Ladies bloom for memorable polo final at Cowdray Park

Jager Le Coultre take on RJ Polo in the final of The Bloom British Ladies Championship  Picture by Clive Bennett
Jager Le Coultre take on RJ Polo in the final of The Bloom British Ladies Championship Picture by Clive Bennett

A busy season continued at Cowdray Park Polo Club with an absorbing BLOOM British Ladies’ Open Polo Championship final.

A strong five-goal Jaeger-LeCoultre team which included the UK’s highest handicapped lady player, Nina Clarkin (four goals) and two talented one-goal lady players, Claire Donnelly and Sarah Wiseman, breezed their way through to the final.

At No1 for Jaeger-LeCoultre was Sally Dawson, who replaced Clare Milford Haven, out of action with a fractured bone in her leg. Facing them was Octavia de Ferranti’s RJ Polo team, a one-goal side who received 2½ goals on handicap to start.

Also playing for RJ Polo were Maimie Powell, Emma Boers and a talented new face at Cowdray Park in the shape of two-goal player Lia Salvo at back.

Nina Clarkin was first to score, putting a good field goal through the posts minutes in. A foul by RJ Polo enabled Sarah Wiseman to score a 30-yard penalty for Jaeger LeCoultre before the chukka closed.

In the second chukka, it was obvious Jaeger-Le Coultre would not have things entirely their way with RJ Polo pushing forward.

Again Clarkin achieved a quality field goal. Then came a foul offering the chance of a 60-yard shot at goal for RJ Polo. Lia Salvo took aim and sent the ball straight through the posts taking her side ahead.

Before the chukka ended Sarah Wiseman scored for Jaeger-LeCoultre once again and the first half ended with Jaeger-LeCoultre 4-3½ ahead.

The third chukka saw RJ Polo come out fighting. Salvo impressed the crowd with excellent defensive play and passing. Midway through the chukka she swooped on to the ball and carried it forward to push it through the posts and take RJ Polo 4½-4 ahead. An excellent clearance by Clarkin prevented Salvo from scoring again.

It was obvious both sides meant business as the final chukka got under way. Another great attempt at goal by RJ Polo was thwarted by Clarkin. A further opportunity was missed when a 40-yard penalty shot went wide. Jaeger-LeCoultre missed a 40-yard shot before Clarkin pushed the ball through the posts to take Jaeger-LeCoultre back into the lead again.

RJ Polo could have pipped them at the post if a penalty had gone in but it went wide and the match ended 5-4½ to Jaeger-LeCoultre.

There was praise from the male players in the audience – a far cry from the early days of the Ladies’ Open Championship when a male pro was co-opted on to each team to provide pace and shots. This final demonstrated the ladies can provide as fast and exciting a match as anyone.

Mike Salmon, marketing director of new title sponsors BLOOM London Dry Gin, presented the silver salver to Sally Dawson of Jaeger LeCoultre and a bottle of BLOOM Gin to each player.

Mariya Burton of luxury leather goods firm Aspinal of London presented gifts to each player.

Two other tournaments also reached their conclusion on the same day. In the final of the four-goal tournament sponsored by Saracen Horse Feeds, 4H beat Pluma Negra 8-5. In the 12-goal 1921 Cup, Four Quarters Blue narrowly beat Bramon 6½-6.