The first ever All Pro Polo League (APPL) match staged at Cowdray Park last Saturday 23rd June featured eight of the world’s ten goal polo stars and made polo history. In a sport rated on handicap levels of -2 to the perfect 10, and with only ten 10 goal players in the entire world, this was a genuine feast of polo for the massive crowd that turned up to watch.
In a programme of two superb matches played to the new rules of the APPL designed by its founder Javier Tanoira to speed up the game and make it easier for newcomers to the sport to understand, each chukka lasted just 5 minutes (usually 7) and there was no changing of ponies during chukkas. However, as usual, ends changed after every chukka.
In the first match of the afternoon, played at 18 goal level and representing players from England, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Australia, the battle of the ‘Young Guns’ showcased the potential stars of the future. The Hurlingham 1875 side of Tom Brodie, Jake Daniels, Jack Richardson and Freddie Horne took on Kings comprising Ollie Cork, Santiago Stirling, Bartolome Castagnola and Juan Pablo Villela. A fast-paced, and very entertaining match clearly demonstrated the skills of the young players and ended in a narrow victory for Kings on a score of 7-6.
Next up was the much anticipated 40 goal contest where the speed of the action was matched by the obvious love of their sport radiating from the faces of all the players. Hurlingham 1875 in blue featured brothers Facundo Pieres and Gonzalito Pieres in the number 1 and 3 shirts, with Uruguayan player David ‘Pelon’ Stirling’ at 2 and Juan Martin Nero at Back. For Cowdray Park in orange, Polito Pieres played at the front door, with Hillario Ulloa at 2, Guillermo ‘Sapo’ Caset at 3 and the third of the three Pieres brothers, Nico, at Back.
The first mark on the scoreboard came from Facundo Pieres, arguably now considered the world’s best player. Before the first chukka ended the Hurlingham 1875 side had notched up another goal, this time from the number 3, Stirling.
Chukka 2 opened with the ball being sent in from the back line. An attempt by Cowdray Park to score went wide. Nico Pieres flew into the action, Caset appealed for a foul. The penalty was given and a safety 60 yard shot was awarded which Caset accurately sent between the posts and Cowdray Park were in the game. Back came Hurlingham 1875 onto the attack, Stirling aimed at the goal but great defence by Cowdray Park enabled Ulloa to turn the ball and escape. Off he raced the whole length of the pitch to level the scores at 2-2. Polito Pieres steered off an attack by Stirling but suddenly the intuitive double act of Gonzalito and Facundo Pieres was in evidence, the whistle blew for a foul and Hurlingham 1875 had won a penalty. A 30 yard shot at goal enabled Facundo Pieres to take the lead for Hurlingham 1875. Polito Pieres swiftly reversed the situation with a great pass to Caset whose goal rendered the scores even on 3-3 to close the chukka.
Fast, accurate and engaging play by Polito Pieres ensured goal number 7 and a 4-3 lead for Cowdray Park. The action raced on as the number 1’s second goal took the score on to 5-3 in Cowdray Park’s favour with no answers from Hurlingham 1875 by half time.
In chukka 4, a great steal by Stirling and a pass to Gonzalito Pieres resulted in a race the length of the pitch and a goal to bring Hurlingham 1875 up to 4-5. But Cowdray Park retaliated with some great teamwork and a goal from Nico Pieres to 6-4. The fifth chukka saw Hurlingham 1875 fall farther behind after a super goal from Ulloa took Cowdray Park 7-4 ahead. In the final chukka, each side attempted goals which went wide but finally Ulloa galloped away with the ball, leaving it to Caset to achieve the goal which took Cowdray Park into an unassailable 8-4 in the final chukka.
Fred Mannix, 8 goal Canadian player and Ambassador for sponsors Hurlingham Polo 1875, came forward to present prizes to the teams in the Young Guns match. Kenney Jones, Diector of Hurlingham Polo 1875 was delighted to present the prizes in the APPL 40 goal match.
Photos by CLive Bennett