Army Within A Whisker Of Polo Upset

Forces Polo’s biggest day of the year saw a Navy victory - but by the narrowest of margins.

Tidworth bathed in warm sunshine for Forces Polo’s biggest day of the year.

In the first match, the UKAF team needed a win against South Africa to keep alive their chances in the Chappell Cup which takes place across the weekend, having already been beaten at Sandhurst.

The handicap system gave South Africa a one-and-a-half goal advantage, and the forces team were up against it from the off, trailing in the match up to half time.

But they turned things round in the Third Chukka, and grabbed the lead with a flurry of goals

It allowed the team, made up of two RAF and two Army players, including chairman of Forces Polo Brig Piers Hankinson, to hold on to their lead and win by six goals to four-and-a-half.

Although Polo’s roots lie in India, the Rundle Cup dates back 118 years to 1909 in Malta and a Cup presented by Sir Leslie Rundle the then governor of the island.

Throughout its history the Rundle Cup has been supported by Royalty, starting with the late King George VI. Prince Charles last played here in 2002. Both Prince William, and most recently Prince Harry, have competed in the Rundle Cup.

In the next match it was a young Army team desperate to claim back the Cup won by the Navy 12 months ago.

The Navy, who had to make a late change to their line-up, had a one-and-a-half goal advantage based on the handicap and they were never behind.

Their star player Hiro Suzuki was again at the centre of both Navy attack and defence, keeping the young Army team, led by Lt Johnny Sleeman of the QRH, at bay.  After the first quarter they led three-and-a-half to two.

By half time it was four-and-a-half to four - the Navy just hanging on to the slenderest of leads.

In the Third Chukka the Navy added two further goals, with one back for the Army to keep them in the hunt and when, in the final leg, the senior service stretched their lead to seven-and-a-half to five it looked all over.

But in this sport things can change in an instant and with 90 seconds left on the clock, two goals for the Army brought them within a whisker. The Navy, though, remained cool and saw the match out retain the Rundle Cup.

The Fisher Ground will again be alive to the pounding of horses’ hooves next weekend when the Captains and Subbletons trophy will feature 22 teams from across the forces in the UK’s biggest Polo tournament.