Large crowds turned out for the final matches of the season at Cowdray Park Polo Club.
The last in the series of HPA tournaments, the 12-goal Autumn Cup supported by Fortunis Capital, was entered by seven teams with Ana Escobedo’s Ojo Caliente and George Pearson’s Cowdray Vikings making it to the final.
Escobedo took the No1 position for her team with John Martin (two goals) at two, Jonny Good (four goals) at three and John Paul Clarkin (six goals) at back. Charlie Wooldridge (two goals) played in the No1 position for Cowdray Vikings with George Pearson (two goals) at two, Jose Ramon Araya (three goals) at No3 and Will Emerson (five goals) in his usual position at back.
The match opened with a field goal from Good, followed by another from Martin before Emerson replied for Cowdray Vikings.
Ramon Araya raced away to make a swift goal for Cowdray Vikings as the second chukka got under way, levelling the score, but his next attempt hit the goalpost and deflected. Clarkin brought the ball in, Good moved it on and set up Clarkin for a short tap between the posts for a 3-2 lead for Ojo Caliente.
Although Cowdray Vikings won the throw-in, Good turned the ball and raced away to take the score on to 4-2 in Ojo Caliente’s favour.
A whistle in favour of Cowdray Vikings gave them a 60-yard penalty but Martin stopped the ball and Caliente were once more in possession. Pearson stole the ball back for his side and Araya was on the move again, but Clarkin raced in and the ball went over the boards.
Emerson took the free hit but once more Ojo Caliente spoilt the Vikings’ party and the ball was with Escobedo who was fouled.
The second half started with a spot penalty in front of goal for Ojo Caliente, Clarkin moving the score on to 5-2. The umpires blew another foul, this time in favour of Cowdray Vikings, but Araya’s 30 yard penalty shot went wide.
Clarkin sent a big shot forward, Good making a brilliant under-the-neck shot which took Ojo Caliente ahead 6-2. Pearson battled Martin to secure the ball from the throw-in but Clarkin came out the winner.
Back came Pearson to secure the ball for his side, Emerson passed to Araya who pushed on towards the goal; the whistle blew in the resulting melée and Cowdray Vikings were awarded a 30 yard penalty, this time Araya sending it through.
The relentless action continued, the chukka ending with the whistle blown for a foul against Ojo Caliente and the score standing at 6-3 in their favour.
The final chukka opened with a 60-yard penalty which Clarkin sent high but wide. Emerson brought the ball in and Araya and Wooldridge worked hard to advance Cowdray Vikings’ position, but Escobedo stopped their attack.
Finally Cowdray Vikings were rewarded when Pearson sent a beautiful backhand shot between the posts and pulled a goal back for his side. With fresh impetus, Emerson and Wooldridge went on the attack, Wooldridge whipping the ball through the posts to bring his side within a goal of Ojo Caliente.
However, the strong team play Ojo Caliente had exhibited throughout the tournament saved the day and they held onto their 6-5 lead to secure victory in the 2019 Autumn Cup.
Caroline Hunge presented the Autumn Cup on behalf of Fortunis Capital to Escobedo and prizes to all players. Magpie, owned and played by Clarkin, was voted Best Playing Pony, with a rug presented by Rob Harris of Schweppes, who have sponsored all Best Playing Pony prizes in the 2019 HPA tournaments at Cowdray Park.
Escobedo was awarded the prize for most valuable player sponsored by Le Chameau.
The six-goal Farewell Cup saw Jella Herzer’s Los Schatzies team, lead throughout the final against Louisa Watt’s Brown Rudnick, which Los Schatzies won 7-5. The Farewell Cup was presented by Edwina Robinson, a family tradition for over 60 years. Glenn Sherriff’s Red was voted Best Playing Pony of the match.
In Cowdray Park’s final presentations of the season, chairman Roderick Vere Nicoll was delighted to mark his predecessor Peter Barfoot’s years of chairmanship, which were cut short by life-threatening injuries sustained on the polo field in 2016, with the presentation of a leather gun case.
He awarded the prize for best patrons of 2019 to Jella Herzer and husband Mauricio Bolana.
The Millenium Plate for umpiring went to Jack Berner, the Pimms trophy for Most Improved Young Player went to Angus Rowan Hamilton, and the Large Cup for Pony Welfare to Ollie Cook. Liz Parkin and Sharon Harding were delighted to receive the award for most supportive social members of 2019, marking the end of a marvellous season for the club.