Polo finalists are all fine ambassadors at Cowdray

A large crowd of spectators, including almost 400 guests of Argentine ambassador HE Carlos Sersale di Cerisano turned up to watch the El Remanso team of four English professional players take on Habtoor in the Argentine Ambassadors Cup '“ the fourth match of the weekend's Jaeger-LeCoultre league phase.

The Argentine Ambassador's Cup winners / Picture by Clive Bennett
The Argentine Ambassador's Cup winners / Picture by Clive Bennett

Mohammed Al Habtoor’s team, with him at No1, comprised Paco O’Dwyer (substituting for Isido Strada) at two, Fran Elizalde at three and Nico Pieres at back. The well-established El Remanso line-up comprised Charlie Hanbury at one, Ollie Cudmore at No2, James Beim at three and James Harper at back.

A goal apiece had appeared on the scoreboard by the close of the first chukka. Chukka two saw a super piece of defence by Cudmore free up Harper to sail away and make it 2-1. By the close of the chukka scores were level at 3-3.

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Hanbury added to El Remanso’s score at the start of the third and Cudmore was next with a disciplined run all the way down the pitch and through the posts for 5-3. Harper scored from a 30-yard penalty to take it to 6-3 but then gave away a goal to Habtoor in a melée in front of his own goal so at half time it was 6-4 to El Remanso.

O’Dwyer made a determined start for Habtoor at the start of the second half, but Beim stopped him from scoring. It wasn’t long before Hanbury took El Remanso to 7-4.

O’Dwyer worried Cudmore long enough to make the El Remanso No2 send a shot wide. The whites were on the move but Harper swooped in and backed it away. Beim latched on to it and sent it between the posts for 8-4.

Hanbury’s third came at the start of chukka five and Beim’s pony assisted him in sending through his second goal for 10-4, while his third was a huge lofted shot which Elizalde managed to stop – but Beim was straight back onto it, tapping it between the posts for 11-4.

Habtoor pushed El Remanso back. The whistle blew for a foul and Pieres sent a swift 30-yard shot through the posts to pull a goal back, and from another foul, Pieres converted from 40 yards and a comeback had begun.

The sixth chukka opened and a penalty 30-yarder was awarded which Pieres saw through the posts for 11-7. El Remanso more or less hung on through the final minutes, again enabling Pieres a penalty shot, this time a massive 60-yard drive put accurately through the goal – 11-8.

Beim won the ball from the throw-in, Pieres was on to it before Cudmore stopped him and the ball went over the boards. Habtoor won the ball from the roll-in with O’Dwyer and Pieres racing off the goal and Hanbury in defence.

Pieres made his shot at goal but the goal judge’s flag didn’t move. Pieres appealed to the umpires and the goal was given and Habtoor were behind by just two.

Habtoor called for a foul and another decision had to be made. A 60-yard penalty was awarded to Habtoor but the ball went wide. The all-English El Remanso held on for the final minute and claimed victory by 11-9.

The Argentine ambassador presented the historic trophy, dating back to the 1950s, to Charlie Hanbury and was assisted by the British ambassador to Argentina, Mark Kent, in presenting individual prizes.

The best playing pony award, presented by the Argetnine Polo Pony Breeders’ Association, went to Open Petrova, owned and played by Pieres.

* In Cowdray’s domestic final of the weekend, Andrew Swaffield’s Alcedo faced Peter Barfoot’s Maiz Dulce in the six-goal Heyshott Cup, Millie Cooper taking Peter’s place. Alcedo were leading 4-2 into the second half before goals from Jack Berner and Derreck Bratley brought the scores to level-pegging by the end of the third chukka. A tense fourth chukka saw Derreck Bratley score for Maiz Dulce before the final hooter sounded and Millie Cooper was delighted to accept the Heyshott Cup.

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