North Cornwall Pony Club Polocrosse Tournament
On Saturday 6th April Olivia and I attended a ‘ Polocross Fun day and Mini Tournament’ at Higher Hawksland the home of Rosalind Boisseau and the Westcountry Warriors Polocrosse team. North Cornwall Pony Club are coached Polocrosse by Rosalind Boisseau who is also the coach of the Westcountry Warriors Polocrosse team and we are now very fortunate to have Niki Padbury, an experienced Polocross coach, available to also teach us as she has recently moved down to the area.
I was up and outside at 8am as we had to pick up Olivia on the way and to be mounted, bandaged up and ready to ride at 10:30am, Blue Jeans is kept in at night therefore he was not covered in mud but covered in straw, haylage and stable stains, ahhhh! These stains took forever to get as I had to wash his legs with shampoo in order to get them looking nice and white again! After I had finally finished his legs I had to plait and fold his tail into a ‘ Polo braid’ which is used for Polocrosse and ordinary Polo competition.
Polocrosse Tail Braid
We were one of the first to arrive at Higher Hawksland in Wadebridge which was good as we then had lots of time to tack up, bandage the ponies legs and warm them up. While playing Polo or Polocrosse bandaging the ponies legs is very important as it protects their legs from the ball, racket and even other ponies during the games, which are called ‘Chukkas’. As this was a Polocrosse tournament not a training rally we had at least 8 chukkas to play which were 6 minutes each and had very shorts breaks in between, which meant there was not time to redo or adjust bandages in the breaks so we all had to cover or bandage buckles with tape so that they would not come lose during or in between this fast and intense game of Polocrosse.
We were due to start with a 30 minute training sessions before the games at 10;30 am but due to some people arriving later than expected the training was delayed by 30 minutes which left Olivia and I time to walk down to the school and observe the team sheets and the chukka times. I was competing in a team with Rosie and Caitlin with our ponies Blue, Jimmy and Bronze. Olivia was in a team with Keta but due to not enough players Rosie, Caitlin and I had to take it in turns to move into Olivia and Keta’s team with their ponies Boris and Whisper.
A game consists of six players, divided into two sections of three who play 3-4 alternate chukkas of six minutes, and eight minutes in an international games. A match comprises six or eight chukkas. The three players in each section play the position of a No. 1, attack, a No. 2, midfield (a combination of defence and offence), or a No. 3, defence.
To start a Polocrosse game is a line up, this is where all the players line up in their teams side by side. So say the blue and the red team were playing each other, both teams would line up in front of the umpire in the center area on a ‘ T shape line’. The teams would stand on either side on the ‘T’ depending on which way they were shooting, the red number 1 would stand next to the blue number 1, the red 2 would stand next to the blue 2 and the red 3 would stand next to the blue 3. The line up should be straight and the ponies and riders should be close together giving their team the best possible chance of catching the ball first and starting the game. The players once on their line, hold their rackets in the air and wait for the umpire, who is usually mounted during high level competitions, to blow their whistle and throw the ball into the line up for one of the players to catch. Once the ball is caught or dropped and picked up the game begins.
The sand schools or grass pitches that we compete on are usually 60 yards by 160 years ( 55m x 146.5m) and are marked out with white paint or sand.
Whilst playing Polocrosse no players are allowed to enter the ‘D’ at either end of the pitch, but only players 1 and 3 from each team are allowed over the penalty line in the goal scoring area but again not in the ‘D’ area. All other players, numbers 2 and 3 from each team, are allowed in the center area and the center area only. To attack a player or gain possession of the ball you can intercept a pass between team players or tackle the player with the balls stick. The only way to attack a play is the hit your stick upwards into their stick knocking the ball out of their racket net, this is called a upwards tackle. Hitting your stick down onto another players racket is a foul and a penalty is given towards your team giving the opposing team possession on the ball or a free throw depending on where the foul was committed.
Players can pick up the ball from the ground, catch it in their racket, and ride with it. They throw it to other players until the No.1 has possession in the goal scoring area. A player cannot carry the ball over the penalty line, but must bounce it so that they do not have possession of it while actually crossing the line. It can also be passed to a player over the line.
There were two teams competing at the tournament which were North Cornwall and East Cornwall who both had a Junior and two Senior teams playing. The four senior teams we called the bassets, the beagles, the lurchers and the greyhounds. Each team would play six chukkas, three against each other pony clubs teams. My team the Beagles were playing second which gave us a chance to watch East Cornwall play and sort out our positions. I was playing number 3 for the first few matches but when we had to swap into other teams due to not enough players we had to play position 2, which was defence. We won I think matches all of our matches against the Lurches which was very good and gained us lots of points. We had a hour break after the fist 3 chukkas for lunch and to give the ponies a rest as Polocrosse is a very fast and tiring game. After we had eaten lunch we used the spare time to re-bandage the ponies leg and re-tape their tails.
Nice Catch From Olivia
Once our lunch break was over we were back on the ponies again for more games but we first had a quick warm up of the numbers game, which is where everyone is given a number and when their number is called out they have to race an opponent to the ball which is thrown by the umpire or the person in charge of the game. This game lasted for about half an hour which gave the parents and the umpires time to set out the lines again and collect score sheets, stopwatches and balls.
The first game went well, ending with a score of 4-5 to North Cornwall but from that match on our score began to lower and lower, East Cornwall had a very strong team all older than us and on bigger ponies which gave them an advantage . At then end of those 3 chukkas the East Cornwall Greyhounds had won by 10-8 but I had swapped positions to number 1 which was shooter, this went really well and I scored lots of goals with the help from Caitlin and Rosie who were excellent teamates. Once the last match had ended we un-tacked and sponged off their sweaty legs and stomachs. The results were announced much later than expected due to a scoring issue but they were eventually announced and rosettes were awarded. We received our rosettes, we came 2nd and thanked Ros and Niki for a fun and entertaining before heading home at 5.30pm after a long and tiring day!
The Numbers Game
1st : East Cornwall Greyhounds
2nd : North Cornwall Beagles
3rd: North Cornwall Bassetts
4th: East Cornwall Lurchers