Bank Holiday Monday. Sun soaked Tidworth Polo Club. Four brave men of The Honourable Artillery Company. The stage was set… The sixth annual AGC Polo Cup was held in the beautiful grounds of Tidworth Polo Club and saw #4 Sgt Tim Johnson (0), #3 Capt Ben Loxton Edwards (-2), #2 Cpl Dale Langan (-2) and #1 Tpr Cain Hayward-Hughes (-2) take to the field.
Having been narrowly beaten out the previous year by the mighty Royal Navy Team, the HAC were positively charged with the glory of keeping their season’s undefeated winning streak alive. The excitement was palpable.
The weather couldn’t have been better – bright sunshine and a gentle breeze. With three big games to play the HAC were first pitched against The Royal Air Force.
The HAC started a goal behind on account of Sgt Johnson being so darn good at polo. They fought hard and secured an early lead. The team pulled together as a unit and executed some spectacular set pieces. The RAF team battled back and marked their men closely, when one HAC horse moved an RAF horse was right on its tail. Cpt Loxton Edwards smashed a cracking back-hander to further press home the HAC advantage and with only seconds remaining the RAF mounted a fierce last ditch press for glory - alas the gods were not in their favour with a number of their shots sliding narrowly wide and the HAC came out the victors.
A quick debrief, team talk, squirt of water and pony change – the HAC were again mounted and back on the field.
Facing the Royal Logistics Corps the HAC had no time to warm up their ponies. For one Tpr this was a problem. The game started quickly with Sgt Johnson scoring two quick goals. The RLC pieced together some hard ride-offs to bring the fight against the HAC. Tpr Hayward-Hughes struggled to control his pony coming out of a gallop and found himself staring up at the hind-legs. Bruised but not broken he was quickly back on and back in the game. Capt Loxton Edwards headed a high ball to keep the line and lay-up for a quick drive towards the goal.
The minutes flew by and the HAC were again victorious. A hard won game indeed. We were in the final.
Glad of a three chukka respite the HAC team loaded up on scones, ginger beer and hearty back slaps. The clock seemed to tick at a record pace and the team was again mounted. The HAC were to face The Royal Artillery in a two chukka showdown.
An experienced team the RA boasted a Col, two Capt and a 2Lt. A -7 team. This would be close. Sgt Johnson rallied his troops at the line-up. HAC supporters cheered on at the sides. Dogs chased errant polo balls.
The anticipation, excitement and hunger for victory was etched in to each and every players face.
A quick ball in from the umpire and the game took off at break neck speed. Sgt Johnson gaining the advantage over his opposite Capt, Cpl Langan riding off the 2Lt, Cpt Loxton Edwards marking his Cpt and Tpr Hayward-Hughes bringing up the rear knee-to-knee with the Col. The opening gambit was intense.
The HAC took an early goal and settled into its rhythm. Shouts of ‘Come on HAC!’ spurred the team forward. Moving as one the HAC drew out the RA and rode them off at every opportunity. The RA responded in kind. Breaking away, they galloped clear and went straight for goal.
The powerful combination of Capt Loxton Edwards and Cpl Langan saw the line of play reverse. The HAC were pressing for the lead. A lay-up to Sgt Johnson. A chance of goal. Just wide.
Undeterred the HAC gathered themselves. The dying minutes of the first chukka of the final. Everything to play for. A sprint from Sgt. Johnson. A goal!
A whistle. The final chukka. Victory was firmly in our sights.
The RA gave no quarter. No man left unflanked. The riding was hard. The ball quick. The HAC gunning for silverware. The 7 ½ minutes went in the blink of an eye. Ponies charging up and down the length of the field. Long plays, set pieces, lay-ups. Everything was thrown in to the mix. Both teams fought valiantly.
A lone bell rang out across the grass and it was game over: Final score HAC 3 - RA 0.5
To the victors – the spoils. A Cup and an undefeated winning season. The 105 Cup now looms large on the horizon...
With special thanks to Capt Janet Johnson and Capt Mariane Van Straaten for organizing a brilliant day and tournament.