Fifteen teams entered the 2018 Duke of Sutherland Cup, supported by Stephen’s Polo Division, the tournament being one of six HPA competitions played at Cowdray Park as part of the UK’s Victor Ludorum prize. The Duke of Sutherland Cup was first presented at Cowdray Park in1953, and this season’s spectators enjoyed a thrilling standard of play throughout the tournament. For the third time, Jonathan Rothermere’s Ferne Park side made it to the Final where they faced Ali Albwardi’s Desert Palm team.
Playing for Ferne Park were the Patron’s son, Vere Harmsworth (0 goals) at number 1, Rodrigo Rueda (6 goals) at 2, 7 goaler Joaquin Pittaluga at 3 and Jacinto Crotto (5 goals) at Back. For Desert Palm, Camilo Castagnola played at 1, Henry Porter at 2, Bartolomé Castagnola at 3, and Martin Valent at Back. Camilo, 15 years old and already playing off 5 goals, and Bartolomé, 17 years old and a 6 goal player, are the sons of well-known Argentine player ‘Lolo’ Castagnola who many in the Cowdray crowd remember from his days playing in the high goal.
The match opened with a very swift goal from Camilo Castagnola. Pittaluga responded with an accurate 40 yard penalty shot. At the close of the first chukka the score was level at 2-2. Chukka 2 opened with a throw-in and the ball taken away by Ferne Park. Pittaluga swiftly shot a fantastic angled ball through the posts to take the lead again for Ferne Park but it wasn’t long before Camilo Castagnola equalized for Desert Palm. Despite several shots to goal, neither side produced another goal by the chukka’s close.
Within a minute of the opening of Chukka 3, Ferne Park were driving towards the goal again, with Desert Palm mounting a strong defence. Suddenly Vere Harmsworth escaped from the melée and sent a lovely shot through to take his side ahead 4-3. By then Pittaluga was firmly established in the driving seat and made a succession of goals to send Ferne Park ahead 7-3 by half time.
Chukka 4 opened with the action just as fast and Desert Palm hard in the ride-offs as they tried to defend their goal mouth but, whilst they took every opportunity to turn the ball and find their own route to goal, it was once again Ferne Park who marked the scoreboard with two fine goals from Rodrigo Rueda and a lead of 9-3 at chukka’s end.
Chukka 5 opened with a throw-in, Porter stealing the ball from Harmsworth and sending it to Bartolomé Castagnola. Following behind were Valent and Camilo Castagnola and the team effort enabled Bartolomé to score. Desert Palm won the throw-in but Pittaluga snatched the ball and went racing off. Porter tried to stop him but the ball went through the posts and Ferne Park were 10-4 ahead. Valent seized the ball from Crotto at the next throw-in, passed to Camilo Castagnola who made a splendid run to goal pulling a much needed goal back for Desert Palm. In the next play, again it was Valent who seized the ball and fed it to his team mates to ensure another goal from the stick of the 15 year old Castagnola. But the gap was too wide for a come-back and the match ended with a convincing win for Ferne Park on 10-6.
Sponsor Stephen Biddlecombe presented the historic trophy to Vere Harmsworth and innovative prizes from his Stephen’s Polo Division to all the players. The accolade of Most Valuable Player of the match went to Joaquin Pittaluga, who deservedly won a Stephen’s Polo Division saddle. He was also presented with The Polo Magazine’s Most Valuable Player award. The prize for Best Playing Pony went to Martin Valent’s Violantera. A rug was presented on behalf of Polo Times Magazine and Stephen Biddlecombe also presented a bridle to owner Martin Valent and prizes to his groom.
In the subsidiary Final of The Duke of Sutherland Cup Bardon beat VPS Healthcare Sifani 8-6. In the weekend’s other Final, the 8 goal Easebourne Cup, Christian Staubach’s Bamboleo/Madams Farm beat Lila Pearson’s Cowdray Vikings 4-2.