Cartier Queen’s Cup Semifinals 2017 – La Indiana and RH Polo on to Finals on Sunday

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Driving down the lane towards Guards Polo Club, nestled in the Royal Windsor Great Park, I felt butterflies. Watching high-goal polo does that to me, especially when friends are on the field. Michael Bickford was actually one of the key people who introduced me to polo 7 years ago in Argentina and I have seen him play in 4 different countries. Last year he and his La Indiana team made it to the final of the Queen’s Cup and were extremely close to winning, so my fingers are crossed for them again this year.

The intensity and speed of high-goal polo is just electrifying and contagious. I arrived at the Duke’s Ground of Guards Polo Club a little after 11 for the 12’o clock semifinal match between La Indiana and Murus Sanctus. The atmosphere around the team tents is quite special. There’s naturally a lot of excitement, but also tension, since there’s a lot at stake, it’s the last step before the final; 6 chukkers of adrenaline, horsepower, mental strength and focus.

The support system behind the four players – trainers, coaches, grooms, friends, wives, girlfriends, children and more.

The players warm up, physically and mentally. The La Indiana boys have Fitness For Polo expert Martin Perez training them day in and day out, and he is an important key in this great big high goal team. Doing stretches, runs, jumps and throws the boys start to limber up and get ready for the extreme physical efforts they will be exerting shortly after.

Then comes the team-talk, everyone apart from the four players and the coach must leave the tent and they mumble in a circle, making sure the opponents can’t hear their tactics. Hand gestures suggest who will do what and the strategy the team will go for, conversations that were most likely already discussed the previous day, but just as a refresher they run through it again and start pep-talking each other.

Nic Roldan and Michael Bickford before the big match

Usually in polo, a player will “mark his man” meaning you stick to your matching number on the opposite team, making sure you are there when he misses a ball, trying to hook his mallet when he tries to hit the ball and when possible try to take his line of the ball (The line of the ball is an imaginary line between the last player to hit the ball and the ball, this line cannot be crossed by an opponent, but the opponent can bump the player off of the line, as long as the horses’ shoulders match in position, and take the ball, read more polo rules here).

The team presentations were made and the ball was thrown-in to start the first Semifinal match of the 2017 Cartier Queen’s Cup between La Indiana and Murus Sanctus

La Indiana vs Murus Sanctus

La Indiana:

Michael Bickford 1

Nicolas Roldan 7

Agustin “Tincho” Merlos 8

Luke Tomlinson 6

Murus Sanctus:

Corrine Ricard 0

Hilario Ulloa 10

Facundo Sola 8

Martin Podesta 4

Match report by Diana Butler, Guard’s Polo Club.

Ulloa was the first one to score and found a couple before La Indiana got started. Most Valuable Player Augustin Merlos made up for it before the end of the first chukka, putting through a field goal and penalty to level up the scores 2-2. This was pretty much a template for the early stages of the match, with the scores levelling 6-6 at the half-way stage.

La Indiana turned on the pressure in the fourth, with some impressive aerial play from Merlos and Nic Roldan. The tension became evident through Murus Sanctus giving away too many penalties. Michael Bickford’s boys took these with interest, piling through the goals to make it 13-9 at the end of the fourth.  At last some daylight in the scores and La Indian took advantage. The downside was a much more stop/start affair with the umpires being kept busy. The sixth was very tense and Murus Sanctus struggled to find their earlier spark, while Merlos defied nerves to produce a fabulously angled safety 60 to take his team’s tally to 14. Ulloa closed the match as he had started it, with a goal, but it was too late to stop La Indiana winning this match and the Hubert Perrodo Trophy. Carrie Perrodo and Laurent Feniou, Managing Director of Cartier UK, also presented Merlos with the Best Playing Pony prize for Delta, who is owned by Bickford but played by Merlos in the game-changing fourth chukka.

Tincho Merlos had a great little helper

RH Polo:

Ben Soleimani 0

Tomas Beresford 4

Adolfo Cambiaso 10

Rodrigo Andrade 8

El Remanso:

Charlie Hanbury 4

Ollie Cudmore 5

James Beim 6

James Harper 6

 

Adolfo Cambiaso, who is chasing a record 10th Cartier Queen’s Cup victory, remains on target after RH Polo defeated El Remanso (rec 1 goal) 14-12 in the second semi-final of the day. However RH Polo, who had been impressive in the early stages of the tournament and headed up their league, did not have everything their own way as Charlie Hanbury’s El Remanso team fought for possession in every moment of this match. This quartet of four English players came to this semi-final after knocking out King Power Foxes in a great display of four-man polo last Saturday and looked as if they could be giant killers again. Hanbury was impressive in the line ups, invariably winning them for his team. This was followed up by some great team-work between James Harper, James Beim and Ollie Cudmore, ensuring El Remanso were always very much in this game. In a similar format to the earlier match, tensions surfaced in the third, with Cambiaso successfully converting three penalties and firing through a field goal to give Ben Soleimani’s team an 8-4 lead at half-time.

El Remanso and RH Polo about to start their battle

El Remanso turned the tables in the fourth, with Harper sending up some perfect shots to his team-mates to level the score 9-9 just before the end of the fourth. The fifth was equally tough, but will be remembered for Cambiaso’s sportsmanship. Beim had a fall but was back on his feet unhurt, but minus his pony and the play continuing further down the field. Cambiaso remained with Beim, so that the match, for a short period, remained balanced, three on three. Harper shot through a goal at this time to level the scores again, only for Cambiaso to then fire through a penalty to give RH Polo the edge going into the sixth (12-11). With both Cambiaso and Beim scoring in this chukka, extra time seemed possible, but when Tommy Beresford successfully converted a 30-yard penalty, RH Polo’s place in Sunday’s final was assured. 

Adolfo Cambiaso was named Most Valuable Player while Ollie Cudmore’s Rosita, whom he had played in the fourthh chukka, was named Cartier Best Playing Pony.

Victories are best shared with loved ones. Ben Soleimani with his family

Now I just can’t wait for the final! I will be cheering on my friends on the La Indiana team and you can follow along on my Instagram account with the live stories and the match will be live streamed on www.PoloCam.tv don’t miss out!

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