England beat the USA to win the Bryan Morrison Trophy, the Arena Polo International Test Match held at Hickstead on Saturday 5 March.
The match featured two of the world’s greatest arena players, with England captain Chris Hyde and the USA’s captain Tommy Biddle both playing off a handicap of 10-goals, the highest rating a player can be given.
Both had faced each other in this Test Match two years ago, when it was Tommy and the USA team who were victorious. But this time, it was the home side who came out on top, winning 16-14 to claim the prestigious Bryan Morrison Trophy for the second year in a row.
A large crowd gathered at the All England Polo Club on Saturday afternoon, despite somewhat chilly conditions, to watch the battle of the titans unfold – and the match was also streamed online around the world.
Eight-goaler Johnny Good and Ed Banner Eve (4 goals) lined up alongside Chris Hyde for England, while Biddle’s team comprised Pelon Escapite (7 goals) and Kareem Rosser (3 goals), giving the visitors a two-goal advantage based on handicap.
As the game got underway, it didn’t take England long to even things up, with two fouls committed by the USA meaning Hyde was awarded two penalties, which he converted with confidence.
Both 10-goal players were heavily marked for the duration of the game, but showed their skills when allowed – and both men came up with some moments of pure genius and highlighted why they are the world’s best.
Banner-Eve, England’s youngest player, worked tirelessly to keep Biddle under wraps, while Escapite had the job of keeping Hyde at bay. Both players excelled on their handicaps and demonstrated skills on and off the ball, both real assets to their teams.
Rosser played with sheer determination in his USA debut, displaying some gravity defying moves – which did lead to an unscheduled dismount in the first chukka. Despite the fall, he carried on and showed his team mates he was going to put it all on the line. Good was Hyde’s perfect wing man, the two having represented England on several occasions, clearing the way for the 10-goaler and presenting him with some great defensive passes.
England managed to go clear in the third chukka, leading 14-10 having level pegged in the first two chukkas. They held their ground and, despite a last minute charge from Escapite and Biddle in the last chukka, England ran out the victors 16-14.
Escapite was awarded Most Valuable Player for his efforts, and Promise, a grey mare ridden by Chris Hyde (owned by his son Jack) was awarded Best Playing Pony.
“We were well prepared for the match, and slightly better mounted this year compared to two years ago. All three of us were fit and ready, and we did the right job today,” said England Captain Chris Hyde.
“The first half was a bit shaky, but losing at half time shook us up and we needed that,” he added. “The USA had a two-goal head start on handicap, so for us to be trailing by just one goal at half time was alright.”
Chris is the first English player ever to be given the prestigious 10-goal arena polo rating, having been put up in the autumn rankings. “It’s a massive privilege for me, and I think I’ve proved a point after being beaten here two years ago,” said Hyde.
In the first game of the day, the 12-goal challenge, Hedonism Wines were the victors over Clogau Wales Polo Team, with a score of 21-18.
All England Polo Club Chairman John Bunn reflected on what had been another superb renewal of the annual test match. “It was a very good day and were lucky with the weather compared to other parts of the country,” he said. “England did themselves proud, and they worked very well as a team – we’re delighted to have the Trophy back!”
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