England lose to South America in polo thriller at Cowdray

England v South America in the St Regis lnternational at Cowdray Park Polo Club  Picture by Clive Bennett
England v South America in the St Regis lnternational at Cowdray Park Polo Club Picture by Clive Bennett

England were narrowly beaten by South America in the first of the UK senior international matches of the 2013 season, the St Regis International Cup, at Cowdray Park.

The England team comprised experienced international seven-goal players Luke Tomlinson (captain) and James Beim and two six-goal players Max Charlton and James Harper playing for England at home for the first time.

South America’s captain was Nacho Figueras (six goals), ambassador for the St Regis Hotel and Resorts group. His No2 was Silvestre Grahn (three goals), playing at three was Alejandro Muzzio, (seven goals), with the highest-ranked player on the field at ten goals, Facundo Pieres, playing at back.

First to score from an impressive lofted shot was Harper, giving England a fine start. Muzzio opened the scoring for South America, followed by a goal from Pieres.

Goals came for England from both Charlton and Beim and, interspersed with a second goal from Muzzio, the first chukka closed at 4-3 in England’s favour.

In the second chukka, Beim swiftly picked up the ball and ran down the field to pop it through the posts and take England further ahead to 5-3.

Pieres was ably ridden off by Beim and Figueras taken out by Harper, but as Pieres seized on the ball again and aimed for goal he was fouled by Tomlinson, giving South America the chance to pull one back from a penalty taken by the ten-goal Argentine.

Tomlinson sent a corker down to Beim, who was fouled as he tried to reach the goal. A penalty 30-yard spot hit at goal was taken by Tomlinson and England were again two ahead.

As the action resumed, Figueras took a fall. After being attended by paramedics at the scene, he was taken to hospital and his place taken by Argentine Bautista Sorsana with Pieres assuming the captaincy.

While the third chukka saw excellent inter-play between Tomlinson and Beim, it was a period without goals for England. Pieres consolidated South America’s position with two great goals and at half-time it was 6-6.

Following the tread-in, Muzzio’s accurate pass to Pieres enabled a brilliant lofty ten-goal shot to take South America ahead for the first time. A penalty for England saw Tomlinson level.

Good England teamwork saw Beim prevent South America scoring again but a scrum in front of the England goal saw the overseas side awarded a penalty and the 30-yard shot at an undefended goal gave Pieres his sixth of the match.

A little flick of the ball between the posts by Pieres made it 9-7 at the close of the fourth chukka.

In the final chukka, Sorsana got his chance to make his mark while an inspirational shot at goal by Harper pulled one back for England.

Pieres suddenly picked up the ball and powered off a lengthy cut shot from behind the girth which whizzed diagonally across the field to land plumb between the posts. The crowd gasped and the visitors were 11-8 ahead.

Harper sent an excellent shot through the posts but it was too late. The final chukka ended with South America the victors at 11-9.

England were well-organised and powerful, but the sheer ten-goal brilliance of Pieres ensured victory for the opposition.

The Silver Jubilee Cup was presented to Pieres on behalf by Paul James, senior vice president, Global Luxury Brand Management, St Regis, The Luxury Collection and W Hotels, who also presented the St Regis Cup to the English team and prizes to all the players.

Pieres was named most valuable player and received a bespoke hi-tech safety helmet from Jamie Gordon of Casablanca Polo. A rug for the best playing pony was presented by Casablanca Polo to Zest, owned by Muzzio and played by Pieres.

Earlier, a Young England team beat a St Regis side 7-6.

LIZ HIGGINS