The finale of the prestigious British Ladies Open Championship at Cowdray Park Polo Club featured two undefeated teams—UAE Polo Team and La Ruleta.
Having won each of their previous three games by an average of 5.3 goals per game, UAE Polo Team seemed destined to run away with the title, but a fourth chukka surge from La Ruleta brought the game even. However, UAE Polo Team responded with a last second goal to take the thrilling 7 to 6 victory and raise the British Ladies Open Championship trophy.
Juana Lavinia played in the UAE number 1 shirt with Millie Barfoot at 2, subbing in for H.H Sheikha Maitha who was playing in UAE’s Gold Cup Quarter Final match on the same day. Catalina Lavinia was in position 3 with Hazel Jackson at Back.
For La Ruleta, Alicia Woods played at number 1 with Jemima Heffron at 2, Stephanie Haverhals at 3, and Nina Clarkin at Back.
A match-up between two 10-goalers, UAE Polo Team’s Hazel Jackson and La Ruleta’s Nina Clarkin, were the key players in the final, leading their teams with six and five goals respectively. Despite being limited to just one field goal, La Ruleta fought back from the penalty line, converting four tallies in the sixth chukka alone, but the advantage from open play for UAE Polo Team proved to be the difference. Shooting a very efficient 4 for 6 from the field, UAE Polo Team capitalized on their scoring chances including the game-winning goal from Hazel.
UAE Polo Team took the lead just moments into the game due to the penalty shooting proficiency from Hazel. Converting a Penalty 2 and Penalty 4, Hazel quickly gave her team a 2 to 0 advantage with the early pressure of UAE Polo Team forcing the La Ruleta defense into foul trouble. However, La Ruleta responded after a blocked shot from Nina was finished by Alicia to cut the deficit in half, followed by Nina converting a penalty of her own to end the first chukka tied at 2-all.
UAE Polo Team turned to controlling possession in open play, producing an exceptional second chukka that resulted in them taking a 5 to 2 lead. Two goals from Hazel and one from Catalina highlighted the dominant chukka that displayed UAE Polo Team’s passing as they were just one half away from victory.
Held scoreless for the second consecutive chukka, La Ruleta’s deficit grew to four as they struggled to generate any scoring chances against an organized UAE Polo Team defense. Hazel’s third penalty goal pushed her team’s lead to four, leaving La Ruleta with little time for a comeback. However, led by the play of Nina, La Ruleta began to fight their way back into the game.
Constantly around the ball, Nina continued to receive fouls where she was sent to the penalty line and converted her Penalty 2 and 3 attempts. Inside the final minutes, Nina incredibly tied the game at 6 to 6 after her fourth penalty goal in the sixth chukka leaving a thrilling conclusion.
On the following throw-in, Hazel jumped on the ball and ran it directly to goal, converting the neck shot to put UAE Polo Team back ahead. Time expired shortly after that as UAE Polo Team celebrated the hard-fought 7 to 6 victory to claim the British Ladies Open Championship.
The Most Valuable Player prize was awarded to Catalina and the Best Playing Pony rug went to Trilogy, played and owned by Nina. The Retraining of Racehorses Best Playing Pony prize was awarded to Farsong, played and owned by Hazel. The Subsidiary Final was won by Confido who beat AM Polo 4 to 3.
In the Ladies Handicap Final, Maiz Dulce defeated Rex Homes 5.5 to 3. The Most Valuable Player prize was awarded to Rosie Ross and the Best Playing Pony rug was given to Princess, played by Millie Hughes and owned by Niall Donnelly.
Photographs by Mark Beaumont