the hosts South Africa lost by just one goal to Zambia. The Zambian Ladies did the damage as they overpowered their South African counterparts. The South African men had the better of their half of the match, with Jannie Steenkamp in particular on fire out the back of the lineout, winning ball after ball but the Zambian men kept it close enough to eventually win 17-16.

Zambia started the stronger and lead 6-4 after two chukkas, with both the ladies and the men winning 3-2 in their respective chukkas. The Zambian ladies then put in a key chukka to stretch it to 10-5. The South Africans fought back through their men, including one beautiful backline shot from Graham Maclarty after Jannie Steenkamp had won it out the back. However, the Zambian men kept themselves in the game and Mikey Krynauw made sure of all the chances he got at number 1, after some long battles in the area with Jannie Steenkamp. South Africa pulled it back to 12-10 at the end of the fourth but the Zambia ladies made it a three goal gap again at the end of fifth chukka with the score at 15-12.

South Africa came out hard in the last and pulled it back to 15-14. However, then Zambia scored and also then got awarded a free goal for a big illegal ride off by South Africa. With time running down on the clock Graham Maclarty got into the box and was awarded a free shot at goal which he quickly converted to make it 17-16. However Zambia won the ball out the next line out and were heading to their goal scoring area when the hooter went. It was a big win for Zambia who showed the world how much they have improved in four years but South Africa are still very much in this tournament. They should still qualify from their group and they might well have saved some horses and some of their game plays for when the two countries might meet again later on in the competition.

The other games saw New Zealand pull back a four goal deficit in the last chukka to win by 2 goals, 17-15. New Zealand started the brighter and their ladies won the first chukka 4-2. However, after that it all started going wrong for them and the USA men had the upper hand as Seth Alcott reminded everyone what a good player he is and Braxton Hamlin and Ryan Strider worked well with him, winning ball and putting pressure on New Zealand.

New Zealand switched the vastly experienced Shane Hill to number 1 in the second men’s chukka after the two ladies sections had drawn 2-2 and the score line was poised at 9-7 in the USA favour. However, more goals kept going the USA’s way and at the end of the fourth they lead by 13-10. The USA ladies also won their last chukka and with the men coming back on it was 15-11 to the USA. However, then finally New Zealand fired on all cylinders, Jarrod Richardson won some more ball out the back and Shane Hill and Jesse Kereopa forced turnovers and Shane Hill converted goals for a 6 goal chukka to give New Zealand the win. They might have been helped by the fact that Braxton Hamlin received a big knock in the fourth chukka when a horse’s head collided with his. He played on and played the last chukka but was taken to hospital afterwards with possible concussion.  For the USA the loss will have been heart breaking, for New Zealand the relief was clear as they are still in the hunt to qualify from that group.

In the other group Australia did what was expected and defeated the UK by 22 goals to 11. The UK started well and after two chukkas they were only down by two goals, 7-5, and the men had drawn their opening chukka. However Australia made some changes to their team and seemed to move up a gear. Their ladies section won the third chukka and the score moved onto 12-6. The fourth chukka was more of the same, Australia were quicker to the ball, quicker in defence and clinical in attack.  The UK were clearly struggling with Jason Webb’s horse in the number 3 spot, it looked like it was tiring and at point losing its brakes and the Australians took full advantage as they stretched the gap to 10 goals, making it 17-7. The UK ladies tried to respond and they switched the team around to bring on Rachael Duhig at number 3. She did make a difference, putting more pressure on the new Australia number 1 Lauren Cant in the area but the UK just couldn’t score goals at the other end and the Australians slotted home three more goals to make it 20-7. The UK did win a free throw at goal right at the end of the fifth chukka which carried over to the sixth chukka. The young Max Pedley came on for his first appearance in the UK men’s number 1 shirt and cooly slotted it between the posts and the UK men did go on to win the last chukka 4-2, having switched Jason Webb to a different horse, and possibly with the Australians taking their foot off the gas a little. The UK will be disappointed their ladies were not more competitive, they lost overall by 12-3, while the UK men might well be pleased to have only gone down by 2 goals, 10-8, and only because of a weak middle chukka.

The other game of the day saw Zimbabwe beat Ireland reasonably comfortably. They lead from the start and Ireland never really seemed to fire. Aidan McDonagh had a good game in the number 1 shirt for the Irish men at points but both he and Joanne Lavery in the ladies section were starved of ball and Ireland never looked like pulling it back after the first few chukkas. They did draw the last chukka 3-3 but the Zimbabweans had already done the damage and ended up winning 21-9. Ireland, like the UK, will probably be disappointed that their ladies weren’t in the game more, they went down 10-3 and the Irish men lost 11-6. However, nothing should be taken away from Zimbabwe, they showed that they are still a very skilled side, with some great link up play between Suzanne Sargeant and Paula Sparrow at points for the ladies and the men cooly winning ball after ball and despatching it between the posts. It will be very interesting to see what Zimbabwe can do against the UK tomorrow, a match the UK must win if they want to make it through the group stages.

So that’s the end of day 1! It has been a very exciting day, with some great action. We hope you enjoyed following us on Facebook and Twitter and we will try and do it all again tomorrow!