THE SPORT of Kings, Princes and Potentates is today played in Scotland by slightly more ‘ordinary’ folk, writes John Preece.
Players range from farmers to hairdressers and property developers to doctors, with the odd Polo coach thrown in for good measure.
A love of horses and equestrian sport are the common threads that draw together an apparently disparate bunch of people.
Border Reivers Polo Club, based near Greenlaw, held their first Calcutta Cup Match last year between amateur Scotland and England teams. This year, Scotland took on the Rest of the World, playing eight chukkas over the two days. The fixture is arranged with a view to promoting the sport in Scotland.
There are five, all amateur, clubs north of the Border – Edinburgh, Stewarton, Perth and Dundee, Kinross, and Borders – and all play regularly at the weekends with up to 10 interclub tournaments arranged for the summer months.
All the clubs also teach polo as well as hire out ponies and equipment, and even run ‘polo experience’ days.
Matches are played in periods of seven and a half minutes called chukkas, the number depending on the level of skill of the participants or importance of the competition. Players are handicapped according to their skill level and, at the start of a match; the ‘weaker’ team is awarded a mathematically calculated number of goals as a start.
So how did it all go?
With the Scotland team having a handicap of six goals and the RotW team on five, the latter started the match ahead by one and a half goals.
Scotland’s Alistair Archibald had the highest handicap with three goals, a reduction in the five-goal subtraction he used to hold as a professional.
The RotW team soon added to their score to go another goal ahead, but by the end of the first chukka, Scotland had pulled one back.
The second chukka was mostly Scotland, with the team scoring three goals, a couple being penalties from Archibald, but the World team scored another to leave the score halfway through the match 5-3½ to Scotland. The third and fourth chukkas were evenly scored, with both teams adding one goal during each, to round off the first day’s play with the score 7-5½, favouring the Scots.
The second day’s play started well for the RotW team with them scoring three goals in the first period – the opener with the first play of the ball – without answer, and looking the better team all round.
Honours were even in the sixth chukka, both teams scoring once, but the seventh saw a comeback by the Scotland team. The World players were unable to stop the Scots scoring twice to take the scoreline to 10-9½, leaving it all to play for in the eighth and last chukka. A thrilling finish to some high quality play had Scotland coming from behind after RotW scored first, to leave the final score 11-10½ to Scotland.
Some lovely sunny weather, in complete contrast to the previous day, brought out a fair number of spectators to enjoy one of the highest quality polo matches to be played in this country this season.