Gripping finish for SA polo

2014-09-08 00:00

POLO fanatics were given a real treat yesterday as some of the biggest names in the game battled it out at the Durban Shongweni Club.

The famous equestrian estate played host to the first Test of the 2014 BMW International Series between South Africa and the USA.

The game had spectators on the edge of their seats as a young South African team clawed their way back from 4-nil down to draw the game 5-5 at the end of the sixth and final chukka.

The two teams were a stark contrast, with America being the more experienced side. Captained by the world-renowned Memo Gracida, the USA also had former 10-goal player Mike Azzaro, the equally experienced Scott Devon, and youngster Tomas Collingwood.

South Africa were led by the ranging Tom de Bruin while brothers Davey and Gareth Evans were joined by the talented 18-year-old Dirk van Reenen.

The game looked fairly one- sided in the first three chukkas as the USA dominated on the scoreboard.

Azzaro put his team in front early on after the ball was bowled into play, which seesawed before Collingwood scored the USA’s second goal just before the first break.

The second chukka saw South Africa come back into the game with a few chances but it was captain Gracida who gave the USA their third goal from an open goal penalty.

The third chukka produced no goals, but was not without incident as Azzaro found himself thrown off his horse after the ball went out of play. He was unscathed though and continued to play. The scoreline remained 3-nil at the half-time break and spectators were welcomed on to the pitch to fill in divets.

The Americans came out firing after the break with Collingwood scoring his team’s fourth goal. The home side were in trouble but Gareth Evans eventually came away with the ball to score South Africa’s first goal.

Gracida then put another goal through the flags to make it 5-1 going into the second last chukka of the game.

De Bruin was the star of the show from there on out as he went on to score a hat-trick in the fifth chukka. He also made good use of his pony to deny the Americans another goal from a penalty shot.

With one goal to score in the final chukka, the South Africans fought hard for the ball. Davey Evans scored the equaliser to save the day for the home side.

The final scoreline read 5-all — a fitting end to a great game of polo. The Americans may have had a slight handicap having to use foreign ponies, but they showed remarkable skill and mastery on the horses.

Gracida was awarded man of the match after an outstanding game.

The teams meet each other at Waterfall Polo Estate in Johannesburg next week for the second and final Test match.

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