Match Report - Royal Artillery Cup 29th May 2017 at Tidworth Polo Club
Over the Bank Holiday weekend the HAC Regimental Polo team - TJB HAC Arras - traveled to Tidworth Polo Club to take part in the Royal Artillery Cup. As the first tournament of the season it was always going to have that extra trepidation. Nerves weren't helped by a last minute "promotion" from Division III (which we were defending the title of) to Division II. And so we arrived expecting an even tougher set of opposition than originally expected. Division II, apart from the HAC, included The Royal Lancers, The Welsh Guards and RAF Brize Norton team.
We drew the RAF in the first match on an overcast Tattoo ground. Since our last encounter, the RAF had unfortunately lost their stalwart and playmaker, Flt Lt Dave Black to an injury during the week. Their misfortune was to be our good fortune. The HAC took control of the game early on and despite the valiant efforts of the RAF, the HAC were always ahead. They pressed hard and were able to draw a number of penalties from the play. Mention must go to Tpr Merlin Stewart who with guile and determination defended a spot penalty a mere 6 foot from the goal and denied the RAF a conciliatory score.
Having won against the RAF we went through to the final against the Royal Lancers. The Royal Lancers were the clear favourites having shown great form in their earlier match against the Welsh Guards. The power and consistency of their No 4, Capt Hugh Richardson was of particular concern.
The cavalrymen were, as ever, strong in attack with Captain Arthur Purbeck taking particular joy from the energetic ride offs. The Lancers were often seen forging ahead with great dash and seemed to always have a man in support. The HAC defended with steadfastness and thus the Lancers struggled to convert these early attacking charges. Furthermore, they were taken aback when a back hand and swift HAC counter produced the first goal. HAC were ahead 1.5 to 0 at half time.
The second half was tense. The Lancers kept the pressure up and one of their high speed attacks was eventually successful as Capt Hugh Richardson played a neck shot from 40 yards and scored a remarkable goal which went in with hairs breadth but a perfectly stolen goal. The HAC - after some authoritative coaching advice from HAC Polo President Col Geoffrey Godbold OBE TD DL who had to manger his palpitations from the sideline - maintained composure, fought back and started to show increasing consistency in both attack and defence. Of note was some sterling marking by Lt Nick Clark-Majerus who was determined not to let a Lancer charge go unchallenged and unharassed. Lt Gearoid O'Connor had a strong game and backed up particularly well. It seems his repeated trips to play Polo in KwaZulu-Natal have finally borne fruit. This backing up in the mid field provided the HAC with a second goal and provided a memorable 2.5 to 1 win.
Upon collecting the Trophy for Division II - a 1932 solid silver affair with some notable names of distinction - we had no regrets at having been bumped up. Ironically it was to be Col. Godbold himself who handed us our prize. The matches were enjoyed by all teams and all sides played with good spirits.
We would like to thank the team at Tidworth Polo Club and Colonel Simon Ledger for making us so welcome and for putting on such a splendid tournament. The TJB HAC team was also fortunate to be exceptionally well mounted by Dorset Polo Club and not a single player had anything but praise to say of the ponies and the grooms. Our sincerest thanks!
Onwards to further glory.... Our next scheduled tournament is the Captains & Subalterns after the HAC Regiment returns from Exercise VAMBRACE SABER in the United States.