Polo: British Open throws up thrillers at Cowdray

Action from the British Open at Cowdray Park  Picture by Clive Bennett www.polopictures.co.uk
Action from the British Open at Cowdray Park Picture by Clive Bennett www.polopictures.co.uk

Two thrilling matches on Saturday began to set the scene for next weekend’s quarter-finals of the British Open Polo Championship.

Black Bears met the 20-goal side of HB Polo in the highest-scoring match so far in the British Open played for the Cooch Behar Cup.

HB Polo made a slow start but two goals from Black Bear’s Facundo Sola, another from patron Guy Schwarzenbach and a fourth from Paco O’Dwyer saw Black Bears ahead 4-0 at the close of the first chukka.

The French Pailloncy brothers’ HB team pulled back with three super goals from the No2 Ignacio Toccalino and a huge cut shot from Pite Merlos to even the scores.

A pass from Toccalino saw a neat goal from Ludovic Pailloncy take his side ahead for the first time. An amazing angled shot came from Merlos and HB were two ahead. Three goals followed in swift succession for Black Bears, another from Toccalino for HB and the third chukka ended with the black shirts 8-7 up.

Injured Sola’s place was taken by Polito Pieres. Goals 16 and 17 came from Toccalino and Merlos and HB were back in the lead. John Paul Clarkin equalised for Black Bears but another lovely field goal from Ludovic Pailloncy enabled HB to close chukka four a goal ahead.

A foul by HB gave Pieres his first goal with a 30-yard penalty. Schwarzenbach took Black Bears back into the lead with his second of the match. A hectic final chukka saw Toccalino and Merlos work their socks off to take HB into the lead again.

The next throw-in saw Pieres take off with the ball, head straight to the goal and score. Soon he received a pass which saw him dash to the other end and equalise.

His final contribution was a goal from a 60-yard penalty with Black Bears ending the match victors at 14-13 and the valiant 20-goal HB side out of the running for the 2014 Gold Cup. Jai Singh, Maharaj of Jaipur, presented the Cooch Behar Cup.

The second match was as exctinig. By half-time ‘Top’ Srivaddhanapra’s King Power were 9-4 ahead. However strong performances by Rob Archibald and Fran Elizalde for El Rosario saw José Peñafiel’s team come within a goal of them.

Top scored two excellent goals and another by Gonzalito Pieres took King Power ahead 12-8 by the end of the fifth. The final chukka saw Fran Elizalde score from a 40-yard penalty.

He was answered by a superb goal from Gonzalito Pieres who followed with a massive hit to convert a 60-yard penalty. Awarded a 30-yard hit at goal, Elizalde sent it through but the match ended with King Power the winners on 14-10.

On Sunday the Argentine Ambassador, Alicia Castro, brought 450 guests to see the all-British team of Halcyon Gallery take on EFG Bank Aravali in a Gold Cup match played for the historic Argentine Ambassador’s Cup – a feature at Cowdray Park since 1958.

The final score was 10-6 in favour of the all-English professionals of Halcyon Gallery. The Ambassador presented the cup and prizes and an award for best playing pony was made by the Argentine Polo Pony Breeders’ Association.

LIZ HIGGINS