The second match of the second day of the Adina Polocrossse World Cup saw another local derby as neighbours Zimbabwe and Zambia took each other on. Going into the match the view was that Zambia should win this match and in doing so secure their semi final spot. Zimbabwe had lost to Australia on the opening day and their men in particular had looked a bit off the pace. There were probably few people in the crowd who would have said they believed that Zambia, the team who first second at the last world cup, would be caused serious problems by a team who finished sixth four years ago.
However, Zimbabwe had not read that script and they came out all guns blazing. The opening chukka was one way traffic as Suzanne Sargeant dominated out the back of the line out on a great chesnut horse and Sophie Sargeant pumped in the goals from all angles on a similarly good bay horse up the front. Her seventh goal was an outrageous backwards, over the head shot having won the ball near the backline against Lauren Watson. She simply rode away from the goal and flung the ball backwards as she felt time was running out.
The Zimbabwean fans and any neutrals in the crowd were ecstatic, Zambia’s fans, however, looked more worried. The Zambian men came out for chukka two and they started strongly. Damien Harris out the back and Mikey Krynauw up the front were combining well to pull back goal after goal. However it wasn’t to be all one way traffic. Graham Keith pulled in some balls out the back and fed them to Danie Swan who took his chances well, though a couple of Graham’s passes were slightly adrift, forcing Danie into some smart catches. One such chance went begging after Danie had to try and catch a ball at hip height and it didn’t stick in his racquet, going out over the back line for a Zambian free throw. At the end of chukka 2 it was 9-6 to Zimbabwe, Zambia were back in the game but it was still not looking comfortable.
Chukka 3 saw the Zimbabwean women start as they left off in chukka one. Suzanne Sargeant was still winning more ball than Lauren Watson and the couple of pick ups she missed Kirsten Swan jumped on in the Zimbabwe number 2 shirt. However, Zambia were beginning to get more ball and then they got some luck as Suzanne Sargeant’s horse had to be substituted off lame. There wasn’t too long left in the chukka but Sophie Sargeant had to drop back to number 3 and Paula Sparrow came on in the number 1 shirt. Lauren Watson was now the quicker out the back and Kelly Krynauw started to score more freely. Zambia managed to hold Zimbabwe to 3 all by the end of the chukka.
Chukka 4 saw the Zimbabwean men change things around. They brought on Andy Baker in the number 2 shirt and Ross Shand went to number 1 as Danie took a chukka’s break. The change seemed to be enough to give them an edge and they just won the chukka by 4 goals to 3. Zimbabwe lead by 16 goals to 12.
The Zambian ladies needed something big in chukka 5 and they duly delivered, showing why they are considered one of the best Ladies sections in the world. One catch that Kelly Krynauw pulled off behind her back at speed was just spectacular and she never even looked like missing as she put in four fast paced goals. Zimbabwe could only respond with one of their own, though they did waste a good chance when Suzanne Sargeant, who had returned on a different horse and who had a very good match overall, attempted to throw a very long clearing pass to Sophie Sargeant. It missed its intended target and instead was seized by Lauren Watson, who duly passed it back to Kelly Krynauw for her to score. At the end of the chukka it was 17-16 to Zimbabwe, the shortest lead they had held since the opening couple of minutes.
The final chukka was hard fought but overall Damien Harris was getting the better of Graham Keith out the back and Damien’s passes were pinpoint accurate; Mikey Krynauw barely had to move his racquet on occasion as Damien flung a ball 30 metres across the pitch to him for Mikey to finish it off between the posts. At first Zambia levelled it up but Zimbabwe crept back ahead as Danie Swan got ball in the area and took his time to slot a goal to give them an 18-17 lead. However, Zambia struck back again and then struck again to get the lead for the first time. Zimbabwe levelled it up but Zambia grabbed two more quick goals to win 21-19 at the final hooter and become the first team to book a semi final spot, although the manner of their victories so far has not been the most convincing.
You couldn’t help but feel sorry for Zimbabwe, who had come so close to victory, and wonder if they hadn’t lost Suzanne’s horse half way through chukka 3 whether the Zambia ladies would have been able to score so many goals in their final chukka. However, Zimbabwe also did miss a few pick ups and waste a few balls with loose passes and Zambia wasted very little.
Overall, it was a brilliant match with fast paced exciting polocrossse all round. Both teams now have one more game in the group stage. Zimbabwe face USA and Zambia take on Australia, whch should both be excellent matches to watch over the next couple of days.