Match Report and Commentary by Stephen Wundke The Boodles Roodee Challenge Cup – Friday 7 and Saturday 8 September 2018Published on 17 September 2018
This was the 7th Tournament that longtime Polo supporter, Boodles, had put their name to and with four quality, six goal teams lining up to compete for the £10,000 purse on a perfect Chester Racecourse surface competition for the title the atmosphere seemed as keen and edgy as ever.
1st Semi Final
Boodles (6) V Laurent-Perrier (5)
The first semi-final featured the principle Sponsors, Boodles (6), taking on Laurent-Perrier (5), another regular contributor to the feature Chester Polo Club. Team Boodles assembled a line-up that was well familiar both to the crowd and themselves, as this was the winning formation in June at the LDF International Polo Tournament. They started well, Captained, by Richard Thomas (0) they changed up their tactics, still sending Oliver Conway Johnson (-1) forward which always committed a rider but this time rather than Thomas mopping up at the back he played the Utility spoiling role in midfield and they sent Johnny Coddington (3) more forward and left Mikey Henderson (4) a little deeper. It was something Laurent-Perrier Captain, Guido Basile (-1) hadn’t expected and despite the ½ goal lead his team started with it wasn’t long before both Coddington with a goal and Henderson with two, were on the score sheet and had wiped out the handicap lead. Boodles simply came out firing with longer, more accurate passes and the pace of Coddington was too much for both Alex Boucher (1) and Tom Collie (2) to deal with. Time and again if they managed to apply pressure to Coddington there was Henderson to sweep up and it looked grim for Laurent-Perrier facing a 3 goal deficit at the end of the first stanza.
More of the same in the 2nd Chukka, although things did tighten up and Charlie Walton (3) got Laurent-Perrier on the scoresheet although they were still outscored and at halftime a 6-11/2 scoreline was ominous.
Thomas allowed his to high goal players to continue to express themselves and they were clearly enjoying this formation and with the ball rolling so well Coddington and Henderson were able to exploit the spaces created by Conway-Johnson and their Captain and it was a carbon copy in Chukka 3 with another 3 goals to Boodles and just the solitary reply from Laurent-Perrier thanks to a decent strike from Collie.
By the time the 4th Chukka was underway that task of clawing back a 6 goal deficit was beyond Guido’s team and whilst they tried hard by coming forward to try to score, of course, they left gaps at the back and Henderson and Coddington hit on the break for another 3 goals. It was a one-sided affair that showed the benefits of a great team understanding and whilst there is no doubt team Laurent-Perrier were improving through the match they simply didn’t have the same cohesion, nor the ability to cope with the pace and power of a team who are clearly on song and look a big danger in the final.
Final Score 12-21/2 (Boodles)
Boodles: Mike Henderson 8, Johny Coddington 4,
Laurent Perrier: Charlie Walton 1, Tom Collie 1
2nd Semi Final
Quilter (6) V Signature Living (6)
This match saw two new teams take each other on. Team Quilter (6), one of the North Wests leading Financial Advisors were to take on Team Signature Living. It was great to see new, strong and vibrant companies getting involved in the game, they and their guests seemed to enjoy everything about the game which started as a cracking encounter. Team Quilter Captain, Katie Jenkinson (0) was determined that her team, get off to a fast start. She captained a team here in June made up of both Henry Smith (1) and Christian Chaves (3) and this team squandered chances in front of goal and went behind early, which cost them dearly. She didn’t want a repeat of that, it was clear. She added the exciting young player Jimbo Fewster (2) to her line up and it was obvious straight away, this was a well-drilled team. Signature Living, Captained by Hedley Aylott (1) brought Jamie Thomas (1), Battie Funes (2) and Ben Malasomma (2) altogether. It was evident that both teams came to play exciting Polo and after 5 minutes of the first chukka, the large crowd were breathless with as many goals scored as minutes gone. Firstly, Fewster got the scoring underway, then Funes responded to make it 1-1, Smith rallied with a long-range cracker and Thomas equalised only to see Signature Living take the lead again with another from Fewster. As the 1st chukka came to a close and the score 3-2 with Quilter leading, everyone wanted more, it had been an electric first Chukka of relentless pace.
Jenkinson tightened her team a little pulling Chaves deeper and here he took control. Every time Signature Living tried to make an attack there was Chaves, intercepting and then finding the free riding Smith who was happy in the Lone Ranger role. When he was unable to cut free there was Fewster in behind to pick up the pieces. He scored two from open play and is such an exciting young player to watch. Another Quilter goal resulted after a goalmouth melee from the stick of Captain Jenkinson. This was a devastating chukka for Signature Living and whilst both Malasomma and Thomas added two more goals for Signature in Chukkas 3 and 4 they were matched and outscored by another two from Smith and a further goal for Fewster.
The final score of 9-4 was an accurate reflection of a game that showed off everything good about Polo. Some breath-taking speed shown by both teams, great stick work at close quarters in both attack and defence but a triumph for a well drilled team who had a quality player in Chaves in defence giving them the confidence to allow two young, very promising players in Fewster and Smith to attack and in the end the weight of attacking rides, which seemed to come in waves, proved too strong for Signature Living who look like a side that with more play time will get better and better. Today, however, was Quilters day and they would advance to the final very confident they have the game to test the established Boodles team. We could hardly wait.
Final Score 9-4 (Quilter)
Quilter: Jimbo Fewster 5, Henry Smith 3, Katie Jenkinson 1
Signature Living: Jamie Thomas 2, Bautista Funes 1, Ben Malasomma 1.
Boodles (6) V Quilter (6)
The forecast was poor and for once it delivered, with rain starting at about 9.00am and continuing with heavy bursts right up until the scheduled start at 2.30pm. Thankfully the elements took pity on us and it stopped but the rain-softened ground meant pitch inspections by our Umpires, Tony Kite and Tristan Pemble were necessary to ensure play was possible in front of the 1200 people who had braved the elements and were upbeat for a great game. The Umpirese deemed the surface safe but explained to both Captains that it was bound to tear up quite quickly and they would reassess at half time. Thomas and Jenkinson agreed and the game began.
It was always going to be, under these conditions, an advantage to team Quilter who play quick, short, close contact Polo and this was the kind of game their high goal player, Christian Chaves, was brought up on and so it proved. In the first chukka, it was intense. Captain Thomas, of team Boodles made a decision to pull back his long passing duo and play tighter, for fear of letting Quilter get off to a flyer. Fewster scored first for Quilter and it was Henderson for Boodles who responded but as the pitch cut up Chaves was presented with two golden opportunities which allowed Quilter to lead 3-1 at the end of the first stanza. In an incident just before the end of the chukka both Coddington and Chaves attempted to stop and turn quickly and both ponies lost their footing, no injuries, but an indication that this game was on a knife-edge, both in terms of the score and the control riders had over their charges. It was an incredibly intense affair and at the break, conversation was deep between Thomas and his team to see how they could adapt to these different conditions and counter the Quilter game.
Straight after the short break, Henderson got Boodles on to the scoresheet again to narrow the gap to just 1 and just like in the LDF Final in June his team were fighting back. A Chaves goal followed quickly with another from Fewster to see the scoreline extended to 5-2. Henderson missed a penalty 60, that could have seen them go in at the long break just 2 down and that would have been a fair reflection, as you felt in the last couple of minutes Boodles were starting to get on top. Just prior to the half-time whistle, with only 40 seconds of the chukka remaining. Katie Jenkinson’s horse slithered from under her and she suffered a heavy fall in somewhat innocuous circumstances. It was ominous for the game.
After lengthy discussions at the half-time break, despite the fact that the crowd did a superb job of stomping back in the divots, umpires Kite and Pemble instructed the players to “slow the game down on the grounds of safety.” Whilst it was entirely the right decision you couldn’t help but feel denied by the elements a satisfactory to the conclusion to what had been an enthralling final and one that could have still gone either way. On the balance of play Quilter were the worthy winners.
Final Score 5-2 (Quilter)
Quilter: Cristian Chaves 3, Jimbo Fewster 2
Boodles: Mike Henerson 2
It was an engaging two days with many first time visitors to the game telling me how exciting they thought the Polo and in particular the final had been and despite the conditions, it was a wonderful spectacle. It was such a shame that the rain intervened but there is no doubting this is a great venue and more and more people are learning in this area about the joys of Polo. Well done to team Quilter, this line up will be a force to be reckoned with at this level.
The Boodles Roodee Challenge Cup Champions 2018 - Team Quilter
Evershed Sutherland Most valuable Player - Christian Chaves (3) Team Quilter
Harrogate Spring Water - Best Playing Pony: Click – 6-year-old Mare owned by Jimbo Fewster Team Quilter
Match Report and Commentary by Stephen Wundke