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On Saturday, courtesy of Welsh jewellery brand Clogau, I was lucky enough to go to a Test Match and meet the Wales Team Captain. For a proud Welshwoman, this was the stuff of dreams. But for once, I’m not talking rugby; I’m talking Arena Polo.
Clogau is the official sponsor of the Wales Polo Team and Wales Polo Association, an alliance which ties in perfectly with the brand’s Welsh/royal connections, given that His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales acts as the team’s patron. (Clogau has even created a Wales Polo jewellery collection, inspired by a bridle’s snaffle bit.) At the weekend, I was kindly invited to Hickstead, to watch the Clogau 12 Goal Challenge (Wales v The Commonwealth). I’ll be honest, I didn’t quite know what to expect – but reader, it was utterly EPIC.
Like me before Saturday, you might think that polo is just a summer game. Not so. In the winter, Arena Polo is played, with three-a-side teams, and using a larger and softer ball than traditional polo. Shots and angles can be played off the boarded sides of the arena. It is some spectacle.
The speed and skill of horse and rider, up close, is simply breathtaking. It’s fast and furious from ‘go’ to ‘whoa’. Competitors need serious guts and commitment to safely execute manoeuvres such as “bumps” and “ride-offs”, (both as scary as they sound at a flat-out gallop). Tactics and replacements play a key role. And there are even throw-ins. Who knew rugby and polo had so much in common?!
The Wales team did not disappoint their fans. The trio of Peter Webb, Roddy Matthews and captain Ricky Cooper played an absolute blinder from the start, leading 5-2 after the first chukka; 8-4 after the second; and 15-9 after the third. Things didn’t go quite to plan in the fourth and final chukka however, as the Commonwealth clawed back a clutch of goals to somehow level the match at 17-all. A nail-biting “golden goal” extra-time chukka ensued which, after some heart-stopping misses from both sides, Wales clinched 18-17. It was a thriller.
I confess I had no idea before the match what a great spectator sport polo would be. If anything, I expected it to be quite posh and sedate, with the odd polite smattering of applause. Again, not so. On Saturday, the fans shouted and cheered; the commentator exhorted Ricky to “ride it like you stole it”; and Harry Legge-Bourke (Chairman of the Wales Polo Team, former Welsh Guards Officer, and close friend of the royal family) belted out the traditional Welsh rallying cry of “Oggy Oggy Oggy” with admirable volume, enthusiasm and aplomb. It was just like Cardiff, only with better looking fans (eg Jodie Kidd, as leggy and gorgeous as you’d expect. Even at 3° with wind chill).
We rounded off the day by watching the Bryan Morrison Test Match, followed by a rather splendid lunch. Diolch yn fawr iawn to the Clogau team for a truly fabulous day out. #CymruAmByth