The last 18-goal tournament of the season at Cowdray Park Polo Club came to an end on Sunday, August 1 as Ferne Park and White Crane met to decide the Challenge Cup title. Overcoming a slow start, White Crane produced an exceptional team performance to triumph 8.5-7 and emerge as the 2021 Challenge Cup champions.
The fast-paced game featured strong passing attacks from both teams as they combined for nine assists on 12 field goals, highlighting the elite level of play seen in the final. Tomas Panelo and Andrew Blake-Thomas provided a formidable duo for White Crane, accounting for all but one of their team’s goals, while Ferne Park responded with a two-man game of their own that was led by Joaquin Pittaluga and Luke Tomlinson. The difference in the match ultimately came down to the additional scoring opportunities for White Crane, as they consistently produced offense over the final four chukkas to claim the 8.5-7 victory.
The only team to hand Ferne Park a loss in the tournament, White Crane looked to replicate that result in the final, but Ferne Park raced out of the gate led by the play of Luke Tomlinson. Converting a Penalty 4 while also adding a goal from the field, Tomlinson helped guide Ferne Park to the early 3-1.5 advantage as White Crane were a step behind after the opening seven minutes. An increased defensive presence from White Crane kept Ferne Park scoreless in the second chukkas as they quickly erased the two-goal deficit, holding the half goal advantage on handicap at 3.5-3 after goals from Panelo and Blake-Thomas. White Crane’s duo continued to produce through the end of the first half as they contributed one more goal each to extend White Crane’s lead by another goal, entering halftime ahead 5.5-4.
The final two chukkas produced evenly matched polo that left the outcome to be decided in the final minutes as White Crane and Ferne Park continued to exchange goals. James Harper and Jose Araya scored their first goals for the only offense in the fourth chukka, as the final chukka was remaining to determine the Challenge Cup champion. Ferne Park struck first on a Penalty 2 conversion from Pittaluga to pull within half a goal, but it was as close as they could come due to the efforts of Panelo, who scored two clutch field goals, both off the pass from Blake-Thomas to secure the 8.5-7 victory and the Challenge Cup title.
The Vickers Trophy and the X-Zony Best Playing Pony rug were awarded to Sabine played and owned by James Harper. The Most Valuable Player prize was given to Tommy Panelo.