Polo: England’s season off to winning start

Action from England's win  over South America in the St Regis International Cup  Picture by Clive Bennett / www.polopictures.co.uk
Action from England's win over South America in the St Regis International Cup Picture by Clive Bennett / www.polopictures.co.uk
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England beat South America at Cowdray Park in the first international of the UK polo season.

In glorious sunshine, a large crowd saw the Audi-sponsored home nation take on South America for the St Regis International Cup.

Playing for England were both of the England squad’s seven-goal players: Luke Tomlinson, team captain, and James Beim. Also selected were six-goal players Mark Tomlinson and up-and-coming 23-year-old Max Charlton.

The South Americans wwre captained by Nacho Figueras, six goals, who was joined by brothers Alejandro Novillo Astrada, eight goals, and Eduardo Novillo Astrada, nine goals, with Guy Gibrat, four goals, in the No1 position.

Within seconds, the England captain was away to open the scoring. A huge lofty shot at goal from Alejandro Novillo Astrada was South America’s answer, and soon his brother Eduardo was on his way to the other end tapping the ball through the posts to take South America into an early lead.

England failed to take advantage of the hit-in which started the second chukka while Alejandro Novillo Astrada lost no chance in picking up the ball and sending it back through the posts. But an opportunistic swoop by Mark Tomlinson brought a goal for England.

Beim steamed off with the ball from the throw-in, dealing an offside and a nearside shot before a fine cut shot sent the ball through the posts and England were back in the lead at 3½-3.

An excellent pass to Charlton, who made a huge under-the-neck shot, reinforced England’s lead at 4½-3. Out of nowhere came a mighty shot over the goalposts from Eduardo Novillo Astrada, followed by a penalty converted by his brother – and South America were back in the lead.

The third chukka saw great interplay from England, resulting in three goals from them and none from the visitors, giving the home sidea 7½-5 lead.

Following the tread-in, the action notched up a gear. England were rewarded when a fantastic run by James Beim resulted in a cracking goal.

Eduardo Novillo Astrada secured the ball from the throw-in and set off straight down the field for the English goal and got one back for South America. His brother galloped to the other end and suddenly South America had pulled back to 8½-7.

Tomlinson sent a powerful hit along the ground to score once again for England, but just as the end of the chukka neared Guy Gibrat made a surprise goal for South America and the fourth ended at 9½-8.

South America upped the pace for the final chukka but England responded with all guns blazing. A great piece of play by Max Charlton kept Alejandro Novillo Astrada off England’s No3 enabling Beim to take the ball all the way to the goal and increase England’s lead to 10½-8.

South America sent a penalty wide, while Mark Tomlinson notched one more goal to seal victory for England on a final score of 11½-8.

Tomlinson received the Silver Jubilee Cup from Paul James, global brand leader, St Regis Hotels & Resorts. Paul James presented individual prizes to team members.

Nacho Figueras, team captain and St Regis Cconnoisseur, received the St Regis International Cup from Paul James, who also presented individual prizes.

Stephen Alexander of Casablanca Polo presented the MVP award to James Beim. Umpires’ gifts were presented by Charley Larcombe of The Polo magazine.

The award for best playing pony was made by Polly Bryan of Polo Times to Yacht, owned by James Beim.

LIZ HIGGINS