by Liz Higgins
In the 2016 King Power Foxes team, 2015 winner ‘Top’ Srivaddhanaprabha had given up his place at number 1 to his brother ‘Tal’ Srivaddhanaprabha, the remaining team members forming the same line-up as 2015, with Hugo Lewis, now playing off 2 goals, alongside the 10 goal Pieres brothers, Gonzalito playing at number 3 and Facundo at Back.
American patron Michael Bickford’s La Indiana team had thrilled the crowd throughout the tournament with blistering performances from all three professionals, USA team captain Nic Roldan (7 goals) playing at number 2, 8 goaler Agustin ‘Tincho’ Merlos at 3, and Julian de Lusarreta (6 goals) at Back.
King Power Foxes made the first mark on the scoreboard with a 40 yard penalty put through by Facundo Pieres, swiftly followed by goals from Hugo Lewis and Gonzalo Pieres. The pacey action of chukka 1 continued with goals from Agustin Merlos and Julian de Lusaretta for La Indiana and the chukka ended with the blue shirts of King Power Foxes just ahead at 3-2. As the players settled into the match there were missed attempts at goal by both teams and just five more goals on the score board through chukkas 2 and 3 so that by half time the score was poised at 5-5.
After the ritual treading-in, both sides came back onto the field for what proved to be a tough, defensive chukka with each team playing cat and mouse and no goals scored. A jittery fifth chukka saw Facundo Pieres miss his first attempt at goal. Awarded a 40 yard penalty he missed again. There was a horse race down the boards, the ball went out but Hugo Lewis won it from the roll-in and sent a huge lofted shot towards La Indiana’s goal. There was a scrum as the white shirts tried to defend their goal but a mistake saw de Lusarreta push the ball over the line giving a goal away to King Power Foxes and the score moved on to 6-5. King Power Foxes had the lift they needed and Facundo and Gonzalito Pieres between them made short work of the next goal, Gonzalito carrying the ball through the posts at speed for 7-5. It became apparent that the former brilliant attacking team play that La Indiana had shown through the tournament was beginning to unravel as they tried desperately to put up a defence against the Pieres’ onslaught.
Chukka 6 opened with the play fast and determined as Facundo sought every opportunity to find a way through the La Indiana defence. A great piece of play saw him escape from Roldan and Merlos while Gonzalito waited behind for the ball. A smart goal resulted and King Power Foxes moved on to 8-5. The umpires blew for the re-start of play with a throw-in which inexplicably saw all four La Indiana players off changing horses. King Power charged away and Gonzalito scored the goal which sealed La Indiana’s fate. There was no coming back and King Power had gained their second successive victory in the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup for the British Open Polo Championship.
The Best Playing Pony award presented by Lila Pearson went to Sarmiento, owned by Marcos de Paola and ridden by Facundo Pieres, the pony’s second win of the week. The award for Most Valuable Player, presented by Zahra Kassim Lakha, Jaeger-LeCoultre UK, also went to Facundo Pieres. The La Indiana players, led by Michael Bickford, came forward to accept prizes from Zahra Kassim-Lakha and Daniel Riedo, Chief Executive Jaeger-LeCoultre. All four members of the King Power side received an engraved Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso watch from Daniel Riedo. Richard Billett, Managing Director of Louis Roederer UK, then presented a Salmanazar of Louis Roederer champagne to the King Power Foxes patron. Finally, Daniel Riedo presented the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup to a delighted Tal Srivaddhanaprabha to enormous cheers from the entire King Power Foxes entourage. Mr Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha posed for photographs with the team clearly thrilled that two of his sons had now had won the title of British Open Champions.
Photos © Dominic James Photography / www.dominic-james.com