Published in RAF on 30 Nov 2011

The 2011 RAF Cranwell Polo weekend started again this year with a three-day training camp at Leadenham with nine both established players and beginners in attendance. The emphasis of the course led by the Leadenham 2 goal professional Mateus Jolley was on riding for polo; the mornings were spent in the sand school mastering the horsemanship required on the pitch; the afternoons were spent finessing rules and positioning then finishing with stick and ball and usually a frantic Gold Cup paced chukka.

The team selection gave the RAF two -4 goal teams for the weekend tournament which were matched by most of the attending sides. The draw saw the RAF teams pitted against all civilian teams from Leadenham and Ranksborough.

Whilst the RAF Spitfire team led by Wg Cdr Martin Adcock eventually dominated the Leadenham team into a convincing defeat, the RAF Hurricane team led by Gp Capt Affi Ashraf suffered at the hands of a well disciplined and hugely under handicapped Ranksborough. The final match in the draw was between the Army development team made up of the AGC and HAC and Rutland polo team made up largely of extremely talented and well horsed young protégés flown in especially for the high profile event.  Rutland took full advantage of all of this to dominate a well led but outclassed Army team.

After a well attended polo dinner kindly allowed by the Station Commander to be held in College Hall, the next day of competition was going to be a struggle. The loser’s final was played off against Leadenham and the RAF Hurricane side with the RAF finishing second. However it was a great opportunity for the RAF team; for Flt Lt Ross Thomson and SAC Ross Barriball to represent the RAF and play a faster pace of polo and for Flt Lt Hoogewerf to demonstrate all that she had learned in New Zealand with big ride offs and hits alike!

The subsidiary final was played between the well matched RAF Spitfire team and Army Development team. The two players of note in these teams were Wg Cdr Martin Adcock who lead from the back continuingly coaching his team and scoring the majority of the goals and LCpl Ben Dirvas whose huge shot and excellent horsemanship later earned him the MVP (Most Valuable Player) of the tournament. The outcome was ‘just’ in favour of the RAF with a flourish of goals in the 2 final chukkas, a thoroughly enjoyable and hard fought match was had by all with lots of points to work on.

The final saw all civilian teams against each other for the first time in years. The horse-power and carefully selected team from Rutland took the advantage over Ranksborough to win the RAF Cranwell weekend for the first time ever. Players of note were the 12 year old Edward Banner-Eve who played like a veteran and the slightly older Nick Winterton who controlled the game placing shot after shot in front of goal.

The RAF Cranwell tournament is always an excellent start to the season for players and ponies alike. This year may not have seen the right result on the score sheet for the RAF but in terms of player development and finding the first team players of the future it was a huge success and the perfect start to a busy polo calendar.

Leadenham Polo Club hold weekly lessons for local RAF personnel and offer military rates. For more information please contact Flt Lt Dave Black on 95721 7575 or go to the RAF Polo Association website

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