The final match of the first day at the 2019 Adina Polocrossse World Cup was Zambia versus the USA. Zambia are a fairly well known quantity, they came second last time and their team is broadly unchanged, as they look to go one better this time. The USA, on the other hand, have quite a different looking team (only two players from 2015 are back in this team) and were more of an unknown quantity going into this match, albeit most people seemed to believe Zambia would beat them. The question more seemed to be by how many goals would they beat them and could this USA team challenge for more than a place in the 7th/ 8th play off.

The first chukka ended at 3 goals all as the USA ladies showed they were more than capable of mixing it with the Zambians, though possibly Zambia were a little slow out of the blocks as well.

The men were a slightly different matter. Mikey Krynauw and Damien Harris quickly reminded everyone why they came second in the last world cup as they grabbed ball all over the place and Mikey Krynauw’s long arms cooly finished off each chance at goal, while also not expending more of hiss horse’s energy than necessary. The USA men did have some ball but they looked less confident with it. They seemed to want to play a fast game and that lead to them rushing things slightly, leading to turnovers that Zambia capitalised on. Though one such turnover happened after Rahul Desai’s horse slipped, leading to him falling off while carrying the ball, at which point the umpires awarded a free throw to the Zambians, which we are pretty sure is not what says in the IPC rules. (editor’s note: we actually went and read the IPC rules tonight and decided they are not entirely clear on the subject of a player falling off but reading rules 45 through to 48 then at worst we feel it should be a line out and at best a free throw to the team in possession at the time of the fall)*. However, regardless of a single incident the Zambian men had the upper hand throughout, winning their three chukkas 4-1, 4-2 and 4-3.

There was a horrible incident in the second chukka when the horse Mikey Krynauw was riding stumbled and suffered a rotational fall, landing awkwardly on its neck and shoulder. The vet, the screens and horse trailer were quickly rushed out and after about fifteen minutes the horse was loaded into a trailer to be taken away for further investigation. Zambia had to bring on their impact player at this point in Gordoan Rae but there was not long left in the chukka. Mikey duly returned on another horse for chukka 4.

Before that the USA ladies had shocked the Zambia Ladies by winning the third chukka 4 goals to 2, as Megan Waggener showed that she has a pretty good goal shooting skill set, with some great overarms going between the possts, and Kat Liner and Sarah Desai supported her by winning ball when sshe couldn’t get it herself. The pace was pretty quick in the ladies sections in particular, with both groups of ladies pushing hard and looking for quick goals. Both also misssed opportunities making it a bit chaotic at points.

However, after that chukka four went to the Zambian men and the Zambian ladies then did win chukka five by 4 goals to 1, as they finally seemed to get firing on all cylinders. The final chukka actually saw a better display from the USA men, who reshuffled to put Robbie Shuttles up front and Braxton Hamlin out the back, however Zambia still won it by one goal.

The final scoreline read 22 – 14 in favour of Zambia but their ladies section only won by one goal, which is perhaps not as much as they would like, given four years ago they were probably considered the best ladies section in the world. The USA ladies on the other hand looked stronger than expected and if their men can also start to find a bit more form then it could make the bottom half of the play offs very interesting.

Before that though, the USA’s next challenge is Australia, which is a match they will most likely lose but then on Wendesday they take on Zimbabwe, which could be a lot closer.

Zambia play Zimbabwe tomorrow in an all African derby, which should be good to watch but the expectation after today’s games would be that Zambia will win it and in doing so pretty much gurantee a semi final spot. They will then take on Australia on Thursday evening to decide who tops their pool and who is second. The loser will most likely to face South Africa in the semi finals, something both countries will probably be keen to avoid.

*Since writing this report we have chatted to the match umpires and apparently they gave the free throw to Zambia because they felt Rahul Desai crossed the ball over the centre line of his horse before he fell off. So actually it wasn’t because he fell off.