NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 23 – Samurai dominated Four Of A Kind 8.5-4 to successfully defend the Kenya International 14 Goal Polo tournament at the Nairobi Polo Club on Sunday afternoon.
Samurai enchanting style of play coupled with expertly good stick work from handicap (5) Lance Waston left fans yearning for more as the three-day international tournament culminated.
The match was treated to a somber mood in the first chukka when Well travelled Gareth Evans trampled and fell from his pony needing serious medical attention. After over near half an hour stoppage, Gareth was replaced by Kenya’s best Jamie Murray before play could resume.
Nairobi Polo Club vice chairman Raphael Nzomo in his victory speech had kind words for the injured player.
“This was one of the best tournament we have had in the country. Our thoughts are with Evans, unfortunate that he got injured at the same time happy he is not badly off as we speak,” Nzomo emphasized.
The tie between Samurai and Four Of A Kind automatically became the title decider after White Cap and Space & Style lost two and one match each.
Samurai (handicap five Lance Watson, George McCorkel 3.5, Mbugua Ngugi 2.5 and Raphael Nzomo 2.5) who had a fraction’s advantage beat Four Of A Kind (Gareth Evans 5, Craig Millar 3.5, Tarquin Gross 3 and Tiva Gross 2.5) 4-8.5 to claim the sought after trophy in Kenya.
Samurai dominated in the first Chukka, Four Of A Kind the second, Samurai the third, the fourth was even with Samurai taking the final.
In the true nature of the game, the two sides displayed a fast and furious show from the first throw-in and at the end of the opening chukka Samurai had a 2.5 lead. Watson accounted for the double.
Midway through the first period, Evans tumbled off his pony and picked an injury, hence was replaced by Kenya’s seed one five goaler James Murray.
He immediately canceled Samurai’s goals with a brace and Millar giving Four Of A Kind a fraction’s advantage for 3-2.5.
McCorkell hit one in to increase the level of competition as Nzomo performed his defensive role too well, cutting out Murray from the game and creating chances which Ngugi successfully sailed the ball through the goalposts. Scores stood at 3-5.5.
Each side scored one goal apiece through converted 40 yard penalties by top handicapped players in the field- Murray and Watson- in the penultimate chukka for 5-6.5. Two field goals from team patron Nzomo and Ngugi were all that Samurai needed to seal the win and grab the title altogether.
With two wins each, the winner was determined by goal difference where Samurai carried the day with a fraction goal advantage. On their way to the title, Samurai hammer White Cap and Four Of A Kind on Saturday and Sunday.
“The game tilted when Evans got injured because he was the most experienced player in the field. We focused on our game and our strengths- teamwork, discipline and ball control.”
“Though he (Murray) is a top goaler, his inclusion in Four Of A Kind did not help much because attaining coordination in the team with a new player was hard, and that worked to our advantage,” underlined the beef farmer from Underberg South Africa.
On his team’s win, the father of an 17-month son said it was more of hard work all round.
” Gareth Evans is a very experienced player, with a lot of understanding of the English season, him out of the game was always going to game changer. We wish him quick recovery,”he underscored.
Ngugi was awarded the most Valuable Player, while Jessica from Nzomo’s sting and played by Watson was voted the Best Played Pony. This, for the second time in seven days.
“Jessica got an amazing flight, and I how I can come back to Kenya and play her and the other ponies Raphael lend me this weekend,” remarked Watson who has pleasantries for his wife who has sacrificed all to support him in the journey.
-By Amos Abuga-