Match Report and Commentary by Stephen WundkePublished on 11 June 2018
On a perfect surface that was well sanded and playing quick and true after some good weather four teams contested the tournament to win the £10,000 pot that was up for Grabs and the LDF Trophy.
The First game was between team Laurent-Perrier and team V Docs. It proved to be a particularly one-sided affair with Laurent-Perrier amassing 11 goals and only conceding one. The star of the show was 4 goal Michael Henderson who slotted 9 through the posts but to say it was a one-man show would be wrong. Team Captain, Richard Thomas (0) designed the play book with 3 goal Johnny Coddington and 15 year old Oliver Conway-Johnson (-1) creating space and width, which allowed Henderson the freedom to express himself and captain Thomas was always there to sweep up at 4 if required. The tactic worked perfectly as V Docs and skipper Lenny Cunningham (1) had no answer with number 4, James Fielding (2) constantly facing the rampant Henderson in open play. It was a triumph of planning and it worked well. Final Score 11-1
Game 2 was a different affair, Katie Jenkinson’s, LDF team where exciting to watch in their match against new boys, Arbuthnot Latham and the two contrasting styles of play contributed to a great spectacle. The final score was 7-3 with Arbuthnot Latham coming out on top. LDF will rue the many shots they missed both from the spot and in open play. Edd Walker (0) another 15yo, was fearless and aggressive for LDF and certainly has some very quick ponies. Both Charlie Walton (2) and Christian Chaves (4) created loads of opportunites against a defensively minded Arbuthnot Lathom team but they simply couldn’t convert enough of them. Captain Jules Van Veghel (-1) set his team up to contain and play on the break and this they did exceptionally well. With Jules commanding the team from the middle of the line with authority, Matias Amaya (5) was always in control at the back and he also found plenty on the break to score 6 goals. I am sure he would give high praise to Geroge Deverall (0) who regularly created room for his attacking drives and the support he got from Ben Malasomma (2), who covered every blade of grass at a rapid pace, for his Captain. He was phenomenal over the two games. It was a classic team performance and that was what won the day. Final Score 7-3.
And so to the final. Played on Saturday in front of over 3,000 people in perfect conditions there was a real buzz around the pitch. They say in boxing opposing styles makes for great matches and in this case that was what we had. Thomas from Laurent Perrier, all attack and confident his engine room could outscore any team and Van Veghel of Arbuthnot Latham convinced that by bringing Laurant-Perrier high up the pitch and soaking up the pressure they would find the space to hit on the counter.
Things didn’t go to plan for Laurent-Perrier as they conceded early and were trailing but at the end of the first Chukka after some intense mid field battles there was parity at the break at 2 apiece. Amaya was doing his job of marking Henderson and the pressure was intense right across the park. Amaya’s pony, Tormenta (it means Storm in Spanish) was superb and was rightly awarded Pony of the Tournament. The second chukka saw a disaster on the restart as tournament MVP, Henderson got the ball caught under hooves when attempting to relieve the pressure and gifted the ball to Malasomma right in front of goal. He quickly atoned with one of his trademark sweeping runs down the left hand side hooking in to goal to equalise but a stunning Deverall steal and conversion saw Arbuthnot Latham go in one ahead leading 4-3 at the long break. It had been a breath-taking and incredibly high standard first half which was thrilling the large crowd.
Laurent-Perrier Captain Thomas knew his team couldn’t afford to go two down and had to set his team up more conservatively for the 3rd chukka and it was here that Johnny Coddington came to the fore winning many of the close quarters battles, bit by bit Henderson was starting to see more of the ball and when Coddington scored to equalise you started to see concern etched on the faces of the Arbuthnot Latham team. Amaya settled the nerves with a goal. No sooner had he done so when we witnessed the moment of the final as Henderson weaved his way through heavy traffic and scored from the most acute angle to see Laurent-Perrier take the lead for the first time in the contest.
At the end of the 3rd stanza and right on the whistle Laurent Perrier were awarded a penalty 2 which was converted by Thomas at the restart and suddenly his team had a two goal cushion. Thomas added another in open play to take his match total to 3 goals and of course in the dying embers of the game, that man Henderson scored the 8th to settle the fixture.
The final score was 8-5 which makes it look a lot more comfortable than it was. In a see-sawing game the crowd were treated to tense, aggressive and highly skilled Polo and they loved it. It’s an old cliché and whilst Laurent-Perrier picked up the spoils of the LDF Trophy and £10,000, the real winner was the game of Polo. Well done to Chester Racecourse for staging a superb showpiece for a crowd that is learning and appreciating the game more year after year.
Match Report and Commentary by Stephen Wundke