Months of hard training paid off last week when Oxford University Polo Club (OUPC) sent five teams to the Schools and Universities Polo Association (SUPA) National Championships. This was an event of astounding magnitude, with over 200 matches crammed into just four days, constituting around 24 hours of play in total. With 56 universities competing across ten divisions, Rugby Polo Club was buzzing with activity and the pounding of hundreds of hooves.
Oxford got off to an impressive start on Thursday when the Beginners, who began playing polo only this Michaelmas, and overpoweredBirmingham with some Blues grit. With Captain Simran Chana winning virtually every line-up and a hattrick from fresher Lizzy Hamilton, Oxford made a remarkable 7-0 victory look easy.
The Beginners also enjoyed wins against Stirling, Bath Spa, St Andrew’s and Regent’s. Special mention goes to Suzanne van Ballekom and Sana Fathima, both of whom displayed striking prowess and nerves of steel to score winning penalties in the face of sudden-death.
In the Novice division (over six months of play), Oxford had a rocky start with a frustrating defeat by Oxford Brookes, but brought it back again for a smooth victory against the University of West England. Beginner Rodrigo Tosti, subbed in at the last minute, played like a true Argentine despite the challenge of a higher division. Captained by Michael Yu, the Novices rounded off the weekend nicely for Oxford, thrashing Loughborough 6-1.
The characteristic flair of Oxford’s Advanced team saw them through to triumph on Sunday morning following a tough start the previous day. Club Captain George Allen provided powerful attack, and combined with James Lindsey’s accuracy and Jerome Kamm’s quick-wittedness, the team placed a respectable second place overall.
Most Valued Player went to beginner Rachel Tanner, who scored hat-tricks in two matches and was subbed into the Novice team for their final victorious chukka. Best Goal was awarded to Tom Verbiest for his impressive display of skill and accuracy taking the ball the length of the pitch and straight to goal, dodging aggressive defense from St Andrew’s.
OUPC’s great success would not have been possible without the tireless hard work of The Oxford Polo School, especially grooms Martin Foulkes and Jen Liggins. And of course the gratitude of the club goes to coach David Ashby who supported the teams (and showed them how it should be done in a spectacular exhibition match).
Chairman Andreas Kranke, who lent his skill both on the polo field and organising behind the scenes, said: “There has been great enthusiasm and effort put into this time-intensive tournament, as we sent an unprecedented 25 players and 12 horses.
“Through some hard training we improved our play and can enjoy the game even more now.
He added: “ I am very proud of our successes.”