CLOGAU 10 GOAL CHALLENGE MATCH
Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club (RCBPC) v Wales
RoyalCountyof Berkshire Polo Club, Berkshire
By T. Aylshott
15th June 2013
WALES VICTORY LAYS PATH FOR DEMANDING FIXTURES AHEAD
Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club 3-5 Wales
Walesran out worthy winners in this mid-season season friendly which was played to a fair tempo throughout and produced some exciting end to end attacking polo from both teams.
The pitch which had literally just been used for the Prince of Wales tournament final was slightly cut up, and the weather conditions could only be fairly described as ‘four seasons in one day’, with light showers being interspersed with a biting wind in between the odd burst of sunshine.
Sponsored by Welsh gold company, Clogau, the Wales team played Ricky Cooper(Capt) upfront, supported by Andrew Blake-Thomas with Roddy Matthews and Pete Webb taking care of business at the back. The match proved to be a very useful contest forWalesas the team move towards some demanding fixtures over the next couple of months.
The RCBPC team comprised twoEnglandinternationals, Nacho Gonzalez and Jamie Morrison whom as expected created problems for the Welsh throughout the match and asked questions in all areas of play which could only have been to the benefit of the visitors.
The first chukka got off to a good start forWaleswith Matthews firing in a spot penalty from 150 yards out which was seized upon by Webb who made no mistake in hitting the target with a skilful angled lofted shot from 30 yards out. The rest of the chukka remained pretty evenly split with possession changing hands frequently as players were beaten by the bounce of the ball more than anything else.
The second chukka started immediately with a penalty awarded toWales, for an infringement in the goal area and Webb calmly slotted home to make the score 2-0 to the visitors.Walesthen took their foot off the gas and were almost caught napping when Paolo di Filippo picked up a great pass from Gonzalez, 50 yards inside his own half and made a break the length of the field, leaving Blake-Thomas to sufficiently pressurize his opponent which ended up in di Filippo’s shot narrowly missing the Welsh goal. The score at half time remained at 2-0 to Wales.
RCBPC came out with all guns blazing for the third chukka with Morrison and Gonzalez combining well and were rewarded almost immediately by a soft goal from a poor defensive error byWales. Immediately from the restart,Waleslost possession of the ball and Morrison attacked down the left hand side, unchallenged and finished with a well taken goal from 30 yards.
At 2-2, Wales must have been kicking themselves for allowing their opponents back into the match needlessly, but it did have the effect of redoubling their efforts and from then on Wales took command of the rest of the chukka with Blake-Thomas slotting a penalty from close range and almost scoring again as Webb’s delightful drive up-field was skillfully intercepted by him from 50 yards out. Blake-Thomas then moved in field and fired a well hit shot at goal which whistled wide past the right hand post, to the relief of the RCBPC players. The chukka ended 3-2 toWales.
In the final chukka,Walestook command of the game with Webb and Matthews asserting their dominance in defence as well as attack. Webb scored the goal of the match, having picked the ball up early on the right and deftly dribbled the ball home from 150 yards through a desperate defensive effort by RCBPC. Matthews then immediately punished his opponents from the restart who had gone to sleep at the back of the line-out, enabling him to get within 40 yards of goal on the right hand side of the field, finishing off with a sweetly struck angled shot to make the score 5-2 to Wales with just over a minute to go.
A monumental effort by RCBPC in the dying stages of the match was rewarded by an easy goal for Morrison as the Welsh gave the ball away outside their own goal again, to make the score 5-3 and raise the confidence of the home team.
It seemed to work, as RCBPC nearly pulled back one more goal with 20 seconds left on the clock, when Gonzalez found Morrison with a rifled pass in from the right. Morrison gathered, shot, and for a fleeting moment must have thought the ball had hit the target, only to be denied by a spectacular interception from Matthews whom chasing at full speed, managed to play an incredible shot and clear the Welsh lines.
The Welsh ran down the clock and managed to retain possession for the last few moments, with the match finishing 5-3 to Wales who now travel to the All England Polo Club at Hickstead for their next match on 22nd June in preparation for the British Beach Polo Championships at Sandbanks in mid-July, where they were narrowly beaten in the final last year.
Walesteam captain Cooper commented after the match, “That was a good battle and we’ve learned a lot from today. Some areas need tightening up on before our next few games, but I’m very pleased with how the guys played overall today. We nailed our chances when they came and managed to disrupt their attacks. We can build on this for sure”.
Teams and Handicaps
1. R.Cooper (Capt, -1) 2. A.Blake-Thomas (3) 3. R.Matthews (3) 4. P.Webb (5)
1. P. di Filippo(0) 2. R. Herman (0) 3. N.Gonzalez (6) 4. J.Morrison(4)
Umpires: T.Bown /P Wright