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THE SUPA NATIONAL UNIVERSITIES ARENA POLO CHAMPIONSHIPS 2011 17th – 20th February by Michael Hobday Ten months in the planning but it wasn’t till the last few weeks that the magnitude of this event was to become obvious. Last year we had a World Record breaking 108 teams, this year 123! 96 teams of Beginners and Novices show a massive increase in the number of students taking up the game. British Polo is in a win, win situation with University tournaments and leagues taking place throughout the UK. This is good news for the clubs who cater for Arena as lessons and pony hire, mean that more are busy through our winter season. 50 + Universities take part in SUPA organised events and the emphasis is not only on playing but the social side that these tournaments offer. This year saw more Sections than ever, trying to cater for the needs of all levels of player. Matches were overseen by a team of Umpires run by Jason Dixon who interoperated the level of the players well, depending on the sections. In fact the only accidents were at the “Clevedon Carnival” organised by Lucy Keen and Bristol University Polo Club, admittedly there were a few sore heads on Sunday, but as with all days we started on time, due to a Stirling effort by the pony suppliers and teams. The event ran smoothly, bar a few minor, hiccups mainly due to the “dream team” made up of students past and present, who assist in running this mammoth event. The Dream Team: Kim Croutear, Sarah & Lydia Styler, Abi Stodel, Gemma Potter, John Jennings, Jamie Pike, Jon Matthews, Charlie Osbourne, David Blakey, Jason Dixon, JJ Spark, Glyn Henderson. On to the Polo, the first trophy won was the NFU Mutual Cup for the Agricultural Challenge between holders, Royal Agricultural College and fierce rivals Harper Adams. Honours after a close fought chukka at the Beginner level were taken by Harper Adams who showed their skill by also doing the double and took the Division One title with a victory over Reading. Peter Morris was on hand from the Royal Agricultural College to present the trophy to a jubilant Harper team. The other Beginner Sections, for players who started polo in Sept/Oct 2010, were won by Oxford Brookes, Birmingham C and ULU C. All players won lessons with Jason Dixon at the Cirencester Park Polo Academy who sponsored this growing section. The other large area is for the Novices, for all students who do not have a handicap or are max -2. This Section was supported by long term sponsors, Akuma Polo. Warwick continued their domination in this area by again taking the title, the MVP, Heather Lacey was instrumental in their victories throughout. Royal Vets College took the Div 1a title and the Polo Times sponsored Royal Agricultural College lifted Division 2. As well as their support of the RAC Polo Times very generously gave prizes to all winners. The Lower Intermediate title was taken by Exeter in a close fought match with Imperial and Loughborough took the Upper Intermediate against Oxford Brookes. Uber Polo very kindly presented prizes as well as an online discount for all players in the Championships. Alec Banner Eve, although outstanding in other sections showed skill, determination and sportsmanship to deservedly win the MVP for the Intermediates. The Combined and Open supported by Roxton Polo saw great polo with Regents easing away after an end to end match against St Andrews. Despite Mackintosh putting in a solid performance the work of Shelton and the hitting of Huynen was just too much for the Scottish University, but a great spectacle was given. The Alumni Section, supported by Adrenalina Clothing saw two sections totalling 10 teams, giving the best polo SAPA has yet seen. This will be a major growth area as graduates keep in touch with friends and school mates through polo. Bishop’s Stortford College showed that 3 friends from School can get together and win, although the girls from Rugby Polo Club gave them a close run. The Lower Section was won by EGF Polo inspired by Ed Shelton and friends. Mike Mortel from Pro Chukker Arena Balls was on hand to offer bags to the MVP’s and present various prizes. Hopefully he can go back to the US with firsthand experience of SUPA University Polo! Also presenting was Andy Smith and Mansoor Quadri from Portsmouth University who won the Fair Play Award for sportsmanship throughout. Although not present Johnny Wheeler and Gaucho Polo gave all the MVP’s tickets to the O2 event the following Thursday, a superb prize and all were able to attend. This record breaking event would not have been possible without the support of all the following, Nick Davis and staff at The Hand Equestrian Arena, Akuma Polo, Roxton Polo, Lycett’s, Uber Polo, Gaucho Polo and Johnny Wheeler, Pro Chukker Polo Balls, NFU Mutual, Bristol University Polo Club, Lucy Keen, SUPA & SAPA .
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