By Diana Butler, Director of Communications Guards Polo Club. All photos by www.imagesofpolo.com.
A goal on the bell in the sixth chukka, off the stick of Adolfo Cambiaso, ensured that it was Ben Soleimani and his RH Polo Team that received the Cartier Queen’s Cup from HM The Queen and Laurent Feniou, Managing Director of Cartier UK.
Although this might have been Cambiaso’s 10th win in this tournament – an impressive feat – the Most Valuable Player honours went to his team-mate Tommy Beresford. The youngest player on the field today – he only celebrated his 21st birthday a couple of weeks ago – he produced a hugely mature game which impressed his peers and no doubt his great-uncle, Lord Patrick Beresford, who was watching the final from the upper balcony of the Royal Box with HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.
The hallmark of the 2017 Cartier Queen’s competition – with its entry of 10 high-goal teams – has been fast and flowing polo and this final, played in scorching heat, continued that theme. Umpires’ whistles were kept to a minimum, much to the delight of the packed grandstands, and both teams produced some fast, flying laps up the Queen’s Ground
RH Polo dominated the first half, leading 6-3 at half-time. This was not so much that La Indiana was not in the game, more that they failed to convert some beautiful play into goals.
Although that changed in the fourth – many would love to know what was said in the La Indiana tent at half-time! Merlos and Nic Roldan scored five goals in as many minutes, not only putting La Indiana very much back into this game, but giving them the lead for the first time, 8-7.
There was now all to play for – and so much at stake as the winners would receive Cartier watches – but the game remained wide open. Merlos had touches of brilliance in this match and made sure La Indiana stayed ahead despite the best efforts of RH Polo’s Rodrigo Andrade.
So, the sixth started with La Indiana having a narrow, 9-8 lead over RH Polo. At this level, anything is possible and the spectators were wondering if a sudden-death seventh chukka would be on the cards. With no score from some fast up/down play, it was Beresford who levelled again for RH Polo, converting a 30-yard penalty.
Then Cambiaso kept everyone holding their breath by riding over the ball close to goal and then sending a shot wide. Then, more calmly than many of those in the grandstands he fired through the winner on the bell.
Cambiaso also received the Cartier Best Playing Pony prize from HM The Queen. This was awarded to the 12-year-old chestnut mare Caraquenia, whom he had played in the third chukka and whom he referred to as his “fourth favourite horse”.
An earlier match, for the subsidiary Cartier Trophy, saw Srivaddhanaprabha family’s King Power Foxes beat George Hanbury’s Sommelier 10-6. Sommelier started off strongly on The Duke’s Ground, but the 10-goal partnership of Gonzalo and Facundo Pieres – and it must be said their impressive string of ponies – ensured they ran out the winners.
The lack of umpires’ whistles ensured the game flowed – in fact the consensus was that there were no fouls at all in the fourth. King Power Foxes’ James Fewster, who furst came into this team at semi-final knockout stages, was named Most Valuable Player.
RH Polo: Ben Soleimani (0); Tomas Beresford (4); Rodrigo De Andrade (8); Adolfo Cambiaso (10). La Indiana: Michael Bickford (1); Nic Roldan (7); Agustin Merlos (8); Luke Tomlinson (6).
King Power Foxes: Top Srivaddhanaprabha (1); James Fewster (1); Gonzalo Pieres (10); Facundo Pieres (10. Sommelier: George Hanbury (3); Alec White (4); Juan Gris Zavaleta (7); Fred Mannix Jnr (8);