The second match of the 2019 Adina Polocrossse World Cup, New Zealand versus the United Kingdom, had all the hall marks of being a possible classic. Two teams who hadn’t played each other for 8 years, who both had finished second once in the previous four world cups, who had once fought out one of the closest semi finals on this very ground 12 years ago and who both knew that winning their opening match would probably prove vital if they wanted to make a top four finish a reality at this event. So fans on both sides and neutral spectators were expecting a hard fought and close contest. Sadly though, in the end, it did not really turn out that way.
It started closely enough with the ladies trading a couple of goals but even by the end of the first chukka New Zealand were getting on top leading 4-2. The men’s chukka ended 3 all for an overall scoreline of 7-5 but the UK had missed chances in both their opening chukkas while New Zealand looked pretty reliable.
After chukka 3 it all started to get worse for the UK. The New Zealand ladies came out stronger than in the first chukka and the UK struggled for ball. 11-6 by the end of the third chukka turned into 14-8 by the end of the fourth as the men also lost their chukka. It was looking increasingly like the UK did not have an answer for New Zealand’s superior ball winning ability. The fifth and sixth chukkas were similar affairs with New Zealand comfortably outscoring the UK in each one to end up 23-12 winners.
New Zealand dominace in particular came at the back of the line out from their two blonde destroyers, Beth Peaker and Beau Moore.
Beth, a player born in the UK before moving to New Zealand about ten years ago, was devasting for the ladies’ section out the back, despite the best efforts of Kerry Bean, and Beth calmly delivered ball to Kyla Hill, who finished off the moves with some well worked goals, again despite the pressure put on by Kerry.
Beau Moore (who was actually born in Queensland, making this world cup appearance a homecoming of sorts) performed a similar role for the New Zealand men. The UK chased hard, their talisman player Jason Webb was stretching every sinew to try and stay with Beau out the back of the line out, but overall Beau came out on top and Jarrod Richardson and Jason White provided the goals. The UK did work some nice goals but they looked inconsistent and their error count was much higher than the New Zealand team.
New Zealand will feel like they have one foot in the semi finals, something they long for as their last appearance in those was in 2007, when they lost to the UK. The UK meanwhile, who did make the semi finaals in 2015, will have to pick themselves up and ready themselves for their local derby with Ireland tomorrow morning. A win there and a win against South Africa on Thursday and they could still make the semi finals but if they lose to Ireland then, not only will that dream be dead, the possibility of them being in the bottom two for the first time since 2003 increases.