Few would have thought any match could be fielded on grass at this point of the season given the recent inclement weather. RAF Cranwell’s ground is blessed with a bounce and a drainage the envy of high goal patrons and so the HAC Polo season was kick started at the Martyn Bebbington Memorial Trophy. The Friday evening saw players arrive and enjoy drinks in the drawing room of Leadenham House as guests of the Reeve family.
The IG Index HAC Team consisted of (L-R) : 1. Tpr Jon Roberts (S) 2. LCpl Dale Langan (-2) 3. Tpr Gearoid O’Connor (-2) 4. Sgt Tim Johnson (1)
The HAC was drawn in a pool with Leadenham Red and RAF Junior teams. Having arrived in style with the now signature HAC Gazebo and IG Index sponsored chairs and waterproofs – necessary for the day in question as the early morning sunshine gave way to rain and a bitter cold wind – the HAC team welcomed their recent regimental “patron” Lt. Col Murphy to Cranwell as their sole cheerleader and as it happened, childminder.
Match 1: Leadenham Red 1 – 0 HAC
With the matches commencing on Saturday morning, the HAC played Leadenham Red in what was an extremely tight run affair. The play was relatively open though at times the snakes in the grass appeared to surface as mallets jousted in the melee. The score remained nil all until the final minute of the last chukka when Paul Maxwell-Gullet broke clear and covering much of the length of the ground scored a perfect goal despite the shadow of Sgt Johnson bearing down on him. The HAC were quick to respond and launched a counter attack with the ball bringing Sgt Johnson and Tpr O’Connor to the mouth of the Leadenham goal. A cruel bounce denied LCpl Langan from securing the equaliser as the buzzer robbed the supporting player from a second attempt to clinch valuable points. The tournament was underway and nails were already shortened.
Match 2: RAF Junior 3 – 1½ HAC
After the RAF Junior Team roundly defeated the Leadenham Red Team 5-0 the HAC was left in no doubt that the “junior” was merely a nomenclature and no reflection of the team they were about to face. The RAF teams had also benefited from a 3 day training camp immediately preceding the tournament so this was to be their 4th day playing as a team. And it showed. The HAC and RAF gave no quarter as is often the case when the services clash on the sports field. Again the match appeared evenly matched but the RAF quickly racked up two goals in the first chukka. One compliments of some basic errors in defence on the HAC’s part. To echo comments from previous seasons, the HAC need to spend time on the rules. Again Sgt Johnson was the powerhouse for many of the HAC’s attacks with Tpr O’Connor providing some of the breaks and turns with some effective hooking and backhands. LCpl Langan harassed the opposing team with ride-offs. The HAC remained its usually vociferous presence on the pitch but the RAF were undeterred and opened up the gap with another goal in the final chukka though the post looked to deny them only to see the ball collected and swept through. Again the HAC responded with a number of cutting attacks only to end up wide particularly with Sgt Johnson’s arcing long shots at goal. The RAF also executed a number of last minute but effective backhand clearances frustrating the assault. The RAF looked poised to clutch another goal with the ball coming to rest 6 inches from the line but a lightening charge and the sweep of a HAC mallet seny it back into the field away from the gaping goal mouth.
Evening black-tie dinner at Cranwell College Buildings
The Saturday evening saw all the players and guests dine in the grand if relatively youthful surroundings of Cranwell College Buildings. The speeches were warm and humorous in equal measure. Of particular note were parting speeches by Fl Lt Dave Black who was seeing out his last season of polo from within the service as was Gp Capt Ashi Ashraf. Mr Reason of Rutland gave thanks on behalf of the civilians with a humorous tale of a female midget and a visit to a doctor that lightened the mood - if admittedly had most guests wary of the level of the punch line.
Sunday morning saw the tournament finally get its break in the weather and the sun came out to play. The final pools were played and while the HAC's Tpr Gearoid O'Connor refereed, the final the details remain largely a blur except some vocal objections from one player becoming an embarrassment to the point that one of their team members reserved the option to ask the umpires to send off their own team member to save them further blushes.
Match 3: HAC 2 – 4 Leadenham Black
The HAC faced a relatively new and youthful team in the form of Leadenham Black. But under the watchful and instructive eye of Miles Underwood – Leadenham coach – the Leadenham Black team which started off on the back foot quickly asserted itself and covered the basics extremely well with effective and neutralising marking. Again the HAC conceded a number of unnecessary fouls and it was fortune that prevented the score being crueller to the HAC given the number of penalty 2 and 3’s given to the opponents.
Match 4: HAC 1 – 3 Genesis
The final match of the day saw the HAC team begin to warm and sync with each other. And they needed to. The family team of Yeo’s saw a much faster paced match than any on the weekend. The turning, assaults and counter assaults were thoroughly riveting for the players if nothing else. The game remained good humoured and having lost its earlier match the HAC enjoyed the more fluid play. Marking became much tighter and passing more structured. Again the HAC had a number of attacks on goal only to see the ball sail wide of the posts. The wooden horse at the HAC may need to come out for the summer. With the sun shining as the buzzer went dark clouds to the East warned guests that the break in the weather was about to close.
On behalf of the HAC a generous thanks goes out to the RAF – Particularly Flt Lt Hoogewerf and Flt Lt Dave Black - for inviting IG Index HAC to attend, and for extending the invite for next year but in particular for bringing the whole event together. It has gone from strength to strength and will hopefully be a permanent fixture on the services calendar.
The other teams in the competition were:
RAF Junior (Navy & Red) 1. Flt Lt Ellie Hoogewerf (-1) 2. Flt Lt Vicki Woodhead (0) 3. Flt Lt Rich Williams (-1) 4. Flt Lt Dave Black (-1)
RAF Senior (Light Blue) 1. Flt Lt Ross Thomson (-2) 2. Sqn Ldr Piers Hammond (-1) 3. Gp Capt Affi Ashraf (0) 4. Wg Cdr Martin Adcock (0)
Army Development (Red) 1. Col Simon Goldstein / Major John Morgan (-2) 2. Capt Janet Johnson (-1) 3. Major Ben Marshall (-1) 4. OCdt Cameron Bacon (0)
Rutland (Green & Gold) 1. Mrs Nathalie Crouch (-2) 2. Mr Angus Johnston (-1) 3. Mr Martin Reason (0) 4. Mr Paul Girdham (-1)
Ranksborough (Green) 1. Mr Naill Derry (-2) 2. Mr Paul East (-2) 3. Mr Georgie Wathes (-1) 4. Mr Nick Winterton (0)
Genesis Polo (White)
1. Miss Sophie Mulgrove (-2) 2. Mr Alex Yeo/Mr Matt Yeo (-1) 3. Mr Oliver Yeo (-1) 4. Mr George Carter (0)
1. Mr Rob Hoe (S) 2. Mrs Lesley Maxwell-Gullet (-2) 3. Mr Julian Deeming (-1) 4. Paul Maxwell-Gullet (0)
1. Mr Jack Ketch (S) 2. Miss Lucy Sheard (S) 3. Mr Ralph Thacker (-2) 4. Mr Miles Underwood (0)